HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., THIRD DIV., 18TH ARMY CORPS,
Wilson’s Wharf, Va., May 25, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that this post was attacked yesterday at noon by a considerable force of the enemy, supposed to be cavalry, having three guns, probably horse artillery. The attack was evidently made in earnest, with a design of rushing in upon us suddenly, but they received so decided a check from our pickets, that a large portion of the force dismounted and made their approach more cautiously. They encompassed our front, and filling the woods on the river bluff to the north, tried to stop all communication with steamers coming to our aid, and harassed our landing place. They also made it uncomfortable for the gunners to serve their pieces on our gun-boats. After fighting an hour and a half, they sent forward a flag of truce, with a note containing a summons to surrender in the name of Maj. Gen. Fitz. Lee. This note was forwarded to department headquarters yesterday. I declined. We then went at it again. They massed troops on our extreme right, concealed by wooded ravines, and made a determined charge, at the same time keeping up a steady attack all along our front and left flank. This charge approached our parapet, but failed under our severe cross-fires. They fled back into the ravines, and after another hour gradually drew off out of sight. I sent out three sallying parties who found them still drawn up in skirmishing array beyond the woods. We left the picket to watch them, and brought in a few rebel wounded and prisoners.
The enemy built camp-fires, and passed a portion of the night in our front, but when at sunrise we advanced to feel of them, they had disappeared. Contrabands to-day tell us they went to Bottom’s Bridge to resist the crossing of our troops at that point. During the afternoon we stopped passing steamers, claiming their aid, and calling ashore all troops aboard them, took them into our service, arming some with the guns of our wounded men and other spare guns, and working others in various ways. We were greatly indebted to volunteers–artillerymen of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery–for taking the place of several of ours who had dropped with the heat, and of one who was shot, under the direction of the efficient and undaunted Lieut. Nicholas Hanson, of Howell’s battery. The gun-boat Dawn (Captain Simmons, Executive Officer Jackaway) rendered most efficient and material aid in shelling the enemy on both flanks, changing her position according to need. They have received my heartfelt thanks. Lieutenant Swain’s signal party worked faithfully under most discouraging circumstances. I ought also to mention the good conduct of Captain Quackenbush’s ensign [William F. Chase]. Coming down on the tug Mayflower to learn the character of the attack, the captain and pilot being both shot down, he instantly took the wheel, and brought her through.
Within my own command all behaved steadily and well. Especially the conduct of the pickets and skirmishers under Capt. Giles H. Rich, First U.S. Colored Troops, was very fine. Our loss is 2 killed, 19 wounded, and 1 missing. Besides the civilians on the steamers, Capt. W. H. Wild, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieut. Elam C. Beeman, First U.S. Colored Troops, were wounded. The enemy had ample opportunities for removing all their dead and wounded from every part of the field, except from the abatis, the scene of the assault. There we found about two dozen killed, including a captain and a major. We brought in 6 wounded rebels and 4 prisoners.
We have no accurate count of their force. I estimated them at least double my own, and probably triple. Prisoners stated that they had detachments from three cavalry brigades, comprising all their available men. A memorandum book in the pocket of the dead major (Cary Breckinridge, Sixth [Second] Virginia Cavalry), gives on pages 41 and 42 a clue to the parties, but not directly to the numbers. Prisoners stated that the expedition, under command of Maj. Gen. Fitz. Lee in person, started from Richmond in the evening of the 23d and marched all night.
We might have slaughtered twice as many of them, but that we were at the time short of artillery ammunition (owing to the recent change of batteries at this post) of that particular caliber, and economized our stock, fearing a lengthened siege. This fault is since corrected. We were actively engaged about five and a half hours.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWD. A. WILD,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers.
Capt. SOLON A. CARTER,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.