Princeton. — A clear, cold, bright day. Got a letter from my dear wife, very patriotic, very affectionate. An angel of a wife, I have. And the boys, dear little fellows! I hope we shall be together again before many months.
I have been rather anxious today. We heard from contrabands and others that the Narrows [of New River] was deserted except by a small guard for property and tents. Major Comly with Companies H, I, and K and Captain Gilmore's Cavalry was dispatched to the point eighteen to twenty-two miles distant. No tidings yet, although a courier ought to have reached here before this time if they and he travelled rapidly. I suggested that if necessary to secure property they go to Giles Town.
In the meantime I hear that a foraging party of six of our men as guards under Corporal Day, with three battery men and a waggon, have been taken by a large party of cavalry on the Tazewell Road, ten miles. Jenifer's Cavalry have gone to Tazewell; got their horses and are now in the saddle ready to cut off our men. Oh, for an enterprising cavalry force!
I have looked for a messenger since 5 o'clock from Major Comly. At midnight received a message from Major Comly that the party finding the Narrows deserted and all property gone, had gone on to Giles and taken it completely by surprise, capturing some prisoners and a large amount of stores, — two hundred and fifty barrels of flour and everything else. Very lucky! and Colonel Scammon thereupon approved of the whole expedition, although it was irregular and in violation of the letter of orders. The enemy just out of Giles were at least eleven hundred and had forces near to increase it to fifteen hundred. Our party was only two hundred and fifty! The colonel fearing the capture of our little party ordered me to proceed at daylight with two companies Second Virginia Cavalry and the rest of [the] Twenty-third Regiment to reinforce Giles.
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 253-4