War of the Rebellion: Serial 088 Page 0933 Chapter LIV. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

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is a continuous line of pickets extending eastward by Baxter's Mill to Mount Sinai Church; thence across to Rollins' on the Powhatan stage road, and down the road to Sycamore Church and Cocke's Mill, a distance in all its windings of nearly fifteen miles. To perform this duty I have three regiments and what is left of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, in all not more than 1,400 men. This line is maintained by posting half of the command on alternate days. It is nevertheless too extended to prevent small parties and individual spies and scouts from passing, and quite a number have been killed, wounded, or by the enemy captured in the past month. These captures were only diminished by dismounting the men and posting them as infantry. The restlessness of the horse revealed the sentinel's position in the night to the lurking foe, who generally were on foot and made their attacks from the inside of the line. When it becomes necessary to dismount the men and separate them from their horses to perform their duty, it seems to be a legitimate duty of infantry, and it would be economy to perform all the duty that can be done with infantry by that arm. The duty is very fatiguing to the command and does not accomplish its object-that is, keeping out scouts and spies. It would be much less fatiguing to my command to occupy the main avenues of approach and communication by frequent patrols. To make the line effective against small parties, as well as to give warning and retard the advance of a large force, my command should either be materially increased or the length of the line reduced. The seasons of inactivity should be devoted to the recuperation and discipline of cavalry. The maintenance of such long picket-lines for weeks at a time by cavalry exclusively is destructive of discipline and ruinous to the horses, and destroys its efficiency for sudden and quick movements, which I consider to be the legitimate duty of our cavalry. It is too expensive an arm of service to be wasted away and broken down for defensive purposes that can be as well or better performed by infantry, with the assistance of a relatively small force of mounted men to carry intelligence. Our cavalry camps, necessarily weak in themselves, are by the present system placed beyond all intrenched lines, and when attacked suddenly ar at the mercy of the enemy, and as in the case of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, the records of the regiment are lost. I do not submit these suggestions in a spirit of complaint; the necessities of the service justify all deviations from established rules, but I consider it my duty to represent my command as it is, in order to relieve myself from the responsibility of any consequences that may result from conditions that may possibly not be altogether unavoidable. At present there are no reserves; a small force can dash through at almost any point of the line, and to pursue them a portion of the line must for the time being be abandoned.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.


September 19, 1864.


Fort Powhatan:

The enemy's cavalry are reported in force on the Blackwater. Keep a sharp lookout.


Major-General, Commanding.