OR, Ser. I, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 170-176

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FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 4, 1864.--Kilpatrick's expedition against Richmond, Va.
No. 1.--Reports of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, U.S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac.


April 8, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit herewith the reports of Brigadier-General Kilpatrick and subordinate officers on the recent expedition organized from this army with a view to effect the liberation of our prisoners in Richmond:

About the middle of February, when in Washington, I was informed by the honorable Secretary of War that His Excellency the President was very anxious to have his amnesty proclamation distributed within the enemy's lines, and that he had sent for Brigadier-General Kilpatrick to confer with him on the practicability of accomplishing this object in connection with a cavalry expedition.

On my return to camp General Kilpatrick submitted, through the chief of cavalry, his project hereto annexed (marked A). Having ascertained from reliable sources that Richmond was comparatively defenseless, having only about 3,000 local militia with some field batteries and a small force of cavalry, and that Hampton's division of cavalry, numbering not more than 1.500 men, were the only troops of Lee's army at Fredericksburg and between there and Richmond, I thought it practicable by a rapid and secret movement that Richmond might be carried by a coup de main, and our prisoners released before re-enforcements from either Petersburg or Lee's army could reach there. Instructions were accordingly given to General Kilpatrick (marked B).(*)

At the same time the Sixth Corps, Major-General Sedgwick, was advanced to Madison Court-House, and a cavalry command, 1,500 strong, under Brigadier-General Custer, pushed toward Charlottesville, in advance of Kilpatrick's movement, to distract the enemy's attention and prevent the detachment of any force toward Richmond. It is believed these plans succeeded perfectly so far as deceiving the enemy. General Kilpatrick reached Richmond without opposition, and his approach was unknown till very near the city. Before arriving at that point he had detached Colonel Dahlgren, in command of 500 men, to cross the James River above Richmond, and move down the south bank, and before reaching the vicinity of Richmond he detached Major Hall with 450 men to attack a force of the enemy near Ashland.

On reaching the city General Kilpatrick found himself opposed by infantry and artillery, which, in his judgment, rendered any attempt at forcing an entrance extremely hazardous. He accordingly <ar60_171> made no serious attempt to enter, but, after some slight and insignificant skirmishing, withdrew his command and hurriedly made his way to Williamsburg.

Colonel Dahlgren, having been deceived by his guide, was unable to cross the James, but, following down the left bank, endeavored to enter Richmond about the time of the withdrawal of Kilpatrick. Dahlgren pushed forward vigorously, but the night overtaking him and hearing nothing from Kilpatrick, whose guns he had heard early in the afternoon, he withdrew and attempted to rejoin the main body. The next day Dahlgren became separated from his command, and being ambushed near King and Queen Court-House himself fell mortally wounded, and the small force with him (some 70 or 80 men) fell into the hands of the enemy. The rest of his detachment, under the command of Captain Mitchell, New York cavalry, after encountering numerous bodies of the enemy, succeeded in rejoining Kilpatrick's main force at Tunstall's Station, on the York River Railroad.

Captain Mitchell's report is herewith submitted, and attention called to the admirable manner in which he handled his small command.

The report of Brigadier-General Custer, whose expedition to the vicinity of Charlottesville was perfectly successful, is also transmitted herewith. (*)

On the return of Brigadier-General Kilpatrick, I caused a thorough inspection of his command to be made, and submit herewith the report of the inspection, showing the number of horses lost and disabled, together with the number of lost arms and equipments.

I also forward a nominal list of the killed, wounded, and missing in General Kilpatrick's command. It is believed the number of killed (2) and wounded (12) will be increased when the missing are finally accounted for. There were no casualties in General Custer's command.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. G. MEADE, Major-General, Commanding.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Inclosure No. 1.]


February 17, 1864.

Major-General HUMPHREYS,

Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: In obedience to the instruction of the major-general commanding, of this date, I have the honor to state that the plan proposed by Brigadier-General Kilpatrick in the inclosed communication is not feasible at this time.

When the Stoneman raid was made last year, General Lee's army was closely engaged with the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, and the country was clear, yet the damage done by that raid was repaired in a few days, while the loss to the Government was over 7,000 horses, besides the equipments and men left on the road. Had this force been retained for the Gettysburg campaign the results would have been more decisive. <ar60_172>

General Kilpatrick might succeed in cutting the telegraph from Lee's army and from Fredericksburg to Richmond, but the telegraph by the way of Gordonsville and Lynchburg would soon notify the rebels in Richmond that our cavalry was out, and before Kilpatrick could do much damage their vulnerable points would be secured. For the success of such an expedition I would be willing to sacrifice the number of horses required, but in the present state of the roads and the facilities the rebels have, with their army disengaged and distributed for frustrating such an effort, I cannot recommend it.

