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[387] Sharp-shooters, the Fortieth New York, the First and Twentieth Indiana, the Third and Fifth Michigan, and the One Hundred and Tenth Pennsylvania regiments, carried the rifle-pits and captured five hundred prisoners. The enemy was prevented from strengthening the force in the works by the fire of batteries on the heights on the north side, which swept the plain on the southern bank. Birney's loss was trivial.

While the left column was thus passing at Kelly's Ford, the right wing was forcing a crossing against more formidable obstacles. The Confederates occupied a series of works on the north bank of the river at Rappahannock Station, which had been built some time before by the Union troops, and consisted of a fort, two redoubts, and several lines of rifle-trenches. These works were held by two thousand men belonging to Early's division of Ewell's corps. Commanding positions to the rear of the fort having been gained, heavy batteries were planted thereon, and a fierce cannonade opened between the opposing forces. Just before dark, a storming party was formed of Russell's and Upton's brigades of the Sixth Corps, and the works were carried by a very brilliant coup de main. Over fifteen hundred prisoners, four guns, and eight standards were here taken. Sedgwick's loss was about three hundred in killed and wounded.

This brilliant opening of the campaign should have insured a decisive operation; and it is probable that, if a rapid advance had been made either towards Culpepper or to the south of it by Stevensburg, the Confederate army, which lay in winter-quarters in echelon from Kelly's Ford to the west of Culpepper, might have been cut in two. But the army having crossed on the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th, the whole of that day was wasted in useless and uncertain movements,1 and Lee, not courting battle, availed himself of the opportunity that night to withdraw again across the

1 On this point, see Birney's testimony: Report on the Conduct of the War. second series, vol. i., p. 372; Warren's testimony: Ibid., p. 885

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D. B. Birney (2)
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