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The battle of Beverly ford.

Colonel F. C. Newhall.
The interest excited by General D. McM. Gregg's narrative of the operations of the Union cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign, has been stimulated by the narrative of Major McClellan, the Adjutant General of the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia; and this latter account, as a pendant to the former, affords an opportunity to emphasize the fact that the Gettysburg campaign was opened actively in Virginia, when General Pleasonton's command crossed the Rappahannock river, on the morning of the 9th of June, 1863, at Kelly's and Beverly fords, and engaged th e command of General J E. B. Stuart. The influence of that day's encounter on the great campaign which it inaugurated, has McClellan has done well to draw renewed attention to this eventful action. t is proper to recognize and applaud the magnanimous and soldierly vein pervading his narrative, where all the merit is awarded to the Northern cavalry which the most enthusiastic trooper among them could possibly lay claim to, and one could not reasonably expect from a Southern source such hearty and striking commendation. What he says of the causes of the decline of the Southern cavalry in numbers and efficiency, is deserving of generous consideration, and to his excuses in their behalf may well be added-what he refrains from saying — that laboring under many disadvantages, unknown to our more favored soldiers, their efforts to maintain themselves in the field were in keeping with the patient courage and self-sacrificing spirit which marked the conduct of the Southern troops, meriting, in a military sense, the admiration of the world. [135]

Before passing to the field to which Major McClellan has mainly confined himself, I may, for historical purposes, be allowed to say, in reply to one of his preliminary remarks, that, however it may have been on his side, the entire strength of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac was not concentrated at Trevilian Station, Virginia, in June, 1864. We had but two divisions there (Torbert's and Gregg's), Wilson's having remained with the Army of the Potomac near James river. Fair-minded troopers on our side call the fierce engagement between Sheridan and Wade Hampton at Trevilian a drawn battle. It was fought in a densely-wooded country, very remote from our main army and from any base of supply. The object of our expedition was to effect a junction with Hunter near Gordonsville; but Hunter was not at Gordonsville, nor near there, when we reached Trevilian Station, and no tidings could be had of him. He was over the hills and far away, marching directly from us instead of to a junction with us, and as we had no plans independent of him, we had no alternative but to rejoin the Army of the Potomac when he could not be found. A crow could scarcely find subsistence in the country about Trevilian Station; we were encumbered, after two days hard fighting, with many wounded and prisoners; we were far from our base, with ammunition and rations nearly expended. We voluntarily withdrew from Hampton's front, and withdrew at night as a matter of common discretion; but we remained within easy reach of his lines the next day, and went comfortably into camp. Day after day, through the heat and dust, camping regularly at night, we continued our long march to James river, hampered with weary and foot-sore prisoners, and a long train of wagons and carts, mostly filled with wounded; but we went unvexed by General Hampton until he came again close under the wing of Lee's army. We regard the two days fight as a drawn battle, and we think there is something rather fine in the aspect of our troopers stalking through so many miles of hostile territory directly afterward, unimpeded by the enemy's cavalry, who were close at hand, and had us somewhat at a disadvantage. But we freely admit anything that anybody can say of the expedition, as to its futility, barrenness and general worthlessness, of which we were conscious and heartily tired long before we saw the end of it.

The battle of Beverly Ford, as we call it, or of Fleetwood, as General Stuart styled it, is interesting in the first place, because it was the first occasion when the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac went into action as a body. The cavalry had been organized by General Hooker into a corps under Stoneman during the winter of [136] 1862-63, and Stoneman had commanded the greater part of it as a unit in the field during his celebrated but entirely fruitless raid in the Chancellorsville campaign; but there had been no fighting-simply long marches in rain and mud, and much loss of sleep. General Stoneman, naturally of an anxious habit of mind, was unfitted by temperament, as well as by bodily suffering, for independent operations remote from the main army. After the return from the raid he was unjustly held to blame for a share in the Chancellorsville failure, and General Pleasonton succeeded to the command of the cavalry corps. Since the opening of the war there had been more or less fighting, scouting and picketing, by our cavalry, in which the men had borne themselves well, although, acting as they did for the most part in small detachments, no material results were impressed on the public mind; but the good effects of the experience already had by the regiments in their isolated service were at once apparent when the corps was called together. General Stoneman, and then General Pleasonton, on assuming command of the whole, found an efficient body of troops ready to hand, and not a mass of crude material to be moulded into form before it should be fit for the field. Neither Stoneman, Pleasonton, nor Sheridan, is entitled to a very large share of credit for the excellent material which the cavalry corps afforded and the excellent work it was able to do. No one man can fairly lay claim to a chief share in its development; it was self-developed, in a difficult country of woods, marshes and stone walls, where each regiment's daily experience was a daily lesson learned and improved, and to name all who contributed to the efficiency of the corps would be to name not only all those from time to time in high command, but also many brave and intelligent regimental field officers, company commanders and enlisted men. “Sheridan's cavalry,” which broke on the world with the results of the final campaign against Lee, was just as good cavalry before Sheridan became connected with it. To give no other example, when the service rendered by General Buford on the first day of Gettysburg comes to be understood and appreciated, it will be seen that he and his command had then but little to learn of skill, courage and adaptability; and all the earlier operations of the Gettysburg campaign, beginning, as I have said, with the battle of Beverly Ford, and continuing along the east flank of the Blue Ridge to the Potomac, were quite as creditable to the spirit and capacity of our cavalry as the world-famous campaign from Petersburg through Dinwiddie Court-House, Five Forks and Sailors' Creek to Appomattox. The success of Sheridan's cavalry in the latter campaign [137] created a revolution in the ideas of European officers, who recognized a new feature in war. But it is not to the point that our fame is less in the former than in the latter campaign, and it should not be lost sight of that, on the 9th of June, 1863, the cavalry of Lee's army was in its prime; it was never seen afterward in equal glory.

Pleasonton's movement across the Rappahannock that day was in fact a reconnoissance in force to ascertain for General Hooker's information to what extent the rumors were true that Lee was en route across the Blue Ridge to the Shenandoah Valley, and so no doubt to the Potomac and beyond. Hooker's army was in the old camps opposite Fredericksburg, to which he had retired after the fiasco of Chancellorsville. Lee's troops had been encamped behind Culpepper Court-House, along the Rapidan, as well as in the neighborhood of Fredericksburg; but it was now known that a part of his army was already in motion in a dangerous direction, and it was also known that Stuart was accumulating his cavalry at Culpepper Court-House, if he had not already set out in advance of Lee's infantry. Culpepper Court-House is some ten miles south of the river, and there was no expectation on General Pleasonton's part of encountering Stuart's troopers immediately on crossing the fords of the Rappahannock. Indeed, as Major McClellan states, Stuart's advance to the river was simultaneous with our own. As we silently encamped on the north bank on the pleasant evening of the 8th of June, and had to be content with cold suppers, because General Pleasonton would permit no camp-fires to be lighted, Stuart's men made their bold bivouac on the southern shore of the river so confidently that, as Major McClellan informs us, there was nothing but a picket between Beverly ford, and four batteries of horse artillery parked but a short distance in the rear. General Pleasonton, having no reason to expect the presence of the enemy in force this side of Culpepper Court-House, his plan contemplated a movement of at least two columns on Brandy Station, an intermediate point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, between Culpepper and the Rappahannock. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the river at Rappahannock Station. Beverly ford is, perhaps, a mile and a half above, and Kelly's ford some four miles below the railroad, and for the purposes of his reconnoissance General Pleasonton determined to pass his troops over both these fords. The consequences of this plan proved to be to some extent unfortunate, because, when the river was crossed on the morning of the 9th, and the troops became engaged, the operations of the widely-severed connections were independent of each other, and [138] could not, at that distance, in a wooded and irregular country, be brought promptly into harmony. This state of affairs, purely accidental and unexpected as it was, reflects no blame on General Pleasonton; but it is noteworthy how often, in war, operations from a common centre outward are better advised than by the contrary method. Concentration of troops is often so difficult of attainment when the links of connection are once lost. A conspicuous example of this truth has been lately brought to mind by Dr. Lambdin's admirable narrative read at the Centennial celebration of the battle of Germantown, and even now one can but feel sorry for General Washington as a soldier-thinking of him in the fog before Chew's house, with Sullivan and Wayne groping in front, and no tidings as yet of Greene on the Limekiln road, and Armstrong at the mouth of the Wissahickon. If he had spread his battle-fan outward from his centre on the turnpike, unfolding it as he advanced, perhaps no one would have inquired a century after why the good people of Germantown wished to commemorate a defeat. Be that as it may, General Pleasonton was destined to reap some of the occasional disadvantages of a broken military chain. The force dispatched to Kelly's ford was composed of Gregg's and Duffie's cavalry, and a small brigade of infantry, perhaps fifteen hundred men, commanded by the gallant General David Russell, who was subsequently killed in the battle of the Opequan, in the Shenandoah Valley. The force to cross at Beverly ford was accompanied by General Pleasonton in person, and was composed of Buford's cavalry and a small brigade of infantry, commanded by General Adelbert Ames, afterward greatly distinguished in leading the successful assault on Fort Fisher, and notorious later on as the “carpet-bagGovernor of Mississippi. To effect the contemplated junction near Brandy Station, the Beverly ford column would bear to the left, the Kelly's ford column to the right — the Orange and Alexandria Railroad lying between them as they marched. As an aide-de-camp to General Pleasonton, it was my fortune to be thrown with the Beverly ford column, and all that I saw of what occurred after the crossing of the river, on the morning of the 9th, was connected with the operations on the right.

