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[250]

We have already had occasion to describe this portion of Virginia, as well as the country extending more to eastward, from the crests of the Blue Ridge to the Chesapeake. The principal watercourse of the latter region is the Rappahannock, which flows at nearly an equal distance between Richmond and Washington, intersecting at right angles the road which connects these two cities. It is formed of two branches, both originating at the foot of the Blue Ridge, and called, that from the north the Rappahannock, that from the south the Rapidan, which form a junction at a distance of about ten miles above Fredericksburg, a point where the river becomes navigable. To the Confederates the gate of the valley was Charlottesville, as Front Royal was to the Federals. It was from this point that by following a line of railway, of which they were masters, they could strike the roads which descend parallel to the Shenandoah by way of Port Republic and Harrisonburg. The Richmond and Charlottesville Railway runs up northward as far as Gordonsville, where it joins that which comes directly from Alexandria and Manassas Junction; it successively crosses the two branches of the Rappahannock, and passes through the village of Culpepper Court-house between the two. If Charlottesville is the gate of the valley, Gordonsville is the key. It was this point that Pope resolved to menace in order to prevent Jackson from again following the course of the Shenandoah. He found the troops placed under his command singularly scattered by the unskilful manoeuvres of the preceding campaign. Banks and Siegel were in the valley, the latter at Middletown, the former lower down. In the early part of July both were ordered to cross the Shenandoah at Front Royal, then the Blue Ridge at Luray Gap, and, while Siegel, remaining at Sperryville, should guard the pass of Thornton's Gap, Banks proceeded to take position about seven miles farther on the Culpepper Road. Ricketts left Manassas Junction to occupy the point where the Warrenton and Culpepper turnpike crosses the Rappahannock at Waterloo Bridge.

Pope had about forty-five thousand effective men in the field under his command, distributed as follows: First corps: Siegel, eleven thousand five hundred; Second corps: Banks, eight thousand; Third corps: McDowell, eighteen thousand five hundred;

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