Doc. 15.-movements on the Rapidan.
New-York Tribune account.
headquarters Third division, Sixth corps, army of the Potomac, December 12, 1863.at half-past 6, on the morning of November twenty-sixth, (Thanksgiving,) the Second corps, Major-General G. K. Warren, left its camp on Mountain Run and marched to Germania Ford, with a battery of four four and a half-inch guns and one battery of six twenty-pounder Parrott guns from the reserve artillery, with three hundred cavalry, under the command of Captain Schwartz, of the Fourth New-York cavalry, and a pontoon train, under the command of Captain Mendell of the Engineers corps. The head of this column reached the steep embankments at Germania Ford, at half-past 8 A. M. Here a thick growth of almost impenetrable woods was met, and considerable time was occupied in felling trees, cutting out roads, and placing the artillery in position. All this was done with the greatest rapidity, and in the face of the enemy's pickets on the opposite bank of the Rapidan. By great exertions, all the necessary preliminaries were completed by eleven o'clock A. M., the men working with a vigor which indicated that their hearts were inspired with hopes of success. Major-General Meade arrived at this juncture, and ordered a cessation of further operations till General French, Third corps, was heard from. At half-past 1, orders were received by General Warren to move forward. Upon the advance guard of the Second corps making its appearance, the rebel cavalry pickets fled in hot haste, and Captain Schwartz, with his cavalry, at once forded the river, and marched some three miles, followed by General Caldwell's First division, Second corps, two brigades of which forded the stream. This force was crossed in this way simply to guard against any sudden surprise movement of the enemy, as well as to protect the crossing of the main body of our troops. The ford was a difficult one to cross, and many of the troops were up to their necks in icy water, so that their rations were saturated, and it required almost superhuman exertions to keep their muskets from being immersed. The artillery and ambulances experienced great difficulty in crossing the ford. Captain Mendell, of the Engineer corps, who had charge of the laying of the pontoon-bridge, was delayed over an hour by finding that there was not a sufficient number of boats to span the stream. He finally succeeded in constructing a temporary trestle which answered every purpose. This inexcusable blunder in not sending enough boats to meet any contingency, occurred both at Culpeper and Germania Fords, and caused dangerous delays. Captain Mendell was not responsible for this carelessness, and, in justice to him, it is but fair to say that to his industry and ingenuity the safe crossing of our entire army was indebted. As soon as the infantry and artillery crossed the river, they were marched out on the plankroad, about two and a half miles, and encamped for the night on Flat Run. At daybreak on the twenty-seventh, the Second corps moved out on the plank-road, and marched to the old macadamized turnpike. From this point, the Second corps, with General Terry's division of the Sixth corps, marched rapidly toward Old Verdiersville,  which was the point to be reached. It was expected that the Third corps, General French, would join the Second at Robertson's Tavern, but owing to General French having lost the road, this part of the programme was not carried out. General Hayes led the advance with his division, followed by General Webb's, then General Caldwell's division. At Robertson's Tavern, General Hayes met a large body of rebels and drove them back. General Webb happened to be near at hand, and at once deploying his forces to the right of the road, drove them back in confusion toward Raccoon Ford. It was in this spirited encounter that Lieutenant-Colonel Hesser, a gallant officer, fell mortally wounded. About this time, half-past 11 A. M., our skirmishers ascertained that the rebels were concealed in the thick woods, and were shrewdly extending their skirmishers to such an extent, that nearly all of the Second corps was required to check them. At this time, rebel deserters and prisoners informed General Warren, that Johnston's rebel division was between him and Raccoon Ford, and that he was confronting Rhodes's rebel division. General Meade was at once informed of this, and also that General Warren had received no tidings from General French on his right, and General Sykes on his left. General Warren notified General Meade that he was ready and willing to begin the attack, if he so desired, by advancing the centre, which was so weak as to be in a critical condition, and wholly unfit to cope with the superior forces of the enemy. It must be borne in mind that both wings of our army were then separated four or five miles from General Warren. General Meade instructed General Warren to wait until the right and left were heard from. Soon after, the roar of artillery was heard, and just then news came of the position of the left wing. The rapid cannonading came from General Gregg's cavalry division, who were engaging the enemy briskly on the plankroad. Heavy firing was heard shortly after at Morton's Ford, where General Custer's cavalry were skirmishing with Stuart's cavalry. During all this time, while General Warren was awaiting further orders and information, the enemy were artfully changing their lines, endeavoring to turn General Warren's right flank. While manaeuvring our forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Josselyn, commanding the Fifteenth Massachusetts volunteers, was seriously wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy. This determination on the part of the rebels, induced General Warren