Page images
PDF
EPUB

108

THE CONFEDERATES ON MINE RUN.

pleted to and across the Rappahannock to Brandy Station, and the last named place was made a general depot of supplies for the Army of the Potomac. Meade lay quietly between the Rappahannock and the Rapid Anna until

late in the month, Nov., 1868.

watching for a favorable opportunity to advance on his foe. It might have been more prudent for him to have gone into winter quarters, but the impatience and clamor of the public, because of the seeming unfruitfulness of the whole summer and autumn campaigns since the Battle of Gettysburg, and Meade's own eagerness tò act, made him resolve to strike a blow so soon as a wise prudence would allow. So, when the bridge over the Rappahannock, which he destroyed on his retreat,' had been rebuilt, and his communication with his supplies and the capital

full and perfect, he planned a forward movement of great boldness, and proceeded to put it into execution.

The strength of Lee's army was now weakened by expansion over a large surface. His right, composed of Ewell's corps (was resting on the Rapid Anna at Morton's Ford (leaving all the lower fords of that stream uncovered), and extending to Liberty Mills, west of Orange Court-House; and Hill's corps was distributed in cantonments for winter, along the railway, from a little south of the latter point to Charlottesville, leaving wide gaps between the two corps. Lee had also constructed, for the defense of his right flank, a line of intrenchments along Mine Run, whose course is perpendicular to the Rapid Anna from Bartley's Run to its mouth, at Morton's Ford. Meade quickly perceived Lee's weak points, and determined to attempt to turn his right, and, sweeping around toward Orange Court-House, overwhelm Ewell, turn the works on Mine Run, and, thrusting his army between the two corps of his antagonist, destroy them in detail, and secure an effectual lodgment at Orange and Gordonsville. This movement would involve the perilous measure of cutting loose from supplies. Meade took the risk. Providing his troops with ten days' rations, he moved forward at six o'clock

[graphic]

CULPEPPER COURT-HOUSE."

were

I See page 103.

* This is a view of the building which gave name to one of the pleasantest villages in Virginia before the war broke out, and which was made famous by the stirring scenes of that war which occurred in its neighborhood. The old court-house walls and its wholo external structure survived the war, but its interior was destroyed; and when, in October, 1866, the writer visited and sketched it, it was yet a mere shell, and presented the appearance given in the picture

MEADE MOVES TOWARD MINE RUN.

109

Nov. 27.

on the morning of the 26th, leaving his trains parked at Richardsville, on the north side of the Rapid Anna. The plan of advance was

* Nov., 1863. for the corps of French, followed by Sedgwick, to cross the river at Jacobs's Mill Ford, and march toward Robertson's tavern, on the Orange turnpike; while Warren's, destined for the same point, for the purpose of a junction with the others, should cross at Germania Ford. Sykes's, followed by two divisions of Newton's, was to cross at Culpepper Mine Ford, and march for Parker's store and Hope Church, on the Orange plank road. The right and left columns of the army would thus be placed in close communication, on parallel roads. Gregg, with his cavalry, was to cross at Elly's Ford and take position on the extreme left; and to the cavalry divisions of Custer and Merritt was assigned the duty of watching the upper fords of the Rapid Anna and the trains at Richardsville.

Meade had calculated the time of his march to the vicinity of Orange Court-House at not more than thirty-six hours, if all the prescribed movements should be made promptly. But the necessary conditions were not fulfilled. Instead of crossing the Rapid Anna that morning, and reaching Robertson's tavern and Parker's store that evening, so as to surprise the foe, nearly the whole day was consumed in the passage of the river, owing to the tardiness of French's troops, mistakes of engineers in the construction of the pontoon bridges, and the difficulties in getting the artillery up the steep banks of the stream at the fords. It was ten o'clock the next day before any of the troops destined for Robertson's tavern reached that point, when the movement had become known to the foe, and Warren, who, with ten thousand men, followed by the reserve artillery, was in the advance, was confronted by the divisions of Early, Rodes, and Johnson, of Ewell's corps. Brisk skirmishing at once began, but Warren was ordered not to seriously engage the Confederates until French should come up. That officer had taken the wrong road in the morning, and had fallen in and skirmished with Johnson's division, of Ewell's corps, near the Widow Morris's. This, and other causes of delay, kept him back until night, when Warren was so hard pressed that Meade had been compelled to send troops from the left to his assistance. This failure of French to come up in time almost exhausted Meade's patience, for it frustrated all his plans. Lee had penetrated his designs, and had ample time to make dispositions accordingly. He withdrew Ewell's corps, called up Hill, and concentrated his whole army on the west bank of Mine Run, when he strengthened and so extended his fortifications along the line of that stream, that they crossed the two highways upon which Meade's army lay.

