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Recovering after the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid
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On your way you will thoroughly scout the country on either side of your route, arresting all white citizens able to bear arms. You will make every effort to bring along with your command as many negrows as possible.

At the end of February 1864, Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick launched a raid to rescue prisoners of war held in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. The raid turned into a disaster when Kilpatrick’s men were stopped northwest of the city and a supporting force of infantry under Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was routed by Confederates. Dahlgren was killed, and papers found on his body detailed plans to burn Richmond and assassinate Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Richmond newspapers published the papers, and the southern public called for the execution of Union prisoners. Kilpatrick escaped with some of his cavalry to join General Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James on the Virginia Peninsula, though he lost more than 1,300 men killed and taken prisoner.

Here, Kilpatrick orders Preston and the 1st Vermont Cavalry to move on West Point, Virginia, at the confluence where the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers form the York River. Kilpatrick was soon transferred to the Western Theater as part of General William T. Sherman’s army.

[HUGH JUDSON KILPATRICK]. Manuscript Document Signed by Adjutant, to Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston, March 8, 1864. 2 pp., 7¾ x 9¾ in.

Inventory #23879.04       Price: $375

Complete Transcript

                                                                       Head Quarters.

                                                                       Cav. Expedition

                                                                       Yorktown? March 8, 1864

Lt. Col. Preston

1st Vt Cavalry


           Detachments from this command and from differ Reg of General Butlers Cavalry amounting in all to some (16) sixteen hundred Cavalry, and a Battery of artillery have been ordered to report to you. With this command you will leave your present camp to-morrow morning at (3) three am, and proceed by the river road to Shephard wharf near West Point on York river. You will be expected to be at this place at seven (7) am. Thursday morning.

           On your way you will thoroughly scout the country on either side of your route, arresting all <2> white citizens able to bear arms.

            You will make every effort to bring along with your command as many negrows as possible. You will establish a Provo. Guard under a competent and [zealous?] officer, with whose charge these prisoners and negrows shall be placed.

            You will report to me in person at Shepherd wharf where further instructions will be given you

                                                                       By Command of

                                                                       Brig Genl Kilpatrick

                                                                       L. G. Estes

                                                                       Capt. & A. A. Genl

PS. You will detail fifty (50) men to report to Brig Genl Wister upon your arrival at Shepherd wharf.

                                                                       L. G. Estes.

                                                                       Capt. & AAGenl.

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881) was born in New Jersey and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1861. Commissioned a captain in the 5th New York Infantry shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, he was the first Union officer wounded in the war, on June 10, 1861, at the Battle of Big Bethel. By September, he was a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd New York Cavalry. He was aggressive and ambitious, and his men disliked his disregard for the lives of his men and their horses. Twice jailed for corruption, he was released and placed in charge of a brigade and then a division in the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac. After the fiasco of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid in March 1864, Kilpatrick was transferred west to the Army of the Cumberland and accompanied General William T. Sherman in his “March to the Sea” through Georgia and into the Carolinas. After the war, Kilpatrick became active in politics and served as American Minister to Chile from 1865 to 1870. In 1880, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey.

Addison Webster Preston (1831-1864) was born in Burke, Vermont, and moved as a child to Danville. He entered Brown University, but left due to ill health. He sailed to Australia and then to California, where he spent several years before returning to Danville. Preston enlisted as a captain in the 1st Vermont Cavalry in September 1861, and was promoted to Lt. Col. in September 1862. He was wounded at Hagerstown in the Gettysburg Campaign and again two months later at Culpeper Court House. Appointed colonel on April 29, 1864, he was killed in action on June 3, 1864, at Hawe’s Shop, Virginia. He left a widow and two children. Brigadier General George A. Custer said over his body, “There lies the best fighting colonel in the Cavalry Corps.”

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