Edwards Ferry Crossing Timeline, Part 4

The third part of the timeline ended in the evening on June 25, with Reynolds Right Wing of the Army of the Potomac mostly across the river.  According to the itinerary of the Army, located in Serial #43 of the Official Records, the Reserve Artillery also crossed on the 25th (but I have not seen a corroborating source for that).  The only element noted that did not cross at Edwards Ferry that day was Stahel’s Cavalry Division, which crossed at Young’s Island Ford.

The line of march for the remaining four corps was set by orders dispatched on the 25th.  The XII Corps followed by the V Corps would cross the upper bridge.  The II Corps followed by the VI Corps would use the lower bridge.  The Cavalry Corps was directed to cover the crossing, then pass over themselves.  The headquarters would cross between the corps in the line of march.  Not mentioned, but factoring into the passage was Crawford’s Division and Stannard’s Vermont Brigade, both just transferred from the Washington defenses.

Thus on the 26th, Edwards Ferry was again a busy crossing:

June 26 @ 0100:  Lieutenant-Colonel A.J. Alexander, assistant Adjutant-General of the Cavalry Corps, relays orders to the Second Cavalry Division under General David M. Gregg.  Essentially, Gregg’s Division would be the rear guard covering the crossing.  Of note, all trains of the Cavalry Corps were ordered to Edwards Ferry to resupply prior to the crossing.

June 26 @ 0150:  In a dispatch to General Hancock, commanding II Corps, General Seth Williams, Army assistant Adjutant-General, relates General Hooker’s desire that each Corps will cross with their trains.  Thus each Corps will halt until the preceding Corps’ trains have crossed.

June 26 likely in the early evening:  General Alfred Pleasonton, commanding the Cavalry Corps, dictates orders to Alexander, his assistant A-G.  General John Buford’s First Division will cross cavalry at the mouth of the Monocacy, while trains and artillery will proceed to Edwards Ferry.  Alexander responds that Buford has just arrived at Leesburg, but could not cross before nightfall.

June 26 @ 1900:  Major H. Baldwin, assistant A-G of Stahel’s Cavalry Division, relates the command’s trains are still held up at Edward’s Ferry.  The division is short of supplies.  This issue is repeated in a report from General O.O. Howard, XI Corps commander, to General John Reynolds, I Corps and Right Wing commander.

June 26 @ 2345:  General Hancock reports his Corps is in camp one mile north of Edwards Ferry.  The trains of II Corps and preceding corps are across the river.  Only the VI Corps remains on the far side of the river, to Hancock’s knowledge.

June 27 likely early morning: Gregg reports his Cavalry Division arrived at Leesburg around 0100 hrs.  Pleasonton, in response, asks him monitor the passage, noting the VI Corps is the last scheduled to pass.  Gregg will coordinate with the engineer officers, who will recover one bridge after the cavalry crosses.

June 27 @ 0925:  General Samuel Crawford reports his division is crossing.  The road beyond the crossing is “encumbered by trains of Third Corps.”  (NOTE:  The Official Records show this sent at 9:25 a.m.  based on the reports of Hancock and the inquiry by Butterfield in the evening, the dispatch from Crawford may have been sent at 9:25 p.m.)

June 27 @ 1300:  General Daniel Butterfield, Army Chief of Staff, from the headquarters now in Frederick, Maryland, queries Captain C.N. Turnbull, engineer at Edwards Ferry, regarding the status of the crossing.  Particularly asks if the VI Corps and Crawford’s Division have crossed.

June 27 likely in the afternoon:  Dispatch from Lt. Col. Alexander to Pleasonton states “Buford’s column is in motion for the bridge.  General Gregg here [Leesburg], all right.  Will be over at once.”

June 27 @ 1930:  General Henry Benham, commanding the Engineer Brigade, reports to Seth Williams that half the “land pontoon” (presumably the bridging not used at Edwards Ferry) is on the road to Poolesville, with the rest to follow within an hour.  He estimates the cavalry will cross by 2100 hrs.  Behnam sends this report from Edwards Ferry, where he has been since 1100 hrs.

June 27 @ 2035:  Benham responds to the earlier requests for the status of the crossing.  Two-thirds of VI Corps have crossed on the lower bridge.  The Vermont Brigade and Wright’s Division (VI Corps) are about to cross on the upper bridge.  Buford’s First Division of the Cavalry Corps have already passed.  And the first brigade of Gregg’s Second Division is crossing.  Benham is doubtful the bridges will be up before nightfall, or that the pontoon trains will be ready by noon on the 28th.

June 27 likely early evening:  General Hancock communicates a status of the crossing to Seth Williams.  Part of VI Corps has passed.  The supply trains of V Corps and General Crawford’s Division are over.  And the artillery is passing up the road.  He closes, “I mention these things, supposing that General Sedgwick is not aware of the telegraph station here.”

June 28 @ 1400:  The last dispatch regarding the crossing site is a message from General Henry Halleck to the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George Meade.  Washington was concerned that supplies left at Edwards Ferry are unprotected due to unauthorized movement of Lowell’s Cavalry Battalion from Poolesville.  Meade directs the cavalry back to their assignment later that afternoon.

There are two events that I would add to the time line, but lacking exact times, can only speculate as to the order.  The first is the arrival of General Marsena Patrick, Army Provost Marshall, who is cited in some sources as bringing order to the confusion at the crossing.  The second is the crossing time of Stannard’s Brigade.

The itinerary of the Army of the Potomac, for June 26, states that the Army Headquarters, II Corps, V Corps, and XII Corps made the crossing on that date.  On June 27th, the VI Corps, Crawford’s Division crossed, along with Buford’s and Gregg’s Cavalry Divisions.

Regarding Buford’s Division, there is one point of clarification, or perhaps conflict.  While the orders from Pleasonton on June 26 indicates Buford was to move his cavalry by way of a ford at the Monocacy River’s mouth (sometimes called Hauling’s Ford).  But dispatches and reports from those at the crossing site simply recall the crossing of the division, not just the trains and artillery as indicated in Pleasonton’s order.  Furthermore, in Buford’s official report of the campaign, submitted on August 27, 1863, he firmly states the division crossed at Edwards Ferry.  “After passing the Potomac on the upper pontoon bridge, the division marched over almost impassable roads, crossing the Monocacy near its mouth by a wretched ford….”

That last quote brings up another aspect of the crossing – the roads north after the passage.  Effectively only two practical roads existed – one to Poolesville and the River Road passing southeast.  Even in Poolesville, while several roads connected the other Potomac crossing points, only one road lead north.  So when Buford, one of the last commanders to pass, says the road was nearly impassable, likely he was not exaggerating one bit.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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