Report of Maj. Innis N. Palmer, Second U. S. Cavalry, Commanding Battalion
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 393
CAVALRY CAMP, NEAR ARLINGTON, July 23, 1861
SIR: In obedience to circular from brigade headquarters of this date, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command during the battle before Manassas on the 21st instant. My command consisted of one company of the Second Dragoons, Capt. F. C. Armstrong commanding, two companies of the First Cavalry, under Capt. A. V. Colburn, and four companies of Second Cavalry, under Capts. A. G. Brackett, W. W. Lowe, J. E. Harrison, and First Lieutenant Drummond.
At the commencement of the action the whole cavalry force was ordered to the front, and it took a position on the extreme right of the line. From this point portions were detached from time to time, to support the different batteries and to examine the ground on the left of the enemy’s line. While they were thus engaged, a small body of the enemy’s cavalry, which had charged through the New York Zouave Regiment, came within short distance of my command, and I directed a small party, under Sergeant Sachs, of the Second Dragoons, to pursue them. He succeeded in capturing several prisoners, among them General George Steuart, of Maryland.
During the entire action the cavalry, sometimes together and sometimes in detachments, moved by the direction of the commanding general to various points in the field, where there was a prospect of their being able to act to advantage. When the force on the right of our attacking line first gave way, all of my officers, assisted by Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, endeavored to rally them, and I found it necessary to deploy the cavalry to oppose the retreat of these men. They were, however, totally demoralized, and a galling fire, opened suddenly from the woods in front of us, made all our efforts unavailing.
When the retreat from the field became general, the whole of the cavalry, excepting those killed, wounded, or dismounted by loss of horses, was together, and in good condition. I was directed to cover the retreat, assisted by a section of Arnold’s battery. The enemy rapidly advanced upon the rear, and at the crossing of Bull Run it was necessary to form my command to receive their cavalry. Two shots from the guns of Arnold caused them to retire, and soon after I received orders to push on as rapidly as possible in order to save my command. I reached Centreville about 8.30 p.m., and this place at 5.30 a.m. the next morning.
The conduct of officers and men throughout the day was in the highest degree praiseworthy.(*)
All of which is respectfully submitted.
I. N. PALMER,
Major, Second Cavalry, Commanding Cavalry
Capt. W. W. AVERELL,
A. A. A. G. Colonel Porter’s Brigade
(*) List of casualties here omitted embraced in division return p. 387