to make a feint movement, as though about to offer battle for a general engagement. To do this, it was necessary to advance his line of skirmishers. He was entirely successful in deluding the wily foe, for, in the language of the F. F. V.'s, he fought “right smart” along the front of the Second corps. Colonel Carroll's brigade, composed of Western troops, conducted themselves in a manner that cannot be too highly praised. Colonel Carroll evinced considerable skill by drawing the enemy to his line of battle down she turnpike, where large numbers of Gordon's brigade, belonging to Early's division, were captured Colonel Carroll had a miraculous escape from instant death, his clothing having ten or twelve bullet-holes in it. Colonel Lockwood, of the same brigade, had his uniform pierced in several places by Minie balls. In the afternoon, General Meade ascertained that General French had participated in an engagement, and the enemy had massed a force strong enough to successfully resist him. The exact position of the Third corps, at this time, still continued an uncertainty, although it was known to be four or five miles distant. At sundown General Warren ventured to advance his line of skirmishers, with a strong support. The enemy made a stubborn resistance, and retreated inch by inch, disputing his claim to the soil. Owing to the almost impenetrable woods, it was an impossibility to preserve a perfect line of battle, beside affording a subtle foe concealment, and an excellent opportunity to construct formidable earthworks in addition to those already there. General Warren evinced his thorough military knowledge by using sufficient military caution in advancing so as to deceive the vigilant enemy, and thereby deter him from hurling his overwhelmingly strong numbers upon our lines. General Warren continued to maintain his position, although no other corps had formed a junction with him. The First corps, General Newton, which had been ordered from the left in the afternoon, reached the rear of General Warren's command half an hour before dark, and, at daylight on the twenty-eighth, they were in line of battle on his left, a little south of the turnpike. The Sixth corps, General Sedgwick, moved up and took position to the right of the Second corps, at daylight. At sunrise, the First, Second, and Sixth corps proceeded in line of battle simultaneously, but, to their great chagrin, they found the fleet-footed enemy had decamped during the night. By constant and rapid marching, our advance overtook their retreating rear-guard, and shortly after discovered the main body of the rebel army in a strong position on the west bank of Mine Run, which. is about one and three quarter miles from Robertson's Tavern. Quite a number of deserters were picked up by our advance, and from them we learned that Hill's corps (rebel) had advanced from Orange Court-House down the plank-road, and there united with Ewell's corps, thereby concentrating the whole of Lee's army in a position naturally strong, and with formidable intrenchments to protect him. To add to our numerous disadvantages, a heavy rain-storm set in early in the forenoon, accompanied with a thick fog, that foiled all our attempts, for a time, to continue a close inspection of the enemy's works and movements. Determined not to be balked by unpropitious weather, General Warren made a minute and personal reconnoissance  of the enemy's fortifications, hoping thereby to discover some unprotected point where an attack might be made with some promise of success, but he failed to detect a single unguarded position. While making his perilous tour of observation along our front picket-lines, General Warren had twenty men killed and wounded. A laughable incident occurred on this reconnoissance which is worth relating; and as it is too good to be omitted, I give it place in this review. One of our infantry skirmishers approached a secesh house, where quite a quantity of poultry were perambulating in a defiant and careless, yet to a hungry soldier, inviting manner. The wearied and half-famished “skirmisher” immediately commenced the practice of barn-yard strategy, deploying first to the left, then to the right, and in fact in every direction, regardless of all military rule, bent only upon dealing the death-blow to a good-sized turkey, which was strutting its hour upon the stage of life. He finally managed to turn the left flank of his noisy fugitive, and having captured the entire right wing, he was in the act of carrying off his prisoner, when the rebel sharp-shooters caught a glimpse of him, and instantly opened a galling fire upon him. The leaden shower was more unpalatable and harder to digest than the defunct “gobbler,” and the dish of Minie — balls was a warmer feast than the Yankee cared to indulge in, so he deemed it best to retire. He was in the act of doing this, when a tremendous volley accelerated his pace to such a degree that he dropped the coveted prize, and betook himself to a place of safety. Just then General Warren rode along, and seeing the soldier drop the fowl, he calmly dismounted, and, throwing the turkey over his saddle, rode quietly along, bearing off his valuable prize, while the enemy's bullets whistled tunes of the most discordant sound about his ears. This act caused considerable merriment among his troops, who reverenced the General for his bravery, which they have often witnessed on bloody fields. This, I believe, is the first time on record that a Major-General has been known to indulge in a foraging expedition. As soon as our entire army had been properly posted, ready for an aggressive moment, General Warren solicited the privilege of taking his corps and making a lively demonstration on the right wing of the rebel army, for