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south of the Rapidan. Stuart, with Hampton's Division, moved on the right of the column, and encountered the Union troops under Kilpatrick, near Jaines City, on the 10th. These retired on Culpepper, slowly followed General Lee, who arrived there on the 11th, and remained there to provision his troops until the 12th. Meantime, Meade, aware of the rapid approach of the enemy, as if to turn his flank, sent on the 12th a strong cavalry force to the Rapidan for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the enemy's movement. It encountered Fitzhugh Lee, who repulsed and pursued it to Brandy Station. Here Stuart and' Lee formed a junction and pressed the Union troops vigorously across the Rappahannock, inflicting some loss. The main body of Lee's army advanced and reached Warrenton Springs on the 13th. Meade, who had fallen back fifteen miles, continued his retreat rapidly, in order to anticipate his antagonist in the possession of the bloody field of Bull Run. The retreat was conducted on several parallel roads, while the march of the Confederates was circuitous. Meade, therefore, could not be outmarched. On October 14th, the Second Corps, coinmanded by General Warren, took up a position at Bristow Station, behind the railroad embankment, and repulsed the advance of the enemy under Hill, with the loss of four hundred and fifty prisoners and five pieces of artillery. The enemy's re-enforcements arriving rapidly, the Union troops retreated across Broad Run, and on the following day proceeded to fortify Bull Run, extending the line towards Little River turnpike. Foiled in all his efforts to outflank or deceive his wary opponent, who was gradually drawing him into unpleasant proximity to the fortifications surrounding Washington, and away from his base, the rebel general gave up the pursuit on the 15th, and retired upon the line of the Rappahannock, which he reached on the 18th, after destroying the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Cub Run to that point. The rear of the retreating Confederates was covered by the cavalry under Stuart, who, with Hampton's Division, fell slowly back towards Warrenton, drawing the Union force in that direction, and giving Lee at Auburn an opportunity for a flank attack at Buckland. As soon as Stuart heard Lee's guns, he turned upon the Union troops, which, being in inferior force, were compelled to retreat to Haymarket. The enemy then resumed their march to the Rappahannock.
Meantime, Imboden, who had proceeded down the valley, by a rapid march surrounded Charlestown, and captured the garrison of four hundred and thirty-four men stationed there, with their stores, and, what was of great advantage to the enemy, the transportation. He then rapidly retired before the advance of the Union troops from Harper's Ferry. The results of the enemy's movement were the capture of two thousand prisoners, for which his own losses in killed, wounded, prisoners, and artillery scarcely compensated. The events in East Tennessee being at this time very critical, a mutual distrust existed between the opposing armies in Virginia, each dreading lest the other might send succor to the armies struggling there. General Meade, accordingly, made such demonstrations as would, it was supposed, deter Lee from sending troops to the rebel army in Tennessee, and, perhaps, compel him to recall Longstreet. The new Union
levies under the conscription began now to be more and more available, and so freely were they organized that from the middle of October to June, 1864, according to the declaration of the chairman of the Senate Military Committee, six hundred thousand men were sent to the armies. In the first week of November, there were indications that an aggressive movement by the army in Virginia would speedily be entered on. It was publicly announced that all able-bodied troops in garrison at Washington, under command of General Martindale, would be relieved from duty and sent to the field, and their place filled by the Invalid Corps. Advices from the Army of the Potomac showed that the rebels intended to resist our occupying the Rappahannock and rebuilding the railroad across it. They had also been recently engaged in fortifying the approaches to the river on the north side. Under these circumstances, General Meade commenced a forward movement from the line of Cedar Run to the line of the Rappahannock. The advance began early on the morning of Saturday, November 7th. The Sixth Corps, General Sedgwick, moved from Warrenton to Rappahannock Station. The Second, Third, and Fifth Corps, under Warren, French, and Sykes, respectively marched by Warrenton Junction along the line of railway by way of Bealton, where the First Corps, Newton, brought up with the extreme left. Previous cavalry reconnoissances had shown that the enemy occupied the forts at Rappahannock Station, and were also in force to the south at Kelly's Ford. From Bealton the Fifth Corps continued in direct line of march to form a junction with the Sixth at Rappahannock Station. The Second and Third deployed at Kelly's Ford. At this point the Third was in advance, and as they neared the ford they threw out strong lines of skirmishers and sharpshooters. Batteries were planted on the range of hills rising abruptly along the north side of the river, and sweeping the extensive plateau on the south side. Under cover of their fire the pontoons were successfully laid, and the attacking party, consisting of Berdan's sharpshooters, the Fortieth New York, the First and Twentieth Indiana, the Third and Fifth Michigan, and the One Hundred and Tenth Pennsylvania, rapidly crossed the bridge. Having gained the opposite bank, the rifle-pits were charged, and the rebels, finding themselves surrounded on all sides, surrendered. The captures at this point were found to include over four hundred prisoners; General French's loss was about seventy.
