Major-Gen. Banks to send forward an infantry brigade, with all his cavalry, to march rapidly upon Culpeper Court-House, and after taking possession of that place, to push forward cavalry toward the Rapidan, in the direction of Gordonsville. On the fourteenth of July, after this movement was successfully accomplished, I directed Gen. Banks to push forward, during the night of that day, the whole of his cavalry force, under Brig.-Gen. Hatch, from Culpeper, with orders to take possession of Gordonsville, and to destroy the railroad for ten or fifteen miles east of that place, with a portion of his forces, while all remaining pushed forward in the direction of Charlottesville, destroying the railroad bridges and interrupting that line of communication as far as practicable. At that time, there was no force of the enemy at Gordonsville or in the vicinity, and the whole operation as ordered was not only easily practicable, but would have been attended with serious consequences to the enemy; but, to my surprise and dissatisfaction, I received, on the seventeenth of July, from Gen. Banks, a report that Gen. Hatch had taken with him infantry, artillery, and trains of wagons, and that in consequence of bad roads he had at that date only succeeded in going as far as Madison Court-House. Meantime, on the sixteenth of July, the advance of Jackson's forces, under Ewell, had reached Gordonsville, and the proposed movement, as ordered, became impracticable. No satisfactory explanation has ever been made to me of this departure from my orders on the part of Gen. Hatch. Finding it no longer practicable to occupy Gordonsville as I had designed, I sent orders to Gen. Banks to direct Gen. Hatch to select from his own cavalry and that of Gen. McDowell, which I had sent forward, fifteen hundred to two thousand of the best mounted men, and to proceed from Madison Court-House around the west side of the Blue Ridge, to a point whence he could make an easy descent upon the railroad west of Gordonsville, and, if successful, to push forward to Charlottesville, and if possible destroy the railroad between that place and Lynchburgh. In compliance with this order, Gen. Hatch commenced to make the movement as directed, but abandoned it very soon after he started, and returned by the way of Sperryville to his post. As soon as I had received the report of this second failure, I relieved Gen. Hatch from the command of the cavalry of General Banks's corps, and sent Brig.-Gen. Buford to report to Gen. Banks as the Chief of Cavalry of his corps. On the twenty-ninth of July I left Washington, and, after reviewing Ricketts's division, of McDowell's corps, at Waterloo Bridge, repaired to the headquarters of Gen. Banks, a few miles south-east of Little Washington. All preparations having been completed, I instructed Gen. Banks to move forward on the seventh of August, and take post at the point where the turnpike from Sperryville to Culpeper crosses Hazel River. Gen. McDowell was ordered on the day previous to move forward with Ricketts's division from Waterloo Bridge to Culpeper Court-House, so that on the seventh of August all the infantry and artillery forces of the army of Virginia were assembled along the turnpike from Sperryville to Culpeper, and numbered about twenty-eight thousand men. King's division, as I have before stated, was left on the Lower Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburgh, and was not then available for active operations in the direction of Gordonsville. The cavalry forces covering the front of the army on that day were distributed as follows: Gen. Buford, with five regiments, was posted at Madison Court-House, with his pickets along the line of the Rapidan, from Burnett's Ford, as far west as the Blue Ridge. Gen. Sigel had been directed to post a brigade of infantry and a battery of artillery at the point where the road from Madison Court-House to Sperryville crosses Robertson's River, as a support to the cavalry of Gen. Buford, in front of him. Gen. Bayard, with four regiments of cavalry, was posted near Rapidan station, the point where the Orange and Alexandria road crosses Rapidan River, with his pickets extended as far to the east as Raccoon Ford, and connecting with Gen. Buford on his right at Burnett's Ford. From Raccoon Ford to the forks of the Rappahannock, above Falmouth, the Rapidan was lined with cavalry pickets. On the top of Thoroughfare Mountain, about half-way between Generals Bayard and Buford, was established a signal-station, which overlooked the whole country as far south as Orange Court-House. On the seventh I proceeded to Sperryville, and inspected the corps of Major-Gen. Sigel. I remained at Sperryville until four o'clock in the afternoon of that day, during which time I received several reports from the front that the enemy was crossing the Rappahannock at several points between the railroad-crossing of that river and Liberty Mills. I reached Culpeper Court-House on the morning of the eighth of August. The town had been occupied for several days by Crawford's brigade, of Gen. Banks's corps; and on the seventh Ricketts's division, of McDowell's corps, had also reached there from Waterloo Bridge. During the whole of the morning of the eighth, I continued to receive reports from Gen. Bayard, who was slowly falling back in the direction of Culpeper Court-House, from the advance of the enemy, and from Gen. Buford, who also reported the enemy advancing in heavy force upon Madison Court-House. My instructions required me to be careful, and keep my communications good with Fredericksburgh, and by no means to permit the enemy to interpose between me and that place. Although during the whole of the eighth of August it was very doubtful, from the reports of Generals Bayard and Buford, whether the enemy's movement was in the direction of Madison Court-House or of Culpeper, I considered it advisable, in view of my relations with Fredericksburgh, to concentrate my whole force in the direction of Culpeper, so as to keep myself constantly interposed between the main body of the enemy and the lower fords of the Rappahannock. Early in the day I pushed forward Crawford's brigade, of Banks's corps, in the
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.