previous next

Chapter 27: on the Rapidan.

We remained in camp during the month of August, and the forepart of September, resting our men from their late fatigues, and recruiting our strength by the return of the sick and wounded who had recovered. General Hoke having recovered from his wound, now returned to his brigade, but was soon sent off with one of his regiments to North Carolina on special duty. In the last of August, or first part of September, Longstreet's corps was detached from our army, leaving only Ewell's and Hill's.

The enemy's cavalry had been constantly increasing in amount, and he had now a much larger force of that arm than we had. He was able to keep his cavalry well mounted, while horses were becoming very scarce with us. On the 13th of September, a large force of the enemy's cavalry, supported by infantry, advanced into Culpeper, and Stuart's cavalry was compelled to retire. My division, followed by Rodes', was advanced to the Rapidan to prevent the enemy from crossing, and we had some sharp skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry which came up to Somerville and Raccoon Fords, and we had some brisk artillery firing also.

My division took position covering the two fords named, and Rodes' went to Morton's Ford on my right and took position covering that; some of Hill's troops covering the fords above. The demonstrations by the enemy's cavalry and the skirmishing continued a day or two on the river, and a portion of Meade's infantry, all of which had moved into Culpeper, came up and relieved the cavalry, when the pickets were again established in sight of each other. We then proceeded to strengthen our position by rifle pits and epaulments for artillery, and continued in position until the 8th of October, there [303] being occasional reconnaissances to the right and left by the enemy's cavalry, and demonstrations with his infantry by manceuvring in our view, his camps being distinctly visible to us from a signal station on Clark's Mountain, at the base of which, on the north, the Rapidan runs.

Meade had now sent off two of his corps, the 11th and 12th, to reinforce Rosecrans at Chattanooga, Longstreet having reinforced Bragg with two of his divisions; and General Lee determined to move around Meade's right and attack him, this movement commencing on the night of the 8th. One of Rodes' brigades, and Fitz. Lee's brigade of cavalry, were left to hold the line of the river on the right of Rapidan Station until the enemy had disappeared from the front, and my pickets having been relieved, my division was concentrated that night in rear of my position, for the purpose of moving early next morning. The movement was to be made by the way of Madison CourtHouse so as to avoid the observation of the enemy, Hill taking the lead, Ewell following.

I moved early on the morning of the 9th, taking the road by Orange Court-House and crossing the Rapidan at a ford a little above the mouth of the Robinson River, camping a mile or two beyond. On the morning of the 10th I moved by the way of Madison Court-House, following the rest of the army, and crossing Robinson River, camped again three or four miles from it. Just before night there was a sharp fight in the advance with a portion of the enemy's cavalry. On the 11th we continued to move to the left and then in direction of Culpeper CourtHouse to Stone-House Mountain, when it was found that the enemy had fallen back across the Rappahannock with his infantry, but there was fighting with the cavalry in the direction of the Court-House.

On the 12th we turned off in the direction of Fauquier Springs, and our advance drove a body of the enemy's cavalry from the river and crossed over, a portion of the troops, including my division, remaining on the south [304] side. On the 13th we crossed and proceeded to Warrenton, and Meade's army, which was on the Rappahannock below, commenced its retreat on both sides of the railroad towards Manassas. We took position that night around Warrenton, Hill's corps being advanced out on the road towards Centreville.

Stuart, with a part of his cavalry, had crossed the river and got in between two of the enemy's columns, where he spent the night of the 13th in imminent danger of capture. We moved before daybreak on the morning of the 14th, as well for the purpose of relieving Stuart as for attacking the enemy, Ewell's corps taking the road by Auburn towards Greenwich and Bristow Station, and Hill's, a route further to the left. About light, a considerable force of the enemy, composed of both infantry and cavalry, was found at Auburn, on Cedar Creek, occupying the opposite banks of the stream, where a mill pond rendered the advance against him very difficult. Bodes' division formed line in front, and some skirmishing and cannonading ensued, while I moved with my division and Jones' battalion of artillery to the left across the creek above the mill, and around to get in the enemy's rear.

After I had started Rodes, having been replaced by Johnson, moved to the right to cross the stream below. The enemy's infantry in the meantime had moved off, leaving only a cavalry force and some horse artillery to dispute the passage, and as I was moving up to attack this force in the rear and Rodes was coming up from the right, it rapidly made its escape towards the railroad, passing between us.

We then moved towards Greenwich, and near that place Ewell's corps turned off through some farms in the direction of the bridge over Kettle Run, while Hill's corps preceded us on the direct road to Bristow. At this latter place, the 2nd corps of Meade's army, under Warren, was found, and two of Hill's brigades which were [305] in the advance moved against it while behind the railroad embankment, and were repulsed with some loss, a battery of artillery, which was advanced to the front at the same time, falling into the hands of the enemy. About this time my division, in the lead of Ewell's corps, came up on the right near Kettle Run Bridge, and was ordered to move forward against some troops and wagon trains said to be moving on the road across the run in the direction of Bristow. Gordon's brigade being in front was formed in line facing the run and he was directed to wait until the other brigades came up and were formed.

While I was hurrying these brigades up, Gordon seeing some cavalry on the opposite hills made a rapid advance across the run and up the hills on the other side, driving the cavalry from the road to Bristow and pursuing it towards Brentsville. When the other brigades were brought up, I found Gordon unexpectedly gone, and I moved to the run, expecting to find him there, but he was nowhere to be seen. Warren's corps constituted the rear of Meade's army, and the troops and trains seen across Kettle Run proved only a rear guard of cavalry with some ambulances, the main wagon trains moving on the east of the railroad by Brentsville. When I found there was no enemy to attack in the direction I had been ordered to move, I then formed my brigades in line across the railroad facing towards Bristow Station, and sent to find Gordon, for the purpose of moving against the force behind the railroad at the station, according to instructions I had received from General Lee.

After a time one of Gordon's staff officers came up with the information that he was facing a heavy cavalry force immediately in his front from which he could not retire easily, and that there was a very large train of wagons about Brentsville. Gordon's brigade was more than one-third of my division, and with the other brigades I was not strong enough to advance against the enemy's position, especially as there was a very dense thicket of [306] young pines intervening between my position and that of the enemy which rendered an advance in line almost impossible.

It was now getting late, it being very nearly dark, and though Johnson's division was ordered up to my assistance, before it could reach me it became entirely dark, so as to put a stop to all further operations that night. Very early next morning I advanced towards the station, but the enemy was found to have made good his retreat during the night. I then halted my division, and moved on to Manassas Junction with a regiment, in order to reconnoitre, picking up some stragglers on the way. The enemy was found to have crossed Bull Run and taken position behind it. Our cavalry advanced up to the Run and had some skirmishing with the enemy, but our army did not make any further movement forward.

We then proceeded to destroy the bridge over Broad Run and Kettle Run and to tear up the railroad, burning the cross-ties and bending the rails by heating them.

On the march from Rapidan, Brigadier General Pegram, who had been assigned to the command of Smith's brigade, joined us, General Smith, who had been elected Governor of Virginia, having resigned at the close of the Pennsylvania campaign.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September (2)
August (2)
October 8th (1)
September 13th (1)
14th (1)
13th (1)
12th (1)
11th (1)
9th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: