DECEMBER 21-23, 1862.-Reconnaissance from Stafford Court House to Kellysville, Va.
Report of Colonel Louis P. Di. Cesnola, Fourth New York Cavalry, commanding Cavalry Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY BRIGADE,
Camp near Stafford Court-House, Va., December 23, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with orders emanating from assistant adjutant-general's office, dated Stafford Court-House, December 21, at noon the same day I marched with my 239 men (all the force I could dispose of), by way of Morrisville Post Office, to Kelly's Ford, in order to ut off the enemy's cavalry, under Colonel Hampton, before crossing the ford. I marched with all possible diligence until 9.30 p.m., at which period my horses were tired out for want of several days' forage; the night so dark, and the road all through the woods, that I deemed it necessary to encamp for the night. When I encamped I was yet 4 miles from Morrisville Post-Office. I covered all my camp with outposts and vedettes, so as to render impossible any surprise from the enemy, if near.
Before daylight I was on the march on my way to Morrisville Post-Office. At daylight I sent out several small foraging parties in every direction, and I found some small stacks of wheat, which I seized and fed my horses with. At 9 a.m. I occupied Morrisville Post-Office. I formed line of battle on the outskirts of the town. I then sent 25 men from the Ninth New York Cavalry, under Captain Kennedy, to scout the post-route road, and, by taking the left-hand road, which leads to Mount Holly Church, to advance into the wood and scout it. I sent, in the mean while, from a road behind Morrisville Post-Office, a non-commissioned officer and 10 men to scout the left-hand side of the wood, both parties under the guidance of two scouts. I remained at Morrisville Post-Office with my men standing to horse, and formed, as before said, in line of battle. Some short time afterward I heard a brisk carbine fire coming from the wood. I ordered my men to mount and inspected their carbines. The party sent toward the left of the wood returned soon after rather precipitately, reporting that a superior force of the enemy's cavalry was met by them in that part of the wood. Securing, then, my rear, by leaving the First Connecticut detachment in Morrisville, I advanced with my main force toward that part of the wood without meeting a single rebel cavalryman, except some men claiming to be citizens and non-combatants, though wearing a portion of the rebel uniform (coat and cap). I arrested them and sent them under escort to Morrisville Post-Office.
I scouted all the wood until I arrived at its outskirts, being nearly 6 miles. On the outskirts of the wood I found myself at once close by the Rappahannock River, and about 500 yards from Kallysville, both of which lay at a declivity of 300 yards from the wood. Halting my command, which was in column by fours, I kept it at the edge of the wood, though but partly covered from the sight of the enemy. In my written instructions having been directed to be cautious as much as possible, and not to expose my command unnecessarily, I sent forward 25 carbineers of the Fourth New York, under command of Lieutenant Williams, to proceed down to the river, keeping myself in such a position as to see distinctly what was going on. This detachment proceeded down to the river, but arriving at a wooden bridge, under which passes a small-creek (20 yards before arriving at the Rappahannock River), a