British sail from Rappahannock

December 4, 1814

Tappahannock December 4th 6 O’clock PM


In two hours after my communication this morning the Enemy as suddenly & capriciously as the shift of wind which took place at that time turned about & made all Sail down the River.— His fleet consisting of fourteen craft including one large schooner & a Sloop heavily armed with all their Barges variously estimated from ten to twenty five all of which had ascended the River about 12 miles above this place, returned this morning about 10 'Clock and were out of sight standing down the River before 12 O’clock.—
We have intelligence of his passing Bowlers at an early hour this Evening and with the present wind unless he has anchored must have reached, nearly, the mouth of the River.—
This rapid & unlooked for movement has baffled all my schemes— I had anticipated from his bold & rapid ascent that he would have penetrated as high as the narrows of the River & there I had strong hopes of being able to make him feel us.—
I learn from an intelligent man of this place that the Expedition was commanded by Comdre. Barre & Coll. Malcomb— The number of troops landed here did not much, if any exceed 500 but it was evident they had other troops in Vessels from which they were not landed— Of the number landed here there were three companies, of about 50 each, of negroes in uniform and apparently well trained, commanded by white officers. — They were said to be Virginia & Maryland negroes, trained at Tangier Islands—
The above accounts are obtained from the only inhabitant of this place who remained while the Enemy
had possession of the Town. He is an intelligent & observant man— He got his information from (?) several Sentinels who were posted to protect his property from pillage, they differed in the number of troops employed in the expedition from 1800 to 2400—but they all agreed that the whole force in our waters was here, and that there aggregate loss from desertion since their arrival in the Chesapeake was about three hundred—
They further agreed in stating that the troops had been healthy & that but little loss had been sustained from sickness.—
Colo. Muse who has under his command below this about 600 men will give me the earliest information of the Enemies leaving the River or of their attempting to plunder below in which event I shall move down to his assistance—but if as I expect, they are really leaving the Rappahannock, as soon as I am informed of it, I shall take up the line of march for Camp Carters with my detachment and discharge Colo. Richie's Regt. and all the other local militia which has & are about to take the field—
The Artillery & Ammunition Asked for by my communication this morning you will of course  countermand I shall immediately do the same in regard to the additional force called from my Brigade—for even if the Enemy should ascend the River again, as suddenly as he has descended it, we have every reason to believe, that we could defeat any attempt on Fredericksburg if he dared to make it, by recalling to our aid the adjacent militia.
The plundering of the Enemy has been confined [to the] bay Shores and on of inconsiderable amount, & on a few plantations. Indeed his whole course has been marked with the most circumspect caution & evident alarm. He has never trusted himself on land a single night.—
An officer remarked here that their object was to harass the Militia—that they should beat about the Rivers for a week or two longer & then go into Winter Quarters—
There has been much wanton destruction of private property here—in breaking windows & furniture—and one deed of damnation has been performed which out does all their former atrocities—
The family Vault of the Ritchies was broken open and the Coffins searched— I have seen the shocking spectacle—
I have the honor to be etc.
J. H. Cocke B.C. Commanding

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