Arriving on the morning of June 7 at Culpeper Courthouse,1 near which two of Longstreet's divisions and all three of Ewell's were encamped, Lee was more than ever convinced that his army must be reinforced if it was to execute successfully his plan of invasion. He telegraphed Davis a suggestion that a brigade from Richmond be moved to Hanover Junction to relieve Pickett, so that commander could bring Longstreet's third division forward. The brigade from Richmond could be replaced by one from the Suffolk front, whence nearly all the Federals were said to have departed. Lee urged, also, in a letter to the President, that Beauregard's troops from Charleston, S. C., either be sent to reinforce Johnston in Mississippi or to unite with the Army of Northern Virginia.2 At the same time he ordered Imboden's cavalry, which had not yet joined Stuart, to organize a raid into northwest Virginia, and he instructed Brigadier General A. G. Jenkins to prepare his brigade of horse from southwest Virginia for co-operation in the Shenandoah Valley, whither he was hoping soon to be able to send a part of the army on the second stage of the proposed advance into Pennsylvania.3
The remainder of the cavalry, scattered around Culpeper, had been made ready by the drama-loving Stuart for a general review, which he asked Lee to witness the next day, June 8. The spirit of the son of a Revolutionary cavalryman prompted Lee to agree. General Hood, also, was invited to witness the scene and "to bring any of his people." He responded by marching on the field with his entire division. This was a little more than had been bargained for, but it was accepted in a spirit of hospitality. The only condition the hosts imposed on the Texans was that they were not to yell "Here's your mule," which was deemed a special insult to cavalrymen who prided themselves on their steeds and on their ability to keep their saddles. If the infantry insisted on challenging opprobriously the horsemanship of the p30 troops, Wade Hampton laughingly threatened to charge them.4 Terms of peace and amity having been concluded between the two arms, the Texans spread themselves at ease in front of the cavalry, who had been drawn up in two lines on a vast field, east of the town.
At the appointed hour Lee arrived with his staff and most of his general officers. Stuart, much bedizened, met the commanding general. Some of the young ladies of Culpeper had decorated "Jeb's" saddle with flowers and had put a wreath around the neck of his mount. Lee was much amused. "Take care, General Stuart!" he said banteringly. "That is the way General Pope's horse was adorned when he went to the battle of Manassas."5 Not long before, at a review of the Second Corps, Lee had ridden so fast that only A. P. Hill and one member of his staff had remained at his side when he drew rein.6 Lee had enjoyed the experience, and now he put Traveller at the gallop, past the long front of the first line of gaunt cavalrymen. They were clad in tattered butternut or gray, but they made a gallant showing with their burnished sabres. •Three miles Lee rode, by flags that bore the names of many battles. Then he turned and galloped three miles back along the second line without a pause.7 Many were the aching sides and panting steeds when at last he halted on a little eminence above which a large Confederate flag was flying on a high pole.
Now it was the cavalrymen's turn. Wheeling into column at the sound of the bugle, they galloped past at the charge, Stuart riding at their head with his blade at tierce point. It was just the sort of scene devised in feudal times to make men forget the butchery of war in admiration of its pageantry, and it must have made Lee's heart beat faster, but it aroused only the contempt of some of Hood's footmen, who had no high opinion of the valor of cavalry. "Wouldn't we clean 'em out," one of the Texans remarked, half wistfully, "if old Hood would let us loose on 'em?"8
As his climax, Stuart placed on a hillock near Lee his famous horse artillery — the guns the dead Pelham loved so well; and p31 then, while the pieces blazed away with the smoke and roar of blank cartridges, he led a sham charge against the batteries.9 It was great fun to "Jeb" and to many of his men, but certainly not to the horses or to some of General Lee's guests, who, as the worthy Pendleton complained, "had to sit on our horses in the dust half the day. . . ."10 Lee had been known to profess that he was only qualified to be a colonel of cavalry, or perhaps a brigadier if he had good subordinates,11 and he did not weary. "It was a splendid sight," he wrote. "The men and horses looked well. . . . Stuart was in all his glory."12 But he was not too much occupied with the spectacle to notice that the trees of the Richmond saddles were very hard on the backs of the horses, and that the Richmond-made carbines were very inferior. He sought forthwith to correct them.13
Early the next morning, June 9, Lee received a hurried report from Stuart announcing that the enemy's cavalry, with some infantry, was pouring across Beverley and Kelly's Fords, on both flanks of the Confederate outposts.14 Lee suspected that the move was simply a reconnaissance, and he wrote Stuart where he could get infantry in case he needed it, but urged him to conceal the presence of Confederate foot if it was possible for him to do so.15 Soon it became apparent that the Federal horse coming from the direction of Kelly's Ford had outwitted Stuart's troopers on that road and were moving to get on the flank and in the rear of Southern cavalry defending the approaches southward from Beverley Ford. Well it was, then, that Stuart had concentrated his men for the review the previous day, for he required every one of them. The action centred around Fleetwood Hill, a long ridge running with the meridian just north of Brandy Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, •seven miles northeast of Culpeper Courthouse. Hour after hour, in charge and countercharge, the opposing cavalry contended for this high ground. Lee left the management of the field to Stuart and, of course, had no fear p32 of a serious disaster, because he had sufficient infantry at hand to hurl the Federals back across the Rappahannock if the Confederate mounted troops were worsted; but in the afternoon, as this battle of Brandy Station developed into the greatest cavalry engagement of the entire war,16 he ordered an infantry brigade to report to General Hampton,17 and he rode forward in person to survey the situation.
