Just two weeks after Elon Farnsworth’s encounter with the guerrillas, Gen. George Stoneman set out on the mounted raid deemed vital to the success of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s spring campaign. Hooker’s “high expectations” were immediately crushed, however, by a “drenching northeast storm of wind and rain.” Rather than a quick dash across the Rappahannock River, Stoneman found himself penned along the north bank of the flooded river for two weeks. In an effort to keep his men occupied, and to keep the local guerrillas at bay, Stoneman ordered several operations in the region. Farnsworth, termed “a very excellent officer,” by Stoneman, led one of these forays.
On April 14, Farnsworth approached Warrenton with one squadron of the 8th Illinois and a squadron from the 9th New York, led by Capt. Timothy Hanley. Surgeon Abner Hard, historian of the 8th Illinois, described “a nice little skirmish” at Warrenton, sparked by Hanley, who “pitched in without orders and so spoiled the beauty of the fight. If he had followed Captain Farnsworth’s orders, we might have taken thirty or forty of the Black Horse Cavalry; whereas we took but half a dozen.”
Newel Cheney, historian for the 9th New York, described how Captain Hanley, with “eight men,” drove the enemy’s pickets through town. As they entered the town, the Yankees observed “a number of the enemy with their horses tied to posts and fences and the men scattered about the streets.” The Confederates mounted quickly and dashed for “a small grove of pines just beyond the village,” but lost one officer killed and two men captured in the process. Hanley, known to his men as “The Fighting Captain,” then led a second charge, which routed the Virginians, and resulted in the death of one other Southerner. Cheney’s version ignores any contribution from Farnsworth’s Illini. Abner Hard, however, credits Farnsworth with personally wounding “one man mortally.” Was this man William Dulin?
Though Brooks does not provide his readers with a date for the skirmish he describes, the three accounts, by Hard, Cheney and Brooks, are similar. But a resident of the town left her own account, and Elon Farnsworth did kill a man that day.