The Federal Fifth Corps, like the Twelfth Corps, stayed in Loudoun County for several days before the crossing at Edwards Ferry. The men wearing the Maltese Crosses were involved with the cavalry fighting in Loudoun Valley during that stay. The Fifth Corps, commanded by Major General George Meade, first arrived in Loudoun on June 17, marching from Manassas Junction to Gum Springs. Two days later the Corps moved up to Aldie, behind the cavalry which was moving toward Middleburg. On the 21st, Col. Strong Vincent’s Brigade moved to assist the Brig. Gen. D.M. Gregg’s cavalry division to press the Confederates down the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike. (Note 1) Vincent’s Brigade marched thirteen miles that day and fought at both Bittersweet Farm and at Goose Creek Bridge. (But that is a story for another post….) (Note 2)
Also while posted near Aldie, Meade made an attempt to capture Major John Mosby. On June 22, portions of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry and the 14th U.S. Infantry set an ambush at Ewell’s Chapel, about four miles south of Aldie. As with many “Mosby” incidents, the “Gray Ghost” foiled the attempt. (Note 3)
Fifth Corps remained in the vicinity of Aldie until June 26. The order to move, posted on June 25th, read:
The Fifth Corps (Aldie) will march at 4 a.m., crossing Goose Creek at Carter’s Mill; thence to Leesburg, crossing the Potomac at the upper bridge at Edwards Ferry and the Monocacy at its mouth and follow the river road in the direction of Frederick City. (Note 4)
Fairly straight forward marching orders, which placed the Fifth Corps behind Twelfth Corps in the line of march. As part of the instructions to Twelfth Corps, Hooker’s orders required a formal handover of the defense of Leesburg to Fifth Corps. Of course, before crossing, Fifth Corps would turn over any remaining posts to the Cavalry also moving up to Leesburg that day. Again, referring to the McDowell Map, here is what I think the Corps line of march looked like:
While not stated as such, the choice of Carter’s Mill as a crossing point over the Goose placed the Corps on the old Aldie Pike (Modern U.S. Highway 15). An alternate crossing point was Evergreen Mills, along the Old Carolina Road (Modern CR 621). But that was not directed in the orders. I cannot rule out the Corps used farm lanes or side roads to connect to the Old Carolina Road at some point, but it seems logical from the orders that Meade stayed on the Aldie Pike.
For the Fifth Corps march on June 26, the distance from Aldie to Carter’s Mill is roughly five and a half marching miles. From the mill to Leesburg is about seven more miles. Then from the center of Leesburg to Edwards Ferry is about four miles. Thus the Corps had a sixteen to seventeen mile march to the bridge.
I have scant accounts of the march to Leesburg, but don’t doubt the story was similar to that told in the other Corps. The good news for Fifth Corps, once across Goose Creek, the terrain was a bit dryer, only crossing Sycolin and Tuscarora Creeks. And the route had not seen heavy traffic up to this point.
No accounts I’ve seen relate when the Corps arrived at Edwards Ferry. Presumably, given the distance, as with Second Corps, it arrived early- to mid-afternoon. General W.S. Hancock, commanding the Second Corps, reported, as discussed in the previous post, all traffic had cleared the bridges by 11:45 p.m. on of June 26. If one reads Hancock literally, the Fifth Corps was across by that time.
Regimental accounts state some elements of the Corps moved four to six miles beyond Edwards Ferry. (Note 5) The orders did not specify the route selected for Fifth Corps beyond the crossing. While they might have used the towpath as the Twlefth Corps was directed, it is also possible the Fifth Corps marched up the road to Poolesville, then turned toward the Monocacy. For instance, the 155th Pennsylvania regimental history records an overnight stay near Poolesville. (Note 6)
Regardless, the Fifth Corps was across the Potomac that evening, and on June 27 resumed the march north towards Houck’s Ridge, George Rose’s 26-acre Wheatfield, and a set of rocky knolls. Along the way, however, it’s commander would get a promotion.
Line of March Today: The route of Fifth Corps follows some rather heavily traveled roads today, and visitors should exercise caution and plan around peak traffic hours. The best starting point is Aldie Mill in Aldie. The mill is part of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks system and is open seasonally. Interpretive markers on site discuss the mill’s operations, and also the cavalry actions fought around the town.
From the mill, proceed east on the John Mosby Highway (U.S. Highway 50, and the old Ashby’s Gap Turnpike). At about a mile, grit your teeth and deal with the new round-about placed at Gilbert’s Corner. Pass three-quarters of the way around, and proceed north on U.S. 15 (the old Aldie Pike). Continue for about 4.4 miles. Just past the bridge over Goose Creek, turn right onto CR 650 and park in front of the Church of Our Savior (dates to the 1870s).
There are dozens of historical sites to point out near the crossing of the Goose, but I’ll stick to those on topic today. Carter’s Mill stood on the creek bank nearby (there are some stone ruins on the opposite side of U.S. 15 here), and the mill race ran all the way to the modern bridge. The miller’s house is a private residence along CR 650. The fording point was likely just downstream of the mill dam. Debris of the dam are scattered in the creek just opposite the entrance to CR 650.
Return to U.S. 15 and continue north toward Leesburg. Continue for about seven miles into the city. Turn right, next to the County Courthouse, onto Market Street. After a block, make a half left onto Edwards Ferry Road (CR 733) for just over three miles, passing through two stop-signs, and six stop lights. As with the XII Corps march, the route must end at the entrance to the River Creek Community.
- Itinerary of the Army of the Potomac and co-operating forces, June 5-July 31, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 142-3.
- Report of Brig. Gen. James Barnes, U.S. Army, commanding First Division, June 22, 1863. OR. Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 598-9. The Battle of Upperville is outside the scope of this post, but an overview account of the action, with an excellent set of maps is provided by the Citizens Committe for the Historic Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville.
- Report of Capt. W. Henry Brown, Fourteenth U.S. Infantry, June 22, 1863. OR. Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 641-2.
- Orders from Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, June 25, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 314.
- One example is the Report of Capt. Andrew Sheridan, Third U.S. Infantry, July 28, 1863. OR. Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 637. He reports bivouacking four miles from the ferry, then proceeding to Frederick, Md. the next day.
- Cited in Schildt’s Roads to Gettysburg, p. 245.