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Doc. 66.-operations at Rappahannock Bridge.

Report of General R. E. Lee.

Hadquarters army of Northern Virginia, November 20, 1868.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, Richmond, Virginia:
General: I have the honor to report that, after the return of the army to the Rappahannock, it was disposed on both sides of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, General Ewell's corps on the right and General Hill's on the left, with the cavalry on each flank. The troops were placed as near the river as suitable ground for encampments could be found, and most of the artillery sent to the nearest point in the rear where the animals could be foraged.

To hold the line of the Rappahannock at this part of its course, it was deemed advantageous to maintain our communication with the north bank, to threaten any flank movement the enemy might make above or below, and thus compel him to divide his forces, when it was hoped that an opportunity would be presented to concentrate on one or the other part. For this purpose, a point was selected a short distance above the site of the railroad bridge, where the [739] hills on each side of the river afforded protection to our pontoon bridge, and increased the means of defence.

The enemy had prevrously constructed some small earthworks on these hills to repel an attack from the south. That on the north side was converted into a tete-de-pont, and a line of rifle-trenches extended along the crest on the right and left to the river bank. The works on the south side were remodelled, and sunken batteries for additional guns constructed on an adjacent hill to the left. Higher up on the same side and east of the railroad, near the river bank, sunken batteries for two guns, and riflepits were arranged to command the railroad embankment, under cover of which the enemy might advance.

These works were slight, but were deemed adequate to accomplish the object for which they were intended. The pontoon bridge was considered a sufficient means of communication, as, in the event of the troops north of the river being compelled to withdraw, their crossing could be covered by the artillery and infantry in the works on the south side. Four pieces of artillery were placed in the tete-de-pont and eight others in the works opposite.

The defence of this position was entrusted to Lieutenant-General Ewell's corps, and the troops of Johnson's and Early's divisions guarded them alternately, Rodes' division being stationed near Kelly's Ford.

The enemy began to rebuild the railroad as soon as we withdrew from Bristoe Station, his army advancing as the work progressed. His movements were regularly reported by our scouts, and it was known that he had advanced from Warrenton Junction a few days before the attack.

His approach towards the Rappahannock was announced on the sixth of November, and about noon next day his infantry were discovered advancing to the bridge, while a large force moved in the direction of Kelly's Ford, where the first attack was made. At the latter point the ground on the north side of the Rappahannock commands that on the south, and preparations had been made only for such resistance to the passage of the river as would suffice to gain time for putting the troops in a position selected in rear of the ford, with a view to contest the advance of the enemy after crossing.

In accordance with this intention, General Rodes had one regiment, the Second North Carolina, on picket along the river, the greater part of it being at Kelly's with the Thirtieth North Carolina in reserve, supporting a battery. As soon as he perceived that the enemy was in force, he ordered his division to take the position referred to in rear of the ford. While it was getting into line, the enemy's artillery opened upon the Second North Carolina, and soon drove it to shelter, except a few companies near the ford, which continued to fire from the rifle-pits. The Thirtieth was advanced to the assistance of the Second, but in moving across the open ground was broken by the concentrated fire of the enemy's artillery, and took refuge behind some buildings at the river, The enemy being unopposed except by the party at the rifle-pits, crossed at the rapids above the ford, and captured the troops defending it, together with a large number of the Thirtieth North Carolina, who refused to leave the shelter of the houses.

A pontoon bridge was then laid down, on which a large force crossed to the south bank. General Rodes, in the mean time, had placed his division in position, the resistance of the Second North Carolina having delayed the enemy sufficiently for this purpose.

The advance of the Thirtieth does not appear to have contributed to the result, which, as previously stated, was the object of contesting the passage. It was not intended to attack the enemy until he should have advanced from the river, where it was hoped that by holding in check the force at the bridge, we would be able to concentrate upon the other. With this view, General Johnson's division was ordered to reinforce General Rodes.

In the meantime a large force was displayed in our front at the bridge, upon receiving information of which General A. P. Hill was ordered to get his corps in readiness, and Anderson's division was advanced to the river, on the left of the railroad. The artillery was also ordered to move to the front. General Early put his division in motion towards the bridge and hastened thither in person. The enemy's skirmishers advanced in strong force with heavy supports, and ours were slowly withdrawn into the trenches.

Hoke's brigade of Early's division, under Colonel Godwin (General Hoke being absent with one regiment on detached service), reinforced General Hays, whose brigade occupied the north bank. No other troops were sent over, the two brigades mentioned being sufficient to man the works, and though inferior to the enemy in numbers, the nature of the position was such that he could not attack with a front more extended than our own. The remainder of Early's division was placed in supporting distance, one regiment being stationed in the rifle-trenches on the south bank east of the railroad. A gun from the works on the left of the road was also ordered to be placed in the battery at this point, to command the approach by the railroad embankment on the opposite side, but the enemy's sharpshooters had advanced so near the river that the order was countermanded, the preparations already made being deemed sufficient. The enemy placed three batteries on the hills, from which our skirmishers had been forced to retire, and maintained an active fire upon our position until dark, doing no damage, however, so far as has been reported.