As he approached the field Lee was shocked to meet his own son, Rooney, being borne to the rear with a severe wound in the leg, received at 4:30 P.M.18 Fortunately, the wound was not considered mortal, and Rooney seemed much more concerned over those who had fallen in the fight than over his own condition.19 While Lee was doing what he could to make his son comfortable, the battle ended in a retreat of the Federals by the routes they had followed in their advance. It was by every count, as Lee's adjutant wrote his sweetheart, "a grand cavalry fight," and the result probably bore out that officer's estimate: "Altogether, our cavalry is justified in claiming an advantage, though neither side can be said to have gained a great deal. It was nearly an even fight."20 The Confederate losses were around 485;21 those of the Federals approximately 930.22
Lee did not regard this action as a serious threat to the continuance of his operations,23 but he had to contend with a more serious obstacle in the attitude of the administration. In dispatches from the War Department a new concern for the safety of Richmond was observable, together with an extreme reluctance to forward the troops he believed necessary for the adequate reinforcement of the army. This state of mind on the part of the administration had led him on the 8th to offer to return closer to Richmond if the government so desired,24 and it could not be p33 ignored for the future. On the other hand, he could not escape the general logic of an offensive-defensive nor overlook the strategic advantage he had already gained through the failure of the Federals to attack A. P. Hill at Fredericksburg.25 As he read the Northern newspapers with care, he was confirmed in his belief that the projected campaign in Pennsylvania would strengthen the arguments of the Northern peace party, which was already contending that the South could not be conquered by force but might be won back to the Union by a generous peace. His resolution held: he would send one corps forward and await developments. If that corps did nothing more, it would at least clear Milroy from the Valley and probably would force the Federals to abandon altogether the line of the Rappahannock.26
LIEUTENANT GENERAL RICHARD STODDARD EWELL
SUCCESSOR TO JACKSON
IN COMMAND OF THE REDUCED SECOND CORPS
OF THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Had there been any strong demonstration on the morning of the 10th by the Federals across Beverley Ford, Lee would perhaps p34 have deferred the start of Ewell; but as the enemy remained quietly in his camps, Lee let the orders stand, and the reconstituted Second Corps started on its way.30 It was noticed that Ewell was in fine health and spirits and, despite his wooden leg, rode his horse "as well as anyone need to."31
As Ewell's men turned westward toward the Blue Ridge, Lee sat down to write the President on the subject that had been so much in his mind during the days since Chancellorsville — the promotion of the peace movement in the North. A most important letter it was for two reasons. It showed Lee alive to the danger that the Southern cause would be lost because of the superiority of the Federal resources. Similarly, it disclosed Lee's simple reasoning on politics, with which he had little acquaintance. He pointed out that the intransigeant attitude of the Southern newspapers was discouraging those Northerners who were arguing that the South would return to the Union if the Washington government made peace. Then he said:
"Conceding to our enemies the superiority claimed by them in numbers, resources, and all the means and appliances for carrying on the war, we have no right to look for exemptions from the military consequences of a vigorous use of these advantages, excepting by such deliverance as the mercy of Heaven may accord to the courage of our soldiers, the justice of our cause, and the constancy and prayers of our people. While making the most we can of the means of resistance we possess, and gratefully accepting the measure of success with which God has blessed our efforts as an evidence of His approval and favor, it is nevertheless the part of wisdom to carefully measureº and husband our strength, and not to expect from it more than in the ordinary course of affairs it is capable of accomplishing. We should not, therefore, conceal from ourselves that our resources in men are constantly diminishing, and the disproportion in this respect between us and our enemies, if they continue united in their efforts to subjugate us, is steadily augmenting."
He went on to explain that the strength of the Army of Northern p35 Virginia was declining, and he argued that an effort should be made to divide the North by encouraging the peace party. Continuing, he said:
"Nor do I think we should, in this connection, make nice distinctions between those who declare for peace unconditionally and those who advocate it as a means of restoring the Union, however much we may prefer the former.
"We should bear in mind that the friends of peace at the North must make concessions to the earnest desire that exists in the minds of their countrymen for a restoration of the Union, and that to hold out such a result as an inducement is essential to the success of their party.
"Should the belief that peace will bring back the Union become general, the war would no longer be supported, and that, after all, is what we are interested in bringing about. When peace is proposed to us, it will be time enough to discuss its terms, and it is not the part of prudence to spurn the proposition in advance, merely because those who wish to make it believe, or affect to believe, that it will result in bringing us back to the Union. We entertain no such apprehensions, nor doubt that the desire of our people for a distinct and independent national existence will prove as steadfast under the influence of peaceful measures as it has shown itself in the midst of war.
"If the views I have indicated meet the approval of Your Excellency, you will best know how to give effect to them. Should you deem them inexpedient or impracticable, I think you will nevertheless agree with me that we should at least carefully abstain from measures or expressions that tend to discourage any party whose purpose is peace.
