Fredericksburg, April 19, 1872.
Dear Sir—I regret very much that I am unable to assist you materially in the review you propose of the article sent in regard to "Dahlgren's Ride into Fredericksburg."
The files of the Herald during the war fell a prey to the ravages of the times, and I have not the slightest recollection of any facts that I may then have written.
The first intimation I had of the affair was a small colored boy's coming into the chamber (about 8 o'clock in the morning, or possibly 9) with the announcement, "De Yankees is in town." It was Sunday morning, as you recollect. Directly thereafter I heard the clatter of horses' feet, and on going to the parlor window saw the head of the invading force. The horses were in a walk, and no dash whatever. I looked for some moments before I realized that they were indeed Federal soldiers. I saw the blue overcoats, but thought they belonged to Colonel Bell's company, he having arrived, as I understood, the evening before.
The invading party could learn at Falmouth all they wanted to know, and I have not a doubt that when they crossed the river they were under the impression that only one company of cavalry occupied the town. I do not suppose any one in Falmouth had heard of the arrival of Bell and his company—the latter, I believe, having been quartered below town or in its suburbs late the evening previous.
You know more accurately than I do as to the "fruits of the victory," &c. The Munchausen story of "prisoners," "holding the town three hours" &c., is simply ludicrous.
The Federal cavalryman was killed by one of the Confederates, and not a citizen. The first was on the outside of a fence on a cross street and the other on the inside. There was no dash on his part after a "Rebel flag," but those living in the vicinity said he was retreating and refused to surrender. This I learned a very brief period after he was killed, and whilst his body was still lying on the ground. His "fellow-soldiers" had something else to do than take his body to the northern shore and bury it. They were retreating for life. One or two of the Yankees were captured. I remember to have talked with one, and my impression is that he was not wounded.
I remember that you took some cavalrymen, crossed the river, and went in pursuit—overtook them, and had a brisk engagement. You told me afterwards of the gallantry of some of your men on that occasion.
Regretting that I cannot assist you in giving a narrative, such as I could if my memory was refreshed by the account I wrote at the time, I remain,
Very truly yours,
J. H. Kelly.