Report of Brig. Gen. John Buford, U.S. Army, commanding Reserve Brigade.
Hdqrs. Cavalry Reserve, Deep Run, May 15, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to instructions from corps headquarters, the brigade, composed of the First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth U.S. Cavalry, left camp at Falmouth at 8 a.m. on April 13, and marched to Morrisville, 21 miles, where it encamped for the night. Elder’s four gun battery joined the column at Hartwood.
On the 14th, at daylight, the brigade was in front of Kelly’s Ford, where it remained until 4 p.m. The object in view at Kelly’s Ford was to make a demonstration in favor of the portions of the corps that were to cross the river higher up. The demonstration was a success, as it has since been ascertained that all of the forces at or near Culpeper were hurried to Kelly’s Ford. While at the ford, the enemy opened upon the brigade with two 10-pounder Parrotts; fired 13 shots. Lieutenant Elder replied from his four guns, firing 12 shots, and drove the rebel guns out of sight. The enemy occupied the rifle-pits on their side of the river and fired upon us, doing no damage, save wounding 3 horses of Captain Clary’s squadron, of the Second Cavalry. The enemy had 5 men hit during the day about their rifle-pits. Not a man of the brigade was touched.
At 6.30 a.m. on the 15th, the brigade was at Rappahannock Bridge, ready to cross. Here orders were given to await further instructions.
At 11 a.m. the ford was swimming. At 10 a.m. Lieutenant Walker, of the Fifth, unaccompanied, crossed the river, in easy range of the enemy’s picket guard, 35 strong.
At midnight of the 15th, the Sixth was ordered to Morrisville to guard the trains. The country at that hour was like a sea. The regiment reached Morrisville on the 16th, having had Marsh Run to swim.
The brigade bivouacked near the Rappahannock Bridge until the morning of the 18th, when it moved up the railroad to near Bealeton. The enemy threw a few shells into the bivouac just after the command had marched.
On the 20th, the brigade marched to near Fayetteville, and picketed the river.
On the 22d, the brigade marched to Warrenton Junction; remained there until the 28th, then started for Kelly’s Ford; was prevented from reaching Kelly’s Ford by bad roads and fog.
Arrived at and crossed Kelly’s Ford on the 29th, and marched about 4 miles, when the advance was fired into.
On the night of the 29th, Captain Drummond’s and Lieutenant Walker’s squadrons, of the Fifth, dashed off to Brandy Station to communicate with General Averell. At Brandy Station they found the Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry and a battery opposed to General Averell. No communication could be made with General Averell. The squadrons returned during the night, having accomplished their mission in a most handsome manner. The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry joined the brigade at Kelly’s Ford, and served with it up to the present time. While halted at the forks of the road near Stevensburg, my pickets were fired upon on four different roads. They all behaved handsomely, and dispersed the foe opposed to them.
On the morning of the 30th, the packs were sent to General Slocum, and the column started for Mitchell’s Ford, on the Rapidan. The leading squadron, Lieutenant Mason’s, of the Fifth, swam the river at Mitchell’s, and scoured the country up to Morton’s and Raccoon Fords. Mitchell’s Ford was found impracticable. The command moved up to Morton’s, and there crossed the river, one squadron of the Sixth Pennsylvania taking the lead, and joining Mason’s squadron on the south side of the river. These two squadrons scoured the country up to Somerville Ford, and drove off some of the enemy’s forces, capturing some 15 prisoners. Lieut. Peter Penn-Gaskell drove the rebel pickets from Raccoon Ford, and found the ford a practicable one. The brigade bivouacked at Raccoon Ford, and marched at daylight to Verdierville, crossed the Plank road, and encamped on the south side of the North Branch of the North Anna. General Gregg pushed on to Louisa Court-House.
On May 2, the brigade passed through Louisa Court-House, and proceeded to Yanceyville. At Louisa, Captain Lord, with his regiment, the First Cavalry, was detached toward Tolersville and Frederickshall, to destroy the railroad and to burn the bridge over the North Anna, on the road from Fredericksburg. He accomplished all that he was sent to do thoroughly.
May 3 found the brigade at Thompson’s Cross-Roads. Captain Lord returned. Captain Drummond, with 200 men of the Fifth, was detached for a special purpose, which he accomplished. Captain Harrison, with the remainder of his regiment, went to Flemmings’ Cross-Roads.