"With this statement of my own opinion on the subject . . . I leave to your better judgment to determine the proper course to be pursued."32
This letter was as ingenuous as it was sincere. So great was Lee's faith in the Southern people that he believed they would be willing to resume the war for independence in case peace negotiations produced no better terms than a return to the Union. p36 With less knowledge of the state of mind of the North, he thought that, in like conditions, a powerful element would be willing to concede the independence of the South rather than have the war resumed. Unless this happened, he could see no other outcome of the struggle than the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy by the more powerful Union. This was twenty-two months before Appomattox.
Following the dispatch of this letter there came a period of confusion as to the intentions of the Federals. The War Department reported a raid up the Mattapony River, near Richmond, and an expedition from Suffolk on the south side of the James.33 Lee believed the former of these movements was a foray to destroy crops,34 but the concern of the administration was so deep that Lee was forced to approve the detention of Corse's brigade at Hanover Junction when Pickett's division at last moved to rejoin Longstreet.35 Before the exact state of affairs below Richmond was determined, A. P. Hill reported on the morning of June 14 that the enemy had withdrawn from the south bank of the Rappahannock and seemed to be evacuating Stafford Heights, but Lee hesitated to call the whole of Hill's new Third Corps to Culpeper until he was sure that none of it would be required to reinforce Richmond or Hanover Junction. Nor was he certain as to the disposition of the main body of the Army of the Potomac.36 He could only surmise that Hooker knew of his movements and was covering the approaches to Washington.37
The loss of time sustained by reason of this uncertainty might be serious enough, Lee feared, to defeat the full execution of his plans.38 By the morning of June 15, however, the situation began to clear. Acting under authorization given on the 9th, Hill had started Anderson's division for Culpeper in the confident belief that the Federals were really leaving the line of the Rappahannock.39 Ewell reported that he had cleared Berryville, and was preparing to attack Winchester, which he had found more strongly fortified than he had expected.40
p37 Ewell had been ordered not to delay his march for a siege of Winchester. Consequently, Lee assumed that Ewell on the 15th was already en route to Hagerstown. This would necessarily mean that the Army of Northern Virginia was spread out from some point north of Winchester to the lower Rappahannock. For a time there would be no force between Winchester and Culpeper except a few cavalry outposts. It was to meet just this situation that Lee had planned to advance Longstreet east of the Blue Ridge. On the 15th in a personal conference with that the officer,41 followed by written orders later in the day, Lee outlined very simply the details of this operation: Longstreet was to start northward, with Hood's division, and was to be followed by McLaws and then by Pickett, three brigades of whose division had now reached Culpeper. Longstreet was to march to Markham, just east of Manassas Gap in the Blue Ridge, and was to demonstrate, if he saw fit, against any Federal force he might encounter. Three brigades of cavalry were to operate on his front. His trains, if Longstreet so desired, could move by Chester Gap into the Valley, where they would be safe from Federal raiders.42 Two brigades of cavalry were to be left behind to guard the fords of the Rappahannock and to cover the march of the Third Corps as it passed westward up the right bank of that stream.43 By this move Lee hoped to confuse the enemy as to his plan of action and also to facilitate the advance of Hill. The Federals would hardly attempt to advance far southward against Hill if they found a large force potentially in their rear. Should an attempt be made to destroy Longstreet, he could easily retire to Ashby's or to Snicker's Gap, and hold it against the enemy. In case of a Federal advance northward to head off Ewell in Pennsylvania, Longstreet could readily move into the Valley, occupy the gaps, and hasten by unhindered marches to Ewell's support. If all went well, the original plan of having Hill pass in rear of Longstreet could be executed without danger, and Longstreet's corps would then act as rearguard. There were thus to be four successive movements — Ewell's advance toward Hagerstown, Longstreet's march to the east of the mountain passes, Hill's tramp up the Rappahannock p38 and thence along Ewell's route, and Longstreet's final withdrawal through the mountains and to the Potomac. These stages of the elaborate manoeuvre are marked, in order, by the numerals on the sketch shown opposite.