Our batteries replied from both sides of the river, but with so little effect that the two on the south bank were ordered to cease firing. Light skirmishing took place along the line. [740] It was not known whether this demonstration was intended as a serious attack, or only to cover the movement of the force that had crossed at Kelly's Ford, but the lateness of the hour and the increasing darkness induced the belief that nothing would be attempted until morning. It was believed that our troops on the north side would be able to maintain their position if attacked, and that in any case they could withdraw, under cover of the guns on the north, the location of the pontoon bridge being beyond the reach of a direct fire from any position occupied by the enemy.

As soon, however, as it became dark enough to conceal his movements, the enemy advanced in overwhelming numbers against our rifletrenches, and succeeded in carrying them in the manner described in the reports of Generals Early and Hays.

It would appear from these reports, and the short duration of the firing, that the enemy was enabled to approach very near the works before being seen. The valley in our front aided in concealing his advance from view, and a strong wind effectually prevented any movement from being heard. It was essential to the maintenance of the position under these circumstances, that sharpshooters should have been thrown forward to give early information of his approach, in order that he might be subjected to fire as long as possible, but it is not stated that this precaution was taken. The breaking of the enemy's first line and the surrender of part of it, as described in the reports, also contributed to divert attention from the approach of the second and third, and enabled them to press into the works. No information of the attack was received on the south side of the river until too late for the artillery there stationed to aid in repelling it, and it does not appear that the result would have been affected, under the circumstances, by the presence of a larger number of guns. The artillery in the works at the south end of the bridge was relied upon to keep it open for the retreat of the troops, as it could sweep the crest of the opposite hill at short range. The darkness of the night, and the fear of injuring our own men who had surrendered, prevented General Early from using it. The bridge, however, seems to have remained accesable to the troops on the left, up to the last moment, as Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, with a few men, crossed just before it was fired, by order of General Early.

The suggestions above mentioned afford the only explanation I am able to give of this unfortunate affair, as the courage and good conduct of the troops engaged have been too often tried to admit of question.

The loss of this position made it necessary to abandon the design of attacking the force that had crossed at Kelly's Ford, and the army was withdrawn to the only tenable line between Culpepper Court-house and the Rappahannock, where it remained during the succeeding day. The position not being regarded as favorable it returned the night following to the south side of the Rapidan. The loss of General Rodes at Kelly's Ford was five killed, fifty-nine wounded, and two Hundred and ninety-five missing. General Early's loss, including that of the artillery, was six killed, thirty-nine wounded, and sixteen hundred and twenty-nine missing. Some reported as missing were probably killed or wounded and left in the hands of the enemy, and others failed to report to their commands.

Among the wounded were Colonel Cox, of the Second North Carolina, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sillars, of the Thirtieth, the latter, it is feared, mortally.

I forward herewith the reports of Generals Rodes and Early, the latter enclosing those of General Hays and Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, of Hoke's brigade.

A map of the locality is also annexed.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General.

Report of Lieutenant General Ewell.

headquarters Second corps, A. N V., November 13, 1863.
Colonel R. H Chilton, Chief of Staff:
Colonel: I have the honor to enclose the report of Major-General Early, in reference to the attack on the tete-de-pont on the Rappahannock, near the railroad, on the seventh instant.

I received information that the enemy was moving on Kelly's Ford in force, and had turned my whole attention to that point, towards which two divisions were moving, knowing that both the General commanding and Major-General Early were at the tete-de-pont, and as I heard no report of artillery or other indications of an attack, I did not visit it. I had paid frequent visits to the works at the tete-de-pont, where much labor had been bestowed.

I differ from Major-General Early as to the necessity for more artillery, the darkness and nature of the ground making what was there of but little use in the final attack, and I think the same would have been the case had there been more.

I have the honor to be, Colonel,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

R. S. Ewell, Lieutenant-General.

Report of Major-General Early.

Headqucaters Early's division, November 11, 1863.
Lieutenant-Colonel A. S. Pendleton, A. A. General Second Corps, A. N. Va.:
Colonel: I submit the following report of the circumstances attending the storming of our advanced work across the Rappahannock, at Rappahannock Station, and the capture of a battery and a large portion of two brigades of this division, by the enemy, on the seventh instant.

Having received, on the fifth, an order to relieve [741] the brigade of Johnson's division which was on picket at Rappahannock Station, by a brigade from my division, on the morning of the sixth, I ordered Brigadier-General Hays to send his brigade to the point indicated, at the time specified, under the command of Colonel Penn, of the Seventh Louisiana regiment, as the General himself was then engaged on a court of inquiry, at that time sitting. Colonel Penn accordingly moved with the brigade to the station on the morning of the sixth, and relieved Walker's brigade of Johnson's division. My camp was fully five (5) miles from the point picketed, and I received no report from Colonel Penn on the sixth; but on the seventh, a little before two P. M., I received a despatch from him stating that the enemy was advancing on him, with infantry and cavalry, in force. I immediately sent a despatch by signal both to General Lee and Lieutenant-General Ewell, to the following effect:

for General Lee and General Ewell: Colonel Penn, commanding Hays' brigade, on picket at the bridge, reports the enemy advancing on him, with infantry and cavalry, in force. I shall move down at once.

And without awaiting orders, I directed my other brigades to get ready as quick as possible, and march to the bridge as rapidly as they could. The men were engaged at the time in building and making preparations for building huts, and the consequence was it required some time to get them together, though this was done with all the despatch practicable.

