[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
previous
Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


[image ALT: link to next section]
next
Chapter
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. III
p188
Chapter XI

Surprise and a Disappointment

(RAPPAHANNOCK BRIDGE AND MINE RUN)

Back on the south side of the Rappahannock, the Army of Northern Virginia, which had been in good spirits during the Bristoe expedition,1 was satisfied that the year's bitter fighting had at last been ended.2 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Meade was somewhat of the same mind. He believed that Lee had advanced to Bristoe Station in order to destroy the railroad and thereby to hold off the Army of the Potomac while he sent more troops to Tennessee — "a deep game," Meade said, "and I am free to admit that in the playing of it [Lee] has got the advantage of me."3 But Lee was not so sure that all was over for the winter. He presumed that Meade would advance again. "If I could only get some shoes and clothes for the men," he said, "I would save him the trouble."4 On the possibility that supplies might be forthcoming for a limited offensive, he kept his pontoons on the Rappahannock, close to the piers of the old railroad bridge at Rappahannock Station. Simultaneously, he fortified a bridgehead on the north bank of the river. In doing this, he had a defensive as well as an offensive object in view, for as long as he was able to maintain the pontoon bridge he would be in position to divide Meade's forces and could throw a flanking column over the river in case his adversary attempted to cross the Rappahannock, either above or below him.5

Two weeks and more passed without important incident. The Army of the Potomac advanced to Warrenton, halted there for some days, and then began to feel its way slowly toward the Rappahannock;6 but Meade did not appear to threaten a general p189 advance. During the respite thus afforded him, Lee experienced some concern over the unsatisfactory handling of affairs in western Virginia.7 There was, too, the usual futile effort to get reinforcements, especially of cavalry;8 and some correspondence passed with the War Department over a proposed transfer of troops to South Carolina, a movement against which Lee protested with the reminder that "it is only by the concentration of our troops that we can hope to win any decided advantage."9 For the rest, Lee was content to give the men a vacation from marching and to remain at headquarters near Brandy Station,10 as quietly as was possible, for he was in constant pain, and for five days at the beginning of November was unable to ride.11 He had set November 5 for a review of the cavalry corps and had invited Governor John Letcher to witness it, but he was afraid he would not be able to endure this ordeal. Fortunately, though, he felt better that day12 and was able to participate in a ceremony that delighted the spectators and made the heart of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart proud.13 Several of Lee's nephews and his youngest son were among those passing in front of the commander, who had a secret parental delight in noting that Rooney's old regiment, the Ninth Virginia, made the finest showing.14

Ever since the famous review of June 8, 1863, on that same historic field near Brandy Station, there had been a tradition in the army that pageantry was always followed by action. Once again this was vindicated. On the very day of the ceremonies the outposts reported the enemy advancing to the Rappahannock, and by noon on November 7, Federal infantry was in front of p190 the tête de pont, while a large column was moving to Kelly's Ford. As the ground on the south bank of the river at this ford was somewhat similar to that at Fredericksburg, in that it offered no deep defensive position from which to dispute a crossing,15 Lee intended to permit Meade to cross and then to attack him in superior force by holding part of the Federal force at Rappahannock Bridge.16 The Confederate troops were well disposed for this purpose. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell's corps extended from Kelly's Ford to a point beyond the bridgehead, Hill was on the upper stretches of the river, guarding the fords, and the cavalry covered both flanks.

When, therefore, Lee learned during the afternoon that the enemy had crossed at Kelly's Ford, in front of Rodes's division, he felt no particular concern. Johnson's division was ordered to reinforce Rodes, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Anderson was brought up close to the left of the railroad to support Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early, who commanded the crossing, and the rest of Hill's corps was put on the alert.17 Early had only Hays's brigade on the north side of the river, in the works covering the pontoon bridge, and no units resting directly on the south bank; but without waiting for orders he advanced the rest of his division as soon as he heard that the enemy was concentrating in front of the tête de pont.18 Lee overtook Early on his way to the bridge and rode forward with him to a hill overlooking the position on the north bank.

Early hurried across the pontoon bridge, which was in a protected position, and Lee busied himself with disposing two batteries of artillery that were at hand. After half an hour or more, Early returned and reported that the enemy was gradually approaching the bridgehead under cover of a range of hills, and that the defending force was entirely too small to man the works. On the arrival from the rear of the head of Hoke's command, the leading brigade of Early's division, Lee ordered it over the bridge to support the troops already in position, but he declined to send more men to the north side. He believed that seven regiments would suffice to defend the bridgehead, inasmuch as the enemy could not advance on a longer front than the two brigades held.19

p191 Soon after Hoke's brigade crossed, the Federals planted artillery where it could deliver a cross-fire on the bridgehead. Answering this challenge, the Confederate batteries quickened their fire, and Lee moved up to a hill nearer the river in order that he might observe the fight more closely.20 He soon discovered that the Southern gunners were accomplishing nothing because of the length of the range, and he ordered the fire halted.