Successive preliminary stages of the advance into Maryland and Pennsylvania
On the evening of the day that Longstreet left Culpeper, Lee received good news: Ewell had driven Milroy from Winchester the previous night and had captured some 4000 prisoners, the greater part of Milroy's force.44 The whole of Ewell's corps was now free to advance to the Potomac. Two of Hill's divisions were on the road to Culpeper, and the third was ready to leave Fredericksburg.45
It was now time for Lee to move in person. By the 17th, having sent Rooney to his wife's home with many affectionate messages,46 Lee broke up headquarters and rode to Markham.47 On his arrival, he found that Stuart had been engaged that day in hot actions with the enemy's cavalry at Aldie and Middleburg,48 but had not established contact with the Federal infantry. From Hooker's failure to face him, Lee continued to assume that his adversary was moving toward the Potomac. Reports from some of the scouts on the 18th and 19th confirmed this, though it was not clear whether Hooker would make for Harpers Ferry, enter the Valley, or cross the river somewhere in the vicinity of Leesburg.49 Stuart's scouts insisted that the enemy infantry were encamped east of the mountains, inactive. Major John S. Mosby had captured a dispatch in which Hooker's chief of staff had notified the commander of the cavalry corps that "the advance of the infantry is suspended until further information of the enemy's movements," but Hooker had added in a later paragraph: "If Lee's army is in rear of his cavalry, we shall move up by forced marches with the infantry." The same dispatch spoke, also, of a cavalry raid toward Warrenton. It mentioned, further, that pontoons were being assembled at the mouth of the Monocacy, which enters the Potomac directly east of the Catoctin range. All this important information was dated from Fairfax Station, June p39 17, 10:30 P.M., and when received was nearly forty-eight hours old.50
In addition to this uncertainty, Lee had to contend with an p40 unexpected difficulty on the Potomac. When Ewell had entered Maryland he had left Rodes's division at Williamsport to guard his rear,51 and was advancing with only two divisions. Lee reasoned that if the Federals remained south of the Potomac and offered no opposition to Ewell, that officer, with his three divisions, could accomplish as much in the collection of supplies as the whole army could hope to do in the face of the enemy. It was desirable, therefore, to relieve Rodes at once, so that Ewell would have his whole corps with him. Lee accordingly started Hood's division for the Potomac on the 18th to relieve Rodes. Unfortunately, a threatened movement against Snicker's Gap compelled him to recall Hood. This made it necessary for Lee to await the arrival of Hill's leading division, which he could send on, in place, of Hood,52 to relieve Rodes. Time would be required to do this. All operations were being slowed down by the scarcity of food, though Lee was keeping every wheel turning in the effort to gather provisions.53
Anxious as Lee was that Ewell should be left unhindered to gather supplies from Pennsylvania, he must have reinforcements in position to move to Ewell's support the moment Hooker showed signs of crossing the Potomac. It was desirable, of course, to await the arrival of Hill's rear division, which was just west of Culpeper, but if Hooker moved before Hill was massed, Lee's intention was to hurry Longstreet to Ewell.54 Lee had, therefore, to shape his plans for quick execution in an emergency. In doing this the handling of the infantry presented no special problems, but as the cavalry was detached, Lee had a conference with Longstreet and Stuart to arrange for the movement of the mounted forces. There was not then, nor was there at any later time, the least doubt in his mind as to the function of the main body of the cavalry in the general plan: it should keep the enemy as far to the east as possible, protect the lines of communication, and supply information as to the movements of the enemy.55 To do these things the cavalry should of course operate on the right flank of the army as it advanced. For the time Lee believed p41 that two brigades should be left to hold the passes of the Blue Ridge till the infantry were safely across the Potomac. The remaining three brigades should accompany the army.56 Jenkins's and Imboden's cavalry, which had not been part of Stuart's former command, could be employed to cover Ewell's advance.
But Stuart had a more ambitious plan. The Richmond newspapers had expressed disappointment over his showing at Fleetwood and had called on him to perform some great feat that would restore his reputation.57 Probably inspired by this, Stuart proposed that when he left two brigades in the mountains he should take the three others, move to Hooker's rear, and annoy him if he attempted to cross the river. Should he find that Hooker was intent on going into Maryland, he could break off and rejoin the army. Longstreet approved this proposal, and Lee assented, in principle, but he told Stuart that when he discovered that Hooker was actually passing the river, he "must immediately cross himself and take his place on our right flank as we moved north."58 There the matter ended for the time.
On the 19th Lee passed through Ashby's Gap to Millwood, •three miles northeast of White Post, and the next day established headquarters at a point a short distance beyond Berryville on the Charlestown road, where he determined to wait until the whole of Hill's corps came up.59 Longstreet was put on the alert to start for the Potomac and, through a misunderstanding of his orders, withdrew on the 20th from the mountain gaps and established himself west of the Shenandoah.60 By ill fortune the enemy selected the 21st for a general cavalry advance on Stuart and drove him back into Ashby's Gap by nightfall.61 As the Federals had infantry support, there was danger that they might seize the p42 pass and might pour into the Valley on Longstreet's rear when he began his march toward the Potomac. McLaws's division had to be sent back to prevent this.62 At daylight on the 22d, however, it was found that the Union infantry had withdrawn and that the cavalry was retiring eastward. Stuart followed vigorously.63
The presence of Union infantry so far north and its failure to attempt to force the gap was the strongest sort of evidence that the enemy was making for the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge. Additional information began to filter in during the day indicating that the Federals were preparing to cross the river, though Lee was still not satisfied as to the exact location of the main force.64
Provided the army could be subsisted, it was still, of course, the policy of wisdom to detain Hooker south of the Potomac, while Ewell, undisturbed, continued to collect supplies in Pennsylvania. So long as Hooker remained where he was and did not give battle, Lee could have many of the benefits of invasion with none of the risks and losses. But the enemy was too close to the Potomac for comfort. If Hooker could steal even one march on Lee he might get across the river and perhaps interpose between Ewell and the remainder of the army. Lee had already had one unhappy experience with a division of force on the north side of the Potomac, during the Sharpsburg campaign, and he had no desire to repeat it. Besides, the whole of Hill's corps was now closer at hand, and there was no reason for waiting.65 It was safest, on every count, to move to the Potomac without further delay. If this were done, Ewell could be permitted to continue his march toward the Susquehanna, because the remainder of the army would soon be within supporting distance. Anderson's division was ordered to the river; Ewell was instructed to move on if ready. He was to proceed in two columns. One was to advance by Greencastle and Chambersburg toward Harrisburg. The other was to march by Emmitsburg and Gettysburg toward York,66 east of the mountains that formed a barrier to the Cumberland Valley. This second route was chosen so as to keep the enemy at a distance from Lee's lines of communications.67
p43 Before giving the order for the movement of Longstreet, Lee had to decide finally the question of the disposition of the five brigades of cavalry with Stuart. Jenkins was already in advance of Ewell in Pennsylvania; Imboden was in Hampshire County, where he had been operating against the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.68 The remaining five brigades were in or near the Blue Ridge. As Lee reflected on Stuart's proposal to take three of these brigades and operate in rear of the Federals during their advance northward, he became apprehensive. If Stuart did this, he might be delayed in crossing the river east of the mountains and might not be able to perform his principal mission, that of covering the right of the army in Pennsylvania.69 In order that Stuart might understand fully that this duty in Pennsylvania was the all-important thing, Lee instructed Major Charles Marshall, in answering a communication from Stuart, to cover the point.70 Soon Marshall submitted this:
"Headquarters, June 22, 1863.
"Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart,
"I have just received your note of 7:45 this morning to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday were to arrest our progress and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us, and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland, and take position of General Ewell's right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed on the enemy's movements, and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army. One column of General Ewell's army will probably move toward the Susquehanna by the Emmitsburg route; another by Chambersburg. Accounts from him last night state that there was no enemy west of Frederick. A cavalry force (about 100) guarded the Monocacy Bridge, which was barricaded. You will, of course, take charge of Jenkins' brigade, and p44 give him necessary instructions. All supplies taken in Maryland must be by authorized staff officers for their respective departments — by no one else. They will be paid for, or receipts for the same given to the owner. I will send you a general order on this subject, which I wish you to see is strictly complied with."71
Lee read this letter and approved it,72 but had to take into account two contingencies: Was Longstreet in position to entrust his rear to two brigades only; and, secondly, where could Stuart most readily cross the Potomac without disclosing the movements of the army? Might it not be well for Stuart to go east of the Bull Run Mountains, perhaps through Hopewell Gap, and then pass by the rear of the enemy, thus creating a doubt as to the objective of the army? Might not that be better than crossing west of the Blue Ridge or heading for the Potomac between the Blue Ridge and the Bull Run Mountains? Probably because he knew Stuart's propensity for daring, spectacular raids, Lee decided to refer the question of Stuart's best route to Longstreet, along with the question on which Longstreet would properly had to pass — that of whether two brigades were sufficient to hold the passes. He sent the letter to Stuart under cover of a note to Longstreet, with instructions to forward the message to Stuart if he saw fit to do so.73
The next day, June 23, the information as to the enemy's movements was somewhat conflicting. Stuart reported that on the night of the 22d his cavalry outposts had advanced as far as Aldie. He seemed to be troubled by the statement, in a captured dispatch, that a column of cavalry was moving southward to Warrenton, whereas the Army of the Potomac was supposed to be making northward. Later in the day he sent word that Major p45 Mosby had gone east of the Bull Run Mountains and had found the enemy's infantry quietly waiting in his scattered camps. On the other hand, Lee's scouts affirmed that the Federal corps which had been at Leesburg had withdrawn, and that the enemy was laying a pontoon bridge at Edwards' Ferry on the Potomac, •six miles east of Leesburg.74
Now, if the information as to preparations for a crossing at Edwards' Ferry were correct, that would mean two things — first, and obviously, that Hooker's design was to cross east of the Catoctin Mountains, and, secondly, that if the Army of the Potomac was concentrating on Edwards' Ferry, its long columns would be spread some distance southward on all the roads, making them impassable for Stuart. It followed, therefore, that if Stuart operated far in the rear of the enemy, he would almost certainly be compelled to cross the Potomac east of Edwards' Ferry in order to perform his major duty of covering the right flank of the army after it entered Pennsylvania. This was a geographical fact that will be apparent from the sketch on page 46, which gives the general direction but not the exact routes of columns converging on Edwards' Ferry.
Hooker, of course, would require a long time to move his immense army cross the Potomac. There was, consequently, no reason why Stuart could not ride around him, pass the river east of Edwards' Ferry, and reach the right flank of the Confederate column in Maryland before Hooker would be dangerously close. Stuart's march to Frederick by this route would be only some •forty miles, whereas if he rode in Hooker's rear as far as the vicinity of Centreville, and then turned back, crossed the mountains and passed in rear of the Confederate army via Shepherdstown, he would have to cover •eighty miles to Frederick. But the wisdom of a crossing east of Edwards' Ferry in passing over the Potomac was contingent on Stuart's being able to disorganize the Federal wagon trains and confuse the crossing without being materially delayed. If he lost his way, or became confused among the moving Federal columns, or stopped to indulge his fondness for fighting, he might be late. It was necessary, therefore, to make it plain to Stuart that while he could cross the Potomac p46 east of Hooker's army, he must put his major mission first and must not attempt a ride around the Federal army if he were hindered in the attempt.
