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RUSSELL'S ASSAULT AT RAPPAHANNOCK STATION. 397
his dash across the Rappahannock; while our captures were hardly half Bo many. In killed and wounded, the losses were nearly equal—not far from 500 on either side. But the prestige of skill and daring, of audacity and success, inured entirely to the Rebel commander, who, with an inferior force, had chased our army almost up to "Washington, utterly destroyed its main artery of supply, captured the larger number of prisoners, destroyed or caused us to destroy valuable stores, and then returned to hi3 own side of the Rappahannock 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 attempt, by a rapid movement to the left, to seize the heights of Fredericksburg; but Halleck negatived the project; so Sedgwick, with the 6th aud 5th corps, was sent forward at daybreak" from Warrenton to Rappahannock Station, where the Rebels 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, 54th, and 57th 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 noon opposite the Station, 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 till within half a mile of the 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; beyond which, rose a hill or ridge, directly on the river's bank, on which were the enemy's works. Gen. Wright had command of the 6th corps; while Brig.-Gen. David A. Russell " commanded the 1st division, whereof the 3d brigade, comprising the 5th Wisconsin, 6th Maine, 49th and 119th Pa., now commanded by Col. P. C. Ellmaker, of the latter, was his own, and had been carefully drilled by him into the highest efficiency. This brigade was advanced directly opposite the enemy's works; and Russell, after a careful observation, 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 deploying as skirmishers, while the 5th Wisconsin, dashing in solid column on the largest and strongest redoubt, followed close behind them; the 29th Maine, of another brigade, closing on their left, and advancing in line with the 6th; Russell himself at the front, and giving the order to 'charge;' whereupon, with fixed bayonets and without firing a shot, the line swept forward through a deluge of case-shot and Minie bullets.
Ten minutes later, the rest of the brigade came up at double-quick to
"Of Salem, N. Y.—son of the late lion. David RusselL
their aid; but, during those ten minutes, the 6th Maine had lost 16 out of 23 officers, and 123 out of 350 enlisted men; three of their veteran captains lying dead, with Lt-Col. Harris, of this regiment, and Maj. 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 Russell's right, and down to the pontoons in the Rebel rear, cutting off the retreat of the routed garrison, and compelling 1,600 of them to surrender. 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, numbering 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, modest, and brave a soldier as the army of the Potomac ever knew.
Simultaneously with this movement, the 2d and 3d corps, Gen. French, advanced to Kelly's ford; where pontoons were quickly laid, under the fire of their guns, and the 3d brigade of Ward's division, Gen. De Trobriand, at once dashed across,
Berdan's 6harp-6hooters in front, and charged into the enemy's rifle-pits, capturing Col. Gleason, 12th Virginia, and over 400 men, with a loss of some 40. Our command of the ford was complete; and Lee, thoroughly worsted, fell back to Culpepper that night, and across the Rapidan the next. Our railroad was then rebuilt down to and across the Rappahannock, and reopened" to Brandy Station; which thus became our depot of supplies.
It was a prevalent conviction among its more energetic and enterprising officers that our army might have advanced directly on the heel of its brilliant success at Rappahannock 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 6trong 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 likely to be, he again gave" the order to advance. A storm forthwith burst, which dictated a delay of three days; after which, the start was actually made: Gen. French, with the 3d corps, followed by Sedgwick, with the 6th, crossing the Rapidan at Jacob's mill; Gen. Warren, with the 2d, at Germania ford—both moving on Robertson's tavern; while Sykes, with the 5th, followed by Newton, with two divisions of the 1st, crossed at Culp'epper ford, and Gregg, with a division of cavalry, crossed at Ely's
—through the mistake, it is said, of Gen. Prince, commanding one of its divisions, who took a wrong road— did not even reach Jacob's mill till afternoon; and then the banks of the river were steep, &c, &c.—the upshot of all being that the prompt corps had to wait for the laggard; so that, instead of concentrating on Robertson's tavern that evening, as Meade had prescribed, our army spent the day in getting across, and the heads of its columns bivouacked a mile of two from the fords; thus precluding all possibility of surprising the enemy or taking him at disadvantage.
Our troops moved on at daylight next morning;" the 2d corps repelling the enemy's skirmishers and reaching, at 10 A. M., Robertson's tavern; where Early's, Rhodes'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 Robertson's tavern, where he would find Warren engaged and requiring his support. Several officers having been sent by Meade to reiterate and emphasize "Nov. 27.
