held the left, from Rapidan Station to Liberty Mills. The plan I decided on was to cross the Rapidan at the lower fords in three columns, and by a prompt movement seize the plank-road and turnpike, advancing rapidly toward Orange Court-House, thus turning the enemy's works and compelling him to give battle on ground not previously selected or prepared. And I indulged in the hope that in the execution of this plan I should be enabled to fall on part of the enemy's forces before he could effect a concentration, and thus so cripple him as to render more certain the success of the final struggle. In accordance with this plan orders were issued on the twenty-third for the movement. A storm occurring during the night of the twenty-third, the orders were postponed till the morning of the twenty-sixth, at six A. M. of which day the several columns were directed to move. Major-General French, commanding the Third corps, was directed to proceed with his corps to Jacob's Mill, cross the Rapidan at that point, and continue his march by a road known to exist from Jacob's Mill to Robertson's Tavern, where he would effect a junction with the Second corps. Major-General Warren was ordered to cross at Germania Ford and take the turnpike to Robertson's Tavern. The Fifth corps, Major-General Sykes, was directed to cross at Culpeper Ford, and taking the plank-road, to continue his march as far as Parker's Store, and if practicable, to the crossing of the road from Robertson's Tavern. A division of cavalry, under Brigadier-General Gregg, was ordered to cross at Ely's Ford, and proceed on the Catharpin road as far as Corbin's bridge, to cover the left flank of the army. A division of cavalry, under General Custer, held the upper fords of the Rapidan; and the Third division, under General Merritt, was ordered to guard the trains assembled at Richardsville. Anticipating an attempt on the part of the enemy to check the heads of columns until he could get in position, and looking for this attack first on my right flank, the nearest to his known position, I ordered the Sixth corps, Major-General Sedgwick, to follow the Third, thus placing considerably more than half my infantry on the right flank, and directed Major-General Newton, commanding two divisions of the First corps, (the Third division being left on the railroad,) to follow the Fifth corps, thus reenforcing the left flank, leaving the centre to be supported from either of the other two columns, as circumstances might render the most convenient. In accordance with the above order the troops were put in motion at six A. M. of the twenty-sixth, the heads of column of the Fifth and Second corps reaching the river between nine and ten A. M. ; but the Third corps, from causes not yet explained, not getting to Jacob's Mills till after twelve M., and thus delaying the other two corps, the advance being directed to be simultaneous. This delay of the Third corps, together with physical obstacles arising from the steep banks of the Rapidan at all the crossings, proved fatal to the design of having the heads of columns reach Robertson's Tavern and its vicinity by the night of the twenty-sixth, as was expected, the corps all crossing, but the heads of columns only proceeding a mile or two before bivouacking. Orders were issued for the columns to move at early daylight on the twenty-seventh, and resume the march as previously indicated. The Second corps arrived at Robertson's Tavern about ten A. M., driving the enemy's skirmishers for some distance before reaching it, and at the tavern coming into the presence of a considerable force of the enemy, said by prisoners to be parts of two divisions of Ewell's corps. At this point I directed General Warren to halt and maintain his ground until connection was made with the Third corps, momentarily expected. About eleven A. M. a communication was received from General French to the effect “that the head of his column was near the plank-road, and that he was waiting for General Warren.” A reply was immediately sent to him to push on promptly, and he would find General Warren at Robertson's Tavern, there engaged with the enemy, and requiring his support. Several officers were sent to communicate with General French, and to urge him forward. About one P. M. a dispatch was received from General French saying the enemy were throwing a force to his right flank on the Raccoon Ford road. On the receipt of this a peremptory order was sent to General French to move forward at once, and that if the enemy interposed to attack with his whole force, at all hazards throwing forward his left toward General Warren. This order, as I am informed by Captain Cadwallader, Aid-decamp, who accompanied the officer carrying it, was received at half-past 2 P. M. by General French, who protested against it as hazardous to his command, and desired Captain Cadwallader to assume the responsibility of suspending it. General French, in his report, herewith submitted, states that, after sending at twenty minutes past nine A. M. to General Prince, commanding his leading division, to ascertain his position, he (General French) became satisfied the head of the column had struck the Raccoon Ford road near the enemy's intrenched position on Mine Run, and that he then determined to throw his line forward, deploying to his left to connect with Warren, and that he communicated this fact to the commanding general. No such information was received by me, and it would appear by the reports of the division commanders of the Third corps, that no such movement was made by that corps till about half-past 2 P. M., or the time my order was delivered, as stated by Captain Cadwallader, A. D. C. Brigadier--General Prince, commanding the leading division, reports that after advancing a short distance (about a mile) he came to a fork in the road where he halted to obtain information; that he ascertained that the right-hand fork was the most direct route to Robertson's Tavern, but but that it led into the Raccoon Ford, occupied
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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