Edwards Ferry Crossing Timeline, Part 3

Where I left off on part 2 of this timeline (June 23-24), the activity at Edwards Ferry was picking up.  The XI Corps was ordered to cross and the Engineers were about to install the second bridge.  The lingering question, however, expressed by Captain Turnbull at the bridge site, was where the second bridge should be placed?  This was not a trivial decision, as the placement would affect both the line of march to the bridges and the traffic patterns at the crossing:

June 25 @ 0345:  General O.O. Howard’s XI Corps breaks camp and starts crossing at Edwards Ferry.  This action is related in a dispatch sent at 1115 hrs.

June 25 @ 0500:  Major E. O. Beers, 15th New York Engineers, reports arrival at Edwards Ferry, and receipt of orders to place the bridge at that point instead of the Monocacy as originally planned.  Beers also reiterates the question regarding bridge placement (north or south side of the creek?).

June 25 – time not specified, but likely early morning:  General Joseph Hooker grants General John Reynolds, commanding I Corps,  command of III and XI Corps along with I Corps.  His objective is the South Mountain passes in Maryland.  General Stahel’s Cavalry also placed under Reynold’s control.  This order was formally conveyed by General Seth Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General, later in the morning at 0810 hrs.

June 25 @ 0700:  Hooker orders General W.S. Hancock, commanding II Corps, toward Edwards Ferry.  He is directed to use a route from Sudley Springs through Gum Springs.

June 25 @ 0700:  Hooker orders General Robert Tyler, commanding the Army’s Artillery Reserve, to march for Edwards Ferry.  (NOTE:  Tyler was near Fairfax Court House at the time).

June 25 @ 0720:  Seth Williams conveys orders to General Henry Slocum, commanding XII Corps, to be ready to cross at Edwards Ferry.  I, III, and XI Corps will cross on the 25th.

June 25 @ 0930:  Seth Williams relays orders to General Samuel Crawford, commanding the Pennsylvania Reserves Division. Crawford will move from Upton’s Hill (south of Falls Church, Virginia) to Edwards Ferry.  (NOTE:  Recall Crawford’s command was just allocated to Hooker from the Washington defenses, and was not yet formally part of the V Corps.)

June 25 @ 1015: Seth Williams responds to Major Beers.  The second bridge must be laid quickly, “at the best place for crossing the troops.”  He adds, “You should have obeyed his order communicated through Captain Turnbull.”

June 25 @ 1030:  Beers answers, relating the bridge building is underway, starting at both ends.  He estimates two hours to complete the bridge.

June 25 @ 1110:  Seth Williams queries Captain C.N. Turnbull, engineer officer at Edwards Ferry, with regard to the order to place the bridge.  Apparently at headquarters, everyone assumed the bridge was complete.  The order is to install the bridge immediately, and of course explain the delay.

June 25 @ around 1100 (possibly before the above message arrive):  Captain Turnbull reports the second bridge is not complete.  The last boats arrived at around 1000 hrs, and operations are underway.  He estimates three hours to complete.  “Having recieved no instructions, I have put the second bridge on the south side of Goose Creek.”  Turnbull further elaborates on the delay, “Am pushing the second bridge all I can.  The pontoons were late in arriving, on account of the crowded state of the canal.”  Also Turnbull relates that XI Corps completed crossing in the morning, on the first pontoon bridge.

June 25 @ 1130:  Reynolds reports on crossing progress. At that time, the last of the XI Corps is crossing, but with a large number of led horses, which slows progress.  (NOTE:  The crossing of horses on a pontoon bridge must be regulated to prevent swamping of the boats.)

June 25 @ 1240:  Reynolds provides status report.  General Howard reported arrival at Point of Rocks, and now directed to moved toward Middletown.  III Corps arriving at Edwards Ferry in the afternoon.  (NOTE: the official time listed for this report is 12:40 a.m., but I feel this time was transcribed incorrectly.  Howard could not have marched from Edwards Ferry to arrive at Point of Rocks (around 15 road miles) at 12:40 a.m. on the 25th.  So a p.m. time is more likely.)

June 25 likely early afternoon:  Hooker responds to Reynolds’ earlier status report.  He provides additional instructions for Howard (XI Corps) to “have every led animal in his train, excepting officers’ horses, sent to the rear, and not accompany the column.”

June 25 likely mid-afternoon:  Seth Williams relates the order of march for the 26th to Reynolds.  XII Corps will cross at Edwards Ferry starting movement at 0300 hrs, leaving a detachment to hold Leesburg until V Corps arrives.  XII Corps will use the upper pontoon bridge and proceed to the Monocacy.  V Corps marches from Aldie, through Carter’s Mill, to Leesburg and will then cross at Edwards Ferry then follow the river road to Monocacy.  The Reserve Artillery will cross the lower pontoon bridge and follow V Corps.  II Corps moves up from Gum Springs at 0600 hrs and will cross on the lower bridge, proceeding on to Frederick, Maryland.  VI Corps starts from Centreville/Fairfax around 0600 hrs, and will cross the lower pontoon bridge at Edwards Ferry.  VI Corps will then follow II Corps.  The Cavalry Corps is tasked to cover the movement then cross after the trains have passed the bridges.

June 25 @ likely around 1400 hrs:  Reynolds reports his lines of march from Edwards Ferry.  First Corps will move from Barnesville to Jefferson, Maryland.  III Corps will move to the mouth of the Monocacy, thence beyond to Point of Rocks.  He reports the III Corps crossing at the time of the report, but the trains of I and III Corps were not up yet.

June 25 @ 1430:  Beers reports to General Henry Benham, commanding the Engineer Brigade (who is still in Washington at this point), regarding the second bridge.  It is complete and in use.  The operation was complete in three hours using 65 boats.  Beers mentions reporting to General Birney, of III Corps.  (NOTE:  Is that formation using both bridges?)

June 25 @ 1910:  Seth Williams relates orders to General Alfred Pleasonton, commanding the Cavalry Corps.  The cavalry is to hold ready to move to Edwards Ferry.  Supplies should be drawn at that point.

Following that last order, the flurry of communication dies down.  Both bridges were in place, despite confusion.  The later bridge went into operation within three hours of the arrival of the boats, an accomplishment worthy of note.  Then again, was this becoming standard practice for the engineers?  How many bridges had they set over the last three months?

The line of march and crossing order was established on the 25th.  I found it interesting the orders designated the bridge (upper or lower) to be used.  This implies, somewhat, the bridge at the mouth of Goose Creek was more a traffic control point than main line of march.

As June 25 ended, the first three corps of the Army were either across or crossing – I, III, and XI Corps.  Reynolds last dispatch, indicating lines of march, set into motion the movement of Humphreys’ Division of III Corps along the canal tow-path.  That march on the night of the 25th along the narrow trace was wet and miserable.  One week later those same men were fighting at places called “The Valley of Death,” “The Wheatfield”, and “The Peach Orchard.”

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: