“To Make A Foray”: A Letter From The Chickahominy Raid

Stuart’s Ride (Library of Congress)

This week I’ve been getting my notes ready for the Virtual Symposium filming session where I’ll be sharing about J.E.B. Stuart’s 1862 Chambersburg Raid. In the process of reviewing the historical information, I moved backward on the timeline and re-examined some primary sources related to the Chickahominy Raid in June 1862 on the Viginia Peninsula. With approximately 1,200 cavalrymen and a two gun detachment from the Stuart Horse Artillery, they started on June 12 and returned three days later—bringing back the information that General Lee wanted and completing the first “ride around McClellan.”

This except from Chiswell Dabney’s letter to his mother on June 18, 1862, gives some details of his experiences. Spelling is original.

…I started with Gen’l Stuart last Thursday to make a foray. I did not know where, neither did I care, marched all that day & camped that night in Hanover. Next morning we started early to try to make a visit to the rear of the grand army. We proceeded to Hanover Co. Ho. [Court House] where we came upon the enimies pickets. They very soon withdrew though though loseing one man a seargeant of Cavalry. We next came upon the enimy beyond the old battle ground where the Fredericksburg army fought some time since. There both parties charged upon each other at a gallop, pistol & sabre we used very freely & here it was that the lamented Capt. Latane fell pierced with three balls. When I got to him he had just breathed his last. I found his sword bent by a blow from the enimies sabres, having been struck from his hand & sticking in the ground. I gave it to one of his men & told them to send it to his family.

From here it was an almost continual charge to the enimies encampment. They always flying before us. We burnt up their camp and a great deal of very fine clothing…. [specific details about clothing he captured for himself and for an enslaved man serving him in camp omitted]

Map of Stuart’s Chickahominy Raid (Life of JEB Stuart, Project Gutenberg)

I am sorry to say that during this melee I lost my spur, my glove & my purse with $200 in it, also my commission, the latter, however, the Adjutant General told me the other [day] he would renew for me, but I must say that the pleasure of having the immediate command of a party to burn a large train of Yankee wagons was more than equivalent to my loss. I had laid up that money to buy me another horse with, but all my calculations are knocked in the head now…. [details about letters from a friend omitted]

Whilst we were on our expedition we traveled two days & two nights with[out] stopping to eat or sleep & I tell you I was about as tired as you ever [illegible word] any individual.

Good-by. We are going to whip the Yankees like the mischief in a few days. In the mean time I remain as ever your most affectionate son

Chis Dabney

P.S. Give my love to all at home & tell Charley to make haste & cure his rheumaticks if he wishes to go to Washington with us. C Dabney


Trout, Robert J. With Pen & Saber: The Letters and Diaries of J.E.B. Stuart’s Staff Officers. (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsville, PA: 1995). Pages 72-74

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!