It was not yet dawn when General Pleasonton rode to the river bank at Beverly ford. The atmosphere at that hour was very hazy, and the group of officers assembled near the General were half hidden from each other by the mist. General Buford was there, with his usual smile. He rode a gray horse, at a slow walk generally, and smoked a pipe, no matter what was going on around him, and it [139] was always reassuring to see him in the saddle when there was any chance of a fight. General Pleasonton's staff was partly composed of men who became distinguished. The Adjutant General was A. J. Alexander, of Kentucky, a very handsome fellow, who was afterward a brigadier general with Thomas in the West. Among the aides was Captain Farnsworth, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, who so distinguished himself in the coming battle, and in the subsequent operations south of the Potomac, that he was made a brigadier general, and with that rank fell at Gettysburg at the head of a brigade of cavalry which he had commanded but a few days. Another aide was the brilliant Custer, then a lieutenant, whose career and lamented death there is no need to recall. Another was Lieutenant R. S. McKenzie, of the engineers, now General McKenzie of well-won fame — the youngest colonel of the regular army; and still another was Ulric Dahlgren. General Pleasonton had certainly no lack of intelligence, dash and hard-riding to rely on in those about him. Colonel B. F. Davis, Eighth New York Cavalry, in advance, led his brigade across the river while the light was still dim. He fell in a moment, mortally wounded, on the further bank, and should be remembered with special honor, for he was a Southern man, and a graduate of West Point. He was called “GrimesDavis by all his army friends, and was the beau ideal of a cavalry officer. His most famous exploit was his escape with his command from Harper's Ferry, when Miles, led on by treason or infatuation, abandoned all the grand surrounding hills to the enemy, without a struggle, and awaited his own inevitable surrender in the basin below, although it was written before him, in characters mountain-high, that Harper's Ferry cannot be defended except on Bolivar, London and Maryland Heights.

Colonel Davis' troops had now no sooner emerged from the river at Beverly ford, where the water was scarcely stirrup-deep, than they encountered the enemy's. pickets, to whom they were, doubtless, an astounding apparition from the fog. Piff! paff! went the carbines, and our troops on this side pressed on faster, the narrowness of the ford road and of the ford itself compelling them to move in column of fours. Major McClellan describes the alarm and confusion existing among Stuart's exposed artillery and trains while Colonel Davis pushed his advance rapidly toward their camp. In his eagerness to profit by the surprise, he rashly rode with his skirmishers, if not in front of them, and was shot by a soldier on foot, who sprang from behind a tree in the edge of the first wood. He was borne back in a blanket just as General Pleasonton gained [140] the southern bank of the river; and in a moment more we met some men carrying Captain George A. Forsyth, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, who was shot through the thigh. This able and daring officer has since become renowned as an aide-de-camp of General Sheridan throughout his campaigns in Virginia, and as the hero of the most remarkable fight with Indians on the plains of which there is any record. Forsyth reported a sharp fight at the front, and expressed great regret that he had not been wounded at sundown instead of at sunrise. Meantime the reserve brigade of cavalry had passed on to join in the melee, the sounds of which were now formidable in front, while shells came flying from our right and demanded attention. The reserve brigade, which included the regular regiments and the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, was soon hotly engaged charging the enemy's line, which had taken position near St. James' Church, as described by Major McClellan. St. James' Church was a modest sanctuary, suggesting the time when “the woods were the first churches,” and it lay directly on the road toward Brandy Station, our rendezvous with the Kelly's ford column. The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, attacking the enemy's troopers on the plateau near the church, met with a tremendous fire from artillery on the flank, and was compelled to fall back with heavy loss of officers and men, including Major Robert Morris, in command of the regiment, whose horse fell with him, and he was taken prisoner. The regulars, part of whom charged at the same time, or a moment later, fared better, on the whole, but were brought to a stand still; and meantime our right, nearer to the river, was seriously threatened, endangering our possession of Beverly ford. Ames' infantry was ordered to replace the reserve brigade in the woods below St. James' Church, which they did without any serious fighting, and the reserve brigade was sent to the open fields on our right, where the enemy, dismounted, had secured a line of stone walls, with artillery on the higher ground behind them. Some guns of ours were unlimbered on a knoll a short distance from the ford, commanding the fields into which the reserve brigade was moving, and a lively duel was immediately begun with the opposing artillery, while General Pleasonton took to the knoll for a post of observation, regardless of the enemy's shells, which flew like a flock of pigeons past our battery. On the lower ground in front very sharp skirmishing ensued, our men in turn adopting the stone-wall manoeuvre. There was no word as yet of the Kelly's ford column, and our own progress toward Brandy Station had been greatly delayed; but nothing could be done to get on faster until our right was relieved from the pressure of the enemy toward Beverly ford. [141]

