Numbers 3. Report of Colonel Walter H. Jenifer, Eighth Virginia Cavalry.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NEW RIVER,
Wytheville, Va., May 6, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit my report of a skirmish with the enemy near Princeton, Va., on the 1st instant.
On April 30 it was reported to me at Rocky Gap that the enemy was advancing on Princeton from the direction of Raleigh. In consequence of this report I ordered out Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzhugh, with about 120 cavalry (dismounted) and some 70 or 80 militia, to meet the enemy and to detain him, if possible, until I could remove the few remaining stores from Princeton to Rocky Gap. I also ordered up the Forty-fifth Regiment (Colonel Peters) to the support of Colonel Fitzhugh; but before this regiment could reach Princeton the enemy had advanced so rapidly that, fearing Colonel Peters would be cut off, I ordered him back to his camp, and on returning his regiment was ambushed by the enemy and thrown into some confusion. Colonel Peters succeeded, however, in repulsing the enemy, and reached his camp without losing any of his men or property.
In order to enable me to save the stores and property at Princeton it became necessary to engage the enemy's advance column, which Colonel Fitzhugh did, inflicting considerable loss on the enemy. The fight was kept up for thirteen hours, and a distance of 22 miles was well contested by the small force under Colonel Fitzhugh.
During the engagement we lost 1 killed, 4 or 4 seriously wounded, and 8 or 9 slightly wounded. The wounded were all brought off safe from the field; the few who were seriously wounded were taken to houses near the field. The enemy's loss is supposed to be 35 in killed, wounded, and missing.
Colonel Fitzhugh and the officers under him deserve much credit for their gallant conduct during the fight. Colonel Fitzhugh managed his small command with much skill and judgment.
I evacuated Princeton just as the enemy entered it, having first fired the town. All my stores were saved except a few, which the scarcity of transportation prevented me from taking away. No arms or ammunition were destroyed.
After leaving Princeton i fell back in good order to Rocky Gap, at which place I remained some twenty hours. Having only 75 men with me, the remainder of my regiment being on distant duty, I considered it proper to fall back to Walker's Mountain, on the Wytheville road. Having previously ascertained the force of the enemy in Mercer County to be several thousand strong, and knowing that Colonel Peters, whose camp was at the mouth of Wolf Creek, had no artillery to use against the enemy should he make an advance on that line, I ordered him to fall back with his command to Walker's Mountain, a strong position on the Dublin road. The stores at Giles Court-House I had several weeks before ordered to be removed to Dublin. Nearly all of those stores except some flour, which fell into the hands of the enemy, were saved. The reported superior force of the enemy and the very small force under my command rendered it necessary for me to pursue the course I did. I am willing to receive the censure, as I assumed the responsibility, if I have saved any of our gallant soldiers from being captured by a largely superior force of the enemy.