February 29 — To-day the Yankees attempted a raid on Charlottesville and the Virginia Central Railroad. A force of about twenty-five hundred cavalry and two pieces of artillery, all under the command of General Custer, advanced on the Earleysville road and came within one mile of our camp before we were apprised of their approach. They were then advancing rapidly, and we were wholly unprepared for any such winter surprise in this part of the country. However, we hurriedly mixed up a drastic dose and administered it under unfavorable and difficult circumstances, yet it eventually had the effect of saving Charlottesville from the hands of the marauders. The raiders rushed in so suddenly on our camp that we had no time for preparation, even for a forced leaving, consequently many of our company lost all their baggage, and some of the men even lost their blankets. Our artillery horses were scattered all over the fields and we had scarcely time to get our guns out before the Yanks were right on us; in fact we had to fire some of our pieces in park, before we had our horses hitched up, in order to check the oncoming raiders long enough to give us a little precious time to say good-bye to our winter quarters and get our guns moved to a more advantageous situation. As it was, we had to leave our caissons in the tender care of the enemy, and abandoned all baggage and kitchen utensils.
By the time we had our horses hitched to the pieces and were ready to move, blue-coated horsemen were riding excitedly among our quarters, firing their pistols and brandishing their sabers, trying to play thunder in general with the horse artillery. We rapidly got our guns out and to a good position, and opened a rapid fire on our own camp, which was then full of Yankee cavalrymen destroying our winter home.
Our artillery fire completely checked the raiders, and they did not proceed any farther in the direction of Charlottesville than our camp. We had no support whatever in the way of sharpshooters or cavalry, and about two hundred horse artillerymen, including the lame, sick, and Company Q, with no sabers, very few pistols, and one old battle flag, with our guns successfully defended Charlottesville against the brave and gallant Custer, with his twenty-five hundred well-armed horsemen and two pieces of artillery. A little strategy seasoned with a large proportion of the finest kind of deception were the principal weapons and instruments with which the backbone was entirely and efficiently extracted from the great Custer’s raid on destruction bent, without bloodshed on our side.
The undoing of General Custer’s raid was accomplished in the following manner: We had sixteen guns in our battalion, all in position and ready for action after we got out of our camp. The guns in the artillery were served with as few men as possible, and Captains Breathed and Chew formed the remainder of the artillerymen into a newly composed regiment of cavalry, and drew them up in battle array just in rear of the artillery, with an old Confederate battle flag waving over the center of the pseudo cavalry line. There was not one rifle or carbine in the whole crew, a few pistols and one or two sabers composing all the dangerous arms; the rest of the men had sticks and clubs. Some of them had pieces of fence rails, and all sorts of representative sabers and carbines were on exhibition to make the command appear warlike, formidable, and dangerous. We kept up a rapid artillery fire until the enemy’s cavalry begun to waver and retire toward the Rivanna. When they got beyond the range of our guns our motley cavalcade advanced and retired the enemy beyond the Rivanna. As a parting deception, with good effect, Captain Chew called out with a loud voice and commanding tone: “Tell Colonel Dulaney to bring up the Seventh Regiment.” The Yankees heard it and struck for the safe side of the Rivanna. That ended the last act of the raid. Colonel Dulaney’s regiment is at Mount Crawford in the Shenandoah Valley, but calling for it in the range of a Yankee’s ear had the desired effect of discomfiting the doughty raiders at their last stand on our side of the Rivanna. The whole Yankee force retired beyond the Rivanna late this evening.
We moved back four miles south of Charlottesville, on the Scottsville road, and camped.