While these events were taking place, and in conformity with a previous understanding with General Averell, a squadron of cavalry had been directed by him to approach toward Ellis' Ford, on the northern bank of the river, with a view of diverting the attention of the pickets stationed there, which were supposed to consist of at least two companies of infantry and two pieces of artillery. As in the case at Richards' Ford, this was found to consist of a small detachment of the First South Carolina Cavalry only.
The cavalry approaching on our side of the river fired at the enemy's pickets, who soon retired, and, entering the woods some distance in their rear, encountered the cavalry in advance of our own column, which was just at that moment in the vicinity. The enemy fled precipitately, and were closely pursued by our cavalry, but they escaped in various directions. Our column continued to advance in order, crossed the ford, and bivouacked for the night on this side of the river at the ford. The Third Brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Weeks, remained at Richards' Ford as a reserve during the day, and the sharpshooters continued to occupy the position they had taken early in the morning, observing closely the opposite shore and bank, but there were no appearances of any movement on that side.
The road to the ford, having been much obstructed by cutting down trees on either side, was entirely cleared of all obstructions during the day. This portion of the command bivouacked for the night upon the ground occupied by them during the day.
Orders were sent to the different portions of the command to return to camp on the following morning, but it was found that the Second Brigade and the battery had already been directed by General Averell, at Morrisville, to return, and they accordingly reached their camp on the evening of the 31st. The other portions returned, as directed, in good order on Thursday, having discharged all the duties required by your instructions.
It gives me pleasure to bear testimony to the ready and cheerful compliance with all the orders necessary to be issued in the course of this duty by all the officers and men of the command. The fords were found to be deeper than was supposed, but, notwithstanding the season of the year, they were crossed without a murmur, the only disappointment being that the enemy were not in so large a force as had been imagined.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding First Division.
Lieutenant Colonel JOS. DICKINSON,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Center Grand Division.
JANUARY 2-5, 1863.-Expedition to Moorefield and Petersburg, W. Va.
LIST OF REPORTS.
Numbers 1.-Major General Robert C. Schenck, U. S. Army, commanding Middle Military Department.
Numbers 2.-Colonel James A. Mulligan, Twenty-third Illinois Infantry.
Numbers 3.-Colonel James Washburn, One hundred and sixteenth Ohio Infantry.
Numbers 4.-Lieutenant Barna Powell, adjutant Third West Virginia Cavalry.
Numbers 5.-Brigadier General William E. Jones, C. S. Army, commanding Valley District.