I started to the river in advance of the brigades, and at Brandy Station received another despatch, informing me that the enemy was in line of battle still in his front, and that a force was moving towards Kelly's Ford, with a train of wagons and ambulances. I sent this despatch to General Lee, by Mr. Hairston, a volunteer Aid, and at the same time sent my Adjutant-General, Major Daniel, to meet General Ewell, who, I was informed, was coming up to Brandy, and communicate to him the contents of the despatches I had received, and my movements. Before reaching the river I was overtaken by General Lee, who had not received my despatch by signal, though it reached General Ewell. General Lee and myself proceeded together to the river, where we arrived about, or a little after, three o'clock. Crossing over myself to the position occupied by Colonel Penn, on the north of the river, I ascertained that a heavy force was in line something like a mile or more in front, and extending some distance both to the right and left.

This force, preceded by a heavy line of skirmishers, was gradually, but slowly, and very cautiously, moving up towards our position. Our skirmishers were then some distance out to the front, and on the right and left, and the trenches were occupied by the remainder of Colonel Penn's force, which, however, was manifestly too small for the length of the works. Green's battery of four rifled guns occupied two works on the right of the pontoon bridge, one being an enclosed redoubt and the other an open work, consisting of a curtain with two short flanks or wings.

The works on the north side of the river were, in my judgment, very inadequate, and not judiciously laid out or constructed. They consisted of a rifle-trench on the right circling round to the river; then the enclosed redoubt spoken of, which was constructed by the enemy to be used against a force approaching on the south side, which had been turned, but sloped towards the enemy; then there was another short rifle-trench, then the open work spoken of, the curtain and flanks of which were pierced with four embrasures near the angles, and with such narrow splays as to admit of a very limited fire. It had been originally a lunette, constructed by our troops, and the enemy had cut off the angle and filled up the ditches, and constructed an epaulement, which operated as a curtain, connecting the two flanks, and was so arranged as to place guns in barbette on the side opposite to the river, and a trench was made on the side next to the river, which prevented guns from being mounted in barbette on that side. The consequence was it was of very little value, as the guns placed in the embrasures had very limited range, leaving dead angles at some of the most important points. To the left of this work a rifle-trench extended some distance, running down the slope of the ridge next to the river, and extending through a piece of woods on the left to the river bank. The whole of this rifle-trench in front of the bridge, and for some distance to the left, was in full view of the bridge, and in short musket range of it, so that the enemy, coming up to the trench, could command the bridge, and make use of the embankment as a protection. For a good portion of the rifletrench on the left it was so far down the slope that the enemy might get within very short musket range before he could be seen by our men in the trenches. There was no ditch on the outside of the work. On the right the railroad embankment afforded a safe cover for the approach of the enemy to within a short distance of the work, and through this was a passway for a road, which would enable a force coming under its cover to debouch suddenly upon the works at a very assailable point, and there had been no effort made to obstruct this passage. To remedy the danger afforded by the cover of the railroad embankment, pits for guns on the south side of the river had been constructed, but they were not occupied. In the rear of the whole line of the work a dam made the river too deep for fording, and one solitary pontoon bridge afforded the only means of communication with the southern bank, and the only avenue of escape in case of disaster. I am thus particular in describing the character of these works in order that the difficulties under which a part of my command labored, in the strait to which it was subsequently reduced, may be appreciated. [742]

I had, myself, pointed out some of the defects of the works to the Engineers having charge of them, and I had urged the necessity of having another bridge further up the stream. The fact is, in my opinion, the position was susceptible of being made very strong, but in order to enable a small force to hold it against a large attacking force the works ought to have been entirely enclosed, and with a deep ditch on the outside, so that an attacking column could have had its progress checked. But the works were so constructed as to afford no obstacle in themselves to an attacking enemy, and only furnished a temporary protection to our troops. An attacking force could walk over the rifle trenches without difficulty, and even the works in which the guns were posted could be readily passed over when once reached. On the south side of the river were two hills immediately in the rear of our works, one crowned with a redoubt, constructed by the enemy, which had been remodeled and turned; the other was crowned with sunken pits for guns. In the first I. found Graham's battery, and in the latter Dance's battery, both of Brown's battalion. Besides these works, were two pits for guns in the flat on the right of the railroad, constructed for, posting guns, for the purpose of enfilading the east side of the railroad embankment on the north of the river. These pits, which were not occupied, had attached to them a short rifle trench, and further to the right was another rifle trench, covering the point at which the enemy had had a pontoon bridge. This presents the state of things as I found them, and I must here state that the defence of this position had not been entrusted to me. I had merely been called upon to furnish a detail for picket duty; alternating with both the other divisions of the corps for some time, and latterly with Johnson's only, I hurried to the spot myself, and ordered my command to follow, because I regarded my brigade in danger, and I doubted not I was but anticipating the order which would have been given as soon as the facts reached General Lee and Lieutenant-General Ewell.

