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1863 January 17: Expedition from Yorktown to White House, and Other War News

January 19, 2013

A variety of war news from The Polk County Press of January 17, 1863.


NASHVILLE, Jan. 9—Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans] orders all captured officers confined until Davis’ order is revoked.  Rebel prisoners to subsist army rations.  Food contributed by friends to be confiscated to be used for hospitals.  Repetitions of contributions to constitute jail offense.


To Gen. HALLACK [Henry W. Halleck]:

 A party of cavalry and infantry was sent from Yorktown by Gen. Keys [sic]¹, and landed at West Point night before last, and returned to-day with a quantity of animals and eight loaded wagons.  They destroyed the dept and rolling stock at White house, and burned a steamer and several sloops, boats and barges laden with grain, sustaining no loss whatever.

(Signed)         John A. Dix

NEW YORK, Jan. 10—Secretary Chase [Salmon P. Chase] holds a conference with bank President to-night.

A dangerous counterfeit of notes on the bank of American in this city is said to be in circulation, distinguishable only by the fact that the signatures and dates are engraved while the genuine are written.

Advices from New Orleans report that the rebels have 12,000 men and 30 guns at Point Hudson and the earthworks are said to be four miles in length.

The capital at Baton Rouge was destroyed by fire recently with many thousand rare and valuable books, papers, &c. Loss $70,000.

A Murfressboro despatch says the loss of the rebels increases daily.  Two thousand of their wounded were sent to Lavergne [sic: La Vergne] yesterday.  Many more were left here but cannot be moved as their wounds are frightful and most of them will die.  LATER—Lavergne [sic] has been accidentally burned so that the rebel wounded have to be sent to Nashville and thence to Louisville for treatment.

NEW YORK, Jan 10.—Yesterday afternoon the new and splendid ship Gen. Griswold, laden with gifts of food for the famished operatives of Lancashire was towed down the bay, and this morning she will spread her sails, and start on her voyage for the shores of England.  As she moved down the bay she was sighted by several British vessels in the harbor, and the crowd of sailors and citizens on her deck, as well as on the steamer which towed her out, and other vessels in the in vicinity, exhibited their generous enthusiasm by most vociferous cheers.

1.  Erasmus Darwin Keyes (1810-1895) was a graduate of West Point and a career military officer before the Civil War. He is most noted for leading the IV Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the first half of the War. Keyes saw action at First Bull Run, Yorktown, Savage’s Station, Fair Oaks, and Malvern Hill, and among his other actions was this raid to White House, Virginia, on January 7-9, 1863.  After the War he was a banker and businessman in San Francisco.

Keyes’ report to General Dix gives far more details of the raid than this little notice in the newspaper. The following report is from The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XVIII, Part I, Chapter XXX, page 124; available in the UWRF Archives (E 464 .U6). Gutta percha, in case you wonder, is a tough plastic substance from the latex of several Malaysian trees that resembles rubber but contains more resin. It was introduced to the West in the 1840s and is used especially as insulation.

JANUARY 7-9, 1863.-Expedition from Yorktown to West Point and White House, Va.

Report of Major General Erasmus D. Keyes, U. S. Army, commanding Fourth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS FOURTH ARMY CORPS, Yorktown, Va., January 10, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of a successful raid up the country between the Pamunkey and Mattapony Rivers and at the White House.

A detachment of cavalry of the Fifth Pennsylvania and Sixth New York Regiments, under Major W. P. Hall, and another of the One hundred and fifteenth New York Infantry,under Captain McKittrick, 300 in all, left Yorktown on the evening of the 7th instant in steamers co-operating with the strong naval forces on this station.

It was concerted with Captain F. A. Parker,* commanding the gunboats on the York River, that he would clear out the Pamunkey and destroy the railroad station, &c., at the White House, while the infantry should hold West Point with the aid of a gunboat and the cavalry should sweep the roads and country on the left bank. Unfortunately, however, the water was too low to enable the vessel to reach the White House. Major Hall therefore crossed the river at that point in a skiff with a small party, burnt the ferry-boat, also a small steamer called the Little Magruder,two sloops loaded with grain, two barges, four pontoon boats, a storehouse containing a thousand bushels of wheat, &c., a quantity of whisky, soap, salt, &c.

The torch was then applied to the railroad depot, which contained freight for Richmond; the tank, the rolling stock, signal station, subtler’s buildings, &c. When the destruction was complete the party recrossed the river.

On the left bank of the Pamunkey the cavalry captured and brought in 6 wagons and 2 carts, with 26 mules and 8 horses. The wagons were laded with “blockade goods,” such as salt, black-lead, gum-shellac, buckles and rings, gutta percha belting, bars of tin and iron, brass wire 60 ounces of quinine, and a lot of gold lace, stripes and stars for rebels uniforms.

The expedition got off without its destination known or suspected by any person except Captain Parker and myself. The conduct of Major W. P. Hall, Sixth New York Cavalry, entitles him to special notice and praise. His success was complete, and he lost neither man nor horse.

It will not, I trust, be deemed out of place to say that the success of the land part of the expedition was largely indebted to Captain Parker’s admirable management of his vessels. On this and many other occasions I have noticed the zeal and good judgment of that naval officer.

I have the honor to be,very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding Fourth Army Corps.

[To:] Major-General DIX,
Commanding Department of Virginia.

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