Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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land bank was therefore compulsory,
while he collected material and re-
paired or renewed his bridge. Ere
this was accomplished,^* Meade's ar^
my was before him, strengthened by
French's division, and by part of
Couch's militia, which had reported
at Gettysburg and joined the army
at Boonsboro'.

The ISih having been spent in get-
ting our troops into position. Gen.
Meade called a council of his corps
commanders, to consider the expedi-
ency of attacking next morning. The
council sat long and debated earnest-
ly. Gens. Howard, Pleasanton, and
Wadsworth (in place of Beynolds,
killed) urged and voted to attack;
but G^ns. Sedgwick, Slocum, Sykes,
French, and Hays (in place of Han-
cock, wounded at Gettysbui^) op-
posed it. Oten. Meade, having heard
aU, stated that his judgment favored
an attack — ^that he came th^re to '
fight, and could s^e no good reason
for not fighting. Still, he could not
take the responsibility of ordering an
assault against the advice of a major-
ity of his corps commanders — hnx
of them ranking officers of the army
next to himself. His decision would
seem to have been a mistake ; bnt he
had been in command little more
than a fortnight, and the responsibil-
ity of overruling a majority and the
seniors among his counselors was a
grave one. At all events, he did
not take it: so our army stood idle
throughout the following day; and
in the night Lee withdrew across the
Potomac, leaving (he says) but two-
stalled guns, a few disabled wagons,
and some weary stragglers, to fall
into the hands of his pursuers.

This, however, is not exactly true.
Kilpatrick, commanding our cavaliy
on the left, learning at 3 a. u. that
the enemy's pickets in his firont were
retiring, started aft;er them, and, at
7i A. M., came up, about two miles
from their bridge at Falling "Waters,
with their rear-guard, under Gen.
Pettigrew,who had taken up a strong
position and contested thereon his ad-

« July 12.

•July 13.

Digitized by



rano^. A gallaiit sabeivcharge by
tiie 6th Micbigan, Maj. Webber, into
and over their earthwoi^ was re-
poked with loss — Maj. Webber being
among the lolled; b«t, after a fight
of over two hours, the enemy was
driven to the river, with a loss of 125
killed and 1,500 prisoners, which in-
dades 50 (k their wonnded. Gten.
Pettigrew was here mortally wound-
ed. Onr total loss was 105.

Onr cavalry advance, CoL J. I.
Gre^, crossed the Potomac at Har-
per's Perry that day,** and moved
oat, next morning, from Bolivar
Heights on the Winchester turnpike
to Hall's Mills, thence taking the road
' to Shepherdstown ; where it was soon
involved in a spirited fi^t with Fitz
Hugh Lee's cavalry, and dHven back
a short distance to a strong position,
where it held its ground, repulsing
several determined charges, until the
Bebels were willing to give it up.
The day's loss was about 100 on
either side ; Cols. Drake (Ist Yir-
^nia) and Or^g were among the
Kebel killed ; Capt Fisher, 16th Pa.,
being the highest officer lost on our
side. The groxmd was so rough and
wooded that nearly all the fighting
was done on foot

Oen. Meade crossed the Potomac
at Berlin on the 18th j moving by
Lovettsville,'* Union," TJpperville,'*
and Salem," to Warrenton ;** thus
retaking the line of the KappiJian-
Bock which our army had left hardly
two months before. This movement

being in advance of Lee, who halted
for some days near Bunker ^ill, and
made a feint of recrossing the Poto-
mac, Meade was enabled to seize all
the passes through the Blue Bidge
north of the Bappahannock, barring
the enemy's egress from the Shenan-
doah Yalley save by a tedious flank

Meade, misled by his scouts, had
expected to fight a battle in Manas-
sas QtBip — or ratiier, on the west side
of it — ^where our cavalry, under Bu-
ford, found the Bebels in force;*
when the 3d (French's) corps was
sent in haste from Ashby's Gap to
Buford's support, and its 1st division,
Gen. Hobart Ward, pushed throu^ *^
the Gup, and the Excelsior (New
York) brigade. Gen. F. R Spinola,
made three heroic chaiges up so
many steep and difficult ridges, dis-
lodging and driving the enemy with
mutual loss — General Spinola being
twice wounded. Col. Famum and
Major McLean, 1st Excelsior, were
also wounded, and Oapt Ben. Price **