I carried no artillery with me, because none was at my disposal. As soon as I had ascertained the condition of things in front and in the works, I rode back across the river to see if my other brigades were coming up, and communicated with General Lee, who had taken his position on the hill on which Graham's guns were posted. Shortly after I reached this point our skirmishers commenced falling back, and the enemy commenced advancing more rapidly, and I sent back to hurry up my brigades. The enemy, having gotten possession of the range of hills in front of our position, now planted a battery of artillery on a prominent point in front and opened, no artillery having been previously displayed by him. The guns were replied to by Dance and Graham, but with little or no effect, as the distance was too great. The enemy's skirmishers, in very heavy line, continued to advance until ours from the front and flanks were compelled to retire into the works, and the enemy's, on the right, advanced to the river bank, about half a mile below the bridge. About this time General Lee ordered one of Dance's guns to be sent to the pits on the right of the railroad, but, before the order was executed, the enemy's sharpshooters had advanced so close that General Lee countermanded the order, as he thought the guns might be disabled by having the horses shot down. About four o'clock General Hays arrived and took command of his brigade; and in a short time after the advance of my column, Hoke's brigade, under Colonel Godwin, arrived, and I sent Colonel Godwin, with the brigade, across the river to report to General Hays. and occupy that part of the trenches which Hays' brigade could not occupy. This plan met with the approval of General Lee, and he directed me to send no more troops across the river, but retain the other brigades on the south side. I sent Gordon's brigade to occupy Jamieson's hill to the right, and the river bank in front of it, and formed Pegram's brigade in rear, out of range of shells, sending the Thirty-first Virginia regiment from it to occupy the rifle-trenches at the gun-pits, on the right of the railroad. About this time the enemy opened another battery in front of our left on the road from the direction of Warrenton, and very shortly afterwards another battery was opened on the right from the edge of a woods. The fire from these batteries crossed and, in a great measure, enfiladed our position, and rendered the bridge quite unsafe. The battery on the hill, in front, also continued to fire, and the fire from all of them was continued until near dusk. The fire from Dance and Graham's batteries was stopped by order of General Lee, I believe, as it was manifestly producing little or no effect, and resulted in a mere waste of ammunition. Green's battery, however, continued to fire as well as it could. During all this time the wind was blowing very hard towards the enemy, so that it was impossible to hear the report of the guns, even at a very short distance. I had remained with General Lee at his request, who, in the latter part of the afternoon, had taken his position on the hill occupied by Dance's battery. About dark the artillery fire ceased, and some movements of the enemy took place, which we could not well distinguish. In a short time, however, some firing of musketry at and in front of the rifle-trenches was observed from the flashes of the guns, it being impossible to hear the report by reason of the wind, though the distance was but short. After this firing had continued for some minutes it slackened somewhat, and, not hearing from it, we were of opinion that it was from and at the enemy's skirmishers, and General Lee, expressing the opinion that the movement by the enemy on this part of the line was intended merely as a reconnoissance or feint, and that it was too late for the enemy to attempt anything serious that night, concluded to retire.

It was then nearly or quite dark, and while [743] I must confess that I did feel considerable anxiety for the result of a night attack, if the enemy should have the enterprise to make it, yet the confident opinion expressed by the commanding general disarmed my fears. The firing .at the trenches continued, and while I was making arrangements to send off two despatches for General Ewell left with me by General Lee, Major Hale of my staff, who had been previously sent on foot across the river with messages for General Hays and Colonel Godwin, returned and informed me that when he left General Hays the enemy was advancing against him, that he had then gone to Colonel Godwin, and as he returned across the bridge he had seen some of Hays' men, who told him that Hays had been driven from the trenches; but he stated that he did not believe this statement, as he left Hays and his men in fine spirits, and I did not believe it myself, as the firing seen by us did not warrant any supposition. I, however, sent Major Daniel, of my staff, immediately to ascertain the state of things, and ordered Pegram to move up to the bridge with his brigade, and Dance and Graham to man their guns. I then started towards the bridge and met Major Daniel returning, with the information that he had just seen General Hays, who had made his escape, and received from him the information that the greater part of his brigade was captured, Hoke's brigade cut off, and the enemy in possession of the north end of the bridge. Pegram's brigade was hurried up and so disposed as to prevent a crossing of the bridge, and Gordon was sent for from the right, and a messenger sent to General Lee. I then went near the river to ascertain if anything could be done to retrieve the disaster, but found it would be a useless sacrifice of my men to attempt to throw any of them across the bridge, as the enemy were in line just beyond the opposite end, and were in possession of the trenches commanding it. I could not see the artillery by reason of the darkness, and I feared firing into my own men, who were prisoners in the hands of the enemy. Hoke's brigade had not at this time been captured, as I subsequently ascertained. Nor had the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments of Hays' brigade, but they were hopelessly cut off from the bridge, without any means of escape and with no chance of being reinforced ; and while making the preparations for defending the bridge and preventing an increase of the disaster, I had the mortification to hear the final struggle of these devoted men, and to be made painfully aware of their capture, without the possibility of being able to go to their relief. I might have fired canister across the river, and, perhaps, done some damage to the enemy, but the chances were that more damage would have been done to my helpless men, and I felt that it would have been cruel and barbarous to have subjected them to this result for any amount of damage I could then inflict on the enemy. This contains as much of this affair as I am capable of describing from actual observation.