"The Richmond Dispatch has a letter from a correspondent with the Rebel army, dated Nov. 28, which gives their loss during this day's fighting as "fully 500 killed and wounded;" adding:
"Of the loss of the enemy, I am not advised; but I am now disposed to doubt if it was as heavy as our own. Tliey fought, I am told, quite well, and fired more accurately than usual."
Among' their casualties he instances Gens. Stuart (J. E. B.) and J. M. Jones slightly wounded; Col. Nelligan, 1st La., severely; and Lt.Col. Walton, 23d Va., killed.
this order, an answer was received from French, at 1 p. M., that the enemy were throwing a force to his right flank at Raccoon ford. Once more, he was ordered to advance forthwith, and, if resisted, to attack with all his might, throwing forward his left to connect with Gen. Warren. French received this order at 2J p. M., but protested against it as hazardous, and desired the staff captain who brought it to assume the responsibility of suspending its execution! Thus, with all manner of hesitations and cross-purposes— Prince once halting two hours at a fork for orders as to which road he should take—the day was squandered; Meade, sorely disappointed by French's non-arrival, being at length obliged to order the 1st corps over from the plank road to the support of Warren, who was hard pressed," near Robertson's tavern, which he regarded as the key of the position.
The 5th corps came up next morning ;" and now Gregg went forward with his cavalry on the plank road, and had a smart collision with Stuart's troopers, whom he pushed back upon their infantry supports; when he recoiled and allowed Sykes to go forward, connecting with Warren, to the vicinity of Hope Church.
Our losses on this day were 309; but this includes none from French's corps, who were skirmishing a good part of the day; while we lost a few more on tho 29th and SOtli. The Dispatch correspondent reports that Rosser's cavalry, raiding in our rear, struck a train near Wilderness tavern, and captured 70 wagons (whereof they destroyed 50), and brought off 150 prisoners and as many mules or horses.
It is probable that, including deserters, either army was depleted by fully 1,000 men daring this Mino Run movement
■ Nov. 28.
THE MINE R
Our army being now disposed for a determined attack, it was found that the enemy had retreated ; whereupon the 2d corps moved out two miles farther, and found the enemy in position along the west bank of Mine Run, facing eastward; where the 2d, 6th, 1st, and part of the 3d corps, under a pelting November rain, were brought into line confronting them a little after dark.
The enemy's deliberately chosen position was of course a good one. The 'run' was of little consequence, so far as water was concerned, being rarely over two feet deep; but its immediate banks were in places swampy and scarcely passable; while a bare, smooth slope ascended gently for half a mile or so to a crest or ridge, perhaps a hundred feet above the surface of the stream, already bristling with abatis, infantry parapets, and epaulements for batteries. After careful reconnoissance, an attack directly in front was negatived: so Warren, with the 2d and a division of the 6th corps, was impelled farther to our left (south), with instructions to feel for the enemy's flank and turn it if possible, while each corps commander should more closely examine the ground in his front, and report on the practicability of an assault. *
The next day " was spent in this reconnoissance—the Rebel defenses being of course strengthened every hour—Gen. Wright, commanding a division of the 6th corps, reporting, at 6 p. M., that he had discovered a point on our extreme right where an assault might be made with a good prospect of cheap and decisive success. Warren soon reported from our
UN FIASCO. 401
left that he had outflanked the enemy's line of defenses, and could easily assault and turn them. Meade thereupon decided to attack at all points next morning.
At 8 p. M., Warren reported to Meade in person, expressing such confidence in his ability to carry every thing before him, while French had reported against the assault just ordered on the enemy's center, that Meade decided to forego, or at least to postpone, that assault, and send two divisions of the 3d corps to reenforce Warren, so as to give him six divisions (nearly half the army), and thus render the success of his contemplated attack a moral certainty. So our men lay down once more on their arms, with orders to the corps commanders that the batteries of the right and center should open at 8 A. M. at which hour, Warren was to make the grand assault: Sedgwick striking in on our right an hour later; while the three divisions of the 1st and 3d corps, left to hold our center, which were only to demonstrate and menace in the morning, were to advance and assault whenever the flank attacks should have proved successful. Meantime, our cavalry skirmished at various points with the enemy's, who attempted to molest our communications at the fords and elsewhere; but who were repulsed and driven off.
Our batteries opened at the designated hour; our skirmishers in the center dashed across Mine Run, pushing back those of the enemy; while Sedgwick, who had massed his column during the night, as near the enemy's lines as possible, awaited the moment for attack. But nothing M Nov. 30.