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10 Series I Volume XXXIII- Serial 60 - New Berne

Page 10 OPERATIONS IN N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XLV.

JANUARY 1-4, 1864. - Expedition from Bealeton to Front Royal, Va.

Report of Colonel John P. Taylor, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding expedition.

January 4, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In pursuance to instructions from the major-general commanding, dated 6. 30 p. m., December 31, 1863, received by me 12. 05 a. m., January 1, 1864, I have the honor to report that I left my camp with part of the Second Brigade at 7 a. m. January 1, 1864, and arrived at Warrenton at 1 p. m., where I found Lieutenant-Colonel Kester, commanding First Brigade, Second Division, in readiness, save the two regiments on picket, and not deeming it proper to wait longer for the First Brigade, First Division, which was to relieve my pickets and take position at this point, I at once determined to proceed with the force I had, save Captain Randol's battery, which on account of the badness of the roads I deemed prudent to send back to camp at Bealeton and take Lieutenant Egan's battery of rifled guns.

I left Warrenton at 2. 30 p. m., taking the Waterloo pike as far as Hedgeman River; thence taking road to Orleans, making a cold and weary march, at which place I arrived after dark and went into camp. At daylight on the morning of the 2nd January I took up line of march for Chester Gap, 19 miles distant, over an almost impracticable road, as far as what is called Chester Gap grade, and at that point to gain the grade my artillery was obliged to double their trains.

From this point I found the road in good condition, save but one exception of 300 yards, which was very bad. I reached Front Royal about dark. Sending Lieutenant-Colonel Kester with 500 cavalry to examine the fords of the Shenandoah, and to ascertain if a communication could be established with Winchester, Lieutenant-Colonel Kester reported it utterly impracticable. I then went into camp. Early ont eh morning of the 3rd January I went to the ford myself the night previous, utterly impracticable, even for cavalry, and from the signs of the weather at this point it was evident that it could not be crossed at any point; even at Luray, 25 miles distant, it was reported unfordable. All the information gained from different sources corroborated the report that Rosser and Imboden, with about 2,800 cavalry, and General Early, with a considerable infantry force, were between Strasburg and New Market, and that the river between them and Winchester was also unfordable. NO pickets of the enemy were to be seen on the opposite side of the river. Citizens said it was impossible for horsemen to cross even at Strasburg toward Front Royal.

My command being out of forage, and having but one day's rations, I determined, having fulfilled my mission, to return. I at once dispatched a staff officer with an escort of 100 men to report, and at 12 o'clock started on my return, by way of Manassas Gap and Salem, the road between these points being almost impassable from he severity of the weather, the mountain streams overflowing the roads from the recent rains and frozen for hundreds of yards, through which I was obliged to cut away the ice to enable my artillery to pass over. The weather was intensely cold, and I cannot but express

Page 10 OPERATIONS IN N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XLV.