Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 17, 1863 (Thursday): Kelley's Ford

Lt. Colonel John Pelham
Two Miles from Kelley's Ford, via Culpeper, March 17, 1863-7 p. m.

General R. E. LEE,
Richmond, Va.:

Enemy is retiring. He is badly hurt. We are after him. His dead men and horses strew the roads.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 685.

Stuart's report is terse, but boastful.  Averell's 2nd Division had been ordered to attack Confederate cavalary near Culpeper.  The advance guard was delayed at the crossing until around 6:30 a.m. and Averall then took two hours to move his force across the stream.  Fitz Lee moved to intercept the attackers around 7:30 a.m. with Stuart and Pelham riding along as observers.  The 3rd Virginia attacked along a stone fence  near the Wheatley House and despite reinforcements from the 5th Virginia they were forced to withdraw, pursued by the 4th and 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  It was in this portion of the engagement Pelham was killed by a shell fragment.  On the opposite flank three regiments (1st R.I., 4th PA, 6th Ohio) attacked the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Virginia with some success.  At 5:30 PM Averell took counsel of his fears and withdrew, despite outnumbering Lee's men 2,100 to 800.  He had advanced just 2 miles in 12 and a half hours.  Despite an unimpressive showing, the fact Averell was able to get to near the key position of Brandy Station and stay there in the face of what had, to that point, been largely superior Confederate cavalry, was a sign Union troopers were improving.

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