As soon, therefore, as General Buford had everything arranged to his satisfaction, he ordered the reserve brigade to advance, and ground was quickly gained on our right from wall to wall, and from knoll to knoll, the enemy abandoning all their positions threatening the ford, and retiring up the open fields beyond the woods, on a line parallel with the position of their troops at St. James' Church. The ground over which they passed is rolling, and admirably adapted for cavalry movements. A conspicuous object in landscape was a large brick house, to which the whirligig of war brought us for a headquarters in the following winter, and on reaching this house, to follow the direction of the enemy's retreat, our men bore to the left, and still advanced through open country, a ridge of high open ground on their right, and woods for the most part on their left. Leaving General Buford to push on as rapidly as possible, General Pleasonton now rode to St. James' Church, where all was quiet, with no enemy in sight. Toward Brandy Station a high hill confronted us, shutting off all view in that direction, but Buford's success now made it possible to resume the march, which was about to be done, when General Gregg rode into our lines from the left, reporting the results of the operations of the Kelly's ford column, so far as he was himself aware of them. I have no reason to question the entire accuracy of Major McClellan's spirited account of these, and it is confirmed from various other trustworthy sources. Before reaching Brandy Station, Colonel Duffie had turned to his left, hoping to accomplish something in the enemy's rear. Near Stevensburg he encountered a force of cavalry, which was charged — the First Massachusetts and Third Pennsylvania Cavalry in advance-and driven through and beyond Stevensburg in disorder, as Major McClellan himself avows, with all possible candor. Here Colonel Duffie paused, distrusting, no doubt, his isolation from the main body of the Kelly's ford column. General Gregg had advanced directly upon Brandy Station without opposition, and thence to the “Fleetwood hill,” where Stuart made hasty preparations to receive him. Fleetwood hill is a ridge of ground, half a mile from Brandy Station, toward the Rappahannock, and west of the railroad. St. James' Church is on the river side of the hill, and Buford was now working his way up to it from that side also; hence while the Beverly ford column was approaching it from one side, Gregg had been moving on it from the other, neither column having knowledge, however, of the other's movements, whereby Stuart escaped the consequences supposed to arise from being between two fires. The disadvantage of operations from without inward, to which I have alluded, is here made manifest on our side, while Stuart [142] by his own position and the nature of our disjointed attack, was enabled to concentrate his force within a very limited field on and near Fleetwood hill, permitting a swift reinforcement of the most endangered points, his men fighting, as it were, back to back, while ours were so widely scattered. Gregg gained this hill and the house that surmounted it, and a fierce fight was brought on, with charges and counter-charges, at the end of which Gregg found himself overmatched, and withdrew to the low ground again, losing as he fell back three pieces of artillery, after a desperate effort to save them, as Major McClellan describes.