the purpose of ascertaining, while he threatened, where the most feasible point of attack was. He requested that in case he should not be successful in discovering a favorable position to assault, to march around as if attempting to get in their rear, so as to compel the enemy to change his front. This plan was mutually agreed upon, and General H. D. Terry's Third division, Sixth corps, one of the strongest and best fighting divisions in the army of the Potomac, was attached to the Second corps, with three hundred cavalry, in order to enable General Warren to carry on more extensive operations in case of an engagement with superior force. It was the intention of General Warren to make an important and quick movement, and to facilitate this he left half of his artillery, as well as half of his ambulance and ammunition trains, behind. Considerable time was required to issue extra rations, these being necessary, as it was expected to have a long and tedious movement, which made it essential that the troops should be kept in the best condition, ready for any emergency which might arise. Time was likewise exhausted in assigning the surplus trains to proper guards, in relieving the picket-lines on our front; and the night being dark and stormy, and our route lying through dense woods filled with tangled underbrush, General Warren, under the circumstances, wisely deemed it useless and imprudent to proceed further till daylight. On the twenty-ninth, at daylight, General Warren marched rapidly toward the plank-road, a distance of eight miles, where he met General Gregg's cavalry outposts. Here General Warren and General Gregg scanned closely the position of the enemy. Just in the rear of the rebel videttes, General Gregg pointed out what he supposed to be a long line of intrenchments, but which afterward proved to be the embankment of the unfinished railroad projected several years since to run between Fredericksburgh and Gordonsville. General Warren forthwith ordered up General Caldwell's division, effecting his movements without the knowledge of the enemy, and deployed the Irish brigade to the right and Colonel Miles's brigade to the left of the plankroad. Captain Schwartz, with his three hundred cavalry, was also formed on the same road, with a battery in his rear for support; the balance of the division was ordered to march close up, ready for any contingency, while the whole column would follow on. Every thing being then in readiness, no time was squandered, and the order was given to advance. It was then noontime, and Brigadier-General Prince, on General Warren's right, was notified of this movement. The whole column then pressed on, and soon caught up with the retreating rebels, whom they drove three miles. Colonel Miles's brigade reaped new honors on this occasion, and deserve honorable mention for the cheerfulness with which they endured the privations on this rapid and most fatiguing march. Considerable time was spent in bringing up the three divisions in the rear preparatory to the grand assault, and by the time they arrived, staff-officers from General Gregg brought news that the enemy had cut his forces in two, and he was sadly in need of reinforcements. General Warren at once sent word to General H. D. Terry, commanding Third division, Sixth corps, to render all necessary aid to General Gregg, and, if the enemy continued to press him so that he should need the whole division, to give it for his support. General Terry sent General Shaler's brigade to relieve General Gregg, but its services were not required when it arrived there. During all this time, Colonel Miles's brigade remained on the extreme left, closing around the railroad to the enemy's right, being two miles  from our main force. General Caldwell held the railroad to the plank road, and was obliged to call upon General Webb for assistance, the rebels having pushed their line of skirmishes between him and General Prince. General Webb's division had previously supplied one brigade to General Caldwell, which took position on the right of the corps in front. General Warren, in order to take his position in rear of Colonel Miles, was obliged to use troops from the rear of the column to support him. The constant changes of the enemy on our front, who were making desperate attempts to get in our rear, used up the last hour of daylight, and entirely thwarted General Warren's well-laid plan to assault the right or advance his left. Another serious drawback to our progress was the ignorance of the surrounding country, which had to be thoroughly explored before any kind of a movement could be made. Roads had to be made for the safe passage of our artillery between the Catharpin and plank roads, which was no easy task, when we consider that miry streams, dense woods, and the unfinished railroad were the obstacles that impeded our advance. While this undertaking was in progress, the rebel commander, having discovered our intentions, opened upon our lines with artillery, at the same time changing his troops from the left of his line to protect and strengthen his right, which General Warren threatened. During this movement, General Warren lost fifty men, killed and wounded. It was now dark, and General Warren at once reported to army headquarters in person. Upon arriving there, he learned that it was determined to make a general assault at daylight next day, November thirtieth. General French, commanding Third corps, had regarded an assault in his front not practicable. General Wright thought he could force the rebel line and hold a position on our right, and he soon reported his force in line of battle, ready for the aggressive movement. The weakness of the enemy on our left was fully admitted by General Warren, and in his