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[349] which bound me to keep in close communication with Fredericksburgh; but I instructed Gen. Sigel, who occupied the right of my line, and who expressed great apprehension that his lank would be turned, and proposed to withdraw from his position toward the railroad, to stand firm and hold his ground, and to allow the enemy to cross at Sulphur Spring and develop himself on the road toward Warrenton; that, as soon as any considerable force had crossed at that place, would rapidly mass my army during the night and throw it upon any force of the enemy which attempted to march in the direction of Warrenton. The whole of the cavalry under Brig.-Gens. Buford and Bayard was pushed considerably to the right of General Sigel, in the direction of Fayetteville and Sulphur Springs, to watch the movements of the enemy in that direction, and to picket the river as far up as possible. General Sigel was ordered, if any force of the enemy attempted to cross below Sulphur Springs, to march at once against it and to notify me, as I was determined to resist the passage of the river at any point below the Springs. Copies of my despatches to the General-in-Chief, and of his replies, the despatches from Gen. Sigel, and my orders to him, given during the twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty-third of August, are appended, which show completely the condition of things, my understanding of the movements of the enemy, and the dispositions which I made and proposed to make in relation to them. Finding that the continued movement of the enemy to my right, while heavy masses of his force still confronted me at Rappahannock station, would within a day, if allowed to continue, either render my position on the Rappahannock wholly untenable, or force me to give battle to the enemy in my front and on my right, I determined on the afternoon of the twenty-second, to mass my whole force, to recross the Rappahannock by the bridges and fords near Rappahannock station, and by Kelly's Ford below, and to fall on the flank and rear of the long column of the enemy which was passing up the river toward our right. I accordingly made the necessary orders on the night of the twenty-second of August. The attempt would have been dangerous, but no recourse was left me except to make this attack, to retire to Warrenton Junction, and abandon the line of the Rappahannock, or to retire in the direction of Fredericksburgh, and abandon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and the direct approaches to Washington City. I determined, therefore, to hazard the result, and to fall furiously with my whole army upon the flank and rear of the enemy. During the night of the twenty-second a heavy rain set in, which, before day dawned on the twenty-third, had caused the river to rise six or eight feet, carried away all our bridges, and destroyed all the fords on the river. To recross the Rappahannock, and to make the attack as proposed, was no longer practicable; but the rise in the river which had prevented this movement I believed would also prevent the retreat of that portion of the enemy which had crossed at Sulphur Springs and Waterloo Bridge, according to the reports which had been sent me by Gen. Sigel.

Early on the morning of the twenty-third, therefore, I massed my whole force in the neighborhood of Rappahannock station, with the purpose of falling upon that portion of the enemy which had crossed above me, and was then supposed to be between Sulphur Springs, Waterloo Bridge, and the town of Warrenton. As the river was too high to be crossed, and was likely to remain so for at least thirty-six hours, I had no fear that the enemy would be able to interpose between me and Fredericksburgh, or to make any attempt upon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad north of the Rappahannock. I directed Gen. Sigel to march with his whole corps upon Sulphur Springs, supported by Reno's corps and Banks's corps, to fall upon any body of the enemy that he might encounter, and to push forward along the river to Waterloo Bridge. I directed Gen. McDowell to move at the same time directly upon the town of Warrenton, so that from that point he would be able, if necessary, to unite with Gen. Sigel on the road from that place to Sulphur Springs, or to Waterloo Bridge. To the corps of Gen. McDowell I had attached the Pennsylvania reserves, under Brig.-General Reynolds, the first of the army of the Potomac which had joined my command.

On the night of the twenty-second of August a small cavalry force of the enemy, crossing at Waterloo Bridge, and passing through Warrenton, had made a raid upon our trains at Catlett's station, and had destroyed four or five wagons in all, belonging to the train of my own headquarters. At the time this cavalry force attacked at Catlett's, and it certainly was not more than three hundred strong, our whole army-trains were parked at that place, and were guarded by not less than fifteen hundred infantry and five companies of cavalry. The success of this small cavalry party of the enemy, although very trifling, and attended with but little damage, was most disgraceful to the force which had been left in charge of the trains. Gen. Sigel moved as ordered, slowly up the Rappahannock, in the direction of Sulphur Springs, on the twenty-third, and first encountered a force of the enemy near the point where a small creek, called “Great Run,” puts into the Rappahannock, about two miles below the Sulphur Springs. The enemy was driven across the stream, but destroyed the bridges. The heavy rains had caused this small creek to rise so much that it was not then fordable, so that the night of the twenty-third, and part of the morning of the twenty-fourth, were spent by Gen. Sigel in rebuilding the bridges. On the night of the twenty-third also, the advance of McDowells corps occupied Warrenton, a cavalry force of the enemy having retreated from there a few hours before. On the morning of the twenty-fourth, Gen. Sigel, supported by Gens. Reno and Banks, crossed Great Run, and occupied the Sulphur Springs, under a heavy fire of artillery from batteries which the enemy had established all along the south side of the Rappahannock.

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