Monday, June 2, 2008

Offical reports vs private journals

It is sometimes interesting to compare what people say in their official reports to what they may record in their diaries or letters home. Two such accounts of the same event by the same person are pretty rare, but I’ve come across a case on this same day in 1862.

Captain August V. Kautz was directed to take an expedition consisting of his squadron (Companies B and H) of the 6th U.S. Cavalry and two squadrons of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry to burn the ferries across the Pamunkey River and arrest Doctor Carter W. Wormley. At this time his was the only squadron in the regiment armed with carbines. Listed below are his official report of the event from the Official Records, and an excerpt from his journal for these two days, published in the Supplement to the Official Records by Broadfoot Publishing.

The official report, submitted to brigade headquarters:

“Camp near Richmond, Va.,
June 3, 1862

Sir: In obedience to instructions received I have to report that I proceeded with my squadron, armed with carbines, and two squadrons of Lancers to New Castle, on the Pamunkey River, yesterday afternoon, where I found the ferry-boat destroyed by some previous party. I ascertained the same to be true at Bassett’s and Pipingtree, farther down the river, by sending a squadron of Lancers to each point. I arrived at Wormley’s Ferry so late last evening that I could do nothing, as the boats were on the opposite side of the river, as is also Dr. Wormley’s residence, where I expected to find him. I therefore returned to New Castle and encamped.

Through information obtained last evening and the aid of a slave recently escaped I was enabled to find the ferry-boat belonging to Dr. Wormley’s ferry concealed in a creek near by on the north side of the river, together with the sloop Golden Gate, about 25 tons, from Norfolk, eight wooden boats, and one metallic life-boat, each capable of carrying from 20 to 30 persons. The ferry-boat would carry two teams with their horses. All these were rendered entirely useless. The sloop was burned.
A small canoe enabled me to send Lieutenant Balder and 6 men, who succeeded in arresting Dr. Wormley. I sent him immediately to the provost-marshal-general by Lieutenant Balder, who was directed also to report in person at headquarters the result of the expedition, as I was delayed several hours in destroying the boats. These boats were about a mile above New Castle by the road, on Dr. Wormley’s farm, and were concealed, as the entrance of the creek was hidden by the foliage of newly-felled trees. The river was flooded and still rising to-day, and troops could not be crossed without fixing a line.

I could collect no satisfactory information that a force was organizing or existed on the north side of the river, as I supposed in my instructions. Having complied with my instructions I returned to camp with my command this afternoon.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Sixth Cavalry, Commanding Expedition.

Lieut. J. C. Audenried,
Sixth Cavalry, Acting Asst. Adjt. Gen., Cavalry Brigade."

And the entry from his journal for the same period:

“June 2. --- The morning was spent in camp. After dinner an order came for me to take my squadron and two squadrons of lancers and proceed to the Pamunkey River and burn the ferries and destroy all communications across the Pamunkey above Pipingtree to Doctor Wormley’s Ferry, to arrest Doctor Wormley and to ascertain all I could about a force organizing in King William County. The ferry’s having already been destroyed or removed, I could do nothing this evening except to camp. I sent one squadron to Pipingtree to ascertain if the ferry was destroyed. We ordered supper with Mr. Patterson, the overseer, and I devoted myself to hunting up information for the work to-morrow. Through Dennis, Captain Savage’s servant, I learned all that is necessary for tomorrow.

"June 3. --- It rained very hard last night, and I was driven to take shelter under the porch of the overseer’s house. I sent the other squadron of Lancers down to Bassett’s Ferry to see if it could be used, whilst I took a contraband and proceeded to Doctor Wormley’s Ferry, with my squadron. We sent a man across the stream, where he found a canoe in which Lieutenant Balder crossed with five or six men and proceeded to arrest Doctor Wormley, whilst we proceeded to destroy the ferry boat and a sloop of twenty-five tons, the Golden Gate of Norfolk and eight yawl boats and one metallic life boat, which we found concealed in the mouth of little creek near by. The doctor was very violent. I sent him to the Provost Marshal General and returned to camp with my command and wrote my report. More rain….”

In this case, it appears the two accounts are very close. The only differences, that Captain Savage’s servant actually obtained the information and a trooper had to swim the Pamunkey to get the canoe, are pretty minor.

Official Records, Series I, Volume 11, Part I, pages 997-998.

Supplement to the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, page 123.

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