Next morning, our soldi^B pushed
fOTward to Front Eoyal, but encoun-
tered no enemy. Unknown to us,
ihe Excelsiors had b(Ben fighting a
brigade of Ewell's men, who were
holding the Ghip while Bhodes's di-
vision, forming the rear-guard of
Lee's army, marched past up the
valley, and had, of course, followed
on its footsteps dnring the night. No
enemy remained to fight; but two
days were lost by Meade getting into

•July 14 •July 19. "July 20. "July 22.
"July 24. ••July 26. "July 24.

*0i^ Prioe hftd b«en for yean hononbly
distinguished as an ardent, indefatigable^ effi-
cient advocate for the limitation of the area of
faufifidual ownership ai real estate^ and more

especially of the National Homestead bill He
Tolnnteered at the ybij outset of. the war, and
gave his best efforts and his life for Freedom
and Equal Bights to all manldnd. Though
distingdshed by gallantry, capacity^ intelli-
gence, and seal, he entered the senrioe a captain,
and died a captain.

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and out of the Gap ; during which,
Lee moyed rapidly southwu^, pass-
ing around our right flank and ap-
pearing in our firont when our army
again looked acroes the Bappahan-

So soon as it was known that Lee
had started for the Korth with all
the force that he could muster, Oten.
Dix, commanding at Fortress Mon-
roe, was directed to make a demon-
stration on Richmond. Oen. Keyes
Vas appointed to lead it Starting*^
from White House, about 6,000 men
of all arms, under the more immedi-
ate command of Gen. Getty, with at
least as many more behind at call,
Keyes moved up to Baltimore Cross-
roads, whence some 1,600 cavalry
were sent forward to bum the Central
Bailroad bridge over the South Anna,
which they effected. There was some
skirmishing at various points, with
the advantage oftener on the side of
the enemy ; the upshot of all being
that Keyes retreated without a seri-
ous fight, and without having accom-
plished any thing worth the cost of
the movement. As Richmond was
defended by a single brigade under
Wise, with such lielp as might be
hastily summoned from points feurther
south or obtained fix>m her office-
holders and other exempts organized
as militia, it seems obvious that a
more determined leader, who would
not have fallen back withou|i know-
ing why, was badly needed. A spir-
ited, resolute dash might have given
us Richmond on the same day that
Grant took possession of surrendered
Yicksburg and Lee recoiled from
Meade's unshaken front at Gettys-

Gen. Buford, with his cavalry di-
vision, pushed^ across the river, at
Rappahannock Station, and crowded
back, first a brigade, then a division,
of Stuart's cavalry nearly to Culpep-
per Court House, when their infantiy
compelled him to retreat, fighting, till
he was supported by the 1st carps;
when the foe in turn desisted. Our
loss this day was 140, including 16

Gen. Kilpatrick next crossed "Vt
Port Conway below Fredericksburg,
driving before him a Rebel force sta-
tioned on this side, and burning two
gunboats recently captured by the
Rebels on the Potomac, and run into
the Rappahannock for future use.

Gen. Pleasanton next crossed** the '
Rappahannock at Kelly's and other
fords with most of our cavabry, in
three divisions, under Buford, Kil-
patrick, and Gregg, pressing back
Stuart's cavalry to Brandy Station
and Culpepp^ Court House, and
thence across the Rapidan, capturing
two guns and quite a body of prison-
ers. Otherwise, the losses on either
side were light. Gen. Warren, with
the 2d corps, supported- our cavalry,
but was at no time engaged.

