No. 342. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Franklin A. Stratton, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations December 10.1
HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, KAUTZ’S CAVALRY DIVISION,
In the Field, December 12, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor most respectfully to report in relation to the action of the 10th instant that pursuant to orders received on the morning of that day to support the picket-line of the brigade, I moved out at 10 a.m. with all the available force of the command (nearly 500 men to the vicinity of Fort Holly, and after a little reconnoitering of the ground proceeded to make my dispositions by sending a company of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry (mounted) to re-enforce each of the two main picket reserves, dismounting the remainder of the regiment except two companies and the detachment of the First District of Columbia Cavalry and placing the men in position to the right and left of the small house, about 300 yards in front of Fort Holly. The two companies left mounted were placed under a good officer (Captain Nimmon) a little to the left and abreast of Fort Holly, so as to protect the horses, which were sent to the rear of the hill on which the redoubt stands. This squadron had orders also to be ready to charge the enemy’s line of skirmishers should he push out into the open field. The men had dismounted, but were only partly in position when the enemy charged the outer pickets in front of the fort with dismounted cavalry, driving them back to the left reserve and immediately followed with a strong skirmish line of dismounted cavalry and infantry. A sharp contest ensued for a few minutes, when the enemy’s infantry advanced a skirmish line from the wood on our left flank and opened fire on our left and rear. The ground over which they advanced had been covered by a strong picket-line of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, which withdrew without giving any indication of the approach of the enemy from that direction. In consequence of this enfilading fire, and finding Captain Tripp and several men already wounded, I withdrew to the crest of the hill on the left of the redoubt, sending about forty men along the line of the old rebel rifle-pits to the right of the fort, where they were joined soon after by the reserve from the left picket station. The enemy, having evidently met with some loss, did not press his
advance. At this time, about 12.30 p.m., finding many of the men short of ammunition, I sent back for more, and directed those having a supply, including the detachment of the First District of Columbia, under Captain Griffin, and about 120 men of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, under Captain Monroe, to move into the ravine at the right of the fort, and, following it around to the front, endeavor to flank the enemy’s position and drive him back. This movement, although well conducted, at first by Captain Griffin, who was noon brought off wounded, and afterward by Captain Monroe, proved but partially successful. The enemy was driven back tot he edge of the second ravine, but still commanded the slashing through which our men found it difficult to make their way. I did not deem it good policy or prudent to force the advance beyond the line now held. This movement on the right was supported by fifty infantry from the fort, who passed around by the left to the first small house already referred to. General Jourdan, who commanded this portion of the line, now directed me to remain in the position I held. Moderate firing was kept up with little effect on either side until 4 o’clock, when General Jourdan directed my men to be relieved with infantry. By his direction I then ordered my men back to their horses in the rear of the fort. About dark, judging from the movements of the enemy that he was retiring, I sent out a company to reconnoiter, but found them still in position. At 9 o’clock I made another reconnaissance and ascertained that he had left. I immediately re-established my picket-lines as they were at the commencement of the action, strengthened and extended on the left, where the pickets of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry had been in the morning. My right picket station was not disturbed during the day. At dark I went into bivouac in the snow and mud, and at noon on the 11th returned to camp.
I forwarded a report of casualties on the 10th.* All of the missing from the picket-line, except one, returned the next day, having escaped to the right of our line.
The enemy’s force in my front I judge to have been two regiments or more, cavalry and infantry. His losses must have exceeded ours. Several are known to have been killed, besides some whose bodies were found on the field. Major Skelley, commanding the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, and Captain Griffin, commanding the First District of Columbia Cavalry, able seconded me in this affair. The latter was severely wounded while gallantly leading his men against the enemy. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Wonderly, who also did well. Captain Tripp, of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, was severely wounded while on the skirmish line. Captain Macnamara and Lieutenant Ford, of my staff, deserve mention for their coolness and efficiency.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
FRANKLIN A. STRATTON,
Lieutenant Colonel Eleventh Pennsylvania Cav., Commanding Second Cav. Brigadier
Major THEODORE H. SCHENCK,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Kautz’s Division.
*Same as reported by Kautz, p. 826.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 838-839 ↩