Today in History:

1114 Series I Volume XXV-I Serial 39 - Chancellorsville Part I

Page 1114 N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.

crossed the river, destroyed the boats, and captured or burned any public stores which might have been found in the town.

It was now after 7 o'clock in the morning, and I moved the column down the river bank as if going to Leedstown, 3 miles below; but, after marching a short distance, I turned to the left, and marched directly for Oak Grove, thinking it most likely I should intercept any rebels there might be in that section, who would probably be seeking to make their way to the river. I had already sent a party of mounted men to Leedstown. As I was turning to leave the river, I saw two men in rebel uniform crossing the field and evidently making for the water. I dispatched in pursuit Private Aaron F. Bickford, Company H, First Maine Cavalry, orderly at corps headquarters, who soon returned bringing with him Lieutenant-Colonel [John] Critcher, Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry, as a prisoner of war. Bickford deserves great credit for his promptness and gallantry, and I recommend him to the notice of the Government.

The column halted at Oak Grove a little after noon. Oak Grove is a place of no importance, except that it is at the intersection of several of the principal roads on the Northern Neck. These roads lead to King George Court-House, Mattox Creek, Westmoreland Court-House, Leedstown, and Port Conway.

From Oak Grove I sent a squadron of cavalry to Westmoreland Court-House, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dudley, Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers, and determined to remain in my present position until I could get definite information in relation to the probable whereabouts of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry.

During the night of the 23rd, Colonel Dudley sent me a dispatch stating that he had information upon which he relied that three regiments of cavalry and a regiment of rebel infantry were in the vicinity of Westmoreland Court-House.

Early in the morning I marched with my command (except a detachment which I left at Oak Grove) for Rappahannock Creek, which is a mile this side of the town. The crossing here is such that 100 men could keep at bay 1,000, and unless some other crossing better than this can be found, it would be no difficult thing for two or three companies of infantry to bid defiance to several regiments of cavalry.

This, if any place, was the point where the rebels would make a stand, and here I concluded to leave my infantry under Colonel Williams, Nineteenth Indiana, while I pressed on toward Heathsville, in Northumberland County, with the squadron, of the Eighth New York Cavalry. All the preparations were made, and the advance had actually started, when the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, with an immense train of wagons, carts, horses, mules, and contrabands, came up accompanied by my scouts.

On the 25th, at 4 o'clock in the morning, we retraced our steps toward camp, and bivouacked for the night near King George Court-House.

On the 26th, the expedition returned to camp, having marched in five days and half a distance of 130 miles.

Although the country was full of reports of the presence of a rebel force on the Peninsula, I have now no reason to believe that any considerable force was at any one place on this side of the Rappahannock. These reports are no doubt put in circulation by the enemy for some purpose unknown to us, but most likely to deter us from sending our cavalry down the Neck into the wealthy and flourishing district of country embraced in the counties of Westmoreland, Richmond, Northumberland, and Lancaster, which is abundantly supplied with corn and

Page 1114 N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.