Report of Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy, U. S. Army, commanding Independent Brigade, First Corps, of operations August 8-13.
Headquarters Independent Brigade,
Near Fort Ethan Allen, Va., September 12, 1862.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements of my command since the departure from Woodville, Va., on August 8, 1862:
At 9 o’clock p.m. my brigade, taking the advance of the corps, started in the direction of Culpeper, arriving at the place about 5 next morning. At 5 p.m. of same day received orders to march immediately in direction of Cedar Mountain, from which direction heavy firing had been heard all the afternoon. I again took the advance. Having marched some 3 miles and finding the road blocked up by ambulances and stragglers from the battle-field, I started ahead with my cavalry detachment (three companies of the First Virginia) leaving my infantry and artillery to make the best of their way toward the front. Arriving about 8 p.m. at the front, and finding everything in confusion, I ordered my cavalry into line under the protection of the woods nearest the enemy, and advanced alone to reconnoiter. Fifteen minutes had scarcely elapsed when a battery of the enemy suddenly opened with great precision upon the remnant of General Banks’ corps posted on my right. The enemy’s fire had been directed by several large fires burning brilliantly among Banks’ batteries. The result was a general stampede, artillery, cavalry and infantry retreating in the greatest disorder. I endeavored to rally them, at first without success, but finally succeeded in arresting a battery or two and some cavalry, which I brought back to their old position on the road, at the same time throwing my cavalry across on the same side. Shortly after, one of Banks’ batteries, having retreated to a safe position, commenced to the left of the road and behind us, responding to the enemy’s guns, the firing ceasing in about fifteen minutes.
Meanwhile, fearing that my brigade, two regiments of which had been thrown across the road to stop the terrified mass in their headlong retreat, might be delayed too long, I dispatched one of my aides to hurry it forward —to push before them all of the retreating column possible. They immediately proceeded forward, and after much labor I succeeded in encamping them, near 2 a.m., in the position first selected in the evening. Having posted pickets at a suitable distance on our front I allowed the men to rest on their arms.
Sunday, 10th. —Still holding position in advance of the corps I threw forward a line of skirmishers, with a sufficient support, along my whole front. They found the enemy’s skirmishers, supported by their whole force, strongly posted in the woods about 2,000 yards in front of us. Here they skirmished until about noon, the enemy occasionally firing upon them by companies. Whenever this occurred I would send a few shells among them, causing their sudden withdrawal. During the afternoon my skirmishers drove the enemy from the woods, following them some three-fourths of a mile. About 4 p. m. sent out my cavalry to reconnoiter, and, if possible, to allow the ambulances to bring off some of our wounded. In this they were quite successful, bringing off about 100. The cavalry had in the meanwhile approached within 300 yards of the enemy’s lines without drawing their fire, and having ascertained their position withdrew to our lines.
On the morning of the 11th, it being determined to take the dead and wounded from off the field, I was ordered to advance my brigade and cover the ambulances and working parties. I accordingly sent forward my three companies of cavalry, followed by my infantry. The cavalry, upon arriving at the outskirts of the wood halted, finding ahead of them a strong cavalry force under the direction of General Bayard. I then rode forward, followed by several ambulances, which I sent back loaded with wounded. About an hour had thus elapsed, when I was informed a flag of truce had been sent in by the enemy, and at the same time received a request from General Bayard to attend a conference with the rebel general Stuart relative to a cessation of hostilities for the purpose of attending to the dead and wounded of both parties. An armistice until 2 o’clock p.m. was finally agreed upon, but was afterward, by mutual consent, extended to the evening.
A reconnaissance on the morning of the 12th found the enemy had withdrawn during the night in the direction of the Rapidan River. I followed as rapidly as possible as soon as this was ascertained, but only succeeded in discovering the rear guard of their cavalry in fulll flight. Having advanced some 6 miles, as far as Crooked Creek, and finding it impassable on account of previous heavy rains, encamped my brigade upon its banks and awaited orders.
On the morning of the 13th, finding Crooked Creek and Robertson’s River fordable for my cavalry and artillery, I crossed my infantry on slight bridges hastily constructed. When about 800 yards south of Robertson’s River I was obliged to halt my brigade, with the exception of cavalry, on the banks of a narrow and deep creek emptying into Robertson’s River. The bottom of this creek, where it crossed the road, was composed of mud worn into deep holes, thus rendering it impassable for my artillery. In the course of two hours I had thrown across it a bridge strong enough to sustain my heaviest guns. A party of my cavalry had in the mean time reconnoitered as far as Rapidan River, some 5 miles beyond us, reporting a small party of the enemy on the opposite shore. Having crossed the bridge I proceeded about a quarter of a mile to where I was ordered to halt for the day.
About 4 p.m. , when I was about to post my pickets for the night, I received orders to fall back on my original position left in the morning. I accordingly withdrew my brigade, with the exception of my cavalry and a section of my battery, which I left in a favorable position.
* * * * * * *
R. H. MILROY,
Brig. Gen., Comdg. Ind’t Brig., First Corps, Army of Va.
Maj. T. A. Meysenberg,
Assistant Adjutant General.
*Portion here omitted is printed on pp. 315-323.