Monday, December 15, 2008

Contemporary Account of Stoneman's Raid

We turned up a contemporary newspaper account of Stoneman's Riad in a Pennsylvania newspaper recently that I thought interesting. I considered saving it for posting in May, then considered the likelihood of me forgetting all about it by then and decided to put it up now. Unfortunately, I don't know who the "one who accompanied it" is. This article was originally published in the may 21, 1863 edition of The Alleghenian:

"Stoneman’s Great Cavalry Expedition

The following account of Gen. Stoneman’s remarkable expedition comes from one who accompanied it:

Gen. Stoneman with 2,700 picked men and a light battery of six pieces composed of a section selected from three batteries with special reference to procuring the best horses and men, started on the raid which has now become famous.

On the 13th of April, owing to heavy rains and various other circumstances, he did not cross the Rappahannock until ten days or a fortnight afterward. At the time of the crossing, General Averill started with a column along the end of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad with the intention of driving Lee and Hampton who were in that vicinity to Culpepper and Gordonsville, thus clearing the way for Gen. Stoneman’s body of cavalry who were to accomplish the real objects of the expedition.

General Stoneman crossed the Rappahannock at two places below where Gen. Averill crossed and advanced on the Shepherdsburg road. Sending out a party to reconnoiter toward Shepherdsburg, they came upon the rear pickets of the enemy who were in force between Stevensburg and the railroad with Gen. Averill in front. The nature of Gen. Stoneman’s expedition did not allow of his remaining there to fight, as to seek a battle would prevent the accomplishment of his designs; he therefore moved on to Raccoon Ford upon the advance. Reaching this place they found it defended by infantry and artillery. A detachment was therefore sent to cross the Rappahannock at a point some distance below Raccoon Ford and then to attack the enemy in the flank and rear. This was successfully accomplished and the main body crossed safely at Raccoon Ford. The command then proceeded down the direct road to Louisa Court House, sending out parties along every intersecting road to destroy bridges and telegraph wires and to obtain forage and provisions.

The bridges over unfordable streams, on the direct road, were left to be guarded by detachments in case they were required as a line of retreat. Reaching Louisa Court House on the line of the Virginia Central Railroad, expeditions were sent out along the road in either direction to destroy the road, telegraphs, burn the water tanks, depots and railroad ties. The expedition toward Gordonsville encountered a force of the enemy, who, by this time, had been driven from Culpepper and Gordonsville by Averill, who did not, however, effect a junction with Stoneman as directed. The enemy were in such force that re-enforcements were sent out and the Rebels were driven back to Gordonsville.
The destruction of the road was completed and a party proceeded to tear up the railroad between Gordonsville and Charlottesville. Parties were also sent out from Louisa Court House to destroy the bridges over the North Anna River. The command then proceeded through Sauceyville and rendezvoused at Thompson’s Crossroads.

From there three expeditions were sent out – one along the South Anna River to destroy the bridges across this unfordable stream; another to destroy the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad from Ashland down; also the railroad from Richmond to Hanover Court House to get as near Richmond as possible, and if practicable to cross over to Pamunky River, destroying such bridges as it was practicable to destroy and then to proceed down the Peninsula to West Point; the third expedition was to strike the James River at Columbia, break the locks of the canal and destroy the bridges as far down the river as might be. This expedition was to cross a small force over the James at Carterville and pass down and destroy the railroad bridge on the Richmond and Lynchburg Road, over the Appatuattox [as spelled in newspaper] River.

Gathering the balance of his force together at Thompson’s Cross roads, Gen. Stoneman prepared to return. By this time, Stuart, Lee and Hampton were in pursuit of the audacious party. The forces of the latter two were driven in the direction of Charlottesville and Stuart was drawn off in the direction of Guiney’s Station, by an apparent diversion of our forces in that direction.

Having thus separated Stuart’s command, Gen. Stoneman started on his return between the two bodies along the same route he went out. His scouting parties encountered the enemy’s infantry pickets on the road to Spotsylvania Court House but the command succeeded in safely re-crossing the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, swimming the latter.

The feat of getting the artillery across the latter stream, the horses swimming and drawing the guns, is certainly worthy of notice. Only one man was lost by drowning.

The success of the whole expedition is mainly due to the deception practiced upon the inhabitants.

The force was everywhere magnified and, by scattering in small parties, the delusion was completed by dividing the command into different expeditions. They were enabled to supply themselves with forage and provisions and thus live upon the country through which they passed. Their pack-mules were sent back the first day out, and officers and men only carried what they could upon their horses.

For two days and three nights they never built a fire. In many places they camped as though intending to remain, giving out that they were merely the advance guard of the main army.

With telegraphic communication destroyed and railroads interrupted, this was only too readily believed. The inhabitants were paroled and sent to Richmond. The officers captured were detained as prisoners; among these was Major Johnston of Gen. Stuart’s staff.

At one place, two large houses were found, filled with hams. What of this was not needed was destroyed. Twelve hundred hogsheads of tobacco were also captured, most of which were burned. Such horses as could be found were taken and those worn out by the march were left in their places.

Gen. Stoneman reports large quantities of supplies in Albemarie county, gathered there by the inhabitants. It was to protect these that Lee and Hampton proceeded in that direction.

It is estimated that the total number of miles traveled by the different expeditions will exceed one thousand.

The men return in the best of spirits though of course, considerably fatigued by their march. It seems almost incredible that the battery should have made the entire march with the main body, and returned without accident. The roads were in wretched condition and all the streams considerably swollen. During the whole time Gen. Stoneman has had no communication with General Hooker’s army."

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