This reconnoissance having proved
that -Lee had depleted his army to
reenforce Bragg in Tennessee, Gen.
Meade crossed*^ the Rappahannock
in force, posting himself at Culpep-
per Court House, throwing forward
two corps to the Rapidan ; which he
was preparing to cross when he was
ordered fit)m Washington to detach**
the 11th and 12th corps, under Hook-
er, to the aid of our army at Chatta-
nooga. Being reenforced soon after-
warf, he sent** Gen. Buford, with his
cavalry division, across the Rapidan

Vulyl. ••Aug.l. -S^p^l. ••a«ptl8. "StptlS. «8^84. "OctlO.

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to nncoyer the upper fords, prq[Mira-
toryto an advanceof thelet and 6tb
corps; but Lee at the same time cross-
ing Bobertson's river and advancing
in force from Madison Court House on
our right, Meade fell back** across the
Bappahannock ; our cavalry, under
Pleasanton, covering the retreat, and
being engaged from Culpepper Court
House to Brandy Station, where Bu-
ford rejoined him,and the enemy were
held in check till evening, whenPleas-
anton withdrew acro^ the river.

Meade now, presuming the enemy
in force at Culpepper Court House,
pushed over** the 6th, 5th, and 2d
corps to Brandy Station, while Bu-
ford's cavalry moved in the van to
Culpepper Court House; when, on
hearing from Qen.. Gregg, command-
ing the cavalry division on our right,
that the enemy had driven him back
from Hazel run across the Bappa-
hannock, and were crossing at Sul-
phur Springs and Waterloo in heavy
force, Meade hastily drew back his
army across the river and retreated**
to Catlett's Station and thence" to
Centerville; Gregg, with the 4th and
18th Pa. and 1st N. Y. cavalry and
10th N. T. infantry, being surround-
ed and attacked** near JefiEerson, and
routed, with a loss of 500, mainly

Our army was sharply and impu-
dently pursued, especifJly by Stuart's
cavalry, who gathered up quite a
number of prisoners, mainly strag-
glers, of little value unless to ex-
change. Stuart, with 2,000 of his
cavalry, pressed our rear so eagerly
that, when near Catlett's Station,**
he had inadvertently got ahead, by a
flank movement, of our 2d corps,
Oten. Warren, acting as rear-guard ;

and was hemmed in where his whole
command must have been destroyed
or captured had he not succeeded in
hiding it in a thicket of* old-field
pines, dose by the road whereon our
men marched by : the rear of the corps
encamping close beside the enemy,
utterly unsuspicious of their neigh-
borhood, though every word uttered
in our lines as they passed was dis-
tinctly heard by the lurking foe. Stu-
art fit first resolved to abandon his
guns and attempt to escape with
moderate loss, but finally picked
three of his men, gave them muskets,
made them up so as to look as much
as possible like our soldi^^, and thus
drop silently into our ranks as they
passed, march a while, then slip out
on the other side of the column, and
make all haste to Gen. Lee at War-
ronton, in quest of help. During the
night, two of our o£Scers, who stepped
into the thicket, were quietly captured.

At daylight, the crack of skirmish-
ers' muskets in the distance gave to-
ken that Lee had received and re-
sponded to the prayer for help; when
Stuart promptly opened with grape
and canister on the rear of our as-
tounded column, which had bivou-
acked just in his fi'ont, throwing it
into such coniusion that he easily
dashed by and rejoined his chief;
having inflicted some loss and suf-
fered little or none.

But such ventures can not always
prove lucky. That same day,** A.
P. Hill's corps, which had left War-
renton at 5 a. m., moving up the
Alexandria turnpike to Broad Bun
church, thence obliquing by Green-
wich to strike our rear at Bristow
Station, had obeyed the order, and
Mien in just behind our 3d corps,

••Oct 11. "Octia. ••OotlS. •'OotU. ••Ootl2. ••Nightof Oct 13-14. ^•Ookli.