But suppose Stuart was right in saying the enemy was inactive; suppose Hooker had no intention of making early use of the pontoon bridge at Edwards' Ferry; suppose there was significance in the report that a Federal column of cavalry was moving southward to Warrenton — what then? If the enemy was simply waiting, it was much more important that Stuart should be with the army on its advance into Pennsylvania than that he should remain east of the mountains in Virginia with his whole force, merely watching Hooker. And if the enemy was not moving northward, but was aiming at Warrenton, there was no reason why Stuart should waste his strength and wear down his horses in futile battles in dealing with diversions. He had better conserve his men and mounts, withdraw west of the Blue Ridge as soon as the army was beyond the Potomac, and then perform his major p47 mission. Once the army of invasion was in the enemy's country, all such columns as that which was reported to be moving on Warrenton would be recalled by Hooker. Meantime the two brigades left in the mountains would have to deal as best they could with raids on Warrenton or the lines of communication.
In view of all this, only part of which was known to Stuart, Lee prudently decided, in answering Stuart's dispatches of the day, to cover the operations of the cavalry in the contingencies that might develop and to explain once again that its main function was to cover the right of the army in Pennsylvania. Lee directed Marshall to do this in further instructions. Marshall demurred on the ground that Stuart had been told in person and in the dispatch of June 22 precisely how he should act, but Lee insisted, and Marshall prepared a letter75 in which he said:
"If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountains tomorrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Frederickstown.
"You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hinderance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.
"Give instructions to the commander of the brigades left behind, to watch the flank and rear of the army, and (in the event of the enemy leaving their front) retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the passes, and bring everything clean along the Valley, closing upon the rear of the army.
"As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving toward Warrenton, the commander of the brigades to be left in the mountains must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland, after tomorrow, the better.
p48 "The movements of Ewell's corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's first division will reach the Potomac today, and Longstreet will follow tomorrow.
"Be watchful and circumspect in all your movements."76
It is possible that Marshall was less careful than he should have been in drafting this letter because he was confident that Stuart had been fully told what to do; but the meaning is plain enough when the dispatch is read in the light of the information Lee and Stuart then possessed. Lee did not intend to require that Stuart cross into Maryland "immediately east of the mountains," as has been so often claimed. In the situation that actually developed, Lee undoubtedly intended to give Stuart discretion, after midnight of June 24, to pass around the Federal rear, which meant crossing the Potomac east of Edwards' Ferry. The one proviso was that Stuart must not be so hindered in following the routes as to be delayed in performing his principal service in the campaign, that of covering the Confederate right in the enemy's country. This was the all-important thing; Stuart was not to attempt to pass around the enemy's rear if he met with hindrance or delay. In case he did, he was to withdraw west of the mountains and follow the army into Pennsylvania.77
Even when these orders had been issued to protect the flank of the army when it moved into Pennsylvania, Lee still looked about to see what further measures he could take to strengthen himself for the test that awaited him in the enemy's country. In the hope the Corse and Cooke might be spared to reinforce him, he urged the War Department to send them forward.78 One other possibility presented itself — the employment in his support of Beauregard's troops whom he had suggested, while still at Culpeper, that the President send either to Virginia or to join Johnston in the West.79 He now proposed formally that p49 Beauregard come to Virginia in person, if with only a small force, and establish himself at Culpeper Courthouse. This, he argued, "would not only effect a diversion most favorable for this army, but would, I think, relieve us of any apprehension of an attack upon Richmond during our absence. . . . If success should attend the operations of this army, and what I now suggest would greatly increase the probability of that result, we might even hope to compel the recall of some of the enemy's troops from the west."80 Lee's plan, in short, was to utilize the inner lines of the Confederacy in playing on Lincoln the game that had so embarrassed the Richmond authorities when McDowell had been threatening an advance from Fredericksburg while McClellan was in front of Richmond. If the President approved his idea, Hooker would have to detach troops to combat Beauregard. In that way, the powerful and united army of Hooker might be weakened and divided long enough for Lee to strike a staggering blow. Lee had already suggested to General Samuel Jones that he undertake a diversion in western Virginia.81
On the morning of the 24th, while the long columns were slowly moving under the June skies down the Valley toward the crossings of the Potomac,82 Lee rode from rear to front with his staff. On the road he overtook Colonel Eppa Hunton, who was leading Garnett's brigade of Pickett's division in the absence of its sick brigadier. For half an hour he travelled with Hunton p50 and talked of the adventures that awaited them on the other side of the river. Hunton, though second to none in desperate valor, was apprehensive of the outcome and frankly stated that a disaster in Pennsylvania might make withdrawal to Virginia difficult. Lee had his own misgivings, but in the presence of his subordinates he was always cheerful and confident. To Hunton he appeared most enthusiastic as he explained that an advance into Northern territory was necessary because provisions and supplies of every kind had been very nearly exhausted in Virginia. The invasion, he said, gave promise of success and would either end the war or allow the army rest for some time to come.83
