An immediate advance of the division to Warrenton was now ordered and the regiment started, without time to make coffee. Stuart, who was at Buckland with Hampton's cavalry division, retired slowly before Kilpatrick on the Warrenton pike, in order to draw him on till Fitzhugh Lee, who was at Auburn, should get into his rear. Between them they expected to crush him. At they had 7,000 men to Kilpatrick's 3,500, this was not an unreasonable expectation. At Buckland Mills, the passage of Broad Run was forced by Custer's brigade, and after halting for an hour to feed the horses, Kilpatrick pushed on to and beyond New Baltimore after Stuart, with Davies's brigade, leaving Custer at Broad Run. There Custer was found by Fitzhugh Lee, who, advancing from Greenwich with his division, expecting to get unopposed into Kilpatrick's rear, was surprised to find Custer's brigade across his path. Custer had barely time to get into position before he was attacked by a lien of dismounted men a mile long, supported by artillery and heavy bodies of mounted men. Custer's left rested on Broad Run, where he placed a section of Pennington's battery, supported by the First Vermont cavalry, his right extended through a piece of woods along a ridge, on which he placed the rest of the battery. At the first sound of Fitzhugh Lee's guns Stuart turned upon Davies, attacked him in front and on each flank, and drove him back to Buckland with serious loss. His stampede placed Custer in a critical position, and compelled him to get away in a hurry. Pennington fired till the enemy was within twenty yards of his guns on the right, and then took them across the Run. His left section was protected by two companies of carbineers of the First Vermont, who resisted the enemy's advance till the guns were safely withdrawn. The regiment was pressed on front and flank and was under artillery fire, but withdrew across the Run in good order.*1* Custer then retreated with his own and a portion of Davies's brigade, hotly pursued, till he was met by the advance of Howe's division of the sixth Corps, at Gainesville, where the infantry of the First Vermont brigade relieved his tired troopers from further pursuit and drove back the enemy.
Colonel Sawyer's report of this affair commends Major Wells as especially efficient in preserving order during the retreat; Major Bennett, who commanded the rear battalion and remained back till the skirmishers were all across the Run; Captains Ray and Hazelton and Lieutenant Williamson, commanding skirmishers, and Acting Adjutant M. A. Stone; and adds that all, officers and men, behaved well. Lieut. Colonel Preston also distinguished himself this day, fighting with the rear guard, and doing gallant service.
The regiment move don the 20th to Groveton, and was on picket till the 24th, when it returned to Gainesville. It moved thence October 31st to the south by way of
Bristoe's to Catlett's Station, and on the 4th of November took part in a reconnoissance to Falmouth, where there was a skirmish with the enemy.*2* November 7th it left Catlett's for Grove Church, with the division, which was covering the left of the army. Lieutenant Newton, now detailed on the staff of General French, commanding the Third Corps, had a narrow escape from capture by guerrillas, this day, while on an errand to General Pleasonton's headquarters.
On the 8th the regiment crossed the Rappahannock with the division, at Ellis's Ford, and moved slowly to Stevensburg, where it went into winter quarters. On the 27th of November it was at Morton's Ford, and crossed the river with Custer's brigade, returning to the north side that night. Next day the brigade crossed again, the First Vermont in the advance, and a cavalry picket post was attacked and driven off by Captain Cushman of company E, with ten men. One man was wounded I this skirmish. At night the enemy returned with artillery, and Custer again withdrew across the river.
On the 21st of November, Colonel Sawyer, with a man from each company, went to Vermont to enlist recruits for the regiment, which was much reduced in numbers. The last morning report of the year showed 623 officers and men present for duty, with about 400 men actually in the ranks, the rest being on detached service. The regiment was without a chaplain, Chaplain Woodward having resigned in impaired health and saddened by the death of his gallant son. It had an additional assistant surgeon in the person of Dr. Elmore J. all, of Highgate, who had been promoted from the ranks to that position.
The remainder of the winter passed uneventfully in the camp at Stevensburg, which was kept in such good order that General Custer used to send the officers of some of his other regiments to see it, as an example of neatness and good order. The regiment was occupied, with the rest of the Cavalry Corps, in what General Sheridan when he took command pronounced to be "excessive and unnecessary picket duty." The men were on duty three days out of six, and a detail of 162 men was sent daily to guard the fords of the Rapidan. The numbers of the regiment were gradually increased by the addition of recruits, till on the 1st of March it had the largest aggregate ever reported, being 1,128, with 931 nominally present for duty, and about half that number actually in the ranks, 120 men being still on duty at General Sedgwick's headquarters, others a the headquarters of General Hancock, and 181 on the sick-list. The horses were thin, but the men generally in good condition. Regimental drills were frequent and brigade drills occasional.
1. "Custer was a hard fighter even in retreat, and he succeeded in saving his artillery, and in recrossing Broad Run without any serious disorder."-Major McClellan in "Campaigns of Stuart's Cavalry."
2. This is included in the official list in Adjutant General Washburn's report, under the erroneous date of October 4th.
Source George G. Benedict, "Vermont in the Civil War, 1861-5," (Free Press Association, Burlington, 1888), pp. 624-27.