"Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9, 1863. Mosby steals the General

William Henry Jackson
House where Mosby
abducted Brig Gen Stoughton
"Fairfax Station Mar 9th
"Dear Father:
"It is quite late but I take the pen to give you the particulars of the misfortune that befell us by the loss of our General. The news came to our camp this morn about 8 o'clock but no one believed or entertained the thought a moment, but it proved too true. 

"It was very dark. It appears that they surrounded the court house and then captured the guard before they knew it and then went to Col Johnstone's quarters and rapped and was asked who's there and was answered "a friend, let me in quick" upon this the Col was awakened and for some reason mistrusted trouble and left by way of a back entrance and crawled under a shed or barn with nothing but a shirt on and there concealed himself until they left. One of the Rebs passed within a few feet of him. 

"They went then to the Generals HeadQuarters where they gained an entrance in similar manner. The man at the door refused them entrance but was threatened his life. The man then lead them to an apartment away from the General when they told the waiter that was not the General's room and threatened to blow his brains out instantaneously if he did not show them the right room. The Rebels went into his room wake him up presented three or four revolvers at his head and told to surrender and go with them. 

"I cannot write all. No one was to blame but himself. None of the Brigade was within 3 miles nor have they been since the middle of Jan. 

"Not half at the Court House knew it until morning. They are in pursuit but to no avail I am afraid. The last report was that they were in sight and it was a matter of speed. Every Vermonter seems to take it as a personal indignation almost. I am well, fat as a pig. I will write again soon. This is only about this affair. Elmer"  E. D. Keyes, Captain, Company H, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of March 9, 1863

For an account of the Raid and Linclon's reactoin see Mosby Spreads Fear From Fairfax to Chain Bridge

Mosby's Report of the raid is posted here.

                                                      "Fairfax Station March 9th, 1863

 "Last night was an exciting time in this vicinity. It was one of the darkest, rainiest, and muddiest night that was ever felt - it could not be seen. In the night Fitz Lee’s cavalry made a raid into Fairfax Court House from the direction of Falls Church and captured Gen. Stoughton, all his horses and about a hundred men. They surrounded the house and other houses where Col. Wyndham and Col. Johnson’s Headquarters where. An officer rode up and knocked at the door of Stoughton’s house. John Martin asked “Who’s there?” The reply was “a friend who wishes to see Gen. Stoughton open the door.” John opened the door when the officer and other entered and putting a pistol to John’s head, demanded to be shown to the General’s room. John said that the General was at Fairfax Station One of the party replied that “He knew better as he had seen the General at the court house late in the afternoon.” 

"John then showed them to his room where he was a sleeping. But further threatening on the part of the rebels had him to know where to the General’s room. The officer entered wore the General’s room. The officer entered, woke the General and told him that Fitz Lee commanded the place and that he, the General, was his prisoner. So Stoughton got up, dressed and followed his captor without more ado. Col. Wyndham was in Washington, so he was not captured and Col. Johnston of the 5th New York cavalry who with his wife and children making his headquarters in the village escaped by jumping from his window in his shirt and secured himself under a barn floor not 10 feet from where a rebel guard was stationed.

"Some of the men taken belong to the 16th Vermont and 2 of them to Company B to wit Putty Baker and Barney Pratt.

"I do not learn that even a gun was fired by our guards. It was a most complete surprise and was a brilliant exploit Gen. Fitz Lee used to live close to here. He owned the ground on which our camps now on. Nearly all his cavalry was raised in this county and they knew every road, lane, path, stream and house intimately. Besides, there is good reason for believing that they have spies in at Fairfax Court House nearly every day.

"I had a narrow escape. I went up to the court house after dinner yesterday. It got to be dark before I got through supper at Spencer Jackson’s where I boarded which I was Provost Marshall and they wanted I should stay all night it was so dark and rainy. I was also urged to stay at headquarters. My horse was put up in the General’s barn. I waited until it was time for the moon to rise, say 1/2 past 9 and then got my horse and started for camp. Up to this time it had not rained and although raining, the sun had set in a totally clearly sky. I had barely mounted my horse when the rain began to fall, slowly at first. My path was across lots, through woods, brush, and mud.

"I could not see a rod before me to discuss anything. The sky was pitch black and the rain increasing. I rode on about two miles until I came to a house of a good Union man where some of our sick soldiers are quartered and as the rain was then falling in torrents and I had a stream to ford, I concluded to stay the night. This remaining, I was in camp before breakfast. It is proper to remark that at 2 o’clock it nearly cleared off, and the moon shone out. I was away from the courthouse about an hour and a half before the raid. Had I stayed all night, my horse and saddle, would have been captured and I should have been on my way to Richmond. As it is, I am here and very well.Your affectionate husband Charles.
~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter  March 9, 1863. VHS.

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