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[350] The bridge which had been built at Sulphur Springs, and upon which the forces of the enemy, which had crossed a day or two previous, escaped from the advance of Gen. Sigel, was destroyed, and Sigel pushed forward with the force supporting him, in the direction of Waterloo Bridge.

Meantime I had despatched Brig.-Gen. Buford with a heavy cavalry force from Warrenton, on the morning of the twenty-fourth, to reconnoitre the country in the vicinity of Waterloo Bridge, and to interrupt the passage of the river at that point as far as possible. It was then believed by Gen. Sigel, who so reported to me, that a considerable force of the enemy was on the north side of the Rappahannock, and was retiring from his advance in the direction of Waterloo Bridge. By noon of the twenty-fourth, Gen. Buford reported to me that he had occupied Waterloo Bridge, without finding any force of the enemy, and he did not believe that there was any force between that place and Sulphur Springs. I directed him to destroy the bridge at Waterloo, and to maintain his position until the arrival of the advance of Gen. Sigel. I at once informed Gen. Sigel of these facts, and directed him to push forward his advance to Waterloo. Milroy's brigade, constituting the advance of his corps, reached Waterloo late in the afternoon of the twenty-fourth. On that afternoon the whole force of the enemy was stretched along the line of the river, from the Rappahannock station to Waterloo Bridge, with his centre, and I think his main body, in the vicinity of Sulphur Springs. During the day of the twenty-fourth a large detachment of the enemy, numbering thirty-six regiments of infantry, with the usual number of batteries of artillery and a considerable cavalry force, marched rapidly down the north, in the direction of Rectortown. They could be plainly seen from our signal-stations, established at high points along the Rappahannock; and their movements and force were reported to me from time to time by Colonel J. S. Clark, of Gen. Banks's staff, who, both on that day, and for many preceding and succeeding days, gave me most valuable and reliable information. I am glad to express here my appreciation of the valuable services of this officer. On the night of the twenty-fourth my forces were distributed as follows: Ricketts's division, of McDowell's corps, on the road from Warrenton to Waterloo Bridge, and about four miles east of Waterloo; King's division, of the same corps, between Warrenton and the Sulphur Springs; Sigel's corps, near the Rappahannock, with his advance at Waterloo Bridge, and his rear in the direction of Sulphur Springs. In his rear, and immediately in contact with him, was Banks's corps; while Reno's corps was east and very near the, Sulphur Springs.

I was satisfied that no force of the enemy was on the north side of the Rappahannock; but I feared that during the next day — by which time the river would have fallen sufficiently to be passed at any of the fords — the enemy would make an attempt to cross at Rappahannock station, or at the fords between that point and Sulphur Springs. Yet, as we were confronted at Waterloo Bridge and Sulphur Springs by the main body of the enemy, still moving toward our right, and as the heavy column, mentioned previously, was marching with all speed in the direction of White Plains and Salem, and from those points would be able to turn our right by the direction of Thoroughfare Gap, or even north of that place, it was with the greatest reluctance, and only because I felt bound to do so under my instructions, that I took measures again to assume my communications with Fredericksburgh. I append herewith orders and despatches sent and received during the twenty-third and twenty-fourth of August, which will of themselves furnish a succinct account of the movements here set forth, and all the information and assurances upon which those movements were made. On the twenty-third, I received a despatch from the General-in-Chief informing me that heavy reenforcements would begin to arrive at Warrenton Junction the succeeding day, and on the twenty-fourth I received despatches from Colonel Haupt, the railroad superintendent at Alexandria, who informed me that thirty thousand men, ordered forward to join me, had demanded transportation from him, and that they would all be shipped that afternoon, or early the next morning. The force which I thus expected was, as reported to me, to consist of the division of Gen. Sturgis, ten thousand strong; the division of Gen. Cox, seven thousand strong; the corps of Gen. Heintzelman, ten thousand strong; and the corps of General Franklin, ten thousand strong. By the night of the twenty-fifth it became apparent to me that I could no longer keep open my communications with Fredericksburgh, and oppose the crossing of the Rappahannock, at Rappahannock station, without abandoning the road from Warrenton to Washington, and leaving open to the enemy the route through Thoroughfare Gap, and all other roads north of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. As the main body of his force was constantly tending in that direction, I determined no longer to attempt to mask the lower fords of the Rappahannock, but to assemble such forces as I had along the Warrenton turnpike, between Warrenton and Gainesville, and give battle to the enemy on my right or left, as he might choose. I therefore directed McDowell to occupy Warrenton with his own and Sigel's corps, supporting him by Banks's corps from the direction of Fayetteville. I pushed Reno forward to occupy a point near the Warrenton turnpike, and about three miles to the east of that town. I sent orders to Gen. Porter, who had reported to me by note from the neighborhood of Bealeton station, to push forward and join Reno. Heintzelman's corps, which had reached Warrenton Junction, was ordered to remain for the present at that point, it being my purpose to push forward that corps, as soon as practicable, to Greenwich, about half-way between Warrenton and Gainesville. I sent orders to Colonel Haupt to direct one of the strongest divisions being sent forward to take

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