On the morning of the 4th, Captain Harrison was attacked by over 1,000 of the enemy’s cavalry. He made a determined stand; met this overwhelming force with 30 men, and checked it until he could get in his detached parties and save his led horses. His loss in the engagement was 2 officers (Captain Owen and Lieutenant Buford) and 30 men, all supposed to be prisoners from this date. He brought off his wounded. Captain Harrison speaks in the highest terms of the officers and men with him in his engagement, and he deserves the highest praise for his coolness and gallantry displayed in extricating his command from the clutches of a force that was more than ten times superior in numbers. I feel confident that had he had the 200 men of his regiment with Captain Drummond, he would have disposed the force that attacked him.
May 5. – At Flemmings’ Cross-Roads all of the strong horses of the brigade were selected, 646 in number, and the command started to Gordonsville. After crossing the South Anna at Yanceyville, my intention was to go across the country, keeping south of the railroad and Gordonsville, but soon found it impracticable, from the broken ground and impenetrable forests. The only alternative was to march by Louisa. At Louisa I found telegraphic communication had been restored with Gordonsville. The wires were again destroyed, the post-office seized, and the command started down the railroad to Gordonsville. At Trevilian’s Station we destroyed the pumps and water-tanks, 2 hand-cars, a large supply of subsistence stores, and 2 wagons loaded with ammunition and arms. The wood and ties along the road were burned, and the telegraph destroyed by taking out long pieces of the wire. When within 2 miles of Gordonsville, the enemy’s infantry and artillery were found in position awaiting our arrival. The command then turned north, and marched until nearly daylight, and stopped safe on the north side of the North Anna, near Orange Springs. The water in the North Anna was rising fast when the head of the column struck it, and before the rear of my short column passed it was swimming. The rear guard found it impassable, and crossed it on rafts.
General Stoneman, with General Gregg and the rest of my brigade, came up early on the 6th, just as I was about starting for Raccoon Ford.
Toward evening the command marched again, and arrived at Raccoon Ford about 2 a.m. on the 7th. The brigade was all across at 4 a.m.
At the crossing of the Plank road, the Second was sent to Germanna Mills to hold that ford against the enemy. Here we received the first reliable information that General Hooker had recrossed the Rappahannock. The command reached Kelly’s Ford in the night, and found the river swimming. The brigade was all posted on the approaches to the ford, and remained standing to horse until daylight, when the brigade began crossing. The crossing was effected without losing a man. Two worn out horses were lost.
On the 8th, the brigade encamped near Rappahannock Bridge and drew forage.
On the 9th, moved to Bealeton for supplies.
On the 10th, started for Falmouth, and reached Deep Run, where instructions were received to picket the river from Rappahannock Bridge to Falmouth, which duty the brigade is performing now.
From the time that the brigade struck the river at Rappahannock Bridge on the 15th, up to the crossing of the river on the 29th, it seemed as though the elements were combined against our advance; such rains and roads I had never seen. During the whole expedition the roads were in a worse condition than I could have supposed to be possible, and the command was called upon to endure much severe discomfiture. The men’s rations were destroyed almost as soon as issued. No fires could be lighted to cook or dry by, and the dark, cold, wet nights that the men were compelled to march wore them out; but all, without exception, were full of enthusiasm, ready for any emergency, and did their duty with hearty good-will. I have not heard of a complaint or murmur. Each regiment has had about the same amount of duty to perform. The Fifth probably had a little the most, and most nobly have they all responded when called upon.
There were a number of men from the brigade left whose horses had to be abandoned. It will be impracticable to get the names of these men or the number until the brigade is again concentrated. The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, under Major Morris, had its equal share of trials and exposure, and has been more than equal to any task imposed upon it. A number of animals of inferior quality were captured, which served to bring out of the country the men whose horses had failed.
At Thompson’s Cross-Roads a train of 15 new wagons was captured and destroyed by Captain Keough, one of my aides, and Lieutenant Walker, of the Fifth. The mules, 60 in number, were distributed to the dismounted men of the command.
I have not received the reports from the regimental commanders of the operations of their respective commands, except from Captain Harrison, of the Fifth, and Captain Lord, of the First Cavalry; these are transmitted herewith. Captain Harrison speaks of his officers and men in most flattering terms. He himself has behaved most heroically throughout.
All of my staff – Captains [Myles W.] Keough, [Joseph] O’Keeffe, and [Theodore C.] Bacon; Lieutenants [John] Mix, Peter Penn Gaskell, [Philip] Dwyer, and [William] Dean – have been severely worked, and have rendered valuable service to me. Untiring and zealous, they have relieved me of much anxiety, and have promoted good feeling through the brigade.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
Lieut. Col. A.J. Alexander,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Corps.
Source: OR, Vol. 25, pt 1, pgs 1087-1090