|Paper Read Before Wright-Latane Camp, Confederate Veterans, Tappahannock,
Va., December 21, 1896.
By Hon. WILLIAM CAMPBELL, Company F, 9th Virginia Cavalry.
At your request, I undertake, after an intervention
of more than thirty-four years, to write (from memory)
my recollections of Stuart's famous ride around McClellan's
army in the early summer of 1862; and
also of the death of Captain William Latane, of the
Essex Light Dragoons, who fell in a charge made by
his squadron upon the enemy near the "Old Church,"
in Hanover county, Va.
Captain Latane, a son of Henry Waring and Susan
Allen Latane, was born at "The Meadow" on the 16th
of January, 1833, and grew to man's estate surrounded
by home influences not inferior to any in Virginia.
After receiving such training as the surrounding educational
institutions could afford, he began the
study of medicine at the University of Virginia in
October, 1851. Here he remained until the following summer, not offering
In the fall of 1852, for some unexplained reason, he
did not return to the University, but transferred
the scene of his studies to the Richmond Medical College, where he graduated
in the spring of 1853. The following winter he spent in Philadelphia, taking
a post-graduate course at one of the medical schools of that city, and
also attending the hospital practice of the city. On returning home in
the spring of 1854, he located at
"The Meadow," and at once became a candidate for
the practice of medicine. Here he remained until the
breaking out of the war, not only attending to his practice--which soon
became extensive, in consequence of his doing a large amount of charity
practice among the poor around him--but giving successful attention
to his large farm; and in the management of the labor
on this farm he was "without any thought of it on his part," thus receiving
preliminary training for the handling of large bodies of soldiers when
the clash of arms should come upon his loved country. This would surely
have been realized, had not his young life been snatched so suddenly away.
Early in 1861, when Mr. Lincoln made his call for
troops to put down what he termed "the rebellion,"
there was a rush to arms all over Virginia, and soon a cavalry company,
called the Essex Light Dragoons, was formed, electing as their officers
Dr. R. S. Cauthorn, captain; William L. Waring, first lieutenant; William
A. Oliver, second lieutenant, and William Latane,
third lieutenant. The company was soon mustered into
the Confederate service for one year. In the spring of 1862 it became necessary
to re-enlist the men and reorganize the company, and in this reorganization,
by common consent, William Latane was made captain.
It was about this time that your writer made the acquaintance of his captain.
I found him a man of
small stature and quiet demeanor, but quick to perceive
the wrong and very assertive in his opposition to it.
He commanded the confidence of his men by his evenhanded
justice to all, and at the same time he brooked no disorder.
Soon after the reorganization
he was ordered to report with his company at Hick's
Hill, near Fredericksburg, to become one of the constituent companies of
the Ninth Virginia Cavalry,
of which W. H. F. Lee, a son of General R. E. Lee,
was colonel; R. L. T. Beale, lieutenant-colonel, and Thomas Waller, major.
The Essex Light Dragoons became Company F of that famous regiment, and
in the years that followed few of the recruits knew the company
by its original name. The month of service around
Fredericksburg amounted to little except picket and
drill duty, but McClellan's landing on the Peninsula
and his march on Richmond made it necessary for us
to retire to the lines around that city. Our regiment
found a camp near Young's Millpond, and not far
from the Brook Turnpike, occupying a position on
the extreme left of the army defending Richmond. Nothing
of special interest occurred during the
following month other than the usual routine camp
But on Thursday, June 12th, came orders to prepare
three days' rations and hold ourselves ready to march
at a moment's notice. There was naturally suppressed
excitement and speculation as to what we were to do or where we were to
go, but no news came, and we could only indulge in speculation as to our
destination. About 1 o'clock P. M. the regimental bugler sounded "saddle
up," which was caught up by the company buglers and soon the camp was in
commotion. "To horse" was soon sounded, and through the whole camp could
be heard the command of the officers, "Fall in, men." Companies were formed
and our regiment marched out of camp to participate in the most memorable
and daring raid that was made during the war. We marched in the direction
of Hanover Courthouse and went into camp after dark, having marched some
fifteen miles. Early dawn on the following morning found us in the saddle,
the Ninth Virginia in the front, and our squadron, composed of the Mercer
Cavalry, of Spotsylvania, and our company being in the front of the regiment,
the Mercer being in advance. Captain Crutchfield being absent,
Captain Latane commanded the squadron, and, of course, rode in front, immediately
in the rear of Colonel Lee and staff.
