Monday, July 1, 2013

June 1863: The Capture of General "Rooney" Lee

In June 1863, after the battle of Brandy Station, Virginia, Lieutenant Charles Butts and Company I ("The Belvidere Company") of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry were raiding in Hanover Country, Virginia.  Jacob P. Wright, of Belvidere, filed a report for The Belvidere Intelligencer dated June 27.  Wright reported, "We left here [White House, Va.] with 1,250 cavalry, went within 12 miles of Richmond and found no force, but heard of some.  We passed through New Kent County, thence up to Hanover Court House, Hanover County.  Here we destroyed the railroad depot and bridge, captured a train of 200 wagons, and 200 mules, harnesses, &c.  We could only bring 35 of the wagons so we were compelled to destroy the remainder.  Our next point was the railroad bridge on the South Ana River, below Fredericksburg, so off we started, meeting with no opposition until near the bridge, where we captured the rebel pickets, and soon saw the enemy in pretty strong force at the bridge. 
"We found they had forts and breast works thrown up, and a block house erected on the bridge.  We advanced, dismounted a company of our riflemen, and while they engaged them in front, the Colonel swam two companies over the river below, and came in their rear.  We found part of a regiment there, and I do assure you they fought desperately, but they had the brave 11th to contend against, and when our two companies  charged them upon their works, after a severe hand-to-hand struggle with saber and pistol, those in the breast works were compelled to surrender.  Then we went after those who escaped from the inner breast works to the outer one and captured them.  Then we attacked and captured the block house.  Oh! It was exciting! Such shouting on both sides of the river you never heard, in which the Doctor and I were compelled to join.  We killed seven rebels  and left many mortally wounded, and brought away 81 privates and five commissioned officers. A Lieutenant Colonel was commanding.
"We then heard that General [William Henry Fitzhugh] Lee, son of R. E. Lee, who was wounded in the late fight at Culpepper [Brandy Station], was in the neighborhood.  A colored man led us to the house [at Hickory Hill, Va.], and sure enough, there we found him.  We put him in his splendid carriage, to which was attached a pair of matched horses, and brought him with us.  We also captured a Captain of the Navy, a surgeon, and a paymaster with $20,000 in Confederate bonds.  We then burned the bridge and turned our faces to this point where we expected a large force to meet us;  and here we are, after three days hard march through three counties of Virginia, embracing the most beautiful section I have yet seen - bringing us 400 head of mules, 35 wagons, a large number of contrabands and 100 prisoners, among whom is Gen. Lee.  We also captured several mails.  I send you some of the letters. General [John] Dix was up here to meet us."
General Lee was shipped by train to New York as a prisoner-of-war. On February 25, 1864, he was exchanged for Federal Brigadier General Neal S. Dow.  Lee returned to his father and the Army of Northern Virginia to continue his wartime service.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards 

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