CAMP NEAR FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE,
June 18, 1861-1.30 a.m.
COLONEL: In pursuance of orders received at 1 o’clock a.m. on the 16th of June, I proceeded in the forenoon of that day to make a reconnaissance across the country towards the Potomac. Marching from this place with my regiment (about five hundred and seventy-five strong), after leaving a large camp guard and Captain Ball’s troop of horse, numbering about seventy, including a detachment from Captain Wickham’s troop, I met at the Frying-pan Church Captain Terry’s troop of horse, about seventy strong (including a detachment of Captain Langhorne’s company) and two guns of Captain Kemper’s battery, commanded by him in person, and with thirty-four men. With this force I went on to Dranesville, learning on the way that some four hundred of the enemy came up the Alexandria and Leesburg turnpike the same day, about 1 o’clock p.m., to within a mile or two of Hunter’s Mill, and then returned.
Early in the morning of the 17th I rode with a troop of horse to the heights on this side of the Potomac, opposite to Seneca Creek, and went in person to the bank of the river to reconnoiter. I could see but few troops of the enemy, and no boats prepared for crossing the river. We marched down afterwards,under the guidance of Captain John Powell, a high-spirited and highly intelligent and most zealous friend of our cause, to Hunter’s Mill, where, if the enemy had been engaged in repairing the railroad bridge, a plan of attack devised by Captain Powell would have offered the best chances of success. We found, however, no sign of the enemy, and only some railroad cars still smoking, which had been destroyed by our friends in the neighborhood.
We then marched to Vienna, and drew up our forces in readiness to receive the enemy if they should repeat the visit made for the last two days. Nothing being seen of them, however, and the water-tank having been demolished to increase the obstacle already caused by the removal of the lead-pipe for conveying water, I put the command in march for Fairfax Court-House.
Toward 6 o’clock p.m., just as we were moving off, a distant railroad whistle was heard. I marched the troops back, placing the two 6-pounder guns on the hill commanding the bend of the railroad, immediately supported by Company B, First South Carolina Volunteers, Lieutenant McIntosh. The rest of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, was formed on the crest of the hill to the right of the guns. The cavalry were drawn up still farther to the right.
The train of cars came round the curve of the railroad into sight at the distance perhaps of four hundred yards. Captain Kemper and Lieutenant Stuart opened a rapid and well-aimed fire with the two guns, which would have been very destructive if the troops had not made a most rapid movement from the cars into the woods. Supposing that they might form and advance, I sent Companies A, Captain Miller, and E, Captain Gadberry, to deploy as skirmishers against them. Afterwards, finding that they were flying, I sent Captain Terry with his troops, guided by Mr. G. W. Hunter, a zealous friend of the cause, in pursuit. From the lateness of the hour, however, the nature of the ground, and the start which the enemy had, they could not be overtaken. Six of the enemy were found dead and one desperately wounded.s Blood was also found in the bushes through which they had fled, but the darkness prevented any serious search. One passenger car and five platform cars were taken and burned. It seems from information which we gathered that five or six more cars belonging to the same train, and perhaps as number of cars in a second train, escaped by a precipitate retreat.
The wounded prisoner represented the number of the enemy’s as eight hundred and fifty men, and said that it was the Fifth [First] Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, commanded by Colonel McCook. Various arms, accouterments, and tools were taken, and one officer’s sword without a scabbard.
My orders requiring me to avoid any unnecessary engagement, and not to remain absent from my camp more than one night, I marched back to this place, where I arrived about 1 o’clock this morning. I have every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of all our troops. Captain Kemper’s command showed great ardor, combined with discipline. Captain Kemper’s and Lieutenant Stuart’s skill in the management of guns left nothing to desire. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton led the First Regiment with his usual gallantry of bearing, duly seconded by Major Smith, Lieutenant Ready (acting adjutant), and Captain McGowan, regimental quartermaster. Dr. Powell, surgeon, and Dr. Bull, assistant surgeon, had little to do, as the fire of musketry with which the enemy in scrambling out of the cars replied to our cannonade was straggling and ineffective. Major Kennedy, commissary, and Captain Tyler, volunteer on my staff, were prompt to carry orders and to give valuable counsel. The companies of Captains Miller and Gadberry, though greatly fatigued with two days’ rough march in hot sun and dust, appeared received at once when thrown forward as skirmishers against the enemy. The same spirit was shown by all the other companies of the regiment, Lieutenant Bragg, of Company M, proved himself ready and skillful in deranging the railroad track. Captains Terry and Ball and the cavalry which they led commanded my entire confidence by their bearing, and only needed opportunity for more effective action. We arrived here about 1 o’clock this morning.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel First Regiment S. C. Vols., Commanding at Fairfax Court-House.
Colonel W. C. MORAGNE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Centreville.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.