After arriving opposite Williamsport, Lee received from the President a letter in which Mr. Davis endorsed Lee's views on the encouragement of the peace party in the North. In answering this on the morning of June 25, Lee reverted to his proposal that Beauregard be moved to Virginia, if only with a skeleton command. Already, he said, Federal apprehension for the safety of Washington was causing the Federals to recall troops for its defense; all the Federal force at Suffolk was reported to be evacuating, and General Buckner stated that Burnside's corps was being sent back from Kentucky. "I think," Lee said, "this should liberate the troops in the Carolinas, and enable Generals Buckner and Bragg to accomplish something in Ohio. It is plain that if all the Federal Army is concentrated upon this, it will result in our accomplishing nothing, and being compelled to return to Virginia. If the plan that I suggested the other day, of organizing an army, even in effigy, under General Beauregard at Culpeper Courthouse, can be carried into effect, much relief will be afforded. If even the brigades in Virginia and North Carolina, which Generals Hill and Elzey think cannot be spared, were ordered there at once, and General Beauregard were sent there, if he had to return to South Carolina, it would do more to protect both states from marauding expeditions of the enemy than anything else. . . ."84
p51 Then he quietly announced to the President what had doubtless been apparent to him as a possibility from the time he had found that he would have to undertake his expedition, if at all, with only the troops then at his disposal: "I have not sufficient troops to maintain my communication, and, therefore, have to abandon them."85 The army would have to take the great risk of living off the country. Imboden had supplied some beef; Ewell had been told that the ability of the rest of the army to follow him into Pennsylvania would depend on the supplies collected,86 and he was collecting beef and flour.87 But that was all that had been assured Lee. Much food must be bought. The crossing had been set for a time when there was reason to expect that the Potomac would be low and fordable for weeks,88 but if provisions should fail and the river rise, what would happen to the army? Moreover, the artillery ammunition that could be carried with the army was just sufficient for one heavy battle.89 Lee hoped that if the operations were favorable, he could bring up more ammunition under a cavalry escort, and that the abandonment of communication would not be complete,90 but that was a long chance in a campaign that Lee now hoped to continue north of the Potomac until fall.91
He did not magnify his possible achievements as he closed his letter to the President. "I think," he said, "I can throw General Hooker's army across the Potomac and draw troops from the South, embarrassing their plan of campaign in a measure, if I can do nothing more and have to return. I still hope that all things will end well for us at Vicksburg. At any rate, every effort should be made to bring about that result."92
He had omitted nothing, so far as he then knew, to reduce the inevitable risks. To summarize:
The two corps then with him were to advance to Chambersburg in support of Ewell's advanced columns and, at the fitting moment, were to move toward the Susquehanna and destroy the rail communications with the West. On this second stage of the advance, Hill was to follow a route east of the mountains to keep p52 the enemy at a distance, and Longstreet to move directly north on Harrisburg.93
Jenkins's cavalry brigade was to move in front of the army, Imboden on the left,94 and Stuart with three brigades on the right, operating in the direction of Baltimore so as to force an enemy-concentration as far eastward as possible.95 Jones and Robertson were to cover the rear until the enemy was across the Potomac and were then to join the main army, keeping to its right and rear.96
Reinforcements, if sent forward, were to go by train to Culpeper, march thence through Chester Gap and northward down the Valley to Winchester, where they would receive orders.97
To relieve pressure on Vicksburg, and to brighten the prospect of success by the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee had made four proposals — that General Samuel Jones advance on the enemy in western Virginia, that Bragg and Buckner move against the diminished Federal force in Kentucky, and that Beauregard, stripping the south Atlantic coast, move to Culpeper Courthouse and threaten Washington from the south, while the President undertook a peace offensive, directed against the morale of the North.
All these efforts were to be co-ordinated. The supreme endeavor of the South to win its independence was now to be made. So far as the Army of Northern Virginia was concerned, the hour had come. In the midst of a heavy rain98 on the morning of June 25, the bands struck up "Dixie,"99 the cheering division began to move, and the man who carried his nation's hope turned Traveller's head into the Potomac.100
4 Cooke: Wearing of the Gray, 317.
5 D. H. Maury, 239.
6 E. A. Moore, 177‑78.
7 Pendleton, 277‑78.
8 Cooke: Wearing of the Gray, 317.
9 Cooke, 278; R. L. T. Beale, 67.
10 Pendleton, 278.
11 Jones, 148.
12 Lee to Mrs. Lee, June 9, 1863, misdated June 8 in R. E. Lee, Jr., 96.
16 Often called, also, the battle of Fleetwood Hill.
19 R. E. Lee, Jr., 96‑97; cf. Jones, 398.
20 Walter H. Taylor, June 11, 1863; Taylor MSS.
22 O. R., 27, part 1, pp904, 905. Stuart's report is in O. R., 27, part 2, p679 ff. Lee briefly mentioned the action in ibid., p305. H. B. McClellan gave a full account in op. cit., 257 ff. He also furnished a large map, though that in Stuart's report, loc. cit., p686, is adequate. Von Borcke wrote a small book on the engagement, in collaboration with Justus Schiebert: Die Grosse Reiterschlacht bei Brandy Station.
23 Longstreet contended in Annals of the War, 418, that if Lee intended to assume the offensive at any time during this campaign, he should have done so on June 9.
