I’m not sure why the last couple of posts have been about things gone wrong. The picket line story was too funny to pass up, and then I found this one. Not the way I would normally pick to feature my favorite (and parent) regiment, but you have to admire the way Captain Thomas Hight makes this report. Though addressed to the adjutant, the report is intended for the regimental commander. Can you imagine having to write a report to explain this to your commander?
To put the report into context, Captain Hight had just disembarked from the transports which had sailed them from the peninsula back to Washington when he was ordered out to join General Sumner. August 31, 1862 was the day after the end of the battle of Second Bull Run. I’ll have more on Captain Hight in the next few days.
“Washington, D.C., September 3, 1862.
Lieut. J.F. McQuesten,
Adjutant, Second U.S. Cavalry:
Sir: In reply to your communication of this date I have the honor to make the following report of the manner in which my squadron was captured on the 31st ultimo:
On the 30th ultimo I was ordered with my squadron from Alexandria to report to general Sumner at Annandale. I moved with the squadron to the place designated, and finding that General Sumner had moved on, I followed with the squadron, sending to General Sumner to know if I should join them with the squadron. I received orders to do so, and joined him about 5 or 6 miles from Centreville, where the command spent the remainder of the night.
At daylight the next morning I was directed by General Sumner to leave him twelve orderlies, and with the remainder of the squadron to make a reconnaissance several miles to the right and front, returning to meet him in the rear of Centreville.
After performing this duty I met General Sumner at Centreville and reported that I had found no trace of the enemy. I then moved with General Sumner to a short distance to the right of Centreville, when I was again directed to make a reconnaissance to the right as far as Germantown. I accordingly moved to the right as far as the turnpike, and learning that Germantown was to the rear on the road, I turned in that direction, and after going 2 or 3 miles halted my command for rest and to give my horses a small feed, as they had been nearly twenty-four hours without being unsaddled or having anything to eat. About fifteen minutes after halting my sentinel reported horsemen in the rear on the road over which I had just come, but as we had been passing stragglers for the last few miles I supposed that they were some of our own men, but went to see myself; not being satisfied, I gave directions to bridle up. It was again reported that they were our troops, but immediately after my command was charged by two squadrons of Confederate cavalry, closely followed by the light division of Major-General Stuart, numbering between 2,000 and 3,000 cavalry and two horse batteries. The leading squadrons immediately opened fire upon me, which was returned by a portion of my command, the remainder of the command attempting to make their escape from so overpowering a force by fleeing through the fields toward the shelter of the woods.
Thus surrounded by so large a force, while dismounted, I had nothing left for me but surrender or massacre. I surrendered to Brigadier-General Fitz. Lee, commanding the leading brigade of the enemy, my remaining force, Lieut. R.E. Clary and about 20 men.
The enemy afterward brought in 25 or 30 more men of the squadron and about 20 infantry stragglers that they had picked up on the road over which I had passed.
The men were paroled, and myself and Lieutenant Clary taken along with the enemy as prisoners.
Private Martin Kelley of my command was badly wounded, and left behind, with a wounded soldier of the enemy.
Lieutenant Rodenbough of the squadron was brought in the next morning to General Lee.
I remained a prisoner with the enemy until the morning of September 2, when I was paroled and sent with Lieutenants Clary and Rodenbough to our pickets near Falls Church.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Second Cavalry”
Source: Official Records, Volume XII, Part 3, pages 809-810.
Morning trip from Alexandria to Annandale to Centerville. That is a commuting nightmare! I certainly can empathize with Capt Hight in that regard.