Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/263

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


Operations of General Stuart before Chancellor sville. 251

heavily in horses. In the summer of 1865, 1 wrote out a sort of journal of our cavalry niQvements. I find I there state that the pickets at Kelly's ford were captured on the 29th April, 1863, but the reserve being stationed further back, made their escape, though their communication with Richards' ford was cut off, so they could not give the alarm to that post according to instructions in such cases. The weather was cloudy and misty, and the surprising force got across the stream, above or below the ford, and under cover of the darkness of early dawn attacked the pickets in rear. Stuart, upon being advised of a force crossing at Kelly's ford, naturally looked for an advance upon Culpeper, and made his dispositions accordingly.

It must be borne in mind that those important arteries of sup- ply the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and the James River and Kanawha canal were frequently the objective points which were aimed at by heavy columns of Federal troops during the war. That a large cavalry column, or even a mixed column of cavalry and infantry, crossing at Kelly's ford, would aim at Gordonsville, Columbia, or some point nearer Richmond (on the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad), was, therefore, more probable than that they constituted a part of a column of attack on General Lee's position at Fredericksburg. Even though they moved out from Kelly's ford on the Germanna road, they might afterwards move to the right and cross the Rapidan at Raccoon or Morton's ford. Ac- cordingly, we find that General Stuart moved forward from his camps and formed his line of battle between Kelly's ford and Culpeper Courthouse. Expecting an attack by a largely superior force, it behooved him to be cautious and to act on the defensive. He awaited the enemy's advance. Their skirmishers and ours were engaged. So situated, our commander could not assume that they were not going to attack his position, until after such lapse of time as repelled such an idea. So, shortly after noon, he be- coming convinced, from the long delay to advance, that they did not mean to advance upon Culpeper, withdrew the greater part of his forces from the Culpeper front, and moved around to the right, so as to interpose his troops between the upper fords of the Rapidan and the enemy. In the presence of such superior numbers, his command could not accomplish much more than to act as a corps of observation. He, however, shelled the enemy's trains, retarded their march, and took some prisoners. It was nearly night before the enemy's movement became fully enough developed to make it