From the reports of General Hays, and Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, of Hoke's brigade, as well as from the statements of other officers,who were fortunate enough to make their escape, I learn that as soon as it became dark enough to conceal his movements, the enemy advanced in very heavy masses along the whole line, his troops being in some two or three lines preceded by a very heavy line of skirmishers, that the line of skirmishers was repulsed, many of them surrendering themselves prisoners. But this act was immediately followed by a rush to the front of some two or three lines of the enemy, and at the same time a heavy column, which had moved down the east side of the railroad under cover of the embankment, suddenly debouched through the passway (which has been mentioned), and made a rush upon the works, in which Green's guns were posted, and carried them. At the same time, an effort made by General Hays to retake the guns was defeated by the attack on the rifle-trenches, immediately on the left of the guns and in front of the bridge. This attack, though resisted to the last, was successful — the enemy coming in such numbers as actually, by mere brute force, to push our men out of the trenches. The enemy then poured over the trenches, and all further struggle was hopeless, as there was no point for our men to fall back upon, and the bridge was completely commanded by the enemy. Our men, however, continued to struggle until they became completely surrounded. Many of them effected their escape in the confusion — some by swimming the river, and others by making their way to the bridge amidst the enemy, and passing over under a shower of balls. General Hays owes his escape to the fact that after he was completely surrounded, and was a prisoner, his horse took fright and ran off; and as the enemy commenced firing on him, he concluded to make the effort to escape across the bridge, where he was exposed to no more danger, as he had to run the gauntlet any way; and he fortunately succeeded, without injury.

Godwin's position in the trenches was to the left of the bridge, and the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments were to his left. The location of the trenches here was such as to cut off from Colonel Godwin all view of the columns advancing against General Hays. An attack of the enemy moving down the river, on Godwin's left, was repulsed by the Fifty-fourth North Carolina regiment, a few minutes before the attack on Hays; and when Colonel Godwin ascertained that Hays had been driven from the trenches, he made an effort to send a portion of his force to the relief of Hays, but this was prevented by the advance of the enemy immediately in his front. He then, discovering his own situation, and that he was cut off from the bridge, threw a portion of his line across the interval between the trenches and the river, and endeavored to form his men so as to cut his way to the bridge. The enemy, however, after getting possession of the trenches [744] formed successive lines across the same interval, lower down, and moved up against Godwin, at the same time moving up other forces against the trenches, which had to be abandoned by our men. Godwin's men, with the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments, were thus completely surrounded — the enemy making an are of a circle around the front and flanks; and the river, which is here a deep pond, being in the rear, Colonel Godwin's efforts to extricate his command proved unavailing, as the enemy completely overwhelmed him with numbers. He continued, however, to struggle, forming successive lines as he was pushed back, and did not, for a moment, dream of surrendering; but, on the contrary, when his men had dwindled to sixty or seventy, the rest having been captured, killed, wounded, or lost in the darkness, and be was completely surrounded by the enemy, who were, in fact, mixed up with his men, some one cried out that Colonel Godwin's order was for them to surrender. He immediately called for the man who made the declaration, and threatened to blow his brains out if he could find him, declaring his purpose to fight to the last moment, and calling upon his men to stand by him. He was literally overpowered by mere force of numbers, and was taken with his arms in his hands. These facts I learn from Captain Adams, assistant adjutant-general of Hoke's brigade, who managed to make his escape, after having been captured, by slipping away from the enemy and swimming the river almost naked. They are in accordance with the character of Colonel Godwin, and the fate of this gallant officer, a prisoner in the hands of a barbarous enemy, is most deeply to be deplored; and I most respectfully, through the commanding General, call the attention of the government to his case, and ask that if any special exchanges are made, he may be embraced among them. The Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments shared the fate of the three regiments of Hoke's brigade, which were under Godwin. Some of all the regiments, taking advantage of the darkness and confusion, managed to escape, after they were overpowered. But I call attention to the fact that there was no flight, no giving back of my men from the trenches upon the approach of the enemy, but they maintained their position until overpowered by numbers and mere brute force. This fact was fully shown by the circumstance that there was no rush upon the bridge, and no crowd of fugitives to be seen anywhere; but the men who did escape did it quietly, taking advantage of such opportunities as were afforded.

After I was made aware of the disaster, and Pegram's and Gordon's brigades came up, steps were taken to guard the river, and prevent a crossing by the enemy. A regiment was immediately sent to the south end of the bridge, and Pegram's brigade thrown in its rear, with orders to defend the passage at all hazards. After waiting for some time, to give such of our men as might be able to do so an opportunity to slip over the bridge, and after it was ascertained definitely that Hoke's brigade and the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments were overpowered, and that the enemy had a guard immediately at the northern end of the bridge, it was fired at the south end by my order, and before we moved back it had burned so far as to prevent all crossing over it. After sending back Dance's and Graham's batteries, in accordance with orders, I moved back at three o'clock next morning to the vicinity of my camp.

My loss in this affair was as follows:

Killed, officers0
Killed, enlisted men5
Wounded, officers3
Wounded, enlisted men32
Missing, officers117
Missing, enlisted men1,473

Those reported killed are those who were certainly known to be killed, and the wounded are those who were brought off — some of them were wounded while escaping. Among the missing are doubtless a number of killed and wounded. The loss in Hays' brigade was less than one-half of the men present with the army, and less than one-fourth of the entire strength of the brigade. In the regiments of Hoke's brigade, to wit: the Sixth, Fifty-fourth, and Fifty-seventh North Carolina regiments, the loss was very nearly three-fourths of the men present with the army — about two-fifths of their entire strength, and less than one-third of the entire strength of the brigade.

