War of the Rebellion: Serial 070 Page 0164 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., PA. Chapter XLIX.

Search Civil War Official Records

We passed the night of the 14th at Durrettsville, and marched on the morning of the 15th to Union Wharf, where we were soon joined by the gun-boats and transports. About a day and a half was spent in rebuilding the wharf, which was burned by General Kilkpatrick.

On the 16th Second Lieutenant O'Brien permitted three men of his company to leave the battalion and go to a house about a mile distant, notwithstanding my orders that no man should be allowed to leave the column. In all other respects Lieutenant O'brien performed his duties in a very acceptable manner. Of these three men from O'brien's company one only returned, of the other two one was murdered by the rebel cavalry and the other wounded and probably killed, as he crawled into the woods and could not afterward be found.

Hearing the firing on the afternoon of the 16th, I rode out with about forty of the cavalry to ascertain the cause. Emerging from the woods about a mile from Un ion Wharf, we perceived a body of rebel cavalry about a mile ahead, at point of woods where the road forks. Sending forward three men as an advance guard, we advanced upon them. The advance guard reported 200 cavalry in the rebel column; but subsequent information showed their force to be much smaller. At a suitable distance I ordered a charge, directly after which the enemy opened fire upon us. After riding to within sixty of the rebel position, I found myself almost alone, only my assistant adjutant-general and a few faithful orderlies remaining by me. I turned and ordered the cavalry to close up; whereupon the rebels set up their customary yell, and my escort turned their horses' heads to the rear and ran for their lives, seeing which the rebels immediately charged upon us. I tried in vain to rally my men, calling upon them a dozen times to halt and face the enemy. In this attempt I was seconded by Captain Gibbs, of the Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, my acting assistant adjutant-general, and by a few men among the cavalry who repeated my orders to halt. I remained on the ground until my orderly and other man had been captured by my side, and another dismounted man had had time to run to the rear, get over the fence, and escape. Finally, finding myself enveloped in the dust of the rebel pursuit and entirely alone, I following the crowd. The rebels after pursuing 200 or 300 yards turned back, evidently astonished at their success. On this occasion Lieutenant Denney was absent, being afflicted with a disease which prevented his riding. When I left the wharf, I had ordered a detachment of about 150 men, under Captain Hatlinger, to follow the cavalry as a support, leading the remainder of the battalion to complete the wharf. Captain Hatlinger, who is an inefficient officer, was very slow to execute this order; but when he did arrive, I posted one-half of his men on the edge of the woods, and dismounting, took seventy-five men and made a detour through the skirt of the wood, hoping to get in rear of the rebels and cancel the account. The annexed diagram* will show the position. From my base of operations at the point where the road from Union Wharf emerges from the woods, I could see, as I thought, a complete circuit of woods, by which I could keep constantly under cover while marching to the enemy's rear. I found upon trail that the open plain made numerous bays into the woods, increasing the circuit to about seven miles of close thorny underbrush. By dark we were within 600 or 700

---------------

*Not found.

---------------