hills on each side of the river afforded protection to our pontoon bridge, and increased the means of defence. The enemy had prevrously constructed some small earthworks on these hills to repel an attack from the south. That on the north side was converted into a tete-de-pont, and a line of rifle-trenches extended along the crest on the right and left to the river bank. The works on the south side were remodelled, and sunken batteries for additional guns constructed on an adjacent hill to the left. Higher up on the same side and east of the railroad, near the river bank, sunken batteries for two guns, and riflepits were arranged to command the railroad embankment, under cover of which the enemy might advance. These works were slight, but were deemed adequate to accomplish the object for which they were intended. The pontoon bridge was considered a sufficient means of communication, as, in the event of the troops north of the river being compelled to withdraw, their crossing could be covered by the artillery and infantry in the works on the south side. Four pieces of artillery were placed in the tete-de-pont and eight others in the works opposite. The defence of this position was entrusted to Lieutenant-General Ewell's corps, and the troops of Johnson's and Early's divisions guarded them alternately, Rodes' division being stationed near Kelly's Ford. The enemy began to rebuild the railroad as soon as we withdrew from Bristoe Station, his army advancing as the work progressed. His movements were regularly reported by our scouts, and it was known that he had advanced from Warrenton Junction a few days before the attack. His approach towards the Rappahannock was announced on the sixth of November, and about noon next day his infantry were discovered advancing to the bridge, while a large force moved in the direction of Kelly's Ford, where the first attack was made. At the latter point the ground on the north side of the Rappahannock commands that on the south, and preparations had been made only for such resistance to the passage of the river as would suffice to gain time for putting the troops in a position selected in rear of the ford, with a view to contest the advance of the enemy after crossing. In accordance with this intention, General Rodes had one regiment, the Second North Carolina, on picket along the river, the greater part of it being at Kelly's with the Thirtieth North Carolina in reserve, supporting a battery. As soon as he perceived that the enemy was in force, he ordered his division to take the position referred to in rear of the ford. While it was getting into line, the enemy's artillery opened upon the Second North Carolina, and soon drove it to shelter, except a few companies near the ford, which continued to fire from the rifle-pits. The Thirtieth was advanced to the assistance of the Second, but in moving across the open ground was broken by the concentrated fire of the enemy's artillery, and took refuge behind some buildings at the river, The enemy being unopposed except by the party at the rifle-pits, crossed at the rapids above the ford, and captured the troops defending it, together with a large number of the Thirtieth North Carolina, who refused to leave the shelter of the houses. A pontoon bridge was then laid down, on which a large force crossed to the south bank. General Rodes, in the mean time, had placed his division in position, the resistance of the Second North Carolina having delayed the enemy sufficiently for this purpose. The advance of the Thirtieth does not appear to have contributed to the result, which, as previously stated, was the object of contesting the passage. It was not intended to attack the enemy until he should have advanced from the river, where it was hoped that by holding in check the force at the bridge, we would be able to concentrate upon the other. With this view, General Johnson's division was ordered to reinforce General Rodes. In the meantime a large force was displayed in our front at the bridge, upon receiving information of which General A. P. Hill was ordered to get his corps in readiness, and Anderson's division was advanced to the river, on the left of the railroad. The artillery was also ordered to move to the front. General Early put his division in motion towards the bridge and hastened thither in person. The enemy's skirmishers advanced in strong force with heavy supports, and ours were slowly withdrawn into the trenches. Hoke's brigade of Early's division, under Colonel Godwin (General Hoke being absent with one regiment on detached service), reinforced General Hays, whose brigade occupied the north bank. No other troops were sent over, the two brigades mentioned being sufficient to man the works, and though inferior to the enemy in numbers, the nature of the position was such that he could not attack with a front more extended than our own. The remainder of Early's division was placed in supporting distance, one regiment being stationed in the rifle-trenches on the south bank east of the railroad. A gun from the works on the left of the road was also ordered to be placed in the battery at this point, to command the approach by the railroad embankment on the opposite side, but the enemy's sharpshooters had advanced so near the river that the order was countermanded, the preparations already made being deemed sufficient. The enemy placed three batteries on the hills, from which our skirmishers had been forced to retire, and maintained an active fire upon our position until dark, doing no damage, however, so far as has been reported. Our batteries replied from both sides of the river, but with so little effect that the two on the south bank were ordered to cease firing. Light skirmishing took place along the line.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 62 .-Hoisting the Black flag — official correspondence and reports.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.