It would, perhaps, have been better if General Gregg, postponing his attack, had borne to his right from Brandy Station until he came into connection with the Beverly ford column, but he could not certainly know this at the time, and seeing an opportunity to attack the enemy in front of him he availed himself of it like the good soldier that he was. It was after his own repulse that he was rejoined by Colonel Duffie, and meantime the enemy were pouring infantry into Brandy Station by railroad from Culpepper Court-House, introducing a new but not unexpected element to General Pleasonton's consideration. When Gregg reported all this to General Pleasonton at St. James' Church, all that was necessary to the purposes of General Hooker had been fully accomplished; the information required had been secured with unmistakable accuracy from personal observation and from the official documents captured on the field, as related by Major McClellan. There was nothing to demand any further effort on General Pleasonton's part, and in view of the approach of the enemy's infantry he determined to recross the river without further delay. He ordered General Gregg to retire by way of Rappahannock Station with the whole of the Kelly's ford column, thus bringing those troops within supporting distance of the other column on its return to Beverly ford. General Gregg left us to comply with this order, and it is only necessary to say further in regard to his column that it was not molested on its march to Rappahannock Station, and that it crossed the river there in safety, accompanied by Russell's Brigade of Infantry, which, as a precautionary measure to protect the lower fords, had hugged the river bank all day, and so far as I know had not exchanged shots with the enemy at all. General Pleasonton at the same time began the withdrawal of the cavalry and infantry from St. James' Church, and as it happened that I was dispatched by him with orders to General Buford to give up his attack and retire to Beverly ford, I am able to speak positively as to the last events of the day on our right. [143]

When I had been last with General Buford, he had just passed the brick house which I spoke of as being a landmark in the open fields above Beverly ford, on our right, and bearing then to his left, was advancing. The ground in front of him was open for a long distance, as I have described, and had the appearance of a valley, flanked as it was by a ridge on one hand and woods on the other. On arriving now at the brick house, I saw Buford's troops engaged on high ground at the extreme end of the valley, in the edge of a wood, and I should say some two miles or more from the river. He was entirely isolated from the rest of the command with Pleasonton and Gregg; but paying no undue attention to that fact, was fighting straight on. As I rode rapidly up the valley, I met with a stream of wounded men flowing to the rear, and the rattle of carbines in front was incessant. On reaching the plateau at the end of the valley, I found the Fifth and Sixth Regulars massed in column, mounted, on the open hillside, suffering somewhat from the enemy's fire from the woods at the top of the hill on their front and right, but not replying. They were perfectly firm and steady in the ranks, and under no pressure whatever, waiting apparently for orders to advance. I inquired for General Buford, but could not learn where he was, and though it seemed hardly possible that he should be in the midst of the fierce, almost hand-to-hand fight, which was raging in the edge of the woods, he had to be found, and I could see neither him nor any of his staff in the open. It was but a few yards up the hill to the troops who were actually engaged, and as I rode among them I found myself with my own regiment, the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and at that moment the adjutant, Lieutenant Rudolph Ellis, was severely wounded, and turned his horse down the hill. I said a word to him, and was then immediately confronted by Captain Wesley Merritt, commanding the Second Regulars, who was dashing through the woods without a hat, having just lost it by a sabre cut. He was rewarded for his conspicuous gallantry on this day, and soon became a brigadier general; then, like Custer, a major general in good time, and one of the ablest and best of our cavalry commanders to the end of the war.

Of Merritt and Ellis and a dozen more, I inquired in vain for General Buford. No one knew anything of him, but the fight went on briskly all the same.. Hurrying back then to the troops in the open, I reported to Major Whiting, of the Second Regulars, the senior officer present with the brigade, that I had a pressing order from General Pleasonton for General Buford to retire at once, but he could not be found, and I asked Major Whiting if he would [144] accept the order and act on it. This he declined to do; but at that moment I caught sight of a group of officers on a bare hill to the left and in front of Major Whiting's position, and galloping there, found General Buford with his staff. I informed him of General Pleasonton's order, and as he proceeded to carry it into effect, I remained with him long enough to see that he had no difficulty in withdrawing, and that as his troops fell back they were permitted to go in peace. On returning to General Pleasonton, who was en route to Beverly ford with the troops from St. James' Church, and no enemy in pursuit, I was ordered to post a regiment of Ames' infantry on the skirt of the woods below the red brick house, in case of need for Buford's support; but Buford came along serenely at a moderate walk, and this infantry regiment had no occasion to fire a shot, the pursuit of Buford by the enemy being a mere following, as if for observation. The greater part of the troops from St. James' Church were by this time safely recrossed at Beverly ford to the north bank of the Rappahannock, and the head of Buford's column had nearly reached the river; a few moments later, when the First Regulars, who had been absent all day from the fight on some detached duty, came plunging through the ford from the northern side to offer their services if needed. General Pleasonton ordered Captain Lord, commanding the regiment, to cover the ford until Buford's column and the last of the infantry had passed the river; and in obedience to this order, Captain Lord deployed his whole regiment as mounted skirmishers on a long line, which had for its centre the knoll where our artillery had been posted in the morning. The sun had now set, but there was a mellow light on the fields, and the figures of Lord's troopers stood boldly out against the background of yellow sky above the horizon. Occasionally the dust would fly from the ground between the horses where a bullet struck, and there was a scattering fire kept up by Lord's regiment, but he did not lose a man. Meantime our guns were unlimbered on the bluff on the north bank of the river, awaiting the enemy's appearance, and at this commanding point a large group of officers was gathered, including General Pleasonton and all his staff, who watched with interest the closing scene of the long day's action of Beverly ford. There could not be a prettier sight, and it was often recalled among us. The river flowed beneath us; as far as we could see to right and left on the southern bank no living object was visible; the plain and woods in front of us were growing misty, but the burnished and glowing horizon threw everything on high ground into wonderful relief. Where the skirmishers of Lord's undulating [145] line rose to the crest of the knoll, we could see even their features when turned in profile. The commands were all by bugle, and the notes came to us distinctly from the skirmish line until, no other troops of ours remaining on that side, the rally was sounded, and then the retreat, and the regiment trotted down to the ford and crossed it, entirely unmolested by the enemy, who, if they advanced to the river at all, were lost to us in the twilight and darkness which soon came on. Considering the distance from the river to which our troops had penetrated, and that the various columns, widely separated though they were, withdrew from their advanced positions and recrossed the Rappahannock without the slightest interruption from the enemy, I feel justified in denying that we were “driven across the river,” although it was so reported by General Lee to the authorities at Richmond.