Lee's position was made a very strong one. His army was in a series of hills forming an irregular ridge, extending north and south about eight miles. On these hills the fortifications lay, the natural shape of the former making proper angles of defense. In the rear and on the flanks of this position was a tangled forest, similar to that of the Wilderness;' and a little 'more than a thousand yards in front was Mine Run, with marshy, abrupt, or timbered banks. In front of all was a strong abatis, made of a thick growth of pines.

1 See page 25.

110

THE NATIONALS READY FOR BATTLE.

Sykes's corps coming up on the morning of the 28th, Meade had his

army then all in hand along a line not much exceeding five or .Nov., 1863.

six miles in length. Gregg was sent out to make observations. He skirmished with and drove back Stuart’s cavalry, and ascertained the

[graphic][merged small]

general position of Lee's army along Mine Run. Warren, with his own and a part of Sedgwick's corps, took position on the left, near Hope Church,

with instructions to feel the foe, ascertain how far southward his fortifications extended, flank them, and turn the Confederate right, if

possible. The following Nov. 28.

day' was spent in reconnoitering; and st evening, Warren on the left, and Sedgwick on the right, reported that such was the position of the enemy, that an attack on his right and left wings would undoubtedly be successful. Meade thereupon ordered an attack to be made the next morning.

To Warren was intrusted the task of opening the battle by the

heaviest assault. forced by troops from French's (Second) corps (which, with a part of Sedgwick's, occupied the center as a kind of reserve at first), which made his

[graphic]

GOUVERNEUR KEMBLE WARREN,

He was

re-en

1 Abatis, an obstruction formed of felled trees, has been frequently mentioned in this work, and described in a note. This picture is intended to show to the uninformed the appearance of such obstructions in front of fortifications, and the difficulties they present to an assailant.

MEADE WITHDRAWS FROM MINE RUN.

111

Nov. 30, 1869.

JACOB'S MILL FD

10 RICHARDSVILLE

MITOHELL FORD

[ocr errors]

CUSTEN

ANN

MORTON
FORD

GERMANIA

FORD

CULPEPPCR
MINE E.

NORRIS

[ocr errors]

BARTLEY'S

MILL

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

WARREN

WILDERNESS
TAVERN

AURNPIKE

[merged small][ocr errors]

PLANK

TAVER

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

whole number about twenty-six thousand. He was directed to begin the assault at about eight o'clock in the morning," when the batteries of the center and right were to open on the foe. Sedgwick was to strike Lee's left an hour later, when, it was hoped, Warren's attack would cause the weakening of that wing; and French, with his own broken corps and a part of the First, under Newton, who was only to menace at the beginning, was to advance and attack Lee's center when the assault on his right and left should be successful. The National cavalry was ordered to keep Lee's horsemen from Meade's communications.