Near three hundred of Hays' men present at the action made their escape, and between one hundred and one hundred and fifty of Hoke's men escaped.

The loss in Green's battery, commanded by Lieutenant Moore, was as follows:

Killed, enlisted men1
Wounded, enlisted men0
Missing, officers2
Missing, enlisted men39
Rifle guns, with their caissons4

Twenty-eight enlisted men of this battery escaped. My loss in small arms and sets of accoutrements is something over sixteen hundred.

With the conduct of my brigade commanders and their men, I have no fault to find. They were not surprised, nor were they negligent in any respect, that I am aware of. They remained at their posts, and fought the enemy until overpowered. They were unfortunately in a position untenable, by so small a force as theirs, against the large force brought against them, and there was no means of retreat, by reason [745] of the inadequate communication across the river. There was no means of reinforcing them while engaged in the struggle, for the same reason, and there was no opportunity of retiring and renewing the contest, because there was but a narrow slip of land between the works and the river. I must, therefore, exempt my brigade commanders from all responsibility for the disaster which befel their commands. I am satisfied they made the best struggle the nature of the case admitted, and all accounts concur in stating that the men fought with great coolness and courage, and I am informed that the loss of the enemy must have been very severe; perhaps more than ours.

The immediate cause of the disaster was the weakness of the position, owing to defective engineering, the want of sufficient bridges, the want of sufficient artillery in suitable positions on the south bank of the river, and the superior force of the enemy, which consisted of two army corps, under Sedgwick, as since ascertained; the attack of the enemy being favored by the darkness and the high wind. My troops were all that were brought up, but I do not know that any amount of infantry on the south bank of the river could have altered the result, unless by its exhibition the enemy had been deterred from making the effort. I am conscious of having done all in my power to defend the position, but I must candidly confess that I did concur in the opinion of the commanding General, that the enemy did not have enterprise enough to attempt any serious attack after dark, as such attacks are so foreign to his usual policy, and I therefore was inclined to believe that the position would be safe until morning, though I felt there would be very great danger in a night attack, if vigorously made. A different estimate, however, of the enemy's enterprise would have had no effect, as I had no discretion about withdrawing the troops, and, in fact, they could not have been withdrawn with safety, after the enemy had gained their immediate front.

This is the first disaster that has befallen this division since I have had the honor to command it, and I hope I may, therefore, be pardoned for referring to the history of the past campaign, in which the division captured twenty-seven pieces of artillery and prisoners, amounting to more than double the amount of its entire loss on this latter occasion. Those of the guns of the Louisiana Guard battery captured on the seventh, had been previously taken from the enemy by Hays' brigade by actual assault, and the other was brought off from Sharpsburg by the men of the battery, after the enemy had been compelled to abandon it, by one of the brigades of this division, it being the only piece of artillery captured by our troops at that battle.

Accompanying this report are the reports of Brigadier-General Hays and Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, with a statement from Captain Carrington, commanding Jones' artillery battalion.


J. A. Early, Major-General, commanding division.


headquarters Second corps, army no. Va., November 13, 1863.
Respectfully forwarded. Brilliant as have been the services of this division and its gallant commander during the past campaign, it is but justice to the other troops engaged, to say that the capture of the artillery at Winchester, to which I suppose General Early refers, was due in great part to the presence and handsome conduct of Major-General Johnson and his brave division.

R. S. Ewell, Lieutenant-General.

Report of Major-General Rodes.

headquarters Rodes' division, November 13, 1863.
Lieutenant-Colonel A. S. Pendleton, A. A. G. Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia:
Colonel: I have the honor to submit here — with a report of the recent operations of my division on the Rappahannock.

On the seventh, and for some days previous thereto, my division was camped between the Rappahannock and Mountain Run, about one and a half miles in rear of Kelly's Ford, which, together with Wheatley's, Norman's, and Stephens' Fords, it was the duty of the division to watch. About noon on the seventh, the enemy's cavalry, which had for several days been stationed in small force on the opposite side of the river, was suddenly replaced by his infantry, and immediately his skirmishers were thrown forward to the river.

The Second and Thirtieth North Carolina regiments, of Ramseur's brigade, were on outpost duty at the river. The former, numbering about three hundred and twenty-two effective total, was guarding Wheatley's Ford, three-quarters of a mile above, and Stephens' Ford, one and a quarter miles below Kelly's and Kelly's Ford itself. The two first named fords being obscure and difficult, the bulk of the regiment was placed partly in rifle-pits and partly deployed, so as to command Kelly's Ford, and the site of the enemy's pontoon bridge, used on their former crossing.

The Thirtieth North Carolina regiment, numbering about five hundred men, was in reserve, protecting the solitary battery (Napoleon) under my command. The battery and regiment were about three-quarters of a mile from the river, in the edge of the nearest woods to the ford.

At Kelly's Ford the bluffs are on the extreme side, close to the river, and encircle the ground which my outpost force was compelled to occupy. On our side, the land for a mile or more from the river bank, is cleared and slopes gently to the river. It is necessary to notice these facts to account properly for the losses of the two regiments mentioned.

