Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
GEN. PIERCE YOUNG’S DARING.
His Share in Capturing 2,500 Head of Cattle.
From the New York Times.
Some years ago the general was relating some of his experiences in the war. He had been asked especially to tell of the capture of the corral of cattle, which Gen. Grant had brought together as a base of supplies for his army, on the Chickahominy [sic, the James River], in 1864. This capture was one of the most brilliant and successful raids of the war, in which Gen. [Pierce M. B.] Young had played a gallant and conspicuous part; but throughout the narration a casual listener would have thought that he was relating the incident to show how magnificently Hampton had conducted the affair. The conception and plan were [Wade] Hampton’s. It was arranged that a picked body of 500 cavalry, under Hampton, should sweep around to Grant’s rear, capture the corral, and drive the cattle into the confederate lines, while Gen. Young should hold at bay any federal troops that might come to the support of the corral guard. The scouts had gathered every detail of information needed. They knew the exact location of the cattle, their number, the number and quality of the troops on guard, the relative position of the great army of Grant, and how long it would require for him to dispatch assistance to the guard when attacked. Hampton relied upon Young to keep back the entire army, if necessary, until he could get the cattle out of reach. As cattle have to be driven slowly and over fairly good country, it was necessary for Hampton to drive them quite close to the enemy’s lines, making the risk very much greater.
Everything worked smoothly until the cattle had been captured. The negro guard was soon disposed of, and the corral, consisting of 2,500 head of cattle, was shortly being driven toward the confederate camp. To reach the rear of the lines Hampton and Young and all of their troops had been in the saddle day and night, and had ridden fifty miles almost without a halt. Despite the fatigue of horses and men a forced march had to be made by Hampton, while Young and his weary cavalrymen had to face the entire federal line and “draw their fire” until the raiders were out of harm’s way. General Young accomplished this in most brilliant style. He stretched out his 2,500 troopers into so long a line that it seemed as if nothing less than an army division could occupy the space. By rushing from one point to another a considerable body of his men and concentrating fire on the federal advance he succeeded in keeping up the deception. The federals expected momentarily to engage the confederates in force, and so advanced cautiously, feeling their way. The dashing cavalry officer was playing Napoleonic tactics in miniature. Before the army of Grant realized that it was putting forth its giant strength against a handful of daring horsemen Hampton was safe; and the spectral lines of the grand army of confederates closed up and galloped away, having completed the most reckless foray of the war. “The federal cattle,” added the general, “formed the basis of our supplies for the rest of our campaign.”1,2