Deep Creek, Va., March 4, 1864.
CAPTAIN: On the 29th February ultimo, at 10 a.m., I received a communication from Ballahock Station that my patrol of 8 men (patrolling the road from that station to South Mills) had come in contact with the enemy and were driven back to Ballahock. I immediately sent forward Captain Lompe, of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, with 40 men, to Ballahock Station, with orders to report what information he could gain of the enemy's movements.
At 1 p.m. I received a report from Captain Lompe that about 30 rebel cavalry were seen 4 miles from the Ballahock post, on the road leading to South Mills, and I immediately reported that information to the general commanding. In reply I was instructed to send my cavalry on a reconnaissance to South Mills, and report any information I might learn to headquarters.
On the following morning (March 1) at 4 a.m. Captain Lompe moved forward in the direction of South Mills. At 10 a.m., not hearing anything from that officer, I started for the Ballahock Station, and had proceeded about 2 miles when I met an orderly coming in on a gallop, who informed me that Captain Lompe was retreating and the enemy in close pursuit. I had proceeded but a short distance farther on when I met Captain Lompe. I immediately ordered him to halt and form in line of battle, which he instantly did, the enemy at that time being about 1 mile distant.
By an order from the general, who had just arrived at the scene of action, I ordered forward a detachment of 100 men of the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers, under command of Lieut. Thomas Burnett. Shortly before they arrived the enemy began to fall back, when I followed in pursuit, with orders from the general to proceed as far as the Ballahock road, he at the time returning to headquarters. After advancing about 5 miles I found the enemy had halted and formed in line of battle on the Bear Quarter road. Perceiving this I detached 25 men of the Ninth New Jersey, who advanced as skirmishers. We advanced cautiously along the road for about 1½ miles, when we were fired upon from a dense thicket on the left of the road. We returned the fire and entered the thicket- and perceived the enemy, who numbered about 300, moving toward our rear with the evident intention of cutting us off. To prevent them, we retired by the left <ar60_227> flank, continuing the firing, which caused them to relinquish their original design; and here let me add that Lieutenant Burnett, who had charge of the advance, showed himself to be a brave and efficient officer. Owing to the superior force opposed to us I ordered forward from this post two pieces of artillery and 100 men of the Tenth New Hampshire Volunteers, all under command of Captain Simpson. Later in the evening we again advanced and engaged the enemy. Night coming on, and by reason of the extreme darkness which prevailed, we retired about I mile and bivouacked for the night. About 8 o'clock I started to report in person to the general at Deep Creek. At the distance of 1 mile from my command I met Captain Faith with a detachment of 100 men of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry. On halting him he stated he was to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, when I informed him that I was that officer and ordered him to report to Captain Simpson, whom I left in command.
On the following morning (March 2) I learned that Captain Faith, instead of reporting as directed, passed our column until he reached the enemy s camp, who, not relishing his appearance on such a dark night, greeted him with a volley of musketry, which caused him to reverse his column in haste, dismounting several horses and causing many with their riders to plunge into the Dismal Swamp Canal, those escaping the water falling back in confusion on Captain Simpson's artillery, which was stationed on the road in their rear, causing several more to be dismounted; some having their shoulder-blades dislocated, others their legs broken, &c. Captain Simpson finally succeed in forming many of them in his rear, Captain Faith, at this position of affairs, being satisfied to report to Captain Simpson.
Captain Lompe, in his report of his reconnaissance to South Mills, states that his advance guard on reaching the 16-mile stone was confronted by a force of between 300 and 400 rebels. Having moved to the front, and satisfying himself of the enemy's strength, he ordered Lieutenant Phillips, who was in charge of the advance guard, to be vigilant; that he was going to fall back. He immediately dispatched two orderlies, one to Lieutenant Shaffer, commanding picket Ballahock, and the other to the undersigned at Deep Creek. Giving Lieutenant Phillips charge of the rear guard, he reversed his column and immediately perceived the enemy charging in full force, distant about one-third of a mile. He at once ordered a gallop, and fell back in good order over the Northwest Canal bridge, tearing up the planks as soon as he crossed. He then formed his command in line of battle, and at this point he found that Lieutenant Phillips and a portion of his command was missing. Being forced from his position he fell back to Deep Creek, as before stated.
There are missing from Captain Lompe's command 1 lieutenant and 7 privates, with their equipments, together with 13 horses and their equipments. Lieutenant Burnett, in his report of the engagement at Bear Quarter road, reports 1 private (Albert S. Nutt) killed and 1 (Joel Hulse) wounded, both of the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers. Total casualties up to March 2, instant, 1 killed, 1 wounded, and 7 missing, with 13 horses. On the morning of that day the general assumed command in person.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. B. SMITH,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Post Deep Creek.
Capt. W. H. ABEL,