State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Comes in Like a Lion- "particularly obnoxious on account of bushwhackers"

 The rest of the New York Times article. . .

 . . .
The expedition upon which Col. DAHLGREN went to create a diversion was one of the most desperate undertakings of the war. The officers with him were selected for their well-known daring and invincibility in desperate circumstances. The second in command was Maj. COOK*, of the Second New-York Cavalry, and next came Capt. MITCHELL, of the same regiment -- officers well known in the service for their gallant conduct. It was Capt. MITCHELL who cut his way through with the bulk of Col. DAHLGREN's party, and joined the main command. Col. DAHLGREN and Maj. COOK, with about one hundred men, are still missing, but there is some hope that the bulk of this command will yet reach our lines. Of one thing the public may rest assured, that these officers will escape if such a thing is within the region of possibilities.
The Peninsula seems to be overrun with temporarily disbanded Virginia troopers in the rebel service, who prowl about in small parties in the capacity of bushwhackers, for the purpose of picking up straglers(sic) with horses. In this way they have, it is alleged, obtained many horses for STUART's cavalry, and they profess still to have large expectations in this direction. Gen. KILPATRICK's body guard, while moving down the Peninsula Thursday, succeeded in capturing several of these fellows while hovering on his flanks, and the column under Gen. DAVIES succeeded in capturing several more, but not until after one of our men had been killed and several wounded, and two or three horses had been shot. These men select positions where the woods are so thick as to render a pursuit by cavalry impossible, and deliberately fire into the column. One, at least, of this class was captured, and he will doubtless be turned over to the tender mercies of Gen. BUTLER, a man whom, while they hate him with a relish, fear him just as much. Turn loose KILPATRICK's Cavalry Division upon the infected counties, and, in a very short period of time, the bushwhackers will all disappear. The boys of the Third Division, when permitted to do so, have a wholesome way of suppressing this kind of warfare.
Several prisoners taken in front of Richmond while our cavalry was engaged within the defences of that Capital, state positively that Gen. BRAGG was on the field during the action, and was furious at the audacity of the Yankees. The panic in Richmond was undoubted. Citizens who left the City at 8 o'clock and were taken into custody between 10 and 11 o'clock, said that they heard nothing of the approach of our forces. It is believed that they first knew of the presence of a cavalry force by a messenger who went across the fields soon after crossing Brook Creek.
All things considered, no better weather could have been asked for the consummation of the object of this raid. The first night -- Sunday -- was cloudy; the next day there was no sun, so that the column could not be seen at a distance by the enemy. That night there was a slight fall of rain, refreshing to the horses, and doing the men of the command no particular harm, as it was not very cold. Tuesday night was the only really disagreeable time -- just when the camp was shelled -- then there was a fall of rain which gradually turned into sleet, and subsequently snow. The mud was deep, nevertheless the command had to move on through the mud and slush six inches deep to a defensive position some ten miles distant. If it was disagreeable for the men on horseback, let the reader imagine how much more disagreeable it was for a hundred or more dismounted men, whose horses had been shot or stampeded in the night attack. Bravely did these dismounted troopers plod on through the mud hour after hour, mile after mile. All the led horses were brought into requisition -- a few stray animals were picked up in the morning -- so that nearly all of the dismounted were remounted the next day. Wednesday, for the first time, the sun shone forth -- never at a more welcome moment - - making every one forget the hardships they had undergone, and the perils by which they were then surrounded. The bottom lands of the broad Pamunkey never looked more tempting, and the whole command was halted thereon, and neighboring corn cribs and farm houses furnished food for horses and men.
Up to this time -- Wednesday evening -- no one knew of the approach of a force from Gen. BUTLER's Department, and the first intimation of it was when Lieut. WHITAKER, with a small detachment went out to burn Tunstall Station and destroy the railroad track, and found that the station was in flames, and that a Union force had preceded, Thursday morning, a few miles south of the railroad, the advance met Col. WEST's command. The gratification of the troops at meeting such a force so unexpectedly can only be imagined by those who have been similarly situated.
Near New-Kent Court-house a brigade of colored troops was standing at ease in column by regiments, and certainly no troops ever made a better first impression. Cheers filled the air, given with a cordial good will by both commands.
The Peninsula seems to be almost entirely abandoned by all its former residents, and given over to bushwhackers and roaming bands of lawless men. North of Williamsburgh bushmen hang upon the flanks and rear of any column of troops that may pass, to pick up stragglers, secure horses, and not unfrequently, apparently, for the sole purpose of gratifying a morbid spirit of revenge, firing into a column indiscriminately, with no hope of securing any immediate advantage thereby. Occasionally a poor family is found at home, but they manifest no particular feeling either for or against the Union cause. Their sons and brothers capable of bearing arms are in the rebel service, and therefore it is supposed their sympathies are in that direction. The locality between Burnt Ordinary and New Kent Court House is particularly obnoxious on account of bushwhackers. On Tuesday last four colored soldiers of Colonel WEST's command, were captured in this vicinity, and one was shot through the arm. I have before recorded the experience of Gen. KILPATRICK's command while passing through the district indicated.
The rebels have evidently obtained a supply of railroad iron from some source within the last year. The writer hereof while on Gen. STONEMAN's raid in the Spring of last year, had his attention particularly called to the condition of the tracks of several roads. It was badly worn and pealed off in many places so as to be dangerous for cars to be run at any great speed. Since that time these roads have been relaid -- at several points, certainly -- with a first quality of T rail, and several piles of new rails were destroyed last week by our troops, laid by the roadside for use when necessary. All the cars seen were next to worthless.

