Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/382

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372 Southern Historical Society Papers.

in position until the Federal infantry reinforced their large force of cavalry and with it had almost entirely surrounded them. Though portions of this force, particularly the command of General G. W. C. Lee, fought with a gallantry never surpassed, their defeat and sur- sender were inevitable, after the dispositions of the enemy to effect it. I am clearly of the opinion (and I only express it because I was a witness of all that happened until just previous to the surrender) that had the troops been rapidly massed when their march was first interrupted they could have cleared the way and been able to fall into line of battle on Longstreet's left, who was taking position at Rice's Station, some few miles ahead. Or had the heads of the column been turned obliquely off in a westerly direction, more to- wards the road Gordon and the wagons were moving upon, an echelon formation adopted, the nature of the ground, wooded and much broken, would have kept the cavalry from harassing them sufficiently to retard their progress until the arrival of their infantry. I rode out by that way with my staff and a few men just previous to Ewell's surrender, and found it so feasible that I immediately sent a staff officer back to Generals Ewell and Anderson to reiterate to them my convictions, previously expressed, and now so much strengthened by my own ex- perience. The halt, allowing time for the accumulation of the enemy's troops, proved fatal. General Rosser, in command of his own, and my old division, under Munford, proceeded to Rice's Station, on the Southside road, where, learning that a force had been detached from the Federal left, confronting Longstreet at that point, to open on his rear, moved at once to counteract their purpose. The enemy were overtaken and attacked on the road towards and in the vicinity of High Bridge. After a sharp encounter they were defeated, our forces ■capturing some 780 prisoners and killing and wounding a large number, including amongst the killed their commander, Brigadier- General Read, Chief of Staff to General Ord, commanding Army of the James, whose body fell into our hands. The enemy's force proved to be a picket body of infantry and a squadron of cavalry, which, placed under this staff officer, had for its object the destruction of the High Bridge over the Appomattox, in our rear. The success was indeed dearly bought; for the lives of Brigadier-General Bear- ing, of Rosser' s division; Colonel Boston, Fifth Virginia cavalry, commanding Payne's brigade of my old division, and Major James W. Thomson, Stuart's horse artillery, and Rosser' s chief in that arm, were lost in attaining it. The splendid gallantry of these three officers had been tested on many fields, and their conspicuous valor