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and was eagerly followiiig it, picking
np stragglers, and preparing todmi^ge,
when, aboujb noon, our 2d corps, Gen«
Warren, which was still behind, ap-
peared on the scene, and considera-
hlj deranged Hall's (or Lee's) calcu-
lations. Hill turned, of course, to
fight the advancing rather than the
retreating foe, having his batteries
ready for action ; while Warren, who
was for the moment surprised at find-
ing an enemy in his firont rather than
his rear, required ten minutes to pre-
pare for a suitable reply. Soon, how-
ever. Brown's and Arnold's batteries
opened on our side, with such effect,
aided by the fire of Webb's and
Hays's divisions of infantry, that the
enemy fell back, abandoning six guns,
whereof five — all that were servicea-
ble — were at once seized and put to
use on our side. An attempt to
charge our right flank by Petti-
grew's old brigade, now Heth's, was
signally repulsed, with a loss of 450
prisoners. After this, the fighting
was more cautious and desultory;
the enemy recoiling to the woods,
and thence keeping up a long-range
cannonade, which amounted to noth-
ing. Our loss in killed and wounded
was about 200, including Col. James
E. Mallon, 42d KY.,kiUed, and Gen.
Tile, of Pa., wounded ; that of the
enemy was probably 400, including
G^ns. Posey (mortally), Earkland, and
Cooke," wounded, and Cols. RuflSn,
1st N. C, and Thompson, 5th N. C.
cavalry, killed. Our soldiers held the
field till dark, then followed the rest
of our army, whose retreat they had
so effectually covered.

Meade, on reflection, was evidently
ashamed — as well he might be — of
this flight — ^which, the Bebels assert.

oontiniied up to FairfSEuc Court Hovn
— ^and would have attempted to m-
trace his steps directly ; but a heavy
rain" had r^idered Bull Bun im-
fordable, and obliged him to send for
pontocms ; meantime, the enemy, af-
ter skirmishing along his front and
making feints of attack, retreated as

rapidly as they had advanced, com*
pletely destroying the Orange and
Alexandria Kailroad from Bristow to
the Bappahannock — Stuart, aided by
a flank attack from Fitz Hugh Lee,
worsting Eilpatrick, by force of num-
bers, in a not very sanguinary encoun-
ter" near Bucldand's Mills, whence
our cavaby fell back nimbly to
Gainesville. In this affair. Ouster's
brigade did most of the fighting on
our side ; but the enemy was so vastly
the stronger, backed by infantry, that
Eilpatrick did well to escape with
little loss. Stuart claims to have
taken 200 prisoners.

Lee recrossed the Rappahannock
next day ; leaving Meade, by reason
of his ruined railroad, unable, if will-
ing, to follow him ffirther for some

During these operations, General
J, D. Imboden, who, with a Kebel
cavalry division, had been guarding
the gaps of the Blue Bidge, swooped
down " upon Charlestown, near Har-
per's Ferry, which he took ; capturing
424 men, with a large amount of
stores. Two hours afterward, a su-
perior Union force appeared fr(m
Harper's Ferry, before which Imbo-
den deliberately fell back, fighting,
to Berryville, saving nearly all his
spoils; thence making good his es-
cape by a night-march.

Besides Imboden's, Lee claims to
have taken 2,000 prisoners during

^ Son of Qen. Philip St QeorgeCkwke, Union armj. ^'Oct 16. "Ootid. ^« Oct 18-

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Ids dash acroBB theBappahaimock;
while oar captures were hardly half
BO many. In killed and wounded,
the losses were nearly equal — ^not far
from 600 on either side. But Ihe
prestige of skill and daring, of au-
dacity and success, inured entirely
to the Bebel commander, who, with
an infarior force, had chased our
army almost up to Washington,
utt^ly destroyed its main artery of
supply, captured the larger number
of prisoners, destroyed or caused us
to destroy valuable stores, and then
returned to his own side of the Bap-
pahannock essentially unharmed ;
having decidedly the advantage in
the only collision which marked his
retreat. •

Nettled by the trick which had
been played upon him, Meade now
sought permission to make an at-
tempt, by a rapid movement to the
left, to seize the heights of Freder-
icksburg ; but HaUeck negatived the
project ; so Sedgwick, with the 6th
and Sth corps, was sent forward at
daybreak*' from Warrenton to Bap-
pahannock Station, where the Bebels
had strongly fortified the north bank
of the- river, covering a pontoon
bridge. The works on this side were
held by Hayes's Louisiana brigade ;
while Hoke's brigade, composed of
the 6th, 64th, and 67th N. C, was
sent over to support it by Lee, who,
with Early's division, was just across
the river. Our approach was of
course well known, and Hoke pushed
over on purpose to make all secure.