official report of the late campaign, to the War Department, he states this fact in the plainest terms. General Meade, after holding a consultation with General Warren's senior officers, concluded to increase his (General Warren's) command by the addition of two divisions of the Third corps, and it was decided that he should attack the enemy at eight o'clock the next morning, on the left, while our right was to participate an hour later. General Warren spent the night, which was a bitter cold one, in his saddle, arranging his troops for the grand assault on the morrow, and as the first rays of morning appeared in the east, he had finished his arduous task. The following was the exact disposition of General Warren's entire force. The front line extended a mile in length, and the troops were formed in two and three lines, while great care had been taken to post strong supports at the proper points, to guard against the disastrous results that would ensue from an attack of superior numbers. General H. D. Terry, commanding Third division, Sixth corps, was stationed along the Catharpin road, to hold the left flank and act as reserve. General Hayes, commanding Third division, Second corps, extended his troops in two lines to the right, reaching the railroad. General Webb, commanding Second division, Second corps, joined General Hayes's forces, uniting with General Prince, commanding Seccond division, Third corps, which was also formed in two lines. General Carr, Third division, Third corps, next followed, in two parallel lines, with a strong reserve reaching to the plank road. Then came General Caldwell's troops, First division, Second corps, acting as a reserve and support to General Warren's right flank. At daybreak every thing was in readiness for the struggle, but a careful examination by General Warren revealed the important fact that the enemy's lines had changed entirely during the night. Large accessions had been made to their ranks, and every available position that could be used with advantage by our foe bristled with artillery and infantry. The formidable breast-works, epaulements, and abattis were finished and strengthened. A run of eight minutes would be required for our lines to close up the distance between them and those of the enemy, during which our entire advancing lines would be subject to every description of fire. With the number of troops at his disposal, the tremendous odds pitted against him, and the imminent peril in which the entire army would be placed in case of a defeat at that point, after mature and most careful deliberation, General Warren deemed it imprudent to attack the rebels' immediate front, and he so reported to General Meade. Any movement on the part of General Warren to outflank the enemy with the limited force under his command, separated as he was four miles from the right wing, risked his troops to the chances of a sudden attack by the rebels, which, with their choice position and overwhelmingly strong numbers, would no doubt have resulted in a disastrous defeat, and appearances indicated such a design on their part. Such an exposure and infeasible undertaking was not warranted, and no military principle would justify him in attempting so rash a movement. The above is the opinion of veteran military tacticians, regular and volunteer, and claims the consideration of those at home in civil pursuits who “condemn what they do not comprehend.” Three things only could be done that day, namely, expose his command to this attack from over-whelming numbers in their selected and fortified strongholds, assault where he then was, or rejoin the right wing. There was a plan under consideration to bring the entire army to the position occupied by General Warren's forces, and march the body toward the left — the enemy's right; but to carry this out would necessitate a complete abandonment of our base. It was the opinion of General Warren that this plan was more feasible and much less hazardous than an attack in front.  We remained quiet the rest of the day and the first day of December, during which time the rebels continued, like sensible leaders, to strengthen and enlarge their fortifications, improving the leisure and security afforded them by our inactivity at all points. Our whole army fell back from their position on the night of December first. We began to retire just after dark, and on the morning of December second, in pursuance of orders from army headquarters, our troops recrossed the Rapidan, the infantry and artillery crossing at Culpeper and Germania Fords, and the principal part of the cavalry at Ely's Ford. The Second corps, General Warren, lost in killed, wounded, and missing, two hundred and eighty-nine men, being engaged on the twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth, and twenty-ninth of November. General H. D. Terry, Third division, Sixth corps, lost about twenty men. It was most unfortunate that General French, of the Third corps, lost his road on the twenty-seventh of November, thereby causing so great a delay in uniting with the forces of General Warren. Another misfortune was the failure of a certain general to relieve the pickets at the proper hour, which aided in frustrating the plans of the campaign. The above lengthy review of our recent movements on the Rapidan is a correct one, my information having been derived from personal observations at the front during the campaign, and the details are from official reports, with full explanations from various staff-officers of the different corps and divisions participating in the operations. I have taken considerable pains to secure entire accuracy, and after submitting this account to the close examination of officers high in command, they have pronounced it authentic.