-The New York Times: March 7, 1864

Here are a few words from Rantings of a Civil War Historian on the need to take the work of Civil War correspondents with a grain of salt. It specifically mention Mr. Paul, who seems to have been the "Boswell" of the Army of Potomac's cavalry.

A digression on the fore mentioned Maj. Cooke* of the Second New York Cavalry, from the Sacramento Daily Union of October 1, 1867.

General Cooke's Death— Dispatch from General Kilpatrick. Washington, September 11th.— The following has been received at the Department of State:

LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,  Santiago (Chile), August 1, 1867. 
William H. Seward, Secretary of State— Sir:
I have the honor to communicate the painful intelligence of the death of the Secretary of this Legation, Brevet Brigadier General Edwin F. Cooke, of New Jersey.
General Cooke entered the service of the  United States at the outbreak of the rebellion  as a Captain in the Second New York (Harris) Light Cavalry, and by distinguished gallantry rose to the command of his regiment and afterward to the responsible post of Chief of Staff of my Cavalry Division. With the lamented Colonel Dahlgren he was placed in charge of the picked command of 500 men I sent to enter Richmond from the south on the occasion of my expedition for the release of our prisoners in 1863, and had his horse killed under him by the same volley which terminated, Dahlgren's heroic life. He was taken prisoner and confined in one of the dark underground cells of Libby Prison, where deprivation of food, light and warmth completely broke down his vigorous constitution. From Libby Prison he was sent to other points in South Carolina and Georgia, and finally, after enduring for eighteen months the cruelty of rebellion, returned home a wreck of his former self. He accepted the position of Secretary of Legation by the advice of his physicians, who thought that this salubrious climate might restore his ruined health; but as time elapsed he sank into a gradual decline, and after a year of constant illness and great suffering he expired on the 6th instant, a victim to treason and rebellion.
The funeral exercises were very impressive. The Government authorized the ceremonies to I take place in the daytime, and furnished a large escort of cavalry, with music. The citizens sent their private carriages for the use of the; friends of the Legation, and the bells of the churches tilled as the cortege, consisting of cavalry and fifty carriages, passed through the streets. As the laws of Chile prohibit the conveyance of the dead through the city in the day time, and Protestants are regarded with most intense disfavor by the masses, these attentions on the part of the Government and people of Chile are very significant, and merits our most grateful appreciation.
I have availed myself of the opportunity, in response to the fending letter of condolence addressed to the Legation by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to express my deep gratitude for this great proof of friendship for the United States, and to assure the Government of Chile that its kind consideration and the generous sympathy of its citizens on this melancholy occasion shall be communicated to the people of my country, as an additional bond of union between the two republics.
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, 
your obedient servant, J. Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick at the time was the American Minister to Chile.

Brevet Major General Edwin F. Cooke was not quite 32 years old.

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