In a short time dusk fell. A heavy south wind was blowing and carried away from the river the sound of the action. Soon the Federal ordnance ceased its practice. Shortly afterward flashes of musketry could be seen, but these were not long visible.21 This stoppage of fire convinced Lee that the Federals were merely making a demonstration against the bridgehead, probably to cover their advance at Kell's Ford; and as the enemy had never made a night attack on a fortified position held by the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee concluded that the action in that quarter was over for the day. If the enemy came too close, he believed it would be possible for the troops on the north side to return to the south bank under cover of the batteries.22 Leaving General Early in charge, Lee rode back to headquarters, where he received the unwelcome news that the enemy had captured parts of two regiments at Kelly's Ford, had laid a pontoon bridge, and had sent a large force over to reinforce the first units.23

In this situation, of course, the logical course was to carry out the plan previously prepared for this contingency — to hold the bridgehead, to demonstrate there, and to move the greater part of the army eastward to engage the troops that were facing Rodes and Johnson at Kelly's Ford. But before Lee could execute this plan, Early sent him almost incredible news from the tête de pont: After darkness had fallen, the enemy had massed in great strength, had stormed the bridgehead and had captured the whole force on the north side, except for those who had swum the Rappahannock or had run the gauntlet over the pontoon bridge! p192 Fearing an attempted crossing, Early had set fire to the south end of the bridge and had lost the pontoons.24

Lee's defensive plan collapsed as he read Early's dispatch. If the bridgehead was gone, it would be futile to demonstrate on the left while attacking on the right at Kelly's Ford. Meade would laugh at the helpless Southern troops opposite the old railroad bridge. Moreover, the Army of Northern Virginia could not safely remain where it was, on a shallow extended front, with the Rapidan River behind it. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope had nearly been caught there, with the positions reversed. Lee saw that he must move back, and at once. Within a few hours after Early had reported the disaster at Rappahannock Bridge, the troops had been routed out from their huts, the wagons had been packed, and the army was retiring to a line that crossed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad two miles northeast of Culpeper and barred the road from Kelly's Ford by way of Stevensburg.25 Lee was, of course, concerned over this hurried movement, but he did not let it upset his poise. As he prepared to leave his headquarters near Brandy Station, he went to Major Taylor's tent and found that officer stretched out in front of a roaring fire. "Major Taylor is a happy fellow," he commented cheerfully, and went on his way.26 There was no sleep for Lee that night, and he was glad to see his faithful staff officer snatching rest while he could.

As the army formed line of battle in its new position on the morning of November 9, there was some expectation that Meade would attack, but when he let the day pass without following up his success at Rappahannock Bridge, Lee again put the columns in motion and, on November 10, was back on the south side of the Rapidan, whence he had started one month and one day previously for Bristoe Station.27

The troops were much chagrined at the necessity which threw them back from the Rappahannock. The affair of the bridge was, Taylor insisted, "the saddest chapter in the history of this army," p193 showing "miserable, miserable management."28 Sandie Pendleton, son of the chief of artillery and one of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson's former staff officers, was burning for Lee to attack Meade and "let us retrieve our lost reputation." He went on: "It is absolutely sickening, and I feel personally disgraced by the issue of the late campaign, as does every one in the command. Oh, how each day is proving the inestimable value of General Jackson to us."29 A young North Carolinian, less close to the saddles of the mighty, probably voiced the sentiments of the army when he said, "I don't know much about it but it seems to me that our army was surprised."30 Early was intensely humiliated, though he did not feel himself responsible.31 Lee called for prompt reports both of the attack at the bridgehead and of the capture of the skirmishers at Kelly's Ford; but when the documents were received he could only say that sharpshooters had not been properly advanced in front of the bridgehead, and that Rodes had erred in placing two regiments on picket duty, instead of one, at Kelly's Ford.32 "The courage and good conduct of the troops engaged," he said, "have been too often tried to admit of question."33

The morale of the army was not impaired by this unhappy affair.34 The men went cheerfully to work building new huts, and contrived to make themselves comfortable after a fashion.35 Lee sought once more to get shoes for those who were barefooted36 and began a long correspondence with the commissary bureau concerning the rationing of the army.37 Supply were so scanty and the operation of the Virginia Central Railroad so uncertain that he was compelled to serve warning that he might be forced to retreat nearer Richmond.38 As he could not leave the army to go to the capital to discuss these matters with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Mr. Davis, he requested the President to visit the army, and, during p194 a period of rainy weather from November 21 to November 24, conferred with him on the situation.39 Lee's most immediate concern was for the horses, which were almost without forage. He anticipated the loss of many of them from starvation during the winter, and he did not believe that without food they could survive more than two or three days of active operations. The country round about had been stripped almost as bare as the devastated area north of the Rappahannock.40

