State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Monday, April 28, 2014

"In the long woods"- April, 1864

Wistar and staff, photo from the HR History site of the Daily Press

Expedition from Williamsburg and skirmish at Twelve-Mile Ordinary, Va.

Report of Col. Benjamin F. Onderdonk, First New York Mounted Rifles.

                                 HEADQUARTERS FIRST MOUNTED RIFLES,
                                     Near Williamsburg, Va., April 29, 1864.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report, pursuant to orders of the 27th instant, I marched at an early hour. Nothing of importance occurred until we reached the long woods beyond Twelve-Mile Ordinary, where we were fired on by scouts, one of whom (Davis) we captured. The next picket, near Slatersville, we charged to New Kent, capturing 3. The most reliable information I could gain was that there is no force at Tunstall's Station, on the Pamunkey. I could get no information. At Bottoms Bridge are 2,000 infantry and artillery, with Holcombe's battalion of cavalry. Nine field guns are constantly on duty. All the public fords on the river above Fords Bridge are blockaded and heavily guarded. A large force is stationed at a central point, from which re-enforcements can be thrown to any point above New Bridge in half an hour. Fifteen thousand can be brought to the defense of Bottoms Bridge in that time. Fords Bridge Ford, three days since, was only defended by a small picket. There is also a picket at Charles City Court-House. The camp of this force performing this duty (supposed to be the Forty-second Battalion) is 6 miles from the court-house, toward Richmond. At the latter place the people are in great excitement. The enemy are strengthening fortifications, and troops are constantly arriving from the direction of Charleston. I believe the Charles City Court-House road is the least defended. There is no force this side of Bottoms Bridge except one troop of the Holcombe Cavalry, at Cedar Hill, 2 miles beyond New Kent Court-House, to picket the roads, but they retreat at the shortest notice. We reached New Ken Court-House at 12.45; rested an hour and a half; returned to Barhamsville, where we halted two hours to feed and supper. Finding the horses very fresh, I decided to return.
In the long woods, 1 mile beyond Twelve-Mile Ordinary, we were attacked at 9 o'clock by an ambuscade (supposed to be the Peninsula Scouts); they had scattered torpedoes or shells, with friction fuses, in the road, six of which exploded in my column, the fire of the fuses making. a strong light, of which the enemy took advantage to fire on the men. I wheeled into line, and gave the enemy a volley, which caused them to leave, but they returned again and kept up a continuous fusilade on my entire column as it passed. I did not deem it advisable to follow them into the woods, as I had reason to suppose their infernal machines might do me more injury than the random fire. Although the shells exploded in the midst of the horses and men, strange to say but one man and two horses were slightly wounded with pieces of shell. My men behaved as coolly as on parade, although the uncommon style of warfare was sufficient to destroy the equanimity of the best troops. I should judge the machines to be about 20-pounder shells; they seemed to be charged with canister. Major Hamilton deserves particular notice for his coolness and gallantry through the entire trip. My thanks are due Maj. James N. Wheelan for volunteering to lead a small party around from Barhamsville to cut off the picket at New Kent Court-House, which only failed on account of the bad road, causing him to be half an hour late. I returned to camp 12.30 this morning.
Casualties: Corporal Feiling, Troop B, wounded in shoulder by shell (slightly).
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                        B. F. ONDERDONK,
                          Colonel, Commanding Mounted Rifles.

             Commanding Post.



                                  HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
                                                      April 29, 1864.
Respectfully forwarded.
 I further learn from deserters and prisoners (of which latter 4 were captured and sent down this morning) that there is a regiment of infantry (Fifty-third Virginia*) at White House; an accession of cavalry near Charles City Court-House; twenty pieces light artillery, both of brass and iron, at Bottoms Bridge, & c.; also that a wagon-load of torpedoes came down from Richmond four days since, in charge of Hume's Peninsula Scouts, for use on the Peninsula. road. They are not self-acting, but are discharged by cords attached, and managed by men concealed in the woods. The commanding general can infer from the above and the inclosed how far the enemy are expecting our advance by the Peninsula.
                                                    I. J. WISTAR,
                                                        Brigadier- General.

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1- Volume 33

The Fifty-third Virginia Infantry* was of course the regiment  the Pamunkey Rifles(Co. B) and the Barhamsville Grays(Co. E) belonged to, as well as the Charles City Southern Guards (Co. K).

Twelve-Mile Ordinary would be in the general location of what is now called Anderson's Corner at the intersection of Routes 30 (New Kent Highway) and 60 (Richmond Road).

COMING UP- General Wistar and "unamiable firmness" . . .

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