Report of Capt. Del. Kemper, Alexandria/Light Artillery, of Retreat from Fairfax Court-House and Skirmish at Mitchell’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 458-459
ARTILLERY QUARTERS ADVANCED FORCES:
FIRST BRIG., FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Vienna, July 25, 1861
GENERAL: On the morning of Wednesday, the 17th instant, while in camp at Fairfax Court-House, about 7 a.m. I received information from you of the approach of the enemy, and a reiteration of orders previously given in regard to the disposition of my guns. Two were at once placed in battery in front of Colonel Williams’ regiment, on the Alexandria turnpike, and two in front of Colonel Kershaw’s position, on the Falls Church road. At 8 o’clock the enemy came in sight on the Flint Hill road, and orders were received to fall back. In conjunction with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment and Captain Wickham’s troop I enjoyed the privilege of covering this retreat, the rear guard being under Colonel Kershaw’s command, to whose report [No. 67] I beg to refer for any additional details. The enemy seemed not disposed to press us closely, and we reached Centreville without incident worthy of note about 12 m., and rested until midnight, when the march was resumed to Bull Run.
We arrived at Mitchell’s Ford a little before daybreak on the morning of the 18th. Two of my guns were posted on the hill in front of the trenches at Mitchell’s Ford; the others in the trenches. At 12 m. (Thursday, 18th) the enemy opened fire from one or more rifled guns in front of our position at a distance of one and one-half miles. This firing was completely at random until 12.30 o’clock, when they obtained the range of my position and fired many rounds of case and solid shot at us, but without injury to us, while a light battery moved up toward us. I then opened fire upon the latter, firing six solid shot, and had the satisfaction of driving back the battery and its supports. I have since understood that this was Sherman’s battery, and that the amount of damage done them was considerable. We at once retired to the trenches in obedience to your orders.
Late in the evening, about 4 o’clock, I was ordered to accompany, with one gun, Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the hill which we had before occupied, in front of Mitchell’s Ford, for the purpose of driving a body of infantry and cavalry from the cover of the hills beyond. Two solid shot and three spherical case having accomplished this object to Colonel Kershaw’s satisfaction, we returned to our respective positions in and behind the trenches. We were inactive listeners to the heavy firing on our right, and about dusk were ordered to move with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the left of the intrenchments.
I am glad to be able to add that no member of my command suffered any injury during these operations.
Respectfully, general, your obedient servant
Captain, Comdg. Battery of Light Artillery from Alexandria
Commanding. First Brigade, &c.