But whether men or mounts survived or perished, Lee had to guard his front against the powerful, warm, and well-fed enemy that might again descend upon him. A little tributary of Mine Run, known as Walnut Run, fifteen miles northeast of Orange Courthouse, was fortified to cover the right flank. Ewell's corps was extended from that point westward to Clark's Mountain, where the old lookout was re-established. In Ewell's absence on account of sickness, this part of the line was entrusted to Early, with particular instructions to study the defensive possibilities of Mine Run.41 From Clark's Mountain westward to Liberty Mills, a distance of approximately thirteen miles, Hill's camps were spread.42 The cavalry covered both flanks, and as Lee thought it probable Meade would make his next advance from Bealton to Ely's and Germanna's Fords,43 Hampton's division on the lower Rapidan was enjoined to maintain a ceaseless watch for an advance in that quarter.44

For more than two weeks after the line of the Rapidan was manned, Meade showed no sign of any disposition to assume the initiative except for minor cavalry demonstrations.45 Then, on the night of November 24, one of Lee's spies reported that eight days' rations had been issued the I Corps, and another scout told of suspicious movements by Federal horse in Stafford County.46 The next morning Stuart's cavalry was put on the alert,47 and the p195 army became expectant of a new battle.48 "With God's help," wrote Major Taylor, "there shall be a Second Chancellorsville as there was a Second Manassas."49

Lee's belief was that his able adversary, in making another thrust,50 would attempt, on crossing the Rapidan, to advance through the Wilderness of Spotsylvania in the direction of the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad.51 He had already suggested to General Imboden in the Shenandoah Valley that he join with Mosby's Rangers in operations against the Federal line of communications,52 and he now prepared to move quickly to the northeast in order to interpose between Meade and his objective. For once the roads favored him, and he had three fair highways almost to Wilderness Run and two nearly to Chancellorsville.

A heavy fog limited vision from the Confederate signal stations early on the morning of November 26,53 but this lifted as the day wore on, and disclosed the enemy moving in force through Stevensburg towards Germanna Ford.54 As this was precisely what Lee had expected Meade to do, orders were issued for the Confederate movement to begin during the night.55 Care was taken to cover both flanks,56 and a route was selected for the wagon train that would place it where it could reach the army quickly or retire southward toward the line of the Virginia Central Railroad.57 At 3 A.M. on the morning of the 27th, Lee left his headquarters near Orange Courthouse and started for Verdiersville.58 The weather was excessively cold, and icicles formed thickly on the beards of the officers,59 but Lee was in high spirits, now that there was a prospect of battle.60 He was quite unconscious of the inward grumbling of his staff that he had started ahead of every one else and would arrive at his destination ere more seasonable sleepers were astir.61

p196 True to these chilly predictions, when Lee reached Verdiersville he found no troops there, but down the road, in a thick pine wood, fires were burning and Confederate cavalry outposts were to be seen. After establishing his headquarters at the Rhodes house,62 Lee walked down the plank road and found Stuart just rising from beside the fire, where he had slept since midnight with only one blanket. "What a hardy soldier!" Lee exclaimed as Stuart approached. The same thing might have been said of Lee himself, for he had cast aside his cape and wore only his uniform.63

In a brief conversation with his chief of cavalry, Lee directed him to cover the roads in the direction of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Courthouse, as the enemy was believed to be moving in that direction. Not long after Stuart rode off to look for Hampton's division, which had not yet come up,64 General Early reported in person. Ewell's corps, Early said, was already beyond Verdiersville on the old turnpike, which approximately paralleled the plank road. Lee simply ordered him to continue his advance in the direction of Chancellorsville and to attack any force he encountered.65

Early rode off to direct this movement. He soon sent back word that the cavalry pickets had been driven in and that General Hays, who was leading Early's own division, had met Federal infantry at Locust Grove, situated on a ridge about a mile and a half east of Mine Run. Assuming that this was a force thrown out to protect the rear of Federals moving eastward from the nearby fords, Lee did not ride forward to reconnoitre in person, but waited at Verdiersville for the arrival of Hill's corps, which had a long march on the plank road from its encampments.

While Early deployed his men slowly and cautiously, the morning hours passed. Shortly after noon some echoes of action may have reached Lee from the northeast, but the pine forests were thick, and sound did not carry far. Ere long, however, he must have been informed that while Johnson's division was advancing toward Bartlett's Mill, the ambulance train had been fired on from the north.66 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Steuart's brigade had moved out from p197 the road, the rest of the division had been recalled, and a line of battle had been formed facing the Rapidan.67 Meantime, Early had completed his dispositions and had put Rodes and Hays in line, opposite what appeared to be a strong force at Locust Grove. Instead, therefore, of having a race for Chancellorsville, with an enemy moving southeastward from the fords of the Rapidan, Lee found the Federals in his front and on his left flank. Still, this situation did not altogether contradict the view that the enemy was advancing toward Fredericksburg or the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. The Federal columns might have been delayed in crossing the fords opposite Lee's front, or the forces that had been encountered by Early might be a heavy rearguard.

