Monday, May 20, 2013

May 1863: Lt. Charles Butts & 11th PA. Cavalry at South Qua

On May 2, 1863, Lieutenant Charles Butts and the men of Company I ["The Belvidere, NJ  Company"] of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry Regiment were in the Blackwater area of Virginia on the road to Sommerton.
Lt. Butts' report to his major stated, "I was on picket on the Sommerton Road on Sunday, May 2nd, 1863. About 5 o'clock p.m. I ascended a large pine tree in front of the enemy, and with the aid of a marine glass [telescope], saw the enemy's pickets with knapsacks on ready to march.  I reported this fact to Colonel Foster, at 10 o'clock, p.m., Sunday.  Later in the night the enemy fired, which I took to be a signal gun.  Between 12 and 1 o'clock at night, a deserter came into my station and reported the enemy retreating.  I immediately sent the deserter with a statement of facts to Colonel Foster, commanding the forces in front of Sommerton Road.  I then advanced with my cavalry picket, consisting of 15 mounted men of Company I, 11th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, and found the enemy's rifle-pits at Brother's house deserted. 
"As I advanced, I found the road badly obstructed with timber, rails, and brush.  I removed them as soon as possible and had proceeded a short distance beyond this obstruction, when I came to a large fort across the road, a short distance this side of Mr. Wright's house, 5 miles from Suffolk.  I moved to the right of the main work and jumped the ditches and rifle-pits, and urged the horses over the parapet of the left wing of the fort. One horse fell into the ditch below but was soon got out;            then proceeded about one mile on the main road above the fort when I learned that the enemy from the Edenton Road had crossed over by way of Darden's Mill, and struck the Sommerton Road at Mr. Pitt's house, about 6 miles from Suffolk.  At this place I received an order to remain at the above mentioned fort until reinforcements came up.  Colonel Foster leading, ordered them forward.  I immediately fell back to the fort, leaving my pickets out, found the entrance and removed the obstructions, leaving the road clear for the column to pass through when they arrived. 
"About two o'clock, a.m., Monday morning, May 4 [sic], '63, Major Samuel Wetherhill, 11th Pa. Cavalry, in command of two companies, A and E of the 11th PA. Vol. Cavalry, came up.  The Major ordered me to take the advance with my 15 men, giving me 5 of Company A in addition, making 20 in all, and pursued the enemy as fast as possible.  I hastened my pursuit to Leesburg, some 15 miles south of Suffolk.  At this place the road forks, one going to Sommerton and the other to Holy Neck Chapel, here the enemy divided his force, sending the heavy artillery on the Sommerton Road for several miles, and then bearing to the right, came into the road leading to South Qua at Holy Neck Chapel.  All their wagons, light artillery and infantry took the direct road to Holy Neck Chapel, and from thence to South Qua, where they crossed the Blackwater River.  As it was necessary to send back dispatches, and, at different times, some prisoners, that I had captured, my force was reduced to five men; and as I had taken some prisoners at the last named place, I could not follow any further on account of not having any men to accompany me, as it would have been necessary to leave what men I had to guard the prisoners I had taken at this place. Here the enemy's rear guard was about ten minutes ahead of me; it consisted of one brigade of infantry, 4 pieces of artillery, and one company of cavalry. 
"I have the gratification to report that I captured, with my little command, 48 rebel soldiers, with all their arms and accouterments; 6 citizen prisoners, and one rebel sutler, with his wagon and two horses."
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards 

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