In reference to the President's proclamation, I will most willingly undertake to have it freely circulated in any section of Virginia that may be desired. I do not think I am promising too much in naming even Richmond.

I am in the receipt of information from the James River which is satisfactory to me that the amnesty proclamation is freely circulating in Virginia, but that the people are so watched as to prevent much action as yet on their part. As an instance is mentioned a strong Union man at Howardsville, who has $160,000 in coin secreted, but who has never been able to escape with it.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. PLEASONTON, Major-General, Commanding.





February 16, 1864.

Capt. E. B. PARSONS,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Corps:

CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders from headquarters Cavalry Corps, I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 12th instant I proceeded to Washington City and reported to the President of the United States, as directed in an order dated headquarters Cavalry Corps, February 12, 1864.

By direction of the President I afterward reported to the honorable Secretary of War and submitted, at his request, the following plan as, in my opinion, the most practicable to accomplish the double purpose of distributing the President's amnesty proclamation to the rebel command in our front, and to the inhabitants of Virginia in the various counties about Richmond; as also to destroy, as far as practicable, the enemy s communications, and attempt the release of our prisoners at Richmond.

Plan.--I propose, with a force of not less than 4,000 cavalry and six guns, to cross the Rapidan River at Ely's Ford and proceed to Spotsylvania Court-House, from that point to send a sufficient force of cavalry to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad at or near Frederick's Hall, to prevent infantry re-enforcements being sent from Lee's army, scouts having been sent to cut the telegraph on crossing the Rapidan River; also to send a force to destroy the Fredericksburg railroad at or near Guiney's Station, the telegraph on this road having also been previously destroyed. These parties, and others that it may be found necessary to detach, will scatter the proclamation along the line of march. With the main force I propose to move to Carmel Church and cross the North Anna River near that point, destroy the railroad bridge 3 miles below, and proceed to <ar60_173> Hanover Junction, unless the force stationed there is found to be too large, in which case I will avoid that point. The force sent to Guiney's Station will join me at Carmel Church. The force sent to Frederick's Hall will proceed to Goochland Court-House, destroy the canal, cross the James River, proceed down the south bank, destroy the arsenal at Bellona; also the Danville and Richmond and Petersburg and Richmond Railroads, this force afterward to act as circumstances may require. From Hanover Junction I will proceed down the Brook pike between the two railroads, cross the brook and move on Richmond, and if possible, in conjunction with troops sent from the direction of West Point, make an attempt to release our prisoners. Should this be found impossible the command can return by way of Fredericksburg, or seek temporary safety at West Point. The command will need but five days' rations and one of forage; no wagons.

From the information I have but lately received, and from my thorough knowledge of the country, I am satisfied that this plan can be safely and successfully carried out.

Respectfully submitted.

J. KILPATRICK, Brigadier-General of Volunteers.


[First indorsement.]


February 17, 1864.

This statement of General Kilpatrick is forwarded to Major-General Meade, as requested.

A. PLEASONTON, Major-general, Commanding.


[Second indorsement.]


February 17, 1864.

Respectfully returned.

The major-general commanding desires the views of the commander of the cavalry corps respecting the feasibility of the plan; after submitting which, in writing, the commanding general of the army desires to see him.


Major-General, Chief of Staff.


[Inclosure No. 2.]


CONFIDENTIAL.]                                          HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

February 27, 1864.


Commanding Expedition, &c.:

The major-general commanding has directed Major-General Pleasonton, commanding Cavalry Corps, to re-enforce your command so that you will have available 4,000 officers and men and a battery of light artillery. With this force you will move with the utmost expedition possible on the shortest route past the enemy's right flank to Richmond, and by this rapid march endeavor to effect an entrance into that city and liberate our prisoners now held there and in that immediate vicinity. <ar60_174>

To create a diversion in your favor a powerful expedition has been organized and will be in full movement to-morrow, the 28th instant, to operate toward the left flank of the enemy in the direction of Charlottesville, which will be extended to the railroad bridge across the Rivanna, in the vicinity of that town, if practicable, and the bridge destroyed. This operation will be followed up by other movements of troops, and it is expected by these means so to distract the attention of the enemy that every chance for the success of your expedition will be secured that it is practicable to provide for here.

