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[72] The successful issue of these initial combats beckoned to greater glories and the final triumph of the newly-established Confederacy. This feeling animated the entire Confederate camp, and the army of Johnston stood boldly and confidently awaiting the first hostile move of McClellan from his entrenchments along the Potomac.

Thus were matters posed when the battle of Dranesville was fought. The tedium of winter quarters was relieved in both camps by the sending out of parties to forage and gather information of the doings of the enemy. The arena of these sporadic operations was that portion of Fairfax lying between Washington and Centreville. This strip of territory for months was debatable ground—a region where terrifying rumors and dire alarms were continually afloat.

The citizens whose homes stood between the lines of the two opposing armies were divided in political sentiment. A few remained ‘Union’ to the core, while the greater majority were heart and soul with the Confederacy. This division of sentiment filled the hours, day and night, with a turmoil of excitement. Credence was given to the most improbable rumors, and accurate information was at a decided discount.

A report, which upon the face of it seemed to bear some degree of probability, reached the ears of General McCall at Camp Pierpoint (Langley, the right of the Federal line) that a considerable body of Confederate cavalry was between Dranesville and the Potomac, menacing the Federal picket line and greatly harassing Union citizens residing in that locality. In fact, it was known that two ‘loyal’ citizens had been arrested and had been sent on to Richmond to enjoy the not overly lavish hospitality of Libby Prison. Stirred to action by this rumor, on December 19th General McCall issued an order to General Ord, commander of the Third Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves (Sixth, Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth Regiments), to proceed the next morning at 6 o'clock with his brigade on the Leesburg pike, in the direction of Dranesville. Kane's famous ‘Bucktail’ Regiment, Easton's Battery (Battery A, First Pennsylvania Artillery), and two squadrons of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry were directed to accompany this expedition.

The object of this demonstration as indicated in McCall's

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George A. McCall (3)
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