From intercepted letters and the other usual sources of information, it was found that the enemy contemplated a general engagement near Gordonsville.
At 6.30 a.m. on the 2nd instant, in obedience to your order, I withdrew my force from the direction of Orange Court-House, and marched to Ely's Ford, on the Rappahannock, where I arrived at 10.30 p.m. At 11.30 the camp was attacked by the Sixteenth North Carolina Regiment of Infantry, but he was quickly repulsed.
On the 3rd instant, when the battle opened between your army and that of the enemy, I sent an officer with a party of men to reconnoiter the enemy's left, to see if it was possible to reach him with the cavalry. It was found impracticable, but the officer captured 9 prisoners. Before receiving your written instructions, you observed that the bridge across the Rapidan must be destroyed. It was done more effectually by the enemy himself, under the impression that you were advancing with your army over that line. That impression was created by the Second Cavalry Division, and other bridges, together with telegraphic communications were destroyed, in obedience to the following in your original instructions, not modified, viz:
In the vicinity of Culpeper you will be likely to come against Fitzburgh Lee's brigade of cavalry, consisting of about 2,000 men, which it is expected that you will be able to disperse and destroy without delay to your advance, &c. At Gordonsville the enemy have a small provost-guard of infantry, which it is expected you will destroy, if it can be done without delaying your forward movement. If the enemy should retire by Culpeper and Gordonsville, you will endeavor to hold your force in his front. * * * Keep them from Richmond, and, sooner or later, they must fall into our hands.
And from the modifications of the original orders, the following, viz:
* * * * *
And for a portion of your force to move in the direction of Raccoon Ford and Louisa Court-House, while the remainder is engaged in carrying into execution that part of the original instruction which relates to the enemy's force and position on the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the line itself, the operations of this column to be considered as masking the column which is directed to move by forced marches to strike and destroy the line of the Aquia and Richmond Railroad.
I beg to state that the column first referred to was Buford's; the second mine.
My losses have been 2 officers and 2 men wounded and 1 man killed.
Have taken from the enemy, beside the stores mentioned, 31 prisoners.
I have, in conclusion, to acknowledge the receipt of your order relieving me from the command of the Second Division.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. AVERELL,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers.
Commanding Army of the Potomac.
WASHINGTON, D. C., May 7, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report to you for orders, in obedience to the command of Major-General Hooker, commanding Army of the Potomac, as enunciated in the inclosed order, marked F, which is a copy of the original. The form and tenor of the order and its mode of communication are extraordinary. No cause is or has been assigned for its issue, to my knowledge. Issued at the close of the unsuccessful engagement of Sunday, May 3, and destitute of history or explanation, its