If you succeed in liberating the prisoners you will conduct them within our lines at Williamsburg, and then, if, in your judgment, upon the facts known to you as to the disposition of the forces of the enemy and the state of the weather, it be practicable you will return to your former position in this army by way of the crossings of the Rappahannock or Rapidan. The movements intended to create a diversion in your favor will be in full operation on the 28th and 29th instant, and will extend beyond that time. You will therefore commence your movement on the night of the 28th instant.

I am directed by the major-general commanding to say that no detailed instructions are given you, since the plan of your operations has been proposed by yourself, with the sanction of the President and the Secretary of War, and has been so far adopted by him that he considers success possible with secrecy, good management, and the utmost expedition.

A. A. HUMPHREYS, Major-general. Chief of Staff.

[Inclosure No. 3.]

Numerical list of casualties in the Cavalry Corps during expedition of General Kilpatrick to Richmond.

O            Officers.         A            Aggregate.

M  Men.              


                                          Killed.             Wounded.            Missing.        

Command.                        O            M            O            M            O            M            A

First Division:                                                                                  

3d Indiana Cavalry             ....            1            ....            ....            ....            2            3

4th New York Cavalry             ....            ....            ....            ....            ....            2            2

17th Pennsylvania Cav.     ....            ....            ....            1            ....            ....            1

Second Division:                                                                                  

1st Maine Cavalry             ....            1            ....            2            ....            48            51

16th Pennsylvania Cav.     ....            ....            ....            ....            ....            1            1

4th Pennsylvania Cav.     ....            ....            ....            ....            ....            4            4

Third Division:                                                                                  

2d New York Cavalry             ....            3            ....            ....            2            66            71

5th New York Cavalry             ....            ....            ....            2            1            20            23

18th Pennsylvania Cav.     ....            ....            ....            1            ....            2            3

5th Michigan Cavalry             ....            ....            ....            2            1            47            50

6th Michigan Cavalry             ....            ....            ....            ....            ....            5            5

7th Michigan Cavalry             ....            ....            ....            ....            3            41            44

1st Vermont Cavalry             ....            1            ....            4            ....            72            77

Total                                 ....            6            ....            12            7            310            335



March 30, 1864.


Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Capt. E. B. PARSONS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.



 FEBRUARY 28, 1864.


Please send the following confidential dispatch to General Kilpatrick. The signal telegraph is just reported out of order. Let me know when Kilpatrick receives it.

FEBRUARY 28, 1864--6.15 p.m.

Brigadier-General KILPATRICK:

The major-general commanding directs that you move to-night.


Major-General and Chief of Staff.



March 14, 1864.

Major-General PLEASONTON,

Commanding Cavalry Corps:

The major-general commanding directs that careful inquiry be made to ascertain whether Colonel Dahlgren made or issued such an address to his command as that which has been published in the journals of to-day; and also whether any orders or directions of the character of those contained in the memorandum following the address were given to his command or to any part of it.

Very respectfully, &c.,


Major-General and Chief of Staff.



March 14, 1864.


Commanding Third Cavalry Division:

GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs that careful inquiries be made to ascertain whether Colonel Dahlgren made or issued such an address to his command as that which has been published in the journals of the day. Every effort will be made by you to learn the truth of this matter, and the officers and men of his command will be carefully questioned on this point, and the result of the investigation and whatever you may yourself know of the matter will be reported at the earliest practicable moment.

The general also desires to know whether any orders or directions of the character of those contained in the" memorandum" following the address, as printed in the public journals, were given to his command or to any portion of it.

Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant.


Captain and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.



March 16, 1864.

Capt. F. C. NEWHALL,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Corps:

CAPTAIN: In accordance with instructions from headquarters Cavalry Corps I have carefully examined officers and men who accompanied Colonel Dahlgren on his late expedition.

All testify that he published no address whatever to his command, nor did he give any instructions, much less of the character alleged in the rebel journals in the memorandum following his address. Colonel Dahlgren, one hour before we separated at my headquarters, handed me an address that he intended to read to his command. That paper was indorsed in red ink, "Approved," over my official signature. The alleged address of Colonel Dahlgren published in the papers is the same as the one approved by me, save so far as it speaks of "exhorting the prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city and kill the traitor Davis and his cabinet." All this is false and published only as an excuse for the barbarous treatment of the remains of a brave soldier.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. KILPATRICK, Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

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