28 Longstreet, 335.
29 For a most excellent statement of the reasons why Lee's extension of line was comparatively safe, see Maurice, 198‑99. It must be remembered, in addition, that the Rappahannock afforded Lee fairly good cover, so long as the fords were held, until an advance toward the Valley had reached Warrenton Sulphur Spring Ford. That point was only •twenty-five miles, two days' easy marching for Lee's fast-moving infantry, from Chester Gap into the Shenandoah Valley. The distance from Culpeper Courthouse to Chester Gap, via Sperryville and "Little" Washington, was •forty miles, or three days' marching. Once in the Valley, of course, Lee could hold the gaps and advance in complete safety.
31 Pendleton, 277.
34 R. E. Lee to G. W. C. Lee, June 13, 1863, MS., Duke University.
46 R. E. Lee, Jr., 97; Jones, 398; Jones, L. and L., 245.
55 Longstreet, 340.
56 Marshall, 201.
58 Marshall, 201. There is some doubt as to when this interview occurred. Marshall said that Lee told him it took place when he left Stuart near Paris, and Marshall made that June 21 (loc. cit., 201). Mosby stated that "it is well understood that Stuart rode that night to see General Lee at his headquarters" (op. cit., 72). But it is apparent from Lee to Davis (O. R., 27, part 2, p296), that Lee was at Millwood on the 19th, and from his dispatch of the 20th to the President, loc. cit., he was certainly at Berryville on the 20th. Pendleton (op. cit., 279) noted that Lee heard him preach on the 21st at the same place. There may have been two interviews, one on the 19th and one on the 21st, but if Lee had seen Stuart on the night of the 21st, as Mosby affirmed, it is a little odd that Lee should have given Stuart explicit instructions in writing a few hours thereafter. See infra, p43.
69 Longstreet, 340.
70 Marshall, 201‑2.
72 Marshall, 202.
73 Lee's note to Longstreet, unfortunately, has been lost, but its substance can easily be reconstructed from this passage in Longstreet's note to Stuart: "General Lee has inclosed to me this letter for you, to be forwarded to you provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think that you can move across the Potomac without disclosing our plans. He speaks of your leaving, via Hopewell Gap, and passing by the rear of the enemy. If you can get through by that route, I think that you will be less likely to indicate what your plans are than if you should cross by passing to our rear. I forward the letter of instructions with these suggestions. . . . P. S. I think that your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure, disclose our plans. You had better not leave us, therefore, unless you can take the proposed route in rear of the enemy" (O. R., 27, part 3, p915).
75 Marshall, 207.
76 O. R., 27, part 3, p923. This dispatch was sent direct to Stuart, and not through Longstreet, as the commander of the First Corps was then west of the Shenandoah, out of touch with Stuart and under orders to move the next day to the Potomac (O. R., 27, part 3, p358; O. R., 51, part 2, p726).
80 Lee to Davis (O. R., 27, part 3, p925). Longstreet contended, op. cit., pp336‑37, that this was a part of Lee's plan from the first, but that Lee had to deal cautiously with the Richmond authorities, and, as they were slow to forward even the brigades that belonged to the Army of Northern Virginia, "he did not mention the part left open for Beauregard until he had their approval of the march of the part of his command as he held it in hand." The candor of Lee's correspondence with President Davis does not justify this assertion. Lee doubtless had the general idea in mind, but if he had developed it fully, he would almost certainly not have delayed proposing it until two days before he crossed into Pennsylvania. Longstreet, who gave no dates, was probably confused as to his chronology.
82 The fullest itineraries of the march from Culpeper into Pennsylvania are in Kershaw's, Anderson's, and Nelson's (Kemper's) reports, O. R., 27, part 2, pp366 ff., 613 ff., 1090‑91. Early, in his report (ibid., 464 ff.), and Rodes (ibid., 550 ff.) supplemented Ewell's partial report of his movements (ibid., 442 ff.). R. H. McKim (A Soldier's Recollections, 143 ff.) gave the various advances of Ewell, but his statements do not wholly agree with those in Ewell's report. Major W. M. Henry, commanding the artillery with Hood's division, First Corps, had a complete itinerary (O. R., 27, part 2, pp427 ff.), though he does not seem to have remained constantly with the infantry. A vague but useful account of Hood's position day by day is to be found in J. C. West: A Texan in Search of a Fight (cited hereafter as J. C. West), 75 ff.
83 Autobiography of Eppa Hunton, 86‑87.
84 O. R., 27, part 3, p931. Lee was so convinced of the value of this movement that he wrote Davis a second letter on the subject later in the day, from the Maryland side of the river (ibid., 931‑33).
89 4 S. H. S. P., 99.
90 Marshall, 219.
91 Allan in Marshall, 251.
95 Longstreet, 340.
98 F. W. Dawson, 91.
99 Hood, 54.
100 Manuscript Narrative of the Campaign of 1863 by General A. L. Long, lent to the writer, with great kindness, by the late A. R. Long, of Lynchburg.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Robert E. Lee
for the battle of Brandy Station:
Brandy Station Foundation
US Park Service
John's Military History
American Civil War.com
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 1 Jun 17