About 1 P.M., Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Heth's division, at the head of Hill's corps, reached Verdiersville. Lee gave the men an hour's rest and then directed that they continue their march up the plank road toward Mine Run.68 Some time after the last regiment of the division had filed past, Lee himself rode forward with his staff. When he had gone about two miles he found the division halted and heard firing ahead. At length, Heth rode up and reported that when his advance had reached a point between two and three miles from Verdiersville, he had come upon a detachment of Stuart's cavalry skirmishing with Federals along the plank road. Heth had thrown forward skirmishers to support the cavalry, but they had been driven in quickly. Several attempts to drive off the enemy had been made to no purpose. Might he advance his whole division and feel out the strength of the Federals? Lee consented, and Heth hurried away.69

In rear of Heth's line of battle, Lee waited. North of him, where Johnson's division had been fired upon, a hot action was in progress. To the northeast, Rodes's and Early's men were skirmishing briskly. And now Heth was about to engage. It was, to say the least, stiff and extended resistance to be offered by an adversary who was supposed to be hastening toward the railroad below Fredericksburg.

General Hill, who joined Lee about this time, had been of opinion that the enemy had only cavalry in his front,70 but General Stuart, in a note sent at 2 o'clock, expressed the belief that p198 the enemy was advancing up the Rapidan.71 Most significant of all was a dispatch from General Thomas L. Rosser, one of Stuart's new brigadiers. He reported that during the morning he had found the ordnance train of the I and V Army Corps on the plank road near Wilderness Tavern. Attacking, he had captured 280 mules and 150 prisoners,72 and — what was of far greater immediate importance — he had observed that the wagons were headed for Orange Courthouse, not for Chancellorsville.73

Was Meade, then, moving against the Army of Northern Virginia, rather than to the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad? It seemed probable, but until the purpose of the enemy was more fully disclosed, Lee hardly dared hope that his numerically inferior army would have the opportunity of fighting a defensive battle. When, therefore, Heth returned late in the evening and announced that he had driven the enemy's skirmishers from their advanced position, Lee was unwilling to authorize an advance until he had personally examined the enemy's position and had seen for himself how strongly the Federals were posted.74 He ordered Anderson's division of Hill's corps to the right and rear of Heth to fill in the gap between Heth's left and Early's right,75 and after Hill returned from making these dispositions, Lee went with him on a reconnaissance.


[image ALT: zzz]
Principal roads and streams on the south side of the Rapidan River between Orange Courthouse and Wilderness Church, showing the opposing positions along Mine Run, Nov. 29, 1863.

By this time he had information that the force which Johnson's division had encountered on its advance was an entire corps, part of which had been driven off, with a Confederate loss of some 545 men.76 Such additional intelligence as reached Lee confirmed the suspicion formed after the receipt of Rosser's dispatch and led him to conclude that the whole of the Army of the Potomac was in his front.77 It was not necessary to go in search of the enemy; the enemy was searching for him! For the first time since Fredericksburg the army was to have a chance of receiving the enemy's assaults instead of attacking. As it was now nearly dark, Lee determined not to advance against the strong position of the Federals that evening, but to withdraw to the west bank of Mine p200 Run during the night and to await developments.78 Early retired behind the run without additional orders and took up a good line there.79 Hill's corps was recalled during the night.80

When Early reported, about daylight on the 28th,81 Lee instructed him to move his troops still farther westward to an even better defensive position, for if Meade was of a mind to assume the offensive, Lee wished to meet it on the most favorable ground.82 But before Early could execute this order he found the Federal infantry advancing to Mine Run and, with Lee's permission, he waited to repulse them.83 A heavy rain began to fall while the army stood ready to resist attack,84 and this downpour seemed to deter the enemy. Making one or two minor adjustments in his front, to protect it from enfilading fire,85 Lee ordered earthworks thrown up. As the earth began to fly, he rode or walked among the soldiers with encouraging words. "In an incredibly short time (for our men work now like beavers)," one officer wrote shortly afterwards, "we were strongly fortified and ready and anxious for an attack."86

But the enemy did not attack that day, nor the next, though he opened a heavy artillery fire on the 29th and threatened to assault.87 Lee could not believe that Meade had made elaborate preparations and had moved his whole army for a mere demonstration, so he continued to strengthen his earthworks, while the enemy set to work to emulate him. The day witnessed the strange spectacle of two great armies exchanging occasional cannon shots and contenting themselves, for the rest, with seeing which of them could pile the higher parapets.88 It chanced to be a Sunday, and the weather was very cold.89 The men who were not on duty gathered about their fires and, here and there, assembled in prayer meetings incident to the great revival that showed no sign of losing its force. As Lee rode out on a tour of inspection, he, with his staff, chanced to pass one of these gatherings. He promptly dismounted and participated reverently in the service.90

p201 On the 30th, the weather still very cold, Stuart reported early that the enemy was forming line of battle on the south side of the Catharpin road.91 But once again expectations were deceived, and no general engagement occurred. Puzzled as Lee was by Meade's lack of action,92 he was so confident of the outcome of a Federal attack that he notified Davis not to reinforce him with troops that might be needed for the defense of Richmond.93 He continued to keep a sharp lookout on his flanks, however, especially on his right, where there had been some active cavalry skirmishing on the 29th.94

