From the Richmond Sentinel, 3/3/1864, Reprinted in Southern Historical Society Papers Vol. 37 (1909), pp. 198-202

Page 198 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Gallant Defense of Richmond by Departmental Battalion.

The very interesting account of the Dahlgren raid, by Prof. John Pollard, which appeared in this column two weeks ago, has called forth many comments and recollections of that famous event of the war.

There is of holding a reunion of those living who took part in the exciting work of heading off and driving away from Richmond the raiders under Dahlgren. These facts make anything on the subject interesting.

Col. John W. Anderson has furnished us with the following clipping from the Richmond Sentinel, a wartime paper bearing date March 3rd, 1864.

The account is given just as it appeared in the Sentinel. It will be seen that this is the continuation of a story of the day before. It is a pity the first installment has not been preserved. But here is the second installment.

Our last account represented the column of the enemy that had been repulsed on the Brook Turnpike, as having crossed the Chickahominy in full retreat, and having encamped on Tuesday night near Mechanicsville. They were attacked in camp by Gen Hampton, who put them to flight, with the capture of seventy or eighty, and a large number of horse. The remainder yesterday made their way down towards Piping Tree Ferry on the Pamunkey.

The column that appeared on the road that comes into the city from the West, lost no time after their repulse on Tuesday night in hastening after their comrades of the other column. On yesterday they crossed the Chickahominy, and at half-past four in the afternoon found themselves confronted at the Old Church by a small of Colonel Bradley T. Johnston's Maryland Cavalry.

Page 199 War Time Story of Dahlgren's Raid.

The Yankees in desperation, charged through by mere weight of Numbers; with a loss of several killed and wounded, and about thirty prisoners remaining in our hands. They then pursued their way towards the Piping Three Ferry. We had two men wounded, of whom, we are pained to say, Lieut. Ditty was shot in both eyes.

Thus passed away Kilpatrick's second attempt at raiding into Richmond. He has been pretty well hackled by our forces having lost, probably, at least one-tenth of his force in killed and captured. As far as the grand object of his undertaking were concerned, he has reason of feel very foolish. Prisoners say it was the design of the Brooke Turnpike column to attract our whole force, and leave the river-side column to make a dash at Belle Island, and liberate the Yankee prisoners there. They have failed in everything, except some temporary damage to our railroads, the burning of some barns and mills, the seizure of some horses, the hanging of one negro, and the stealing of some spoons. For these he has paid, probably, two hundred and fifty picked men, and he has thoroughly broken down the rest, both men and horses, for a time.

Of the damage to the railroads the extent is not yet known. The Fredericksburg road has had one of its engines re--burnt; it was burnt in the former raid-and three or four small gondolas. The Center road is though to have suffered considerably.

As if waiting for Kilpatrick to get through, Bulter is understood to be moving again. Some of his cavalry appeared yesterday at Tunstall's Station, it is said; and it is alleged that a heavy co-operating column of infantry (twelve regiments), are at the Burnt Ordinary, in New Kent. Perhaps it is well he should come while our hand is in.


We have obtained some particulars of the skirmish with the enemy to which we referred on yesterday, on the Plank Road, about three miles West of Richmond, on Tuesday evening. The troops engaged on our side were composed wholly of our city.

Page 200 Southern Historical Society Papers.

organization, who, on this occasion, had their first encounter with the enemy. The forces of the latter were about five hundred picket men, of five regiments of Gregg's cavalry, with two pieces of artillery. The artillery was not brought into action.

The Tredegar Battalion, Maj.---, was the first to come into collision with the enemy. As the battalion was ascending the hill which descends from Benjamin Green's house, the Yankees, who were coming over it, suddenly appeared close at hand. The meeting was unexpected, and found our men unprepared for it, many of our guns being unloaded. The enemy deployed under the shelter of a piece of wood, and our men got into such line as they could in the open field. Volleys were exchanged, from which the Yankees suffered most, and were made to give ground. They subsequently made a charge under which the battalion recoiled and made a rapid and broken retreat, and took no further part in the operations. The enemy pressed vigorously, making an attempt to cut off the men, but with indifferent success. Some were captured, but afterwards released, as the enemy could not afford to be encumbered with prisoners. Five horses and two head soldiers left on the field show that the fire of our men was not without effect. On our side Lieutenant John Sweeney and private blunt were killed. Much allowance is to be made for the circumstances under the battalion went into action. As it was, the enemy were the greatest suffers.

