EXPEDITION FROM GEN. KING'S DIVISION
EXPEDITION FROM GEN. KING'S DIVISION
Destruction of the Railroad between Gordonsville and Richmond.
Correspondence of the N.Y. Tribune.
Fredericksburg, Aug. 8, 1862
The enemy has been concentrating in large force at and near Gordonsville, it is said under Stonewall Jackson and Lee. Their strength is variously estimated but so far as we have learned , it is yet only a nucleus for the marauding army which is devoted to the desperate word of a march over the line into the Free States.
Gordonsville had direct railroad communication with Richmond by the Virginia Central over which their troops and supplies have been porting for some time past.--The importance of breaking this line is too apparent to need demonstration and Gen. King's Division have made the two attempts which have so lately been communicated to the public.The brilliant reconnaissance of the Harris Light Cavalry under Lieut. Col Kilpatrick, to Beaver Dam and that neighborhood, had this object in view. Another was determined upon, and the force left here on the 6th at command of Gens. Gibbon and Hatch and Col. Cutler, for Hanover Junction.
The force was divided into two columns, the first under Gen. Gibbon and the others under Acting Brigadier Gen. Cutler.- Gibbon's force consisted of the Second and Seventh Wisconsin, Nineteenth Indiana, Capt. Munroe's battery, and the Third Indiana Cavalry, 400 strong.- Taking the telegraph road, they marched without opposition as far as Mat River, a distance of fourteen miles from camp, but here they encountered Stuart's Virginia Cavalry and two pieces of light artillery which opened upon them at long range.
The column halted; and the Indiana Cavalry, which was in the advance, retiring beyond range were charged upon by the rebel cavalry. They repulsed them however without any casualty except the wounding of one man and, the rebels not choosing to follow us up, Gen. Gibbon concluded to encamp for the night, which he did, advancing his skirmishers and establishing a line of pickets. Before the force left Fredericksburg, Gen. Hatch was ordered to follow with his brigade the following morning and did so, reaching a point two miles this side of Mat River. Early of Friday morning he joining Gen. Gibbon and the combined columns crossed the Mat without opposition and advanced several miles. Hatch's force composed three companies of the Second U.S. Sharpshooters, Col. Post, a section of the New Hampshire Battery , the Twenty-second New York, Lieut. Col. Thomas, and the Thirtieth New York. Learning that a large rebel force was on his right and that there was danger of his retreat being cut off, Gen. Gibbons decided to retrace his steps.
Facing about he marched toward Fredericksburg with as much celerity as the overpowering heat of the weather allowed, and when near the Bowling Green Road, a company of cavalry under Capt. Lemon, and two companies of the Seventh Wisconsin were sent to reconnoiter toward the town and check the supposed advance of the enemy from that direction. Capt. Lemon found the road clear, and rode so near the town as to be able to look quite through it. Although he met no hostile force, he learned that Generals Stuart and Lee had been there the nigh before and had gone to Guinney's Station with a view to get in to our rear. This intelligence was hardly received by Gen. Gibbons before word was brought that a part of Hatch's wagon train had been intercepted within six miles of Fredericksburg, and captured, along with sixty-seven teamsters and soldiers who had given out on the march and had been picked up by the train.
The wagons, eleven in number, also contained a large number of blankets and commissary stores belonging to the Hatch's Brigade. They had become separated from the balance of the train by some miles, and the rebel cavalry coming from Guinney's got between the two parts and gobbled up the smaller train. Some fifty of them pursued the main train and charged upon it, but Capt. Drum, Acting Quartermaster, who was in charge formed the one company of the Twenty-first New York and gave the enemy such a volley that they broke and fled.
On the homeward march the Indiana cavalry and Munroe's battery were in advance with Hatch and the rest of Gibbons force brought up the rear. Our cavalry drove the enemy some two miles and then came in sight of their main cavalry force, abut 1,000 strong, which was supported by artillery. Munroe unlimbered is pieces and shelled them so effectually that thy beat a hasty retreat. The Indiana Cavalry were ordered to make a detour so as to get into their rear, Gen. Gibbon and Hatch believing it possible to capture the whole force, but for some reason or other the movement was not executed and the rebels escaped. The Sharpshooters did good service in picket and as skirmishers, Co. A being engaged some two hours, and Co. C a considerable time also. the men of Co. A claim to have killed at least five, including one field officer and wounded fifteen more all at a distance of about 1,000 yards.
After the encounter with Strout's Cavalry Regiment, our forces saw nothing of the enemy and returned to camp without having accomplished the object in view. The second column, commanded by Acting Brig. Gen. Cutler, was more fortunate. Proceeding down the plank road by way of Spotsylvania Court House, through Waller's Tavern Road, they halted for the night at Mount Pleasant.
On Wednesday afternoon they reached Frederick's Hall Station, and Col. Mansfield Davies of the Harris Light Cavalry, sending company I, Capt. Walters, to a point two and a half miles above, led the main body to the station. Capt. Walters took up eighty lengths of rail, out the telegraph, burning the wire and poles and blew up the road beds with power. A large lot of new T rails which were piled alongside the track, were made into a barricade across the road-bed and warped and turned them by building large fires under and about them. Companies G, Capt. Swinter, H, Capt McIrwin, and E, Lieut. London commanding, went down to the station and destroyed the water tanks, telegraph wire, and 5,000 bushels of grain and a large lot of whisky and many other stores which were awaiting transportation to the enemy at Gordonsville.
The force was in command of the brave and dashing Lieut. Col. Kirkpatrick, who commanded in the recent brilliant raid to Beaver Dam. Adjutant Gregory, with a party was sent down to near Bumpas Turn - Out to blow up the track and switches which was accomplished in the most through and satisfactory manner. At this point the water tanks and depot were burned, the track was destroyed and a small culvert was blown up. A little further on the track was barricaded with new rails rendered useless by burning as were those above Fredericks's Hall.
Hearing that three trains were expected up with troops from Richmond, the expedition commenced its return march. The large bridge over the Pamunky was burnt, to prevent the enemy from following us up. At Waller's Tavern, where a halt was made, Col. Cutler heard of the disaster to Gibbon's force and fearing that the enemy would cut him off, the three roads from the tavern were strongly barricaded by Lieut. Raymond, Quartermaster of the Harris Light Cavalry. Although the danger was imminent and fully realized, the men expressed their determination to cut their way though anything and everything that crossed their path. At three o'clock on Thursday morning the march was resumed, and by 8 o'clock Spotsylvania Court House was reached and a junction was effected with Gibbon's column.
At 10 P.M. last night the whole force reached camp without serious casualty, beyond the loss of 92 prisoners, and the death of a wounded Orderly who was shot in the head while carrying an order. Among other fruits of the expedition is a large number of horses and mules some of which are very fine. Lieut. Compton of Co. C., Harris Light Cavalry, had favored me with Richmond papers of the 5th instant, which accompanies this letter. The whole affair of Col. Cutler's command was a brilliant success; and will no doubt be a severe blow to the enemy for his communication while Richmond is interrupted at a critical time when he was preparing for operation against us.
It will require at least a week and probably more to repair the damages to the railroad and in war such a delay is often serious enough to defeat the best laid plans.