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The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Report of Lieut. Col. Fitzhugh Lee, First Virginia Cavalry

Camp Cooper, Va., November 19, 1861

 

Sir: I have the honor to report1 the result of a scout of a detachment of the First Virginia Cavalry, under my command, which left this camp yesterday, in pursuance to orders from cavalry brigade headquarters, for the purpose of obtaining certain valuable information in the vicinity of Falls Church.

Learning that a picket of the enemy obstructed my route, I resolved, if possible, to capture them, and prevent my presence being discovered and allowing them to advance in numbers upon me while gaining the desired knowledge. Accordingly, getting as near as possible, I charged them, they retiring rapidly toward the woods and pines, while we quickly lessened the distance, driving one picket upon another, and both upon the reserve, which retreated toward a thicket upon the side of the road and poured in quite a destructive fire upon us from their sheltered position. Followed by a portion of my command, I got in between them and some tents visible and completely surrounded them, another detachment having been ordered up on the other side.

Thus hemmed in, the enemy still fought with bravery and desperation, and made it necessary to dismount some of my men and dislodge them.

Our loss was 1 private killed and 2 slightly wounded. I also report with deep regret that Mr. John C. Chichester, my brave, gallant guide, was dangerously wounded, and has since died.2 I lost one horse, ridden by Sergt. Jasper N. Jones, of Company L, having run off after the sergeant had dismounted to fight. The horse of Lieut. James S. Larrick, Company A, was severely wounded, and my own horse killed under me during the action. The loss of the enemy, as far as I could ascertain, was 7 killed and 1 left mortally wounded, being shot through the body. Ten were made prisoners, including the lieutenant commanding and the first sergeant, 3 being wounded; 2 severely and 1 slightly (shot in the arm). I brought away my dead (1) and Mr. Chichester, together with two of the enemy, badly wounded, in vehicles taken for the occasion, the enemy appearing in considerable force from the direction of Falls Church, but not venturing an attack. The loss of Mr. Chichester must be deeply deplored, and in Private Thomas Tucker, of Company A, the regiment has lost one of its bravest and most efficient members. Asst. Surg. Talcot Eliason accompanied me, and was as conspicuous with his pistol making wounds as he was afterwards with other instruments healing them.     

Of the detachment engaged the highest compliment I can pay is to say that they acted as the First Cavalry always have done, obeyed orders, coolly riding up and shooting the deluded men with their pistols, regard only being paid to carrying out instructions and not their own lives.

The enemy were a portion of the Fourteenth New York State Militia, of Brooklyn, and fought with much more bravery than the Federal troops usually exhibit. It is the same regiment that so thickly dotted the field of Manassas upon the 21st with red.

When the action ceased it was so late in the day I deemed it inexpedient to carry out the object first in view, encumbered as I was with prisoners and wounded men, and returned slowly to camp. The fight took place a little over a mile this side of Falls Church, upon the road leading to Fairfax Court-House.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Fitz Lee,

Lieutenant-Colonel First Virginia Cavalry, Commanding

Capt. L. S. Brien, Assistant Adjutant-General

 

[Indorsement]

 

Headquarters Cavalry Brigade,

Camp Qui Vive, November 20, 1861

Respectfully forwarded for the information of the commanding general Army of the Potomac. This gallant and successful affair of Lieutenant-Colonel Lee and his detachment of First Virginia Cavalry against the enemy’s best troops in chosen position receives my unqualified praise and commendation. The loss of the Gallant Chichester is a severe one to me, as his services were invaluable.

J. E. B. Stuart,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

 

 

Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 5, pp. 442-443

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 26 

 

 

1. Lee is writing on the skirmish at Falls Church on 1861 November 18.

2. John Conway Chichester (1827-1861) was born 1827 August 10 in Fairfax, Virginia. He was the son of William Henry Chichester (1800-1844) and Jane Elliot Peyton (1798-1880). He was wounded on 1861 November 18 and died the next day from his injury. He is buried in Fairfax. On 1860 August 2 in Fairfax, he was married to Rebecca Virginia Corse Chichester (1827-1861), who died in April of 1861. 

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