The enemy's column now came forward with celerity, expecting to find no further obstacle to their progress. The departmental and quartermaster's battalion, who were following the march of the Armory Battalion, suddenly beheld the approach of the enemy. Capt John McAnerny, of company B. Departmental Battalion, who was in command of the whole as ranking officer present, swiftly deployed his lines to the right and left of the road, and had barely time to order out his skirmishers before the cavalry charged him. They charged down on both sides of the road. They came yelling, and rattling their sabres and firing their carbines, their officers vociferating to them to "charge the ---rebels! Cut them down! They are nothing but secesh!" It was already quite dark, and growing more so,

Page 201 War Time Story of Dahlgren's Raid.

so that object were with difficulty distinguished. Our skirmishers' line waited until the enemy were very near, and, pouring in a beautiful fire, retreated to the main line. The enemy pressed on, our men reserving their fire until the word of command, when they delivered it at close quarters and with admirable effect. The enemy was checked and broken, and a couple of volleys more drove him from the field in flight.

Our troops deserve very high praise for making so gallant a debut under circumstances so perplexing and a call so sudden. They repulsed and drove back a greater number of the enemy's picked veterans. Our loss is stated in the following:

Officers-Killed: Captain A. Ellery, Co. D. Wounded: Lieutenant R. A. Matthews, Co. D. slightly; Acting Lieutenant R. A. Thompkins, face and arm slightly.

Privates-D. T. Carter, Co. A, slightly; F. M. Cary, Co. D. slightly in face; J. W. Burson and --- McIndoe, Co. D., both slightly; S. M. Levin, Co. F., slightly in leg; R. B. Green, Co. F, in hand; Miles Cary, Co. K, sabre cut on shoulder; Gray Doswell, Co. K, shot through the thigh (flesh wound). Missing; Private T. Y. Catlett, Co. I.

The fierceness of the charge which the Department Battalion met in line of battle is evidenced by the sabre cuts received. Several of the enemy rode through our lines, and were shot down or captured.

Of the loss of the enemy we cannot speak with positive precision. They collected eighteen of their wounded at Mr. Green's house, in the rear of the fighting. Seven of these they afterwards carried away with them. Four of their dead were picked up on the battle-ground yesterday morning, as also several wounded. Of the latter, three died in a few hours, and another is evidently mortally wounded. Some indication of the casualties is given in the ten dead horses that lay near here.

The loss of the enemy in the two skirmishes may be set down at the killed, one mortally wounded and seventeen disabled by their wounds, of whom ten are prisoners. Besides these a number of prisoners were taken, fifteen horses killed, and several captured. A pretty fair start, for Henley's Battalion fought

Page 202 Southern Historical Society Papers.

against a superior force of veterans, in the dark, and without notice, or time to get ready! They had no support from regular troops, for, though some were near at hand, they did not arrive till the fight was over.

After their repulse the enemy went back by the road they had come until they reached the Ridge Church. Here they struck off to the right and made for Hungary Station, on the Fredericksburg railroad, reaching that point about daybreak. They seized a citizen of the neighborhood and demanded that he should pilot them; but leading through a piece of pines he made his escape, and left them to find their way out as best they could. The Yankees unquestionably hung a negro, belonging to Mr. Weems, whom they had as a pilot, but who led them astray by getting lost himself.

As an incident of the fight near Richardson's farm, and of the dankness which prevailed, we may mention, that a Yankee charged the fence just where it passed on the edge of a deep pit of an abandoned ice-house. Horse and rider went in; the former wa killed by the fall, the latter drawn out a prisoner the next morning.

Go to top