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Civil War Trust

From The Rappahannock

A Dashing Affair with the Rebels at Kelly’s Ford -- The River Crossed by Our Cavalry. Hand-to-Hand Conflicts Between Cavalry. Total Defeat of the Rebels — Capture of Prisoners, &c.
The New York Times, March 19, 1863

We hear to-night that Averill’s and Pleasonton’s cavalry commands, with a light battery, had a sharp skirmish at Kelly’s Ford yesterday.   The rebels attempted to cross infantry over, but were driven back.

Fitzhugh Lee and Stuart, with their forces, were reported to be at Warrenton and White Plains on Monday.


Washington, Wednesday, March 18.

Averell’s and Pleasonton’s commands – cavalry and artillery – had an artillery skirmish with the rebels at Kelly’s Ford yesterday.  It is believed that the rebels attempted to cross infantry and were repulsed, with some loss on both sides.

Fitzhugh Lee and Stuart, with their commands, were reported here to be at Warrenton and White Plains on Monday, by a man who came in here from across the river.


Headquarters, March 18, 1863.

A most brilliant cavalry fight occurred on the Rappahannock yesterday, beyond Kelly’s Ford.   A reccconnoissance, under command of Gen. Averell, forced a passage over the river, in the face of a determined resistance by considerable body of rebel sharpshooters, who were covered by houses, rifle-pits and a dry mill-race, with an abbatis in front.  The ford admitted but a single horseman at a time, and the stream, which was swollen, was very rapid.

Arriving at the south side of the river, our cavalry charged the rebels in their intrenchments, killing and capturing nearly the entire force, besides capturing a large number of horses picketed near by.

A short distance from the shore, Gen. Averill’s command encountered the rebel cavalry under Stuart and Fitzhugh Lee, who had hastened from Culpeper to prevent our passage.  They made some dashing charges upon our troops, who repulsed and in turn charged them with fatal effect, using sabres only in the conflict.  Whenever the enemy made a stand, they were immediately charged upon and routed from their positions with great loss.

The battle lasted five hours, and was a series of charges and hand-to-hand conflicts, resulting in the falling back of the enemy.

The forces were about 2,000 on each side.

The enemy at last took refuge behind an intrenched battery four miles from the ford, flanked by rifle-forts and abbatis.  Gen. Averell having accomplished his object, and securing his prisoners, the wounded on both sides, and a large number of horses, recrossed the river, without attack or demonstration on the part of the rebels, who were so badly whipped that they could not follow or annoy him.

Among the prisoners is Maj. Breckinridge, a cousin of the traitor John C. Breckinridge.  The prisoners characterize the affair, on our part, as one of the ablest and most gallantly fought cavalry raids of the whole war, and admit that their own troops were totally demoralized by the gallant sabre charge of our cavalry.

About 80 prisoners have been brought in.  The wounded of the enemy bear sufficient marks to show that the sbre was the only weapon used on our side.

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