The Virginia in the Civil War Message Board

Battle of yellow tavern

A Rebel Letter

A rebel mail has been captured. Among other letters is the following,

which is by no means devoit of interest, inasmuch i it gives us the details of the death of Gen Start, and also shows the weakness of the rebel cavalry against our own. It is a genuine letter written by a Baltamorean in the Maryland line, Huger's battery.

Camp, Hanover County, May 14, 1864

Fair One: We arrived here yesterday, after a hard tramp after the Yankee raiders. To-day week ago we left Hanover Court House and went to the junction. Arriving there we found the Yankees at Beaver Dam. The next day we heard they were coming to the junction, and all day we had our
pieces ready in position, first on one road, and then another, but night coming on, and no Yankees coming, we camped at night at Taylorsville, three miles from the junction. The next day (Wednesday) we left the Maryland line at the junction and went with Stuart's cavalry after the Yankees who were then near Ashland. Hurrying the column up, we headed them near the Yellow Tavern, six miles from Richmond. Both parties were soon in position, and about eleven o'clock we opened the engagement by firing at an advanced column of Yanks with our battery and soon big and little balls were flying about without being particular who or where they struck; but the Yankees fought a little too stubbornly for our cavaliers and we had to fall back about one mile. About three o'clock we again opened on the Yankees, and after firing for near an hour, they made a
charge on our battery. They had to come across an open space of about eight hundred yards, and they did come - on, on yelling like demons - and never halted until they arrived at the battery and captured two pieces and thirteen men. The piece I was with was captured, but I run for it
and escaped. We emptied more than one Yankee saddle while they were charging us, but they were too many for us, and our cavalry support being of no account we could not save our pieces. It was then that General Stuart was mortally wounded. He was trying to rally our men (cavalry) when five or six Yankees attempted to capture him. He discharged his pistol at them, killing two and wounding three others. He was about lolading his pistol again when two of them fired at him from a distance, one of the balls entering his right side and coming out the left and one
of the noblest spirits of the war fell, and not long after he breathed his last, among friends who, with the whole country, will deeply mourn his loss. Wednesday night we marched to near Meadow Bridge and Thursday morning after sunrise we were again at work on the yankee's left and rear
and the Richmond force in their front. The Yankees again drove our cavaliers back and this time they got possession of both ends of a road, where our caisons and one disabled piece was, so we had to take to the Chickahominy swamp where we remained until the next day at twelve o'clock. The Yankees came very near us but did not capture either pieces or men. Our loss during the trip was twenty-four wounded and captured.

Among those captured was our captain. I have a very poor opinion of the fighting powers of our cavalry. In every instance where an equal number of the enemy would advance on them they would quietly fall back as if it was their only duty to do so. Tell Miss Fannie I say never marry a
cavalryman." (Boston Evening Journal June 9, 1864 p. 4 col. 2)