|HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY DIVISION,
ARMY NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
May 8th, 1863.
General-In anticipation of the detailed reports, I have the honor to submit the following sketch of the operations of the cavalry immediately preceding and during the battles of the Wilderness and Chancellorsville.
The enemy had more than a week previously concentrated a large body, two or three divisions of cavalry, along the bank of the upper Rappahannock, whose efforts to hold a footing on the south bank had been repulsed with loss by the two brigades with me, commanded respectively by Brigadier-Generals Fitzbugh and W. H. F. Lee. Finally, infantry appeared at Kelly's and Rappahannock bridge, but were so inactive that there was nothing inconsistent in the supposition that their appearance was a feint. About dark, however, on Tuesday night (28th), the enemy crossed below the bend of the river at Kelly's, in boats, opposite our videttes, and before the force posted to defend the ford could be sent to the point, had crossed in such numbers as to make an attempt at resistance futile. The party crossing at once threw over a pontoon bridge, and moved directly up the river, compelling our forces to abandon the ford at Kelly's and separating our communication with the lower pickets. General W. H. F. Lee, near Brandy, on receiving this intelligence, sent a regiment (Thirteenth Virginia cavalry) at once to meet the advance of infantry, which was checked a mile above Kelly's. I received information of this move about 9 P. M. at Culpeper, and made arrangements to have the entire cavalry and artillery force in Culpeper on the ground at daylight-directing, in the meantime, the enemy to be so enveloped with pickets as to see what route he took from Kelly's and keep him in check. General W. H. F. Lee selected a fine position between Brandy and Kelly's and awaited the advance; General Fitz. Lee being held in reserve at Brandy, with a regiment at Stevensburg. The enemy did not advance that way seriously, though Chambliss, with the Thirteenth Virginia, was skirmishing all the forenoon with the enemy's infantry.
A Prussian officer of General Carl Schurz's staff was captured, who reported that two corps of the enemy were certainly across the river; how many more were to follow, he did dot know. He estimated the force in this column at 20,000 men. He seemed frank and candid, as well as communicative.
About 1 P. M., I received a report from the pickets
towards Madden's that the enemy was moving a large infantry force in that
direction. Leaving Chambliss in front of the enemy where I
was, I marched the remainder of the command, Fitz. Lee in advance, directly
to Madden's, where we pierced the enemy's column while
These items were telegraphed to the Commanding General. Colonel J. Lucius Davis, near Beaver Dam, had been telegraphed early that day to move his force at once to occupy and hold the Rapidan fords, but I had no assurance that the order would be obeyed with sufficient promptness to accomplish the object; and as there was no cavalry on the left flank of the main army, it was indispensably necessary to move around, get in front of the enemy moving down upon Fredericksburg, delay him as much as possible, and protect our left flank. Besides, while in the execution of this design, I received instructions from the Commanding General to give necessary orders about public property along the railroad, and swing round to join his left wing, delaying the enemy as much as possible in his march.
The brigade of General Fitz. Lee was put en route,
in a jaded and hungry condition, to Raccoon ford, to cross and move round
to the enemy's front. General W. H. F. Lee, with the two regiments-Ninth
and Thirteenth-under his command, was directed to move by way of Culpeper,
to take up the line of the upper Rapidan, and lookout
Crossing the Rapidan that night, the main body of cavalry
was halted for rest a few hours, having marched more than half the night;
and one regiment (Colonel Owen's) was sent on to get between the enemy
and Fredericksburg and impede his progress. Early next day (Thursday, 30th),
Owen, having reached the Germana road on the Fredericksburg side, kept
in the enemy's front, while the remainder kept on the enemy's right flank,
and opened on his column en route at Wilderness tavern, delaying his march
till 12 M., and causing several regiments of infantry to deploy in line
of battle to meet us. Hearing that the enemy had already reached
Chancellorsville by the Eley's Ford road, I directed my march by Todd's
tavern for Spotsylvania Courthouse. Night overtook us at Todd's tavern,
and being anxious
It has been since ascertained that this expedition
was by no means an insignificant affair, and, but for the timely arrival
of this cavalry on the spot and its prompt and vigorous action, might have
resulted disastrously. Artillery as well as trains were passing Spotsylvania,
unprotected, at the time. With very little rest, and without waiting for
rations or forage, this noble little brigade, under its incomparable leader,
was in the saddle early next morning, and moving on Jackson's left flank
during the entire day (May 1st), swinging around to the left to threaten
the enemy's rear. On the morning of
In the subsequent operations attending the battle and
glorious victory, the cavalry did most essential service
The operations of Brigadier-General W. H. F. Lee, with his handful of men, are embraced in the memoranda furnished by him. His report is not only satisfactory, but gives evidence of sagacity and good conduct throughout, and of great efficiency on the part of his command.
The result shows that the disposition made of these two commands was absolutely necessary. Jones' brigade was entirely out of reach, and Hampton was south of James river recruiting.
That Stoneman with a large cavalry force was allowed to penetrate into the heart of the State, though comparatively harmless in results, is due to the entire inadequacy in numbers of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. The enemy has confronted us with at least three divisions of cavalry, more or less concentrated, which we opposed with one division, spread from the Chesapeake to the Alleghanby, yet had not the approach of a battle below made it necessary to divide the force of the two Lee's, I fell very confident it would have been prevented, though with great sacrifice of life, owing to disparity of numbers.
With the Commanding General, who is aware of all the facts, we are content to rest our vindication, if the pursuit of the plain path of duty needs vindication.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. B. STUART,
*Taken from the Southern Historical