Sometime on the 30th a hurried message arrived from General Stuart, asking Lee to come to him at once. Lee went with the messenger, and found Stuart in the company of Wade Hampton in rear of the left flank of the enemy. Hampton had reached that position unobserved and believed that it was possible to turn the Federal position and repeat Jackson's movement at Chancellorsville. Lee studied the ground carefully and conferred with some of his officers but decided against immediate action,95 probably because he could not bring the troops into position in time to attack that day, or else because he wished to wait a little longer in the hope that Meade would attack.

When the morning of December 1 came and went with no further sign of any intention on the part of the Federals to press the offensive, Lee lost hope that the Federals would assume a vigorous offensive and he determined to take the initiative himself. "They must be attacked; they must be attacked," he said.96 Hill was directed to draw Anderson's and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wilcox's divisions of veterans to the extreme right,97 probably with an eye to moving them to the position Hampton had discovered the previous day, and Early was instructed to extend his right to cover the ground vacated by the two divisions. Lee's plan was to carry Wilcox and Anderson beyond the enemy's left flank and to sweep down it, while Early held the defenses on Mine Run with his own corps and with Heth's division. The weather was so cold that water p202 froze in the canteens of the men that night,98 but the movement got under way smoothly and without interruption by the enemy, though there were some evidences of activity within the Federal lines.99

Before daybreak on December 2 the whole army was ready; Anderson and Wilcox were in position; the rest of the men were on the alert; the gunners were at their posts. As soon as it was light enough to see, the skirmishers looked eagerly through the woods for the Federal pickets. But they scanned the thickets in vain: The enemy was gone!100 The withdrawal was so unexpected that a staff officer who was sent to order Hampton's division to pursue the foe found the videttes on the watch for an advance by the Federal divisions that were then fast making their way toward the fords of the Rapidan.101 Informed of the changed situation, the cavalry rode fast and hard,102 and the infantry followed through woods the retiring enemy had set afire.103 Meade, however, had a long lead, for he had started during the late afternoon of the 1st, and the chase was fruitless.104

"I am too old to command this army," Lee said grimly, when he saw that his adversary had retreated, "we should never have permitted those people to get away."105 In deep depression of spirits, and indignant at the many evidences of purposeless vandalism,106 he soon recalled the infantry and moved back toward his camps higher up the stream. When he had cooled down, two days later, he wrote of Meade, "I am greatly disappointed at his getting off with so little damage, but we do not know what is best for us. I believe a kind God has ordered all things for our good."107

Except for a troublesome raid by General W. W. Averell against the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, beginning December p203 11,108 the Mine Run episode marked the end of active operations in 1863.109 It had been for Lee no such year of victory as '62. The bloody glory of Chancellorsville had been dimmed by the defeat at Gettysburg. The limit of the manpower of the South had almost been reached. The spectre of want hung over the camps. From the time of the return to the line of the Rappahannock and Rapidan after the Pennsylvania campaign, the army had met with no major disaster, but it had scored no success. Taking Bristoe Station, the capture of the Rappahannock bridgehead and the movement to Mine Run as one campaign, Lee's losses had been 4255 and his gain had been nil.110

These casualties, amounting to nearly a whole division, were not due to recklessness on the part of the men, or to ready surrender. Aside from those killed and wounded in Johnson's division as it marched to Mine Run, virtually the whole of Lee's losses were attributable to defective leading or to carelessness on the part of commanding officers. The operations had lacked not only the dash of Jackson but the tactical skill of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet, as well, and they must have raised serious misgivings in Lee's mind as to the future handling of the two corps left him. The impetuosity that had marked A. P. Hill ever since the battle of Mechanicsville cost the army the service of two effective brigades at Bristoe Station, and along with them the possibility of a substantial victory. Not since Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLaws's slow bungling at Salem Church had there been a worse example of generalship. The defense at Rappahannock Bridge and at Kelly's Ford on November 7 was unskillful, even though no blame could be fixed. As for p204 Ewell, he made no mistake at Bristoe Station and was not present at Mine Run, but he was so enfeebled by his former wounds that Lee was deeply concerned for him.111 With his quaint language, his aquiline countenance, and his wooden leg, he was a picturesque and appealing figure as he rode gamely among the troops. Every one was puzzled to know how he contrived to stick on his horse.112 Lee, however, had to ask himself the more serious question of how Ewell could sustain the hardships of an active campaign, and that question had added point, because, in Longstreet's absence, Ewell was ranking lieutenant general. If Lee went down, the command would devolve, temporarily at least, on him. Taylor probably voiced the secret feeling of his chief when he wrote, "I only wish the general had good lieutenants; we miss Jackson and Longstreet terribly."113 The full weight of the army rested on Lee. He had to give his corps commanders a measure of direction that had been unnecessary when he had operated with two corps under "Stonewall" and "Old Pete." His might now be the responsibility of fighting the battles as well as of shaping the strategy. It was a heavy burden to be borne by a man whose heart symptoms were becoming aggravated.