Richmond Dispatch account.
army of Northern Virginia, Nov. 28, 1863.The enemy have at last undertaken an advance, in good faith, I suppose, and the result has been a collision about eighteen miles below here, on the turnpike and plank road leading to Fredericksburgh. The enemy began his forward movement on Wednesday last. He started on this campaign with eight days rations, which, according to computation, will give out on Wednesday next. The enemy have their force largely strengthened by the return of the troops sent to New-York to enforce the draft, and those sent to Pennsylvania to influence the elections, besides those drawn from the fortifications at Washington. As early as Wednesday last it was evident that there was some move on hand with the Yankee army. On Thursday morning, demonstrations were made at Morton's, Sommerville, and Raccoon Fords; but these were merely to divert our attention while their forces effected crossings almost unopposed (for we had only cavalry pickets at the lower fords) at Jack's, Germania, and Ely's Fords. So soon as the enemy had crossed his whole force, he turned the heads of his columns up the river toward Orange Court-House. The true purpose of the enemy was developed on Thursday evening, at which time they commenced to cross the river, and by Friday morning they had thrown over their whole army at the points designated. On Friday morning a good part of our army, which had been lying around Orange Court-House, moved down the plank road, and it all at once became evident that a battle would be fought somewhere betwen Orange Court-House and Fredericksburgh, and most probably in the vicinity of the Chancellorsville battle-ground. On Friday, about ten o'clock, skirmishers from Johnson's division, which was the head of Ewell's column, came up with the enemy, who were advancing up the road leading from the Fredericksburgh turnpike to Raccoon Ford, about a mile below Bartley's Mill, in Spotsylvania County, some eighteen miles below Orange Court-House, and some twenty-two miles above Fredericksburgh, and about twelve miles above the Chancellorsville battle-ground. The Louisiana brigade, under General Halford, first became engaged, and afterward the whole division of General E. Johnson, consisting of the Stonewall brigade, under General Walker, General G. H. Stuart's brigade, and General G. M. Jones's brigade, took part in the battle. The force of the enemy engaged consisted of French's and Birney's corps. Skirmishing began about ten o'clock in the morning, and was kept up quite briskly until about three in the evening, when the whole line of this division became engaged, and from this time until night there was quite a severe and brisk fight. During the fight we drove the enemy, who were the attacking party, back full a mile, capturing a few prisoners. The fight was altogether an infantry affair. Little or no artillery was brought into action on our side — we could get but two pieces into position. The enemy, it is said, fired only twice with their artillery. Our loss will be fully five hundred in killed and wounded. Early's and Rodes's divisions also had lines of skirmishers out, which were slightly engaged, but the principal fighting was done by Johnson. It is also said that Heth's division, of Hill's corps, was engaged for a while in skirmishing on another part of the line, but with trifling damage. Of the loss of the enemy I am not advised, but I am now disposed to doubt if it was as heavy as our own. They fought, I am told, quite well, and fired more accurately than usual. There was no fighting to-day, save some slight skirmishing. Our line of battle reaches from the Rapidan across some six or seven miles, at a line running at right angles with the river. Our army faced down the plank road toward Fredericksburgh, and the enemy's line was formed facing up the plank road, with its back toward Fredericksburgh. Among the casualties on our side are Lieutenant-Colonel Walton, Twenty-third Virginia, killed; General J. M. Jones, slightly wounded in head; Lieutenant-Colonel Coleston, Second Virginia, leg amputated; Major Terry, Fourth Virginia, slightly wounded; Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, First North-Carolina, slightly  wounded; Colonel Nelligan, First Louisiana, severely wounded in the shoulder; Captain Merrick, General Halford's staff, severely in the face. The color-bearer of the First Louisiana was killed. I could not learn his name, but he is the same who was captured at Gettysburgh, and put his colors under his shirt and thus saved them, and afterward escaped. The country where the fighting occurred is densely wooded, and similar in every respect to the country about Chancellorsville, it being, indeed, but a continuation of that description of country. During the fight General Ed. Johnson had a horse shot under him, and General Stuart was slightly wounded, but soon resumed command. There was also some cavalry fighting at the upper fords on Friday, but it did not amount, I think, to much. The wounded began to arrive here yesterday evening, and were being sent off all night last night to Gordonsville, where they will be properly cared for, it being impossible to provide for them here. You have, of course, heard of General Rosser capturing seventy wagons near Wilderness Tavern, fifteen miles above Fredericksburgh and five above Chancellorsville, in rear of the enemy's lines. He destroyed fifty, brought off twenty, besides one hundred and fifty mules and the same number of prisoners.
Sunday morning, Nov. 29-11 A. M.There was a little skirmishing yesterday, but it did not amount to any thing. Both armies are in line of battle. The rain yesterday doubtless interfered with the fighting. It is cloudy this morning, but not raining. There has been no cannonading, but parties from the front gave it as their opinion that a battle will occur to-day or to-morrow. Lieutenant-General Ewell, who has been absent from the army for two weeks or more, passed Orange Court-House this morning, on his way to the army to resume the command of his corps.