Arriving at nocm opposite the Sta-
tion, our troops were halted behind a
hill a good mile away, rested and
carefully formed,^ and our skirmish
lines gradually advanced to the river

both above and below the enemy's
works ; then our lines were quietly
advanced over rugged ground tiU
within half a mile of tibe works;
whence a flat, open vale, traversed
by a wide ditch, with high, steep
banks and three feet of mud and
water in its bed, then by a moat 12
feet wide by 5 deep, now dry ; be-
ycmd which, rose a hill or ridge,
directly on the river's bank, on which
w&re the enemy's wOTks. G^en.
"Wright had command of the 6th
corps; while Brig.-Gen. David A.
Bussell ^ conmianded the Ist divis-
ion, whereof the 3d brigade, com-
prising the 6th Wisconsin, 6th Maine,
49th and 119th Pa., now commanded
by CoL P. C. EUmaker, of the latter,
was his own, and had been carefully
drilled by him into the highest effi'
ciency. Th^ brigade was advanced
directly opposite the enemy's works ;
uid Bussell, after a careful observa-
tion, reported to Wright, just before
sunset, that those works could be
carried by storm, and was authorized
to try it.

The next moment, his brigade
moved forward in two lines: five
companies of the 6th Maine deploy-
ing as skirmishers, while the 6th Wis-
consin, dashing in solid column oh
the largest and strongest redoubt, fol-
lowed close bdiind them ; the 20th
Maine, of another brigade, closing
on their left, and advancing in line
with the 6th ; Bussell himself at the
front, and giving the order to
^ charge ;' whereupon, with fixed bay-
onets uid without firing a shot, the
line swept forward thr6ugh a deluge
of case-^ot and Mini4 bullets.

Ten minutes later, the rest of the
brigade came up at double-quick to

'•Not. 7.

' Of Salem, K. T.—6(m of the lato Hon. David Rossea

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their aid ; but, during those ten min-
utes, the 6th Maine had lost 16 ont
of 23 officers, and 128 out of 850 en-
listed men; three of their veteran
captains lying dead, with Lt-Col.
Harris, of this raiment, and Mqj.
Wheeler, of the 5th Wise., severely
wounded. Adj. Clark, of the former,
and Lt. Russell, a relative and aid of
the General, were likewise wounded.
But now the Pennsylvania regiments
rushed in at their highest speed, and
the struggle at this point was over ;
while the 121st New York and 5th
Maine, of the 2d brigade, firing but
a single volley, swept, just at dusk,
through the Rebel rifle-pits on Rus-
sell's right, and down to the pon-
toons in the Rebel rear, cutting off
the retreat of the routed garrison,
and compelling 1,600 of them to sur-
render. Four guns, 7^ flags, 2,000
small arms, and the pontoon bridge,
were among the captures; Gen.
Hayes surrendered, but afterward
escaped; Two of his Colonels swam
the river. Several who attempted to
do so were drowned. The whole
was the work of two brigades, num-
bering less than 3,000 men; and
most of it of Russell's, barely 1,549
strong. And, while no praise is too
high for his men, it is not too much
to say that the credit of this rarely
paralleled exploit is mainly due to
David A. Russell — as capable, mod-
est, and brave a soldier as the army
of the Potomac ever knew.

Simultaneously with this move-
ment, the 2d and 8d corps, Gen.
French, advanced to Kelly's ford;
where pontoons were quickly laid,
under the fire of their guns, and the
8d brigade of Ward's division, Q^n.
De Trobriand, at once dashed across.