I have not attempted to dispute with Major McClellan as to the numbers in action, for such an argument is always unprofitable. We had all our available cavalry, and so had Stuart; and no doubt the numbers opposed were very nearly equal, though on neither side was the fall force seriously engaged at one time, while on both sides the moral effect of infantry supports was the principal benefit derived from that source. There is no question that the action began in mutual surprise, in the sense of unexpectedness. Regarding the operations of the Kelly's ford column, and the occurrences in front of St. James' Church, there is no dispute; and it is only by implication that Major McClellan ascribes Ruford's sudden withdrawal from our right to an actual repulse. On this point, following Major McClellan's example in other instances, I have thought it proper to speak from my personal knowledge. Military history could not expect an easier task than to reconcile our narratives; and it is only with a view to historic accuracy that I have denied the general terms of the official reports on his side that we were “driven across the river;” a statement which, being incorrect, may as well be corrected. The objects hoped to be gained by the reconnoissance were for once fully realized. The incidental fighting was very creditable to both sides, and it is simply a matter of fact, from which I argue nothing, that the nature of the fight was on our side more difficult than on Stuart's. The progress of the engagement brought him constantly into better position, enabling him to concentrate his troops within a very limited area around Fleetwood hill, while ours were operating from opposite points of the compass. If there was a sense of victory remaining with Stuart's men, it was natural on their seeing our men withdraw to the fords and recross the river; but there was not the [146] slightest sense of defeat on our side at nightfall, and the ultimate effects of the engagement were overwhelmingly in our favor.

The results of the battle of Beverly ford were manifold. It provided information which enabled General Hooker to move in good time to keep pace with Lee's army of invasion en route to Maryland and Pennsylvania; it chilled the ardor of Stuart's men, delaying his march, and, in fact, ruining his plans, which had soared high; it enabled General Pleasonton to anticipate him on the east flank of the Blue Ridge as he marched toward the Potomac, and to hold him in check by the well-fought battles of Aldie, Mliddleburg and Upperville, on the 17th, 19th and 21st of June, until Hooker's main army, followed by our cavalry, was north of the river, causing subsequent bewilderment and anxiety to General Lee throughout the campaign to the very eve of the battle of Gettysburg. In his official report General Lee declares that on the 27th of June, while his own army was at Chambersburg, “no report had been received that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac, and the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to-obtain accurate information,” though at this date the Army of the Potomac was already at Frederick City, Maryland. Again he says: “By the route Stuart pursued the Federal army was interposed between his command and our main body. The march toward Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been had the position of the Federal army been known.” And, again, he mournfully reports: “It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy; but, finding ourselves unexpectedly confronted by the Federal army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with our large trains.” All this gain for our side and loss for General Lee sprang directly from the battle of Beverly ford and the consequent cavalry operations on the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge, south of the Potomac. It would be difficult to find in history the record of a cavalry battle or any battle of similar numbers on each side so fruitful of immediate, decisive results.

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June 9th, 1863 AD (2)
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