Battlefield Dispatches for the
Battle of Unison - 1862
Report of Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, C. S. Army, commanding cavalry, of operations October 30-November 6.
HDQRS. CAVALRY CORPS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, February 27, 1864.
(From "Operations in N.VA, W.VA, MD, and PA (Chap XXXI)" from The War of the Rebellion - A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
published in Washington DC, 1887)
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the cavalry division from October 30, 1862, when I crossed the Blue Ridge, to November 6, 1862, when my command recrossed the Rappahannock, including notices of operations along that front subsequent to that time.
On October 30, 1862, it having been ascertained that the enemy had
crossed the Potomac in force in the vicinity of Leesburg, I was directed by the commanding general to cross at once' with one brigade of my command into Loudoun, with a view to watch the enemy's movements,
and to delay his progress while our army was changing its position, so as to confront him on the Rappahannock
At this time General Longstreet was moving his corps by way of Front Rloyal to Culpeper Jones' brigade was Ieft to bring up Jackson's rear in the valley, while Hampton's brigade, then in the vicinity of Martinsburg, was ordered to join me near Upperville by November 3.
I crossed with Fitz. Lee's brigade, under Col. Williams C. Wickham (Brig. Gen. Fitz. Leo having been disabled), and six pieces of the Stuart Horse Artillery, under Maj. John Palham, at Castleman's Ferry and Snicker's Gap. This brigade had been much diminished and its efficiency greatly impaired by the " greased heel" and sore tongue, at that time prevailing among the horses, and some of the regiments scarcely numbered 100 men for duty, the aggregate of the brigade for duty being less than 1,000. Proceeding in the direction of Middleburg, I bivouacked that night near Bloomfield
Having ascertained during the night that there was a force of the enemy at Mountville, where the Snickersville turnpike crosses Goose Creek, I started on the morning of the 31st with the command for that point. Pursuing an unfrequented road, I succeeded in surprising the enemy, who were in force of about 100, and dispersing the whole without difficulty; killed and captured nearly the whole number, among the former Captain Gove, of the First Rhode Island Cavalry. The attack was made by the Ninth Virginia, in advance, supported by the Third, which last continued the pursuit of the fugitives several miles to Aldie. Here, the enemy being in force, the Third Virginia retired to the hill overlooking the town until re-enforced by the rest of the command. The Fourth Virginia, now in advance, pushed on toward the village,meeting midway a column of the enemy charging up the lane. After a brief and fierce conflict, the leading squadron of the enemy was put to flight, and driven pell-mell down the narrow lane upon the next squadron, which was moving up at a gallop. The collision between these two bodies resulted in serious damage to both, and the whole was soon hut to flight and driven into the village. The enemy's artillery, which crowned the heights adjoining the village, now opened upon our advancing columns, and compelled us to discontinue the pursuit. Our pursuit bad been too rapid for the artillery to keep pace, but it finally came up, and was hut in position on the heights overlooking the village, and opened a destructive fire upon the enemy, compelling him to abandon his position.
At this time I was deterred from further attack by information that the enemy was advancing from the direction of MountŽville, which I had just left, and which was completely in my rear. I therefore retired just at dark, by way of Middleburg to a point a few miles beyond that place, where we encamped for the night.
It was subsequently ascertained that General Bayard was in-command of the enemy's forces, and that they retreated, without halting, to Fairfax Court-House, and that the reported advance from Mountville was a mistake.
The enemy suffered heavily in killed and wounded. Our own loss was very slight. In the camp captured at Montville several flags, numbers of saddles, valises, blankets, oil-cloths, and other valuable arŽticles were captured, which the enemy had abandoned in their hasty flight.
During November 1, a portion of my command being near Union, a point midway between the two turnpikes, it was ascertained that the enemy was advancing from the direction of Leesburg and debouching upon the turnpike at Philomont, a few miles above Mountville. Our
pickets having been attacked at that point, the brigade was moved through Union to their support. At this time General D. H. Hill, with his division, was in the vicinity of Upperville and Paris, and my command was so disposed as to cover his front. I immediately took position on the Union Heights to check the enemy's advance if he were in heavy force, or, if only a force of cavalry to attack him. The enemy spent the remainder of the day in reconnoitering, displaying very little force, and in the skirmishing which took place our lines were advanced to the vicinity of Philomont. The playing of bands and other indicaŽtions rendered it almost certain that there was a large force of infantry present. The command, having encamped for the night near their forŽmer position, moved early next morning (November 2) to reoccupy the line of battle held the previous day.
About 8 o'clock, the enemy began to deploy in our front both infantry and cavalry, with six or eight pieces of artillery. Our dispositions were made to receive him by posting artillery advantageously and the cavŽalry dismounted behind the stone fences, which were here very numerous, and, consequently, afforded the enemy as good shelter as ourselves. Having to watch. all the avenues leading to my rear, my effective force for fighting was very much diminished, but the Stuart Horse Artillery, under the incomparable Pelham, supported by the cavalry sharpshooters, made a gallant and obstinate resistance, maintaining their ground for the greater part of the day, both suffering heavily, one of our caissons exploding from the enemy's shot. It was during this engagement that Major Pelham conducted a howitzer some distance beyond support to a neighboring hill and opened a masked fire upon a body of the enemy's cavalry in the valley beneath, putting them to flight, capturing their flag and various articles-their arms, equipments, and horses, as well as some prisoners-sustaining in this extraordinary feat no loss whatever. The enemy finally enveloped our position with his superior numbers, both infantry and cavalry so as to compel our withdrawal; but every hill-top and every foot of ground was disputed, so that the enemy made progress of less than a mile during the day. The enemy were held at bay until dark at Seaton's Hill, which they assailed with great deterŽmination, but were, each time signally repulsed by the well-directed fire of the Horse Artillery. If Major Pelham, directing one of the shots himŽself at the color-bearer of an infantry regiment, struck him down at a distance of 800 yards. During this withdrawal, Captain Bullock, of the Fifth Virginia Cavalry, by great presence of mind and bravery, saved himself from capture in a very perilous position.
At night I bivouacked the command east of Upperville with the view of occupying as a line of battle the ground along the creek below the town. Some few of our wounded, who were so much disabled that they could not be moved, were left in hospital near Union, with surgeons and nurses.
Captain Blackford, of the Engineers, had been sent with a reconnoitering party to the Blue Ridge, to take a view of the enemy from that elevation. He reported immense trains of wagons coming from Leesburg toward Union, which, together with what had been developed in front, convinced ire. that it was McClellan's army on a forward movement. My instructions in case of such a movement were to move along the east side of the ridge, keeping in front of the enemy, and delaying his progress as much as possible; but in an interview with General D. II. Hill, at Upperville, lie expressed a great desire that I should retire through Ashby's Gap, as it was, he said, of the greatest importance that the enemy should be delayed there in order to enable Jackson's corps to get away. I acquiesced in this arrangement, as I knew that I could detach part of the command to keep along east of the Blue Ridge while the rest was thus occupied, especially as Hamptons brigade was then expected.