mile of Kelly's Ford. Two citizens have just been brought to me, taken on the way to Orange Court-House. One of them came from Robertson's Tavern, below the Rapidan, yesterday, and reports no pickets or camps on the Rapidan, and nothing but a cavalry picket at Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock. I have every reason to believe that I can go from this point to the James River without being stopped by any obstacle half an hour. The orders you desire me to communicate shall be issued. My column is halted, and will change its direction, as you have ordered. I will try and intercept the rebel cavalry referred to, but think that I may be too late, from having wasted some time in the project which your order me to postpone. It can never be undertaken again. The enemy, apprised of our intentions, as they doubtless will be, will guard against their execution in future.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. AVERELL,
WARRENTON, VA., December 31, 1862.
Major General J. G. PARKE, Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: I received your first order to-day at 11 a.m. between Morrissville and Kelly's Ford, 25 miles from this place. I immediately halted, turned about, and sent scouts toward Bristoe, Greenwich, and Dumfries, and came myself by way of Germantown to this place, arriving at 5 p.m. My advance chased about 150 rebel cavalry out of the town. I am informed that Stuart and Hampton passed through the town about noon with about 900 men and five guns. They doubtless crossed the Rappahannock before night. I have sent out scouts to discover if they be on this side. Three hundred and fifty of my cavalry were in the town at daylight this morning. The night is very dark and cold.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. AVERELL,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Cavalry.
Arlington, December 31, 1862
GENERAL: I omitted to state in my report of yesterday that I observed the pickets on the Little River turnpike, also to the left of it, in the direction of Burke's Station and at other points in the vicinity of Annandale, were not so vigilant as they should be; moreover, they are in the habit, I presume,from what I saw myself, of keeping up fires during the night, which as a matter of course, must expose to view the position of the whole line of pickets as far as this practice extends. A staff officer, who would not consider it a hardship to visit the picket stations in this vicinity occasionally, might correct in a measure these improprieties, and prevent disastrous occurrences.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. J. ABERCROMBIE