March 7, at 2 a. m. the First New York Dragoons, Major Smith commanding, were ordered to proceed on the towpath twelve miles to Hardwicksville and seize and hold the bridge across the James River, at that point. Major Smith was unable to save the bridge, as for some time previous it had been filled with straw, and saturated with tar and turpentine, and was fired at the first intimation of his approach. He, however, destroyed 336 sacks of salt and a quantity of tobacco and cotton. During the morning detachments from First and Second Brigades were employed in destroying the aqueduct over Rockfish River, breaching the canal, and burning a canal boat heavily loaded with government commissary stores. About 10 a. m. the First Brigade was ordered to march up the towpath to New Market and to destroy all locks, & c., on the canal. This duty was efficiently performed, seven locks being totally destroyed. The Second Brigade crossed the canal bridge over Rockfish River, and striking off to the right marched to New Market by the river road, and halting near Warminster destroyed the lock at that point. The Reserve Brigade, which had arrived from Scottsville after the division started, had marched up by the towpath, destroying all public works left by other commands, including a large mill at Warren, and before leaving Howardsville burned a large manufactory and warehouse filled with Government saddle trees, & c., plow factory, and a tobacco and commissary warehouse. The division encamped at New Market on the night of the 7th, with the exception of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was ordered to proceed at a rapid gait to the bridge across James River at Duguidsville and endeavor to seize and hold that approach to the south bank of the river. The Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry was sent in support of the Sixth. Every exertion was made to accomplish the end desired, but the enemy's precautions were too well taken, and the bridge was fired before the reigment had approached within a mile.
March 8, the First and Reserve Brigades were for a short time employed in destroying the dam and breaching the canal at New Market. The Second Brigade was then detached to proceed toward Columbia and occupy that place. This brigade made a forced march of fifty-six miles in seventeen hours, a most severe task when the weather (a heavy rain-storm) and the state of the roads are borne in mind. In the meantime the First and Reserve Brigades had been ordered to march by the towpath to Duguidsville (twelve miles) and await further order. On arriving opposite Duguidsville I massed the two brigades on the hill over the canal. I soon after received orders to retire at 4 p. m. I directed the First Brigade and section of battery to march by the towpath to New Market, intending to follow with the Reserve Brigade. Just at the First Brigade and battery had stretched out upon the towpath a force of the enemy, which had been watching us from the opposite bank of the river, opened a sharp fire on the column. I at once ordered the Fifth U. S. Cavalry to dismount and cover the retirement of the troops then en route. As I considered it imprudent to allow the enemy to suppose that he could annoy the column with impunity, I felt justified in using extreme measures, and at once opened fire upon the town, quickly emptying it of all concerned. I then retired the Reserve Brigade by the mountain road, reaching Newe Market at 8 p. m. On returning from Duguidsville to New Market the locks between the two points, five in number, together with two canal boats, one dredge, two bridges, and one flouring mill, were totally destroyed by the First Brigade, Colonel Stagg.