river, was General Lee
, with less than 55,000 men (see official reports in Taylor
's Four years with General Lee,
and General Fitzhugh Lee
's address before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, on Chancellorsville
); his only avenue of supply the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad, sixty miles in length, already in so worn-out a condition that it was impossible to accumulate more than a few days' supplies ahead.
Limited means of transportation from the South
, and the exhaustion of supplies near at hand had reduced his army to short rations, and the want of food sufficient in quantity and variety was already telling on the health of the Confederate
The supply of arms and ammunition in the Confederacy
had never been adequate, and it was found in the fall of 1862 that the consumption greatly exceeded the capacity of the Confederate
arsenals to supply.
Hence much anxiety was felt in regard to the approaching campaign, and the most stringent measures had to be taken to stop waste and needless consumption.
Want of forage compelled General Lee
to send most of his cavalry to the rear to recruit, so that he had but 2,700 cavalry present to protect his flanks and guard his communications, against the 10,000 or 12,000 Federal cavalry which Gen. Hooker
had ready to use.
formed but a slight barrier to the advance of the Federal
Commanding the river with his artillery, Burnside
had, with no great difficulty, forced a crossing the preceding December in the face of the Confederate army.
He had then attempted to carry Lee
's lines in his front by main force, and had met with disastrous repulse.
But it was easy to turn the Confederate
position by crossing above or below it, thus forcing Lee
to a battle outside of his lines, or to a retreat, to cover his communications.
decided to turn the Confederate
left flank by crossing the Rapidan
above their junction.
He first sent forward his splendid body of cavalry about the middle of April, intending that they should cross in advance of the infantry, and, sweeping round to the Confederate
rear, do all the damage possible to Lee
's depots, and the railroads on which he depended for supplies.
, with the cavalry, reached the Upper Rappahannock
, met with a rain-storm, and some opposition from the Confederates
, and then went deliberately into camp near the Rappahannock
, and along the Orange and Alexandria railroad.
The river was past fording for some time, and Stoneman
was allowed to waste two weeks in looking at it, when a day's march would have placed him high enough up the stream to have crossed without difficulty, where only scouts and pickets could have opposed him. At length, on April 27th, Hooker
(after having for some days made demonstrations down