aggregate of 2, 195 men, to which add Jeffress' battery of six pieces, manned by recruits almost entirely.
General Heth desired a delay of a day or two to reorganize the companies in Floyd's brigade which were under his command. Having dispatched couriers to Colonel Wharton, directing him to meet me in Princeton on the night of the 16th, by advancing from Rocky Gap, and having informed General Heth, who was in position at the mouth of Wolf Creek, that he should attack the enemy at the mouth of East River on the morning of the 17th, I put my column in motion on the 15th and reached Princeton on the night of the 16th.
My advance was unexpected by Brigadier-General Cox, who had his headquarters and body guard at Princeton at the time with a force variously estimated at from 500 to 1,200 men, the former probably nearer the truth than the latter. The pickets of the enemy were encountered by my advance guard about 4 miles from Princeton, and a skirmish continued from that place through the woodlands and brushwood to a point something over 1 mile from the Court-House. This skirmish was conducted by the Fifth Kentucky, from which I lost Captain Leonidas Elliott, who fell mortally wounded (since dead) at the head of his company while bravely beating the enemy back.
In this skirmish the enemy lost some 16 or 20, who were left on the field. We had only 4 wounded, including Captain Elliott; none killed.
I directed Colonel Trigg to move on the right of the Fifth Kentucky and take the enemy in flank, and so to press on to Princeton. Arriving at the hill (subsequently occupied by me) from which the land drops into the level vale in which Princeton stands, a halt was ordered by Brigadier-General Williams and a line of battle formed, with the view of bringing up the artillery to shell the town from that point. I thought it best to take the place by small-arms, and though the daylight was now nearly gone, I ordered the battalions forward-Trigg leading to the right, May next, Moore's and Bradley's men next-so as to move on the place through the meadows and by the road we had traveled.
In half an hour a sharp, hot fire on the right announced Colonel Trigg in contact with the enemy. Fire from a regiment is seldom more steady than this I refer to. Succeeded by a general shout and then by absolute silence, which lasted at least an hour and a half before I received any message from the troops in front, really I did not know but that we had met a check, and that regimental commander were arranging for a new assault. As everything had to be left to them, under such circumstances, I waited about half a mile from town, placing my battery in position at once to command the town and our road. I supported the battery with Dunn's battalion. After a while I was informed that the enemy had fled before us, leaving his tents, clothes, swords, officers' uniforms, and even the lights burning in his tents. It is probable, had we not halted before night-fall, we might have captured many prisoners, possibly the general himself, for I was informed he did not leave town until twilight; but none of us could foresee, and, so far as I know, every one acted for the best; the regiments went in with hearty good will and promptly.
Major Bradley lost one of his men (Weedon, of Holladay's Company). Trigg had some 6 wounded, one of whom, Private Carter, of Company I, was mortally wounded.
So the town of Princeton fell into my hands about 10 p. m. on May 16; the line of the enemy's communication with Raleigh was cut, and the headquarters of the Kanawha Division was abruptly stampeded.