Upon my arrival on the field only five or six regiments of the enemy's infantry were in sight, [746] and one battery. Nevertheless, I ordered the division to be in readiness to move in line of battle, and the wagons to be parked. Very soon, however, it became apparent that a large force was in my front, and that the enemy was endeavoring to affect a crossing at and above the ford. The division was at once placed in position in the woods with its left flank on the river, near Wheatley's Ford, its right extending towards the road from the ford to Stephensburg; Daniel's brigade remaining on the right of this road watching my right.

Before these dispositions were completed the enemy's batteries, from front and flanks, and his infantry along the opposite bank, had driven all of the Second North Carolina to shelter, except three or four companies stationed along the river from the ford to the pontoon site. These companies had slight protection from the musketry, but were very much exposed to the artillery fire.

The Thirtieth North Carolina, going to the assistance of the Second, was speedily broken and demoralized, under the concentrated artillery fire which swept the ground over which it had to march. The battery of Napoleons, commanded by Captain Massie, did its best, but could not hold its own against the three batteries opposing it, and was obliged speedily to cease firing. The men of the Second North Carolina, who remained in the rifle-pits at the ford, still kept up their fire, but no opposition now existing at any other point, the enemy crossed in the rapids, just above the ford, and speedily enveloped the remaining force at the ford, compelling it to surrender. After crossing, the enemy's force moved, as I had expected, upon my left, and continued to advance until within long range of my skirmishers. No advance being made on the Stevensburg road, General Daniel was ordered to move his brigade from the right to the left, where he was placed in reserve, and every arrangement was made to give the enemy a warm reception. He, however, halted before reaching the woods, and having by this time laid his pontoons, continued to cross his troops rapidly, and by the time my arrangements for resistance were completed, had massed in front of me too great a force to admit of my attacking him with any reasonable chance of success. Under the circumstances, and expecting General Johnston's division every moment, I determined to remain on the defensive, at least till its arrival. No further demonstration was made by the enemy during the night. General Johnston's division arriving some time after dark, was placed in continuation of my line of battle on the right, the two divisions forming a continuous line from the river to Mountain Run, and in front of my encampment.

Receiving orders early in the evening to do so, my division, as soon as General Johnston had cleared the way, moved via Stevensburg to Pony Mountain, where it arrived at daybreak.

The losses in the division were as follows:

Daniel's brigade  22
Doles' brigade 5 5
Ramseur's brigade535290330
Battle's brigade 21517
Johnston's brigade 325

The missing reported in Ramseur's brigade are confined to the Second and Thirtieth North Carolina, and include fourteen wounded men in the hands of the surgeon not reported by their regimental commanders as wounded, so that the total wounded is fifty-nine and the missing two hundred and ninety-five. It is probable, however, that many reported missing were left in the hands of the enemy, killed or wounded. The Second North Carolina, under its gallant commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Stallings, behaved very handsomely. The loss of prisoners in this regiment resulted from Lieutenant-Colonel Stallings holding the regiment in position in order to save the Thirtieth, which had come to his relief on his left, he believing that it had engaged the force which crossed at the rapids above the ford. The Thirtieth did not sustain its reputation. It arrived at the mills in great confusion, and became uncontrollable; its leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Sillers, behaved gallantly and did his duty, but many of his men refused utterly to leave the shelter of the houses where he ordered the regiment to fall back. All who refused were of course captured, and hence the large number of prisoners from this regiment. The whole line of battle was under artillery fire, and hence the casualties in the brigades of Doles, Battle, and Johnston. The missing in the brigades, other than Ramseur's, were either deserters or stragglers, probably the latter.

Some valuable officers were killed and wounded. The most distinguished among these are Colonel Cox, Second North Carolina, who was wounded immediately after his entrance upon the field, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sillers, Thirtieth North Carolina, who, it was feared, was mortally wounded.

In consequence of many of the baggage wagons of the brigades having been sent after forage, and of the want of transportation in the division, a small amount of baggage and a few cooking utensils were left in camp. A statement of these losses, which were really slight and unavoidable, was forwarded to the commanding General, through Colonel Chilton.

The outpost force at the other fords named herein were withdrawn without loss and in good order.

Very respectfully, etc.,

R. E. Rodes, Major-General


Report of Brigadier-General Hays.

headquarters Hays' brigade, November 10, 1863.
Major J. W. Daniel:
Major: In pursuance of orders from division headquarters, my brigade, under command of Colonel D. P. Penn, Seventh Louisiana regiment, I myself being engaged in conducting a court of inquiry in the case of Colonel Skinner, Fifty-second Virginia regiment, left camp at sunrise, the sixth instant, and proceeded to the Rappahannock River, near the point where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad bridge formerly spanned that stream. Arrived there, Colonel Penn relieved Walker's brigade, Johnston's division, then on picket duty. The regiments of the command were placed in position in the following order: the Sixth Louisiana regiment, Colonel William Monaghan commanding, was stationed on the right of the works, on the northern side of the river, about a quarter of a mile in advance. The Ninth Louisiana regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel William R. Peck commanding, was retained in the works in reserve. To the left of the Ninth regiment, about a quarter of a mile in advance, was placed the Eighth Louisiana regiment, Captain Gusman commanding; the Seventh Louisiana regiment, Colonel F. M. Terry, being on the extreme left. The Fifth Louisiana regiment, Captain J. G. Angell commanding, was placed on picket, at a point on the southern side of the river, about half way between Norman's Ford and Rappahannock Bridge, at a distance of half a mile from the latter. Between the Sixth regiment and the Ninth regiment were two pieces of artillery, of Green's battery, and between the right and left wings of the Ninth regiment were two other pieces of the same command, these last two guns being somewhat to the right of a point in the works opposite the pontoon bridge.