While the Third Corps was thus passing the Rappahannock at Kel. ly's Ford, the Sixth was effecting a crossing under more formidable difficulties at Rappahannock Station. On the north side the defences consisted of a strong fort, two redoubts, and several rifle-pits. These works were held by nearly two thousand men belonging to Early's Division of Ewell's Corps. Commanding positions to the rear of the fort having been obtained, heavy batteries were planted thereon, and a fierce cannonade opened between the two sides. Just before dark, the storming party, consisting of Russell's and Upton's Brigades, was formed, and the works carried by a very brilliant coup de main. Over fifteen hundred prisoners, four guns, and eight battle-flags were
taken. General Sedgwick's loss was about three hundred killed and wounded.
The Third Corps, after the successful crossing at Kelly's Ford, camped for the night on the south side of the Rappahannock, and on the following morning (Sunday, 8th) resumed the advance, followed by the Second and First Corps in order. About noon they came upon a strong force of cavalry and light artillery, two miles east of Brandy Station, engaging and pursuing them to a point two miles beyond that place, the fighting continuing till after dark. Meanwhile, the other corps "(the Fifth and Sixth) were scouring the country up the river and toward Stevensburg. The rebels had all retreated but a few hours before. Camps were found prepared for winter-quarters. The following dispatches were sent by General Meade :
"HEAD-QUARTERS ARNY OF THE POTOMAC, I
“ November 7–9. 30 P. M. "Major-General Sedgwick advanced to the railroad crossing, where he drove the enemy to the river, assaulted and captured two redoubts with artillery, on this side, taking a number of prisoners.
"Major-General French advanced to Kelly's Ford, driving the enemy in small force across the river, and captured several hundred prisoners at the lord.
“GEORGE G. MEADE, Major-General Commandling." “ HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, I
“November 7-10 P. M. 5 "General Sedgwick reports capturing, this P. M., in his operations, four colonels, three lieutenant-colonels, many other officers, and over eight hundred men, together with four battle-flags. * General French captured over four hundred prisoners, officers and men.
"GEORGE G. MEADE, Major-General Commanding." The following telegram was sent by President Lincoln to General Meade, and published to the Army on the 10th :
"WASHINGTON, Monday, November 9, 1863. "MAJOR-GENERAL MEADE:-I have seen your dispatches about operations on the Rappahannock on Saturday, and I wish to say well done.' (Signed)
“A. LINCOLN.” The sum-total of the movement was to transfer the line of the rebels from the south side of the Rappahannock to the south side of the Rapidan; and of the Army of the Potomac from the line of Cedar Run to the line of the Upper Rappahannock. Here General Meade took up his position, which was further strengthened by breastworks, and the restoration of the railroad in his rear was at once commenced.
The main force of the enemy remained between the Rapidan and Orange Court-House, the river being thoroughly guarded. Its natural strength is considerable, since it commands the northern bank. The rebel defences on the south side of the Rapidan were of a very formidable character, being situated on ridges from thirty to a hundred and fifty feet above the river level, and elevated considerably above the northern bank, where the ground falls into an extended plain, presenting on our side every possible disadvantage for strategic movements.
Meade's Advance across the Rapidan.--Recrosses.-Winter Quarters.—Draft for Three
Hundred Thousand Men.--Reconnoissance.--Kilpatrick's Raid upon Richmond. Death of Dahlgren.
The armies maintained their position without material change until Thanksgiving Day, November 26th, when General Meade, impressed with the idea that Lee was in retreat, issued orders for an advance. The cavalry crossed the Rapidan, and, discovering that the enemy had withdrawn, advanced in pursuit. The movement of the main army was as follows: The Second Corps, General Warren, crossed at Germania Ford, taking the road to Orange Court-House, via Robertson's Tavern; the Third Corps, General French, at Jacob's Mills Ford, and took position at night on the right of the Second Corps; the Fifth Corps, General Sykes, at Culpepper Ford, towards the Fredericksburg plankroad, and formed a junction with the Second Corps on its right, at the forks of the road at Robertson's Tavern; the Sixth Corps, General Sedgwick, followed the Third Corps at Jacob's Mills Ford; and the First Corps, General Newton, with the reserve artillery and wagon trains, followed the Fifth Corps across Culpepper Ford. The wagons were parked at Richardsville, about fifteen miles south from Rappahannock Station.
The crossings were made without opposition. The water was about waist high, and the men forded the river. While on the march the columns were halted, and the telegrams announcing the victory at Chattanoora were read to the men. The news was received with the wildest enthusiasm. The air was darkened with caps thrown up by officers and men, and resonant with cheers.
Before this advance, the enemy fell back and took up a position at Mine Run, southwest of Chancellorsville, where severe combats took place on the 27th and 30th. The strength of this position was such that it was not deemed prudent to attack. The soundness of this judgment was tested some months later, when Grant vainly attempted, with a much larger force, to carry the position. General Meade, in consequence, withdrew his troops on December 1st, and reoccupied the position whence he had advanced, near Brandy Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. The army of Lee resumed its former position at Orange Court-House, his advance guarding the fords of the Rapidan.
The work of recruiting the army was now in progress. The President, under date of October 17th, issued a call for three hundred thousand men, to serve for three years or the war, and the Governors of the States were called upon io raise and have enlisted the quotas due from their States. In case the required number should not volunteer under this call, a draft was to be made on January 5th, 1864. By means of liberal bounties offered to veteran recruits, a large number of the men of Meade's army, whose time would expire in the spring of 1864, were induced to re-enlist under this call, thirty days' furlough being allowed them. Towards the close of December the men began to leave for their homes, and as the work of reorganizing the army consumed many weeks, there was but little active work, and no important military movement was undertaken.
Towards the close of January, 1864, it was determined to consolidate the five corps, which then composed the Army of the Potomac, into three, under Generals Sedgwick, Hancock, and Warren, who thereafter commanded respectively the Sixth, Second, and Fifth. The First and Third ceased to exist. The re-enlistments went on rather slowly under the call of October, and on the 1st of February the following order appeared :
“EXECUTIVE MANSION, I
"WASHINGTON, February 1. S " Ordered, That a draft for five hundred thousand men to serve for three years or during the war be made on the 10th day of March next, for the military service of the United States, crediting and deducting therefrom so many as may have been enlisted or drafted into the service prior to the first day of March, and not heretofore credited. (Signed)
“ ABRAHAM LINCOLN.” By a circular issued by the Provost-Marshal-General, it appeared that this call amounted practically to a call for two hundred thousand men in addition to those required by the October call. The Confederates, on their side, were stimulated by the vigor of the Northern efforts to raise troops by fresh conscriptions, and the utmost rigor was exercised in filling their depleted ranks. General Meade was at this time ill in Philadelphia, and rumors began to spread of the selection of a new commander for the Army of the Potomac, which, however, proved to be utterly groundless. The two armies continued comparatively inactive until the 6th of February, when a reconnoissance in force was undertaken by General Sedgwick. Kilpatrick's Division of Cavalry, supported by battery C, Third United States Artillery (Braxton Bragg's old battery), advanced on the extreme left and crossed the Rapidan at Ely's Ford; after which the cavalry was divided into squads to scour the country in the direction of Richardson's tavern and Fredericksburg, on the left. The duty was thoroughly performed, but no enemy was discovered in force. The cavalry then recrossed the Rapidan. The Second and Third Divisions of the Second Corps were ordered to cross at Stevensburg early on the 6th, but as the pontoons, which were ordered, had failed to arrive, the Second Division boldly forded the deep stream in the face of the enemy, who held his ground, and the fight continued all day. The two divisions were withdrawn on the 7th, after having lost two hundred men in killed and wounded, most of wbom were in the Second Corps. General Merritt's Division of Cavalry advanced on the right, and crossed at Barnett's Ford. They had a brisk skirmish with some of Stuart's cavalry, and recrossed on Sunday, the 7th inst. The results of the movement did not confirm the impression that had been current as to the demoralization of the enemy. In connection with this movement a cavalry raid, started from the lower peninsula, demonstrated against Richmond, but finding the rebels on the alert, proceeded no farther than Bottom's Bridge over the Chickabominy.