At the appointed hour, Meade's batteries on left and center were opened, and the skirmishers of the latter dashed across Mine Run, and drove back those of the Confederates. But Warren's guns

POSITION OF THE ARMIES AT MINE RUN, NOV. 80. were not heard. Sedgwick was in readiness, and anxiously waiting to perform his part, but. Warren's guns were yet silent. The mystery was solved at a few minutes. before nine o'clock, when Meade received a message from Warren, saying hehad found Lee's position much stronger than he expected, and had taken the responsibility of suspending the attack. Meade hastened to the left, and found that his foe, informed of the massing of troops on his right, had concentrated his own forces there, men and guns,

Meade was satisfied that Warren had behaved prudently, and he ordered a general suspension of operations for the attack. French and Sedgwick fell back, and Meade that day studied well the chances for success. He found that the opening of his batteries had given Lee hints to strengthen his defenses on his left, and he was doing so with energy. Indeed Lee's position was growing stronger every hour, while Meade's strength was diminishing, for his rations were nearly exhausted, and his supply-trains were beyond the Rapid Anna. To bring these over might expose them to disaster, for winter was at hand, and rains might suddenly swell the streams and make them impassable. Considering the risks, Meade determined to sacrifice himself, if necessary, rather than his army, by abandoning the enterprise at once. This he did. He recrossed the Rapid Anna,' without being followed or molested, and went into winter quarters on his old camping grounds between that stream and the Rappahannock. He desired

in formidable

array.

Dec. 1, 2

112

OPERATIONS IN WEST VIRGINIA.

to advance on Fredericksburg, seize the heights, and make his winter quar: ters in that more advantageous position, but General Halleck would not allow him to do so.'

So ended the campaign of the Army of the Potomac in 1863, and at about the same time co-operating military operations in West Virginia were closed, by the expulsion from that region of nearly all armed and organized opponents of the Government. But few military events, having an important bearing on the grander operations of the war, had occurred there since the close of 1861.? We have already mentioned the brilliant exploit of General Lander, in the vicinity of the Baltimore and Ohio railway, early in 1862. Little was done there after that, except watching and raiding for more than a year. In May, 1862, General Heth was in the Greenbrier region, and on the day when Kenly was attacked at Front Royal,' he marched upon Lewisburg with three regiments, and attacked two Ohio regiments stationed there, under Colonel George Crooke. Heth was routed, and escaped by burning the bridge over the Greenbrier behind him, with a loss of over one hundred men (mostly prisoners), four guns, and three hundred muskets. Crooke's loss was sixty-three men.

After this there was comparative quiet in West Virginia, until the summer of 1863, when a raiding party, one thousand strong, under Colonel John Tolland, composed of Virginia Union cavalry and the Thirty-fourth Ohio infantry, left the Kanawha Valley, went southward to a point on the Coal River, and then, turning more to the eastward, crossed over the rugged Flat Top, and other mountains of the Appalachian range, and, on the 18th of July, swept down upon Wytheville, on the Virginia and Tennessee railway. They charged into the village, when they were fired upon from some of the houses. The leader was killed, and Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, of the Thirtyfourth Ohio, was mortally wounded. This unexpected resistance startled the raiders, and, after firing the houses from which shots came, they hastily retired, leaving their dead and wounded behind them. After brief rest they started for the Kanawha, under Lieutenant Franklin. They suffered severely from fatigue and lack of food among the almost uninhabited mountain ranges, and at the end of a rough ride of about four hundred miles, going and returning, during eight days, they lost eighty-two men and three hundred horses.

A little later, General W. W. Averill started with his cavalry from Huttonsville, in Tygart's Valley, and passing through several counties in the mountain region southward, to Pocahontas, drove General W. S. (called “Mudwall”) Jackson out of that shire, and over the Warm Springs Mountain, in a series of skirmishes. He destroyed the Confederate saltpeter works, and other public property in that region, and menaced Staunton. At Rock Gap, near White Sulphur Springs, he was met hy a much larger force than his own, of General Sam. Jones's command, led by Colonel George S. Patten, when a severe struggle for the pass ensued, which lasted a greater portion

of the 26th and 27th of August. Averill's ammunition began

to fail at noon of the latter day, when Patten was re-enforced. Averill retreated, and made his way back to Huttonsville, weakly pursued

* 1863.

See map on page 405, volume II. • See page 391, volume II.

2 See page 104, volume II. 3 See page 367, volume II.

6 See map on page 101, volume II.

« PreviousContinue »