The final operations of 1863 marked two new stages in the methods of war employed by the Army of Northern Virginia. They increased, in the first place, the faith of the troops in the great utility of field fortification. Lee's construction of the South Carolina and of the Richmond lines had early demonstrated his belief that the commanding general should provide the maximum cover for his men when they were to be engaged for a long period in defensive operations. His use of field works did not date, as some authorities have claimed, from Mine Run,114 but from Fredericksburg and, more particularly, from Chancellorsville. After Mine Run, as the declining strength of the army forced it more and more to the defensive, field fortification became a routine. Every soldier was a military engineer.

If the infantry were finally converted to the use of earthworks p205 at Mine Run, the cavalry developed, in the second place, an important new tactical method during the last five months of the year. Prior to the Bristoe campaign, the sharpshooters of the cavalry had been organized officially, and during the second battle of Brandy, October 11, they were dismounted by regiments and were effectively employed. In that action, Lomax's whole brigade left their horses in the rear and for a time occupied a line of breastworks.115 Again, in the "Buckland Races," Fitz Lee used some of his cavalrymen on foot.116 During the Mine Run operations, when the cavalry had to contend with a thick forest and heavy undergrowth, through which it was impossible for mounted men to pass, these tactics of dismounted action were developed. In the fighting of November 27, and again on the 29th and on the 30th, the troopers were led against the enemy by regular infantry approaches.117 From that time onward, as the necessities of the service demanded, the dismounted cavalrymen were frequently summoned to support the thinning line of the infantry. It was hard on the troopers but it saved horses, and it prepared the army more fully for the fearful tests that awaited in the campaign of 1864.


The Author's Notes:

1 Taylor MSS., Oct. 15, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Welch, 81; Taylor MSS., Oct. 17, 25, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

3Meade, 154.

[decorative delimiter]

4 R. E. Lee, Jr., 111; cf. O. R., 29, part 1, p408; ibid., part 2, p800.

[decorative delimiter]

5 O. R., 29, part 1, p611. For Lee's headquarters at this time in "a nice pine thicket," see R. E. Lee, Jr., 111.

[decorative delimiter]

6 O. R., 29, part 1, pp610, 611.

[decorative delimiter]

7 O. R., 29, part 1, p409; ibid., part 2, pp799, 800, 803‑4, 814, 816.

[decorative delimiter]

8 O. R., 29, part 2, pp800‑801, 807‑8.

[decorative delimiter]

9 O. R., 29, part 2, p819; Taylor MSS., Oct. 25, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Taylor MSS., Oct. 25, 31, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

11 R. E. Lee, Jr., 113, 114.

[decorative delimiter]

12 R. E. Lee, Jr., 114.

[decorative delimiter]

13 Malone, 43; W. B. Hackley: The Little Fork Rangers, 88.

[decorative delimiter]

14 R. E. Lee, Jr., 114. While this review was under way, a civilian from Alexandria approached the General and presented him a box, with a statement that he had been requested to deliver it to the General by persons he professed not to know. When Lee opened it he found a pair of very handsome gold spurs (R. E. Lee, Jr., 114). These spurs are now in the Confederate Museum, Richmond, Va. It developed, years after the war, that the spurs had been contributed by Baltimore ladies with the assistance of W. A. Jarboe, of Upper Marlboro, Md., that they were kept for some time at the Cartwright plantation in Saint Mary's County, and that they were smuggled across the Potomac by a Confederate spy, Captain Charles Caywood of Charles County, Md. (Washington Post, April 9, 1899, p22, col. 4; ibid., April 16, 1899, p22, cols. 1‑4).

[decorative delimiter]

15 O. R., 29, part 1, pp610, 631.

[decorative delimiter]

16 O. R., 29, part 1, p612.

[decorative delimiter]

17 O. R., 29, part 1, p612.

[decorative delimiter]

18 O. R., 29, part 1, pp619, 620‑21.

[decorative delimiter]

19 O. R., 29, part 1, pp612, 621. Hoke's brigade consisted at the time of only three regiments, as the fourth, under General Hoke, was on detached service in North Carolina (O. R., 29, part 1, p612). General Martin McMahon stated in 4 B. and L., 87, that (p191)the colonel commanding one of the brigades told him, after being captured, that Lee had asked if more troops were needed on the north side, and had been assured that the position could be held "against the whole Yankee army."