Our march proceeded via Hanover Courthouse and
on toward the Old Church. The first indication
of an enemy we saw was the bringing in of a Yankee by one
of our scouts. Soon thereafter Captain Latane rode
to the rear and ordered four of his own company to advance to the front
and form the first set of fours.
This had scarcely been accomplished before Colonel
Lee ordered Captain Latane to throw out four flankers,
two on either side, and four members of his company were at once ordered
to proceed, two to the right and the others to the left, and march a little
in advance of the regiment.
Your writer was one of those on the left.
Moving forward, not seeing an enemy or supposing one to
be near, I suddenly heard the command to charge,
and then the clash of arms, with rapid pistol
shots. Riding rapidly towards the firing, I found our squadron occupying
the road and two companies of the Fifth United States Regulars attempting
to form in a field near at hand, and Lieutenant Oliver urging his men to
charge them. This was promptly done, and the enemy driven to the woods.
Just before reaching the timber,
I overtook Lieutenant McLane, of the Federals, and
he, seeing the utter futility of resistance, surrendered.
As I was taking him to the rear, I met Colonel Lee
and was told by him of the death of Captain Latane.
He ordered me to turn my prisoner over to the guard,
and then go and look after my captain. I soon found
his body, surrounded by some half a dozen of his men,
one of whom was his brother, John--who was afterwards elected a lieutenant
in the company, and the following year he, too, sealed his devotion to
his country with
his life. Another of those present was S. W.
a sergeant in the company, and, I wish to add, as
gallant a spirit as ever did battle for a country.
Mitchell, being the stoutest man present, was selected
to bear the body from the field. He having mounted
his horse, we tenderly raised the body and placed
it in front of him. John Latane then mounted his horse,
and he and Mitchell passed to the rear, while the
of us hurried to join our command on its perilous
journey. I wish I could write my feelings as I looked upon the form
of him who but a few moments before was the embodiment of life and duty.
I wish I could describe to you the beautiful half Arabian horse that
he rode, "The Colonel," and how splendidly he sat
him, but I fully realize that I am not equal to the task. John R. Thompson,
in his beautiful poem, "The Burial of Latane," and William D. Washington,
in his painting
of the same name, have, by pen and brush, so enshrined
the name of Latane in the hearts of the people of our Southland that it
will endure as long as men are
admired for the devotion to duty and for risking their
lives upon the perilous edge of battle in defense of homes and country.
I can only add that the glorious Stuart continued to
ride grandly on his way, the Ninth Virginia still
holding the post of honor at the front. Passing the Old Church,
we hastened on toward the York River Railroad. Soon
it was crossed and night came on but not halting.
we marched into the county of New Kent. All that long
night was spent in the saddle, pushing our way toward the lower Chickahominy,
which we reached in the early morning, only to find that the bridge over
which we intended to cross had been burned. But General Stuart was equal
to the emergency. He soon had his rear guarded and the men swimming their
horses over, while others were tearing down an old barn, out of which a
temporary bridge was constructed.
On this the artillery and the few horses that remained
were taken over. The bridge was again burned, in order to prevent pursuit.
Again there was an all-night march, as we hurried up through the county
of James City and on to Richmond, which city we reached about midday on
Sunday, June 15th, and went back to our camp that afternoon.
We brought back many trophies of our raid, consisting
of several hundred prisoners and as many horses. But these went little
way towards compensating the Essex Light Dragoons for the loss they had
sustained in the death of their gallant captain.
As the years have crept on and I have called back to
memory one incident after another of the deeds of daring and scenes of
danger through which the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia passed
in the four years of conflict, I recall none more splendidly conceived,
more dashingly executed, and showing
more favorable results than Stuart's raid around McClellan
*Taken from the Southern Historical Society Papers
Volume XXXIX, Richmond, Va, April, 1914 Pages
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