During the sixth instant, the enemy's vedettes were observed just in advance of the woods bordering the open field, in front of the work, about a mile's distance. There was no firing that day between the pickets.

About eleven o'clock on the morning of the seventh instant, our vedettes reported a regiment of the enemy's infantry passing down the Warrenton and Fredericksburg road, in the direction of the right of our line, followed shortly afterwards by another body of infantry, proceeding towards the same point.

Colonel Penn immediately went to the vedettes' posts to observe the movements of the enemy; and, at a quarter of twelve o'clock, a despatch was sent to Major-General Early, informing him that the enemy in force, both infantry and cavalry, was advancing and forming lines of battle. At a quarter-past one o'clock another despatch was sent to General Early, that the enemy were still in line of battle in front, and that his skirmishers had advanced a short distance from the woods; and that a large force had moved down the river, towards our right, accompanied by wagons and ambulances. At two o'clock the enemy formed another line of battle, about two hundred yards in advance of the wood above mentioned. At this time the Fifth Louisiana regiment, with the exception of one company and sixteen men, left on picket on this side of the river, at the point already indicated, rejoined the brigade, and was placed in position on the right of the Seventh Louisiana regiment. At half-past 2 o'clock the enemy's whole line advanced, supported, as they appeared, by two lines. The Sixth, Eighth, Fifth, and Ninth regiments were then gradually drawn in, and at three o'clock our skirmishers fell back to the road, distant about a hundred yards from our works, where they remained for half an hour, when they were compelled to retire by a movement of the enemy to flank them. The brigade was then disposed in the rifle-pits. A few moments from this, the enemy opened fire from a four-gun battery on our left, from a high hill which we had been forced to abandon by the approach of a heavy force. Colonel Penn immediately sent an order to a battery on this, the southern side of the river, to reply, which was done slowly, and with but little effect. At four o'clock I arrived upon the field, and took command of the brigade. I found heavy firing progressing between the enemy's skirmishers and our line. This continued for an hour, without any marked result. About half-past 4 o'clock, Hoke's brigade, under the command of Colonel Godwin, crossed the river, and was placed between the left wing of the Eighth regiment and the right wing of the Fifth regiment, to fill up a gap in our lines, created by a change in the position of these two regiments, rendered necessary by a movement of the enemy on the left. About five o'clock a battery was opened on our right, and another opposite our centre. The firing from the enemy's guns on the right, left, and centre, converging on the point occupied by us, was rapid and vigorous, until some time after dark. It was then under cover of the darkness that a simultaneous advance was made of the entire force of the enemy. In the centre, the skirmishers were driven back, and his first line was so broken and shattered by our fire, that the few who arrived at the works surrendered themselves prisoners. But the second and third lines continued to advance at a double-quick, arms at a trail, and a column formed, as well as the obscurity of the evening permitted me to descry, by companies, moving down the railroad, was hurled upon our right, which, after a severe struggle, was forced back, leaving the battery in the hands of the enemy. I immediately ordered a charge of the Ninth Louisiana regiment, for the purpose of retaking our guns, but our centre having been broken, and the two forces opposed to our right and centre having joined, rendered the execution of my purpose impracticable. Forming a new line after this juncture, facing up the river, the enemy advanced, moving behind our works towards our left, while a line which he had formed in a ravine above our [748] extreme left, its (the enemy's) right resting on the river, moved down the stream, thus enclosing Hoke's brigade, and the Seventh and Fifth Louisiana regiments, in a manner that rendered escape impossible. My men continued at their posts in the works, fighting well to the last; and it was only when the command was out in two, and the enemy in complete possession of the entire hill, that any thought was entertained of falling back. Indeed, there was no effort made by any one in my command to recross the river until nothing else remained but to surrender. Many then escaped by swimming or fording the river, and some few on the pontoon bridge.

The force under my command was small, being between eight and nine hundred. That of Hoke's brigade, consisting of three regiments, was also small, as owing to the suddenness with which it left camp to proceed to the river, many of its members were absent. The force of the enemy, I am confident, could not have been less than twenty to twenty-five thousand. But few of my brigade were wounded or killed, owing to the enemy's advancing without firing. I am satisfied that the loss we inflicted upon the attacking force was heavy, as our firing was collected and steady.

For particulars of the movements of Hoke's brigade, and its casualties, I respectfully refer you to the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, Sixth North Carolina regiment, herewith appended, marked “A.”

My loss is as follows:

Officers killed0
Officers wounded2
Officers missing58
Enlisted men killed2
Enlisted men wounded14
Enlisted men missing626

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Harry T. Hays, Brigadier-General, commanding.

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