Today in History:

1113 Series I Volume XXV-I Serial 39 - Chancellorsville Part I


intercepting the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, which had gone down the Neck a few days before.

At daylight on the 21st instant, the expedition left camp and marched directly for King George Court-House, where it was halted for dinner. Two miles beyond King George Court-House the road forks. One leads to Port Conway, on the Rappahannock, another to Oak Grove by the way of Millville and Mattow Creek, and still another, which leads to Westmoreland Court-House by the way of Oak Grove. The last road is what is known as the Ridge road. I left a detachment of 160 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Dawes. Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, to guard this fork, and with the remainder of the expedition marched to Millville, where we arrived before dark, having marched a distance of about 25 miles. The day was excessively warm, and many of the troops gave out from sheer exhaustion.

I resumed the march at daylight on the morning of the 22nd, and arrived at Mattox Creek a little after 8 o'clock. The distance is between 7 and 8 miles. The bridge over Mattox Creek had been destroyed by fire (the work of a party of rebel soldiers) on the Sunday before our arrival, and all communication between the opposite banks, except by means of canoes, was cut off. The creek at low tide is about 50 feet wide, and is approached over a causeway, some 200 yards long, through a low, marshy swamp, which is entirely submerged at high tide. The work of destruction had been complete, and, except a few half-burned planks and sleepers, no timber was at hand with which to reconstruct the bridge. Captain Ford, of General Wadsworth's staff, and Captain Merritt, Twenty-fourth Michigan, were placed in command of a working party, and in a few hours had so far repaired the bridge as to allow of the passage over it of infantry and cavalry. These officers are deserving of much credit for their skill and efficiency as exhibited on this occasion.

Having what seemed reliable information of the presence of a considerable force of the enemy near Leesville, opposite Port Micou, I determined to march to that place without delay. I left a small detachment under Captain Merritt, to complete the bridge and guard it, and with my remaining force marched for Leesville, taking the necessary precaution to scour the country on either side of the road, to be sure that the enemy did not get in our rear or fall upon us in ambush, as I had been informed they intended to do. With the exception of a few scattering horsemen, we saw no rebels, and arrived at Leesville a little before sunset, having marched during the day about 16 miles. I bivouacked for the night behind a skirt of woods and out of sight of the opposite side of the river. As soon as practicable, I picketed the river for some distance above and below Leesville, to prevent all communication between the opposite banks. I had intelligence that the enemy had two boats of considerable size at Port Micou, and I determined, if possible, to destroy them.

Having found an old boat on this side of the river, I arranged for sending over at daybreak on the 23rd a party of 10 men, with instructions to burn or otherwise destroy the boats referred to. The attempt was made with every prospect of success, but failed.

I now determined to fire a few rounds across the river at a squadron of cavalry which was doing picket duty in and about Port Micou. The distance across the river at this point is about 1,000 yards. After the first volley, the cavalry quickly withdrew behind a slight rise of ground a quarter of a mile or more in the rear of the town. They did not leave a picket, cavalry or infantry, to watch our movements, and had I been provided with a boat capable of carrying 20 men, I might easily have