Unknown, Albemarle Light Horse (Co. K, 30th Virginia Volunteers), On the Pursuit

8 07 2020

The Pursuit at Manassas.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Albemarle Light Horse, (Capt. Eugene Davis,) which was engaged in the battle at Manassas Plains:

Manassas Junction, July 24.

Amid your rejoicings over the glorious victory of the 21st, I have thought it probable you would not object to hearing of the exploits of the Albemarle Light Horse, more in detail than can be found in the usual accounts of the battle. Our company returned from Occoquan on Friday before the great fight and were immediately sent to meet General Holmes’ Brigade, which was advancing from Fredericksburg. We met the General and returned with him on Saturday and continued under his command. On Sunday, shortly after our dinner, the order came for the Brigade to advance to the scene of action. We were soon mounted and ready to start, under the command of Major John Scott. After a most furious gallop of about two miles, we entered a grassy field, and were about ascending a high hill, when we were met by Col. Lay and directed to file around it, as the enemy’s flank battery was playing upon it. We did so promptly, and thus the balls passed, sone entirely over our heads and others into the earth near the top of the hill, making the dirt fly, but hurting nobody. On we went until ordered to halt and form into line, under cover of the hill upon which Lewis’ house stands. – Here we were subjected to a most demoralizing influence. Many of the companies which had been engaged were relieved by new companies and returning in a confused condition, leading and carrying their bleeding comrades, and giving awful accounts of the way in which their companies had been cut to pieces. One fellow made it his business to walk down the line and refresh us by telling how the Monticello and Holcombe Guards had been almost demolished. Major Scott seemed to see the effect of this upon his men, and sharply ordered the next fellow to be cut down who opened his mouth upon such a topic, and after that we heard nothing more, but still the line of bleeding wounded dragged its slow length along and still there came over us a sickening impression that the day had gone against us. – Everybody’s face looked elongated; but presently a shout was heard behind us, and on looking back we saw Capt. L. Walker’s battery which we had passed on the way advancing. He rode up in a cheerful mood and asked how things were going: “Hip and tug,” responded our officer; “Hip and tug is it,” said Lindsay, then le me get up on that hill with my little derringers.” And up he went with his “little derringers,” as he called his refle cannon, and commenced a succession of rapid firings, all of which were said to have ploughed ar road through horses, artillery and Yankees.

A squad of officers, who had collected on horseback, scattered over the fences and into the wood like a covey of partridges. In a few moments, we heard the joyful sound that the enemy were off in full retreat. Major Scott rode up to General Holmes, and reported for orders. “Go on, sir,” was the laconic response. And on we did go, without knowing, we must acknowledge, exactly where we were going to or what we were going after. But we were all too high strung to care much now, and there was only a general impression, that it was a sort of fox chase on a very expanded scale. At the Stone Bridge across Bull’s Run, (where the fight commenced in the morning,) we overtook Kershaw’s Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, and attached ourselves to his command.

In a few moments orders came to send a platoon forward to act as skirmishers in a body of woods through which the road passed. Lieut. Geiger dispatched for this service, Major Scott accompanying him. Passing in front of the regiment, Geiger left the Major six men to keep the main body on the road, while he scattered the rest on either side, and the boys had fine sport gathering up the prisoners, with which the woods were filled. Riding on, Major Scott, with his six men, found a house upon the turnpike filled with Yankees. Without knowing how many there were, he made a charge upon it, and the cowardly devils surrendered at once. Upon being emptied, the house was found to have contained thirty-five Yankees and three Georgians, whom they had in custody. At this point, the Major remained until joined by Lieut. Geiger, with his platoon, and finally by Capt. Davis, (with the rest of the company,) who had also been subsequently sent in advance of Kershaw to reconnoitre, and had captured several prisoners.

We had scarcely got together before it was announced that the enemy were rallying and planting a battery in the road just in front of us. At this news we scampered into the woods to wait for the regiment and Kemper’s Artillery, which was coming, and here we sent four of our men, with our doctor, to attend to Capt. Radford, who had fallen a short distance off, and died soon after the boys reached him. He had kind, sympathizing hearts around him in his last moments, and soft, youthful hands to close his eyes.

