or five times and ceased. I then rode to the right to examine the bridge, and had but just arrived where I proposed to reconnoiter when a masked battery with grape and canister opened so near me I could distinctly see the men working their pieces, the shot flying entirely too close to be pleasant. I changed my position, but only to find a section of light battery drive up, and unlimbering sent a round shot within 10 feet of me, splashing mud over both myself and horse. I therefore saw but little.
The bridge I could not see, as it was hidden by the bluff. Lieutenant Wyman informed me there is but one pier standing, and that somewhat damaged; that the abutments are not entire, and that the place where the second pier should be is vacant, which is between the opposite bank and the first pier. He thinks the building of the bridge would be difficult, and I agree with him, as the river is wide, and just above is a dam, which gives the stream quite a current at present. A large amount of timber was collected near the ford, though in what state of entirety I cannot say. The railroad is entire from the bridge on our side back 4 miles. From this point the rails have either been carried off by the Confederates for their own use or buried in some neighboring fields. The sleepers for about a mile are cut in two, and from there toward Warrenton Junction are removed and burned.
The houses on our road with two exceptions were entirely deserted, one of these, belonging to an officer, Lieutenant Gordon, rebel army, containing a white family, who were taking care of it for him. Hearing they were giving information to the enemy as to our scouts before, I arrested the father and son, a lad of seventeen years, and put a guard over the woman till I returned.
The other is a house of Mrs. Broom. On our approach an Irishman and young Mr. Broom mounted and galloped down toward the river. I sent two cavalry after them across the fields, who soon returned with both. These I kept till I received your orders to release them. The town of Rappahannock, a village of twelve or fifteen houses, is deserted.
The land hereabout is not cultivated, with the exception of two or three fields of thinly-growing wheat. Forage for man or beast is not to be had. I saw but four cows and one two-year-old colt during the trip; not a fowl of any kind at any house. Small streams of very muddy water are numerous, and some of the fields appear to have had clover in them in years gone by. The soil is clayey, and becomes a stiff paste in wet weather. The country is well wooded, generally oak, with some clumps of pines, gently undulating to the river, where it rises abruptly 60 or 70 feet on the bank.
We met no pickets or scouts of the enemy during the entire march, and returned to camp without suffering any loss whatever of men or horses. The position occupied by the enemy I should think difficult to drive them from in front. By making a march so as to throw the men in rifle pits before daylight, and thus cover them from grape and canister on this bank from the other, would force them to cross and attack or drive them back while we did so, as their works are within good rifle range.
This was your expressed wish to me, but unfortunately the cavalry reported too late for me to reach the point designated till 7 a. m. I should have then remained quiet until next day, throwing up works during the night, but I did not know the surrounding country. Besides, I was anxious to engage them, lest they might send re-enforcements toward Fredericksburg, which you desired us to prevent, if possible, and which I think was accomplished.