[decorative delimiter]

20 It seems probable, though it is not absolutely certain, that Lee's first position was on the hill a quarter of a mile south of the river and west of the railroad, and that his second position was on the hill in the bend of the stream and close to the pontoon bridge.

[decorative delimiter]

21 O. R., 29, part 1, p621.

[decorative delimiter]

22 O. R., 29, part 1, pp613, 622.

[decorative delimiter]

23 O. R., 29, part 1, pp612, 631‑32.

[decorative delimiter]

24 O. R., 29, part 1, p622 ff.

[decorative delimiter]

25 O. R., 29, part 1, pp610‑11, 613, 616. The line taken up extended from Mount Pony northward to the John Bell plantation, west of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and thence northwest to a point about three-quarters of a mile east of Chestnut Fork Church. See the sketch in O. R., 29, part 1, p614.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Taylor MSS., Nov. 15, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

27 O. R., 29, part 1, pp610‑11; Taylor MSS., Nov. 15, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Taylor's Four Years, 116; Taylor MSS., Nov. 7, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Pendleton, 305.

[decorative delimiter]

30 James A. Graham Papers, 166.

[decorative delimiter]

31 O. R., 29, part 1, pp622, 625; Early, 316.

[decorative delimiter]

32 O. R., 29, part 1, pp612, 613.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Ibid., p613. Meade, for his part, was disappointed that Lee declined battle between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan (2 Meade, 156).

[decorative delimiter]

34 Taylor MSS., Nov. 15, 1863: "The loss of two brigades does not weaken us much numerically and not at all morally."

[decorative delimiter]

35 Cooke, 360.

[decorative delimiter]

36 O. R., 29, part 2, pp830, 835.

[decorative delimiter]

37 O. R., 29, part 2, p837; see infra, p251, n77.

[decorative delimiter]

38 O. R., 29, part 2, pp832‑33.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Taylor MSS., Nov. 21, 23, 25, 1863; Jones, L. and L., 295; 2 R. W. C. D., 101. On Sunday, Nov. 22, the President and General Lee attended service and heard General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pendleton preach (Pendleton, 306).

[decorative delimiter]

40 O. R., 29, part 2, pp830, 832.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Early, 317.

[decorative delimiter]

42 O. R., 29, part 1, p830; McCabe, 424‑25.

[decorative delimiter]

43 O. R., 29, part 2, p832.

[decorative delimiter]

44 O. R., 51, part 2, pp783, 785.

[decorative delimiter]

45 Taylor MSS., Nov. 14, 15, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

46 O. R., 29, part 2, p846.

[decorative delimiter]

47 O. R., 51, part 2, p787.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Taylor MSS., Nov. 25, 1863; Richmond Dispatch, Nov. 30, 1863, quoted in McCabe, 426.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Taylor MSS., Nov. 25, 1863. Part of this letter, misdated Nov. 26, 1863, appears in Taylor's Four Years, 120.

[decorative delimiter]

50 R. E. Lee, Jr., 116.

[decorative delimiter]

51 O. R., 29, part 1, p831; ibid., part 2, p832; Taylor's Four Years, 120; O. R., 51, part 2, p788.

[decorative delimiter]

52 O. R., 29, part 2, p846.

[decorative delimiter]

53 O. R., 29, part 1, p830.

[decorative delimiter]

54 O. R., 29, part 1, p898.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Taylor's General Lee, 225.

[decorative delimiter]

56 O. R., 29, part 1, p830.

[decorative delimiter]

57 O. R., 29, part 2, p847.

[decorative delimiter]

58 Taylor's Four Years, 120.

[decorative delimiter]

59 Taylor MSS., Dec. 5, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

60 Cooke, 365.

[decorative delimiter]

61 Taylor MSS., Dec. 5, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

62 O. R., 29, part 1, p831.

[decorative delimiter]

63 Cooke, 363‑64.

[decorative delimiter]

64 O. R., 29, part 1, p898.

[decorative delimiter]

65 O. R., 29, part 1, p832.

[decorative delimiter]

66 O. R., 29, part 1, p862.

[decorative delimiter]

67 O. R., 29, part 1, p847.

[decorative delimiter]

68 O. R., 29, part 1, pp895, 897.

[decorative delimiter]

69 O. R., 29, part 1, p897.

[decorative delimiter]

70 O. R., 51, part 2, p788.

[decorative delimiter]

71 O. R., 51, part 2, p788.

[decorative delimiter]

72 O. R., 29, part 1, p828. Rosser in his first dispatch (O. R., 51, part 2, pp788‑89) stated that the captured animals numbered 150.

