CONTRABANDS Report 11
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.
The following dispatch has been received from General Rufus King:
I sent out cavalry, both on the Bowling Green and Telegraph roads, to
Richmond this morning to collect information. They proceeded from 12 to 15
miles; saw nothing of the enemy, but learned from contrabands, who left
Hagner's Station yesterday, that the whole force reconnoitering in our
front left the junction to re-enforce Jackson Monday morning, the 26th.
They were about 15,000 strong-- fourteen regiments of infantry, six
batteries of artillery, and four companies of cavalry. They were well
informed as to our force and movements, but had no intention of abandoning
their position in our front till last Saturday, when sudden orders were
received from Richmond to march at once, with four days' rations. They
moved off the same night. Such is the substance of Colonel Kilpatrick's
report, who directed the reconnaissance. I shall push the cavalry still
farther out to-morrow, in hopes of obtaining further information.
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
CAMP 1ST ME. CAV., Warrenton Junction, Apr. 15, 1862.
We left camp at 9.30 a.m. and proceeded on the line of the railroad. Met
two contrabands, who informed us that they left camp of General Smith on
the opposite side of the river at 9 o'clock last night; also informed us
that a portion of the Confederate Army under his command were encamped
there, supposed to be from 5,000 to 7,000 troops; that they were
constructing a bridge across the river 2 miles above the railroad, with the
intention of crossing, and they were also throwing up earthworks. We then
proceeded along the line of the railroad, coming to a house occupied by an
Irishman, who informed us that the distance to the river was 2 miles, when
it could not have been over three-fourths of a mile. We then proceeded
about one-half of a mile to an unoccupied house, where we halted. Adjt. B.
F. Tucker, accompanied by Musician A. W. Ingersoll, advanced about
one-fourth of a mile to an old earthwork to reconnoiter upon the opposite
shore, where they discovered plainly with the naked eye a line of rebel
earthworks at intervals for 2 miles; could also see the blacks at work upon
them, and through a field glass could see everything within the line
distinctly; should judge that there were from 150 to 200 horses picketed in
the rear of a grove; could also see a large white house, which we supposed
was the headquarters, as we could see a rebel flag flying near the house;
could not discover any guns within the earthworks, but judge that the
encampment contained from 3,000 to 4,000 troops.
Thinking that we had examined sufficiently we were on the point of leaving,
when they opened upon us from a masked battery at the southern extremity of
their encampment, throwing canister, one shot striking near Lieutenant
Tucker and Ingersoll, another striking about 20 feet from the center of my
company in the rear. Immediately another battery opened upon us from the
center of their line, throwing 10-pound shot, striking about 40 feet in
rear beyond the first shot. Then a third battery opened from the extreme
north of their encampment, throwing about a 12-pound shell, after which
they came thick and fast from the three batteries, making a cross-fire.
There were thirteen shots struck within the vicinity of us before we were
able to get out of their range. After getting out of range we thought it
was not prudent to make the reconnaissance any farther up or down the
river, from the fact of their having such a body of horse within their
encampment and being able to cross the river by fords and a bridge.
On our return, a short distance from Bealeton Station, two black women
having seen us, came about a mile to meet us, and informed us that they had
seen 11 mounted men upon this side of the river this morning dressed in
gray uniform, some of whom they knew to be rebels, also that they were in
the habit of meeting in the vicinity of Liberty Church a blacksmith named
Robert Willis, said Willis being in the habit of coming into our camp and
gaining information in regard to our pickets and the position of our
encampments which he was known to communicate to the enemy, and they were
contemplating to cross the river and surround us to-night or to-morrow
night. The same information in regard to the blacksmith Robert Willis was
given us from various sources. After leaving there we struck off to the
left and visited the Randolph plantations, but could discover nothing
further in regard to the enemy.
I remain very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ROBT. F. DYER.
HARPER'S FERRY, VA., May 25, 1862.
(Received 10.24 p.m.)
Everything is now quiet. Pickets out 3 miles on the road toward Winchester
and Charlestown. Three companies of cavalry near Charles town. Six
companies of infantry on Bolivar Hill, on outpost service. Three regiments
of infantry on a commanding height in front of the village. The remainder
of the forces are guarding the bridge and the passage of the river. I have
had all the contrabands at work moving the stores across the river, to
provide against a possible contingency. I feel sure that I have made the
best disposition of the force here. Tomorrow, if sufficient re-enforcements
arrive, I shall occupy Bolivar Heights in force. Your assignment to the
command of operations was received at 10 o'clock. I will do all in my power
to merit your confidence.
HDQRS. SEVENTH DIVISION, ARMY OF THE OHIO,
Cumberland Ford, May 3, 1862.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
A contraband has just come in from the Gap. He reports the strength of the enemy at 5,500, and that in the affair of Monday Captain Phelps, of the Third Georgia Battalion (whose servant he was), and 5 privates were killed; also that he saw 8 wounded men. He says that 6 soldiers deserted with him, but on passing the enemy's pickets they were fired upon and scattered, and he alone succeeded in getting in. No news of Humphrey Marshall.
GEORGE W. MORGAN,
Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.
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