CAMP OF FIRST BRIGADE, HORSE BATTERIES,
Near Aquia Creek, Va., March 19, 1863.
LIEUTENANT: I beg to submit the following report of the participation of my battery in the recent expeditionary movement commanded by Brigadier-General Averell:
Pursuant to orders from headquarters Cavalry Corps, dated March 15, 1863, my battery took up its march from camp near Aquia Creek at daybreak on the morning of the 16th instant, but owing to the fact of the guide having mistaken the road, I did not reach Hartwood Church until 4 p.m.
Upon my arrival there, I reported to Colonel Curtis, and received an escort to Morrisville, which place I reached at 11 p.m.
We halted, fed the horses, and moved forward with the column at 4.30 a.m. of the 17th instant, arriving at Kelly’s Ford at about 6.30 a.m.
Upon arriving at the ford, skirmishing commenced between the cavalry pickets of the enemy and our advance. The enemy here making a very stubborn resistance to our crossing, I was ordered to advance one piece into position, with a view to cover the axmen who were employed in removing the obstructions to the ford, which being accomplished, our cavalry advanced to the ford. After one or two attempts, a crossing was effected and the enemy driven in all directions, some 30 prisoners being taken, together with horses and equipments.
At this time I brought one more piece into position, to cover the crossing of the main column, which, being effected, my battery went forward, piece by piece, over the ford, one squadron of cavalry carrying over the ammunition by hand, which was necessitated by the depth of the water. We then moved forward, and our advance came up with the enemy about half a mile from the ford.
At this time my right section was ordered forward, and, after advancing a short distance, the cavalry became engaged with the enemy, who were in force. Owing, however, to the narrow and extremely muddy and impracticable condition of the road, I could bring but one piece into battery, sending the others to the rear. The enemy now appeared in such force as to momentarily check the advance of our cavalry, which, however, soon rallied, and drove them from the woods, their left flank being turned by our cavalry on the right, with which was posted two of my pieces, commanded by Lieutenant Clark, and which did good execution. The enemy were driven across the plain in the greatest confusion.
At this time I received an order from Lieutenant Rumsey to bring my whole battery into position into the open field from which the enemy had been driven. This order I executed at once, calling in the two pieces which were posted with the cavalry on the right, as also the two pieces which were with the reserve. I formed my battery in line, and moved forward with the cavalry to the woods at the farther extremity of the plain, where we formed in battery to receive the enemy, who was expected to make a charge. At this point, by command of Lieutenant Rumsey, I left two of my pieces with the reserve, their ammunition being nearly exhausted.
After a brief delay, we again moved forward in column of pieces, with the cavalry skirmishing as they advanced for about a mile, and came into battery of four pieces in a large open plain on the left of the road. At this point we received from the enemy the first intimation that our farther advance would be opposed by artillery. They opened a fire with shot and shell upon our column as it came up the road, having three pieces in position commanding the road, consisting of two 10-pounder rifles and one 6-pounder gun. On their extreme right was posted another section of their artillery, which was not used, being probably held in reserve to check our farther advance.
Having already expended one-half of my ammunition, I had remaining 150 rounds when I entered this field, and could only fire, therefore, at long intervals, deeming it prudent to reserve my fire for the opposing columns of cavalry, and at long and uncertain ranges upon the enemy’s artillery, as it was evident they intended to charge us at once.
In this conclusion we were not at fault, for the enemy soon appeared in force in our immediate front, extending from the right to the left of the road, with the evident object of driving in the supports on either flank of the battery. As I observed this, I opened upon them with shell at about 1,500 yards, and at a distance of, say, 1,000 yards with spherical case, continuing it until they arrived at about 400 yards, when, obliquing my sections to both flanks, I opened on them with double-shotted canister with great effect. Our cavalry at this moment charged the lines of the enemy, driving them back in confusion, when I immediately changed the direction of my fire to the enemy’s artillery. It now became evident, both from the statements of wounded prisoners and other sources, that the enemy were being largely re-enforced both by artillery and cavalry. We, however, maintained our position for about an hour, replying at intervals to their artillery, which was most advantageously posted and commanded every approach by the front and flank, their cavalry being at the same time masked by the woods on either flank of their batteries, which kept up a constant and harassing fire upon us, to which, however, I could only reply occasionally, thinking it prudent to reserve a supply to cover the recrossing, should it be necessary to do so. Upon receiving an order from General Averell to fall back, I limbered up, recrossed the ford, and placed two pieces in position on the opposite bank to cover the crossing of the remaining columns, sending the balance to Morrisville with a regiment of cavalry, the First Rhode Island. The recrossing having been effected without loss, in conformity with orders I proceeded to Morrisville, where the column halted until daybreak, when we returned to camp via Hartwood Church.
As regards the loss of the enemy, I have no means of determining, but from my own observation I should say that it far exceeded ours, their prisoners saying also that they suffered very heavily.
As to the effect of this affair upon the morale of our cavalry, it only strengthens my belief in their superiority and efficiency over that of the enemy, as was clearly demonstrated in each encounter.
I beg to tender my acknowledgments to the staff and officers of General Averell’s command for the courtesy and consideration shown to me and my command, it being the first occasion on which my battery has ever had the opportunity to maneuver with cavalry, and they were, therefore, perhaps in some respects deficient in the requirements of this branch of the service.
I have to report the following casualties: One man (Private Richard Paxton) and 2 horses killed; 2 sets of horse equipments unavoidably lost; 1 wheel for 6-pounder carriage badly damaged; 1 sponge-bucket and 2 handspikes lost; 6 sponge-staffs broken; 3 felling axes loaned to cavalry and not returned. <ar39_56>
Hotchkiss canister 32
Schenkl percussion shell 90
Hotchkiss shrapnel 100
Hotchkiss shell 25
I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. BROWNE, JR.,
First Lieut., Comdg. Sixth Independent N. Y. Horse Battery.
First Lieut. C. F. TROWBRIDGE,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.