Colonel Alfred Gibbs commanded the Reserve Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division during the winter encampment of 1864. His brigade picketed Rapidan River crossing points near Cedar Mountain and other points south of Culpeper. This was part of the picket line established south of Cedar Mountain earlier in January. On this day (January 29) in 1864 he sent this report to division headquarters discussing the day’s activity:
Mitchell’s, January 29, 1864.
All quiet on the picket-lines except a few shots at Somerville Ford. The enemy continue the erection of breast-works and rifle-pits at that point. The brigade of infantry up on Cedar Mountain goes to Culpeper this morning, thus increasing my picket-line considerably.
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Not mentioned in that brief report, Gibbs’ men had processed several Confederate deserters on that and the previous days.
Now that was the “official” report. Appearing on the record is an “unofficial” report made from Gibbs to his commander, Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt, on the same day:
Hdqrs. Cavalry Reserve Brigade,
January 29, 1864.
Brig. Gen. W. Merritt,
Commanding First Division Cavalry, Culpeper:
Dear General: Since we have been deprived of the pleasure of judicially assassinating that deserter to-day, I shall endeavor to elevate my depressed spirits by literary composition. Now, general, when we were ruthlessly thrust out to the front, where we have since been kept at the point of the bayonet, we were promised a division of infantry to protect us. Well, they have never done it. These regiments of General Robinson’s have been in Culpeper all the time, and last night about 1 o’clock I was aroused from my nocturnal repose by General Robinson’s dispatch informing me that the Cedar Run brigade was to be withdrawn to-day, and that he wanted his pickets relieved by cavalry.
I understand that another division was ordered to relieve General Robinson’s, but mean time that division had erected a theater in town, and of course it could not be thought of that they should go to the front and leave the theater behind. Now, we don’t want their infernal old sharp-sticks at all, and I think we will be safer if they will withdraw the other brigade, so that if we are run back we won’t have to wait until they pack up their duds and skeedaddle back to their present position.
They have left 100 men as a guard to the four blind signal officers on Cedar Mountain. It is reported that some camp-fires were seen yesterday in the woods north and west of Thoroughfare Mountain; perhaps that will account for the brigade changing front to rear so suddenly. The patent-sight man yesterday took four shots while the enemy were firing at Somerville Ford, and says he hit two certain. Mr. Emmons, assistant adjutant-general, will communicate to you some views of mine with regard to the picket-line on our left, which I desire to have changed. Lieutenant Walker is still basking in the sunshine of beauty.
We still live, move, and have our being; somewhat muddy.
Very respectfully, yours,
If only we saw more of these “unofficial” letters….
(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 33, Serial 60, pages 440-1.)