[decorative delimiter]

73 O. R., 51, part 2, pp788‑89.

[decorative delimiter]

74 O. R., 29, part 1, p897.

[decorative delimiter]

75 O. R., 29, part 1, p896.

[decorative delimiter]

76 O. R., 29, part 1, p847.

[decorative delimiter]

77 O. R., 29, part 1, p896.

[decorative delimiter]

78 O. R., 29, part 1, p896.

[decorative delimiter]

79 O. R., 29, part 1, p833.

[decorative delimiter]

80 O. R., 29, part 1, pp896‑97.

[decorative delimiter]

81 Early, 322.

[decorative delimiter]

82 O. R., 29, part 1, p834.

[decorative delimiter]

83 Ibid.

[decorative delimiter]

84 O. R., 29, part 1, p836.

[decorative delimiter]

85 O. R., 29, part 1, p834.

[decorative delimiter]

86 Taylor's Four Years, 120.

[decorative delimiter]

87 Taylor's General Lee, 227.

[decorative delimiter]

88 Taylor's Four Years, 121.

[decorative delimiter]

89 Cf. 4 B. and L., 91; O. R., 29, part 1, p836.

[decorative delimiter]

90 Taylor's Four Years, 121; Jones, 416; Jones: Christ in theº Camp, 51.

[decorative delimiter]

91 O. R., 51, part 2, p791.

[decorative delimiter]

92 O. R., 29, part 1, p826.

[decorative delimiter]

93 O. R., 51, part 2, p790.

[decorative delimiter]

94 O. R., 29, part 1, pp901‑2.

[decorative delimiter]

95 H. B. McClellan, 398. Neither Hampton nor Stuart mentioned this incident in his report, but McClellan vouched for it. Hampton was in rear of the enemy after dark on the 29th (O. R., 29, part 1, p900).

[decorative delimiter]

96 Cooke, 369.

[decorative delimiter]

97 O. R., 29, part 1, p896.

[decorative delimiter]

98 James A. Graham Papers, 172.

[decorative delimiter]

99 Taylor's Four Years, 121.

[decorative delimiter]

100 O. R., 29, part 1, pp829, 896.

[decorative delimiter]

101 Long, 316.

[decorative delimiter]

102 Cf. O. R., 51, part 2, pp791‑92.

[decorative delimiter]

103 Long, 317.

[decorative delimiter]

104 O. R., 29, part 1, p829.

[decorative delimiter]

105B. and L., 240; Cooke, 269‑70.

[decorative delimiter]

106 O. R., 29, part 1, p830; Early, 324‑25n.

[decorative delimiter]

107 R. E. Lee, Jr., 116. Meade had crossed in the expectation of attacking Lee and of reaching the Virginia Central Railroad, but he had been delayed in his advance by the tardiness of the III Corps. After he found Lee behind Mine Run, he waited to select the best position for attack and finally decided to make his assault on Nov. 30, but when Major General G. K. Warren of the II Corps examined the ground closely, he became (p203)convinced his men would be uselessly slaughtered and thereupon took the responsibility of not executing his orders. Unwillingly persuaded by this incident that his adversary was in an impregnable position, Meade reluctantly directed a withdrawal to the north side of the Rapidan (O. R., 29, part 1, p13 ff., ibid., p698; 2 Meade, 156‑58).

[decorative delimiter]

108 O. R., 29, part 1, p926 ff.; ibid., 29, part 2, p867; ibid., 51, part 2, pp793, 794 ff., 797, 798; Taylor MSS., Dec. 13, 20, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

109 Cf. Taylor MSS., Dec. 5, 1863.

[decorative delimiter]

110 The casualties were as follows: Bristoe Station 1381 (O. R., 29, part 1, p414); miscellaneous cavalry actions, 154 (ibid.414, 454); Kelly's Ford and Rappahannock Bridge, 2033 (ibid., p616); Mine Run, 601 in the infantry (ibid., 838), and twenty-eight in the cavalry (ibid., 900‑901). The figure for Rappahannock Bridge is ascertained by subtracting from Early's gross loss the number separately reported by Chief Surgeon Guild. The losses of the cavalry in the miscellaneous actions are established by deducting from Stuart's report (ibid., 454), the totals for the cavalry shown in Guild's report (ibid., 414). Meade's losses were: Bristoe Station, 2292, including prisoners captured in the cavalry (O. R., 29, part 1, p226); Kelly's Ford and Rappahannock Bridge, 461 (ibid., 560‑61); Mine Run, 1653 (ibid., 686); total, 4406.

[decorative delimiter]

111 O. R., 33, 1095‑96.

[decorative delimiter]

112 W. W. Chamberlaine, 83, but see Pendleton's comment, Pendleton, 277.

[decorative delimiter]

113 Taylor MSS., Nov. 15, 1863. Ewell resumed command Dec. 4 (O. R., 29, part 2, pp859‑60).

[decorative delimiter]

114 Cf. 2 Davis, 449; Cooke, 366‑67.

[decorative delimiter]

115 O. R., 29, part 1, p465.

[decorative delimiter]

116 Thomason, 469.

[decorative delimiter]

117 O. R., 29, part 1, pp898‑99, 900, 902.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 1 Oct 13