Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 8, 1862 (Saturday): On the Eve of Battle

General George Dashiell Bayard

Five miles from Culpeper, Va., August 8, 1862.
   SIR: I have the honor to report that I will send you a report as to the questions asked me as soon as possible. I write this seated in a fence corner, and I have no means just now of answering.
   My pickets last night extended above Barnett's Ford, but were driven in. This morning, as I wrote you last night, I went out with the intention of extending them so that they should meet General Buford's pickets, with whom I had communicated that day. Colonel Karge before day started from camp with 160 men from the New Jersey Cavalry. He passed Elm Farm, and taking a road leading to Madison, got round the enemy between there and Liberty Mills, and his advance guard, Captain Janeway, captured some 20 men, who had gone into a house to get breakfast. They were infantrymen, and reported that Ewell had crossed the preceding evening in force. Colonel Karge, therefore, fell back after a large camp in his front was reported.
    In the mean time I proceeded to the front with Major Beaumont's battalion, which passed Dr. Slaughter's, and the vedettes went in sight of the enemy's camp. Numerous tenets were seen, men lounging about camp, a large train parked, and the whole covered by numerous pickets. I therefore ordered the forces to fall back to the road which Colonel Karge had taken, which I held under a heavy fire until all Colonel Karge's forces had returned. Just before we reached Robertson's River they opened upon us with shell from two guns; I do not think there were more.
    I think I am now 5 miles from Culpeper. I burned some blankets in the Pennsylvania camp, which, I believe, are our only loss. I sent an orderly to Captain Boyd, commanding the pickets below Robertson's River, to hold out as long as possible, like myself, and then fall back. He has not yet reported, but I sincerely trust he has fallen back on Colonel Duffie. He has 60 men and they surely cannot be all captured. They must have escaped some way.
    The Jersey regiment left one portable forge, which Colonel Karge says the quartermaster shall pay for, as its loss was entirely useless.
    One corporal is, I fear, mortally wounded, and 1 private severely.
    I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 2, Page 129.

A good report from a competent cavalry officer on the eve of a battle.  Bayard and Buford had independent cavalry commands under Pope.  Bayard's fighting withdrawl from the Rapidan slowed Jackson enough to allow Union forces to meet the Confederate force at Cedar Mountain the next day.  The preliminaries to Civil War battles are often given less than due note, but contributed greatly to the outcome. 

No comments:

Post a Comment