The enemy at this point raised quite a shout, but the South Carolina boys had come and only gave way to the right to allow Kemper to open on them from the road, and again we were formed in rear of the regiment. The sun was just sinking behind the horizon when the battery opened, and of all the singing shots you ever heard, these were the most musical. Our horses actually danced at every crack, and at every crack the road was cleared in front. This was too much, and away they went again. A large body of Cavalry had entered the field and were standing some distance in our rear when an officer rode up and asked for two squadrons to follow and capture the baggage train and artillery. For some reason there was no response, except from Major Scott, who replied, that he had one company at his service. The officer accepted the offer and directed us to the left of the turnpike, warning the Major to be cautious. The very thing the Major did not seem disposed to be, for away we went again across the field towards the left, and heard from several as we passed, the pleasant expression “there goes a doomed body of men.” But we were too much elated to mind that, and in our excitement had forgotten all about the wounded men on the hill where we first formed.

After proceeding a short distance we captured a prisoner, from whom Major Scott extorted the confession that the most important part of the train had passed straight down the turnpike. So over the fence we went into the turnpike again, and at a breakneck speed forward, until we spied the train descending a hill at Cub Run. We charged with such a terrible clatter that we suppose the attendants thought we numbered thousands instead of about fifty, and (at the first fire) off they scampered, leaving artillery, wounded men, baggage and everything. The Major, accompanied by Lieut. Geiger and fifteen men, dashed across the stream in pursuit of the fugitives, and had captured several of them, when they discovered a body of 200 Zouaves, and at once demanded their surrender. This was pushing things rather too far, and so the gallant Yankee who commanded actually had the hardihood, instead of surrendering his two hundred men, as our men thought he would do, to fifteen, to ask by what right his surrender was demanded, and to prevent all reply by following up his querry by a rapid pop, pop, pop, all along the line. A “right about,” and rapid abandonment of prisoners, and a hasty retreat to the rest of the company, was effected without injury to anybody. I believe one of our horses did get a few buckshot in the leg.

During the absence of this party, Captain Davis began to discover the nature and value of the prize, and proceeded to disengage and send back the cannon. Seeing how very important it was to secure it all, and reflecting that we numbered not over fifty, and were far in advance of our own men, and a very short distance from the enemy, Capt. Davis sent Lieut. Randolph back for reinforcements, and he returned with a body of cavalry and some infantry, with whose assistance we were able. By about 1 o’clock, to get everything disentangles, and on its road to Manassas. There were sixteen cannon, among them one Armstrong gun, said to be worth ten thousand dollars, caissons, ammunition, wagons, ambulances, about one hundred horses, &c., &c., &c. A nice little two-horse carriage was found elegantly fixed up, with oil-cloth coats, bottles of cologne, a fine guitar, and all the other fixings of some calico exquisite, who was no doubt anticipating an elegant campaign in Virginia, and much chagrined at the way in which he got himself bedraggled running through Cub Run and the adjoining swamp and thicket. Another carriage seemed to belong to a more substantial character, as it was fount to contain hermetically sealed meats, vegetable soup, and oh! a box of elegant liquor – whiskey, brandy, champagne, and other wines. We could not help feeling some respect for this fellow. He was certainly a fine judge of spirits, and treated us in style. We actually drank to his health and reformation. The boys loaded themselves with coats, oil-cloths, splendid canteens, &c.

Such a rout you cannot conceive of, the whole road, and for a distance on either side for miles, was literally covered with all manner of blankets, hats, guns, swords, dead men and horses, wagons and wheels. I noticed several wagons loaded with timber, ready hewed, for the purpose of making bridges across Bull Run. But few men in that army will ever tread the soil of Virginia again without terrible trepidation and rapid looking from one side to the other, and crooking of the legs in a position to be ready for a right about. The abject servile behavior of the prisoners lowered even our opinions of our miserable foes, and you know it was very low before.

We reached our camp at daybreak Monday morning, and after a short nap got up to talk over the doings of the day and receive the congratulations of our friends and commendations of the General and others in high command. We certainly had a glorious day of it. It would have done you good to see how the boys rode. We will be in Alexandria next week.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image

Albemarle Light Horse was Co. K of the 30th Virginia Volunteer Regiment and would become Co. K, 2nd Virginia Cavalry

Brief sketch of the Albemarle Light Horse 


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