Berdan's sharp-shooters in front, and
charged into the enemy's rifle-pits,
capturing CoL Gleason, 12ih Vir-
ginia, and over 400 men, with a loes
of some 40. Our command of the
ford was complete; and Lee, thor-
oughly worsted, fell back to Culpep-
per that night, and across the Bapi-
dan the next. Our railroad was then
rebuilt down to and across the Rap-
pahannock, and reopened" to Bran-
dy Station ; which thus became our
d^pot of supplies.

It was a prevalent conviction
among its more energetic and enter-
prising oflScers that our army might
have advanced directly on tiie hed
of its brilliant success at Rappahan-
nock Station and its seizure of the
fords, and caught that of the enemy
dispersed in Winter cantonments or
compelled it to fight at disadvantage
before it could be concentrated and
intrenched in a strong position.
Meade, however, with his habitual
caution, waited till the bridge at
Rappahannock Station was rebuilt,
and every thing provided for moving
safely; when, finding that he was
not assailed nor likdy to be, he
again gave" the order to advance.
A storm forthwith burst, which dic-
tated a delay of three days; after
which, the start was actually made:
Gen. rrench, with the 8d corps, fol-
lowed by Sedgwidc, with the 6th,
crossing the Rapidan at Jacob's mill;
Gen. Warren, with the 2d, at Ger-
mania ford — ^both moving on Rob-
ertson's tavern ; while Sykes, with
the 5th, followed by Newton, with
two divisions of the 1st, crossed at
Culpepper ford, and Gregg, with a
division of cavalry, crossed at Ely's

" Not. 19.

« Not. 23.

Digitized by





Mnni sinr anv nomiTr.

ford, and advanced on the Catharpen
road, coyering the left or most ex-
posed flank of our infantry: the
other two divisions, under Custer
and Merritt, watching respectively
the upper fords of the Eapidan and
the trains parked at Eichardsville in
our rear. Fully 70,000 men were
engaged in this movement; while

Lee (Longstreet being still absent)
could oppose to it only the two heavy
corps or grand divisions of A. P.
HiU and Ewell, estimated by Meade
at 60,000 strong.

Our troops moved at 6 a. m. ;" but
energy and punctuality, save in re-
treat, seem to have long ere now de-
serted this army ; uid the 3d corps

^ Not. 26.

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— tliToii^ the miBtake, it is flaid, of
Qen. Prince, commsuding one of its
divirionB, who took a wrong road —
did not eren reach Jacob's mill tQl
afternoon; and then the banks of
the river were steep, &c., Ac — the
upshot of all being that the prompt
corps had to wait £»r the la^ard;
•0 that, instead of concentrating on
Bobertson's tayem that evening, as
Meade had prescribed, our armj
spent the daj in getting across, and
the heads of its columns bivcmacked
a mile or two firom the fords ; thus
precluding all possibilitj of surpris-
ing the enemy or taking him at dis-

Our troops moved on at daylight
next morning ;•• the 2d corps repel-
ling the enemy's skirmishers and
reaching, at 10 a. h., Sobertson's
tavern; where Early's, Shodes's, and
E. Johnson's divisions of Ewell's
corps confronted it. Warren was
thereupon ordered to halt, and
await the arrival of French, then
momently expected. At 11, word
came from him that he was near the
plank road, and was there waiting
for Warren. He was ordered afresh
to push on at once to Bobertson's
tavern, where he would find Warren
engaged and requiring his support.
Several officers having been sent by
Meade to reiterate and emphasize

this order, an answer was reoeired
from French, at 1 p. m., that the
enemy were throwing a force to his
right flank at Baoooon ferd. Onoe
morei, ha was ordered to advance
forthwith, and, if resisted, to attack
with all his might, throwing forward
his left to connect with Gen. Wa^
ren. French received this order at
2| F. M., but protested against it as
hazardous, and desired the staff eiq^
tain idio brought it to assume tke
responsibLlity of suspending its exe-
cution I Thus, with all manner
of hesitations and croes-puiposes—

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 56 of 113)