HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Near Portsmouth, Va., April 16, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, in accordance with instructions from headquarters Department of Virginia and North Carolina, a reconnaissance in force was made to the Blackwater. The force consisted of detachments of the Eleventh and Fifth Pennsylvania and Second U.S. Colored Cavalry Regiments--an aggregate of 1,500 men, commanded by Lieut. Col. George Stetzel, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry.
The force took up their line of march from Suffolk at 10 p.m. 13th instant, for Zuni, via Deserted House, arriving at Andrews' Corners or Cross-Roads at daylight 14th instant. No signs or traces of the enemy were visible along the line of march. The main body of the force being stationed at the cross-roads, scouting parties were sent out in all directions; four companies were sent to Zuni with instructions to picket the roads leading to Broadwater bridge, Isle of Wight Court-House, and other roads leading to the Blackwater. At Zuni a small force of rebels (30 or 40) were seen behind their earth-works. Efforts were made to draw their fire by our men exposing themselves with a view to ascertain if they had artillery, but proved fruitless. No shots were exchanged.
Pickets were sent out on the roads leading to Joiner and Blackwater bridges, on the Blackwater River. The road leading to Blackwater bridge from the main road to Joiner Bridge is impassable, being blockaded by a large number of trees felled across the road. No evidence of the enemy at this point. A force was also sent to Windsor to picket the roads in that vicinity. Private Thomas H. Langley, of the Seventh Confederate Cavalry, was here captured, claiming to have left his company at Zuni for the purpose of obtaining something to eat.
At dusk, on the 14th instant, the pickets on the different roads were drawn in, when the column returned to camp, where they arrived at 2 p.m. on the 15th instant. In addition to the above force, a force commanded by Col. W. H. P. Steere was sent to Suffolk to hold that point during the absence of cavalry. The force was composed of the following regiments and detachments: Eighth Connecticut Volunteers, Thirteenth New Hampshire Volunteers, Twenty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers, two companies of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, and a section of the Fourth Wisconsin Battery. In compliance with instructions, a portion of the force was sent to Milnerstown, and scouting parties sent up and down the branch to co-operate with navy cutters. As soon as the navy had finished exploring, the infantry returned to Suffolk. No indications of the enemy were seen.
After the return of Colonel Stetzel's command the entire force returned to camp, leaving the usual pickets at Bernard's Mills.
Col. S. H. Roberts, commanding District of Currituck, reports the capture of Colonel Whitson, Eighth North Carolina (rebel) Infantry; he was formerly lieutenant-colonel, and succeeded Colonel Shaw when he was killed. Colonel Whitson was on a visit home, and when an effort was made to capture him he attempted to escape; <ar60_271> paying no attention when commanded to halt, he was shot and dangerously wounded.
I would also respectfully report the return of the troops of my command ordered to report to Brigadier-General Graham.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. A. HECKMAN,