War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0256 NORTH CAROLINA AND S. E. VIRGINIA. Chapter XXX.

Search Civil War Official Records

APRIL 1, 1863.-Expedition from Yorktown to Smith's and Byrd's Plantations, Were River, Va.


Numbers 1-Major General Erasmus D. Keyes, U. S. Army.

Numbers 2.-Second Lieutenant William S. Andrews, Ninth New York Infantry, Acting Signal Officer.

Numbers 1.

Report of Major General Erasmus D. Keyes, U. S. Army.


Fort Yorktown, Va., April 7, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to forward the following extract from the report of Lieutenant Com. J. H. Gillis, commanding United States steamer Commodore Morris, to Admiral Lee, of an expedition into Gloucester Country by the land and naval forces on this station. Command Gillis had on the 31st ultimo made an examination of the country bordering on Ware River and found stored there large quantities of grain for the Southern Army. I extract from his report as follows:

I therefore embarked my men, and with mr. Smith as prisoner returned to Yorktown; immediately communicated with General Keyes, informed him of the circumstances, and, his views coinciding with mine as to the necessity of either bringing off or destroying the grain, I determined to return to Ware River on the following morning, the 1st instant, I determined to return to Ware River on the following morning, the 1st instant, and on informing General Keyes that a rebel cavalry force was stationed at Gloucester Court-House, and that our operations, if we went without a considerable force, would not be likely to remain undisturbed, he immediately placed at my disposal as many men, cavalry or infantry, whichever I through would be best, as I through would be necessary., I took 100 infantry, and with these and the Delaware which I fortunately met on my way down York River and directed to accompany me, I yesterday morning returned to the plantation of Mr. Smith and commenced removing a quantity of wheat, of which there was about 1,000 bushels, but had not gotten off more than 250 bushels before the alarm was given that the cavalry were approaching. The men were immediately formed and we prepared to give them a warm reception as they charged down upon us, and a few well-directed shots caused a wavering in their ranks, and a cheer and a charge on the part of both sailors and soldiers turned an attack into a retreat, and they fled until out of range of our muskets, when they halted and appeared to be holding a consultation, but just at this time a shot was fired from 100-pounder rifle on board this ship, which struck right in their midst, and they again took to flight and disappeared around a bend of the road. On going down the road some distance I discovered indications of the effect of our firing, there being quite a quantity of blood in the road showing that some of the party had paid pretty dearly for their temerity.

I would state tat when we were seen approaching, the overseer's son was sent off, and I had not the least doubt, when I learned that such was the case he had been sent to bring sufficient to cut off, not expecting to meet any more that had landed the day before, and they were doubtless very much surprised on seeing so large a force. They succeeded in capturing 2 of our pickets in their charge, but had not time to take them off, when they in their turn were charged upon, and the consequence was that we did not lose a man. Knowing that it would take me a long time to remove the grain, and that the enemy would ample time to bring down a strong force upon us, I determined to destroy it, and therefore set fire to all but one of the buildings, in which there were at least 1,500 bushels of corn; that I left for the use of the family and the hands on the plantation.

After seeing the fires well under way I embarked my force without further molestation and started to return. Arriving opposite to the house of a man by the name of Byrd, who is an officer in the rebel army, and who had left his property in charge of and old negro servant, I landed a party, who found that there was a lange quantity of corn stored in his barns, and these were also set fire to; and although the party were on shore but a few moments, they came very near being captured, the cavalry making a dash down upon them under cover of the smoke of the burning buildings, but I discovered them in time to throw a shell from one of the howitzers, which exploded in