Edwards Ferry – Pennsylvania Reserves and Stannard’s Brigade

Last post I discussed the crossing of the Army Headquarters and Artillery Reserve as some of the moving pieces to consider outside the larger infantry corps that crossed.  The two remaining elements mentioned are both infantry formations detached from the Washington Defenses as reinforcements to the Army of the Potomac – The Pennsylvania Reserves Division and Stannard’s Vermont Brigade.

The Pennsylvania Reserves (often annotated the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps in some contemporary correspondence) were posted to the Washington Defenses during the previous winter, pulling them off the line to allow recruiting up to strength. (Note 1)  The regiments were posted around the southwest quadrant of the defensive ring, particularly around Falls Church and Upton’s Hill.  The later was a prominent rise in elevation which commanded the Pimmit Run area and several approaches from the west.  But the Reserves would also serve picket duty at Fairfax Station and have some run ins with the Confederate partisans operating in Northern Virginia. (Note 2)  General Samuel Crawford was in command of the Pennsylvanians.

With Pennsylvania invaded, there was much clamoring in the ranks and up the ranks to reform the formation back into the Army of the Potomac.  On June 25, 1863 the reserves were reallocated from the Washington Defenses back to the Army of the Potomac (but not yet attached or assigned to the V Corps).  The brigades of McCandless and Fisher formed Crawford’s Division.  Orders dispatched at 9:30 a.m. on June 25 stated called for Crawford to “march with your command to-day, via Leesburg turnpike, to Edwards Ferry, and if possible, he wishes you to cross the river at that point, should you reach the Ferry in season.”   (Note 3)   For the elements posted in the vicinity of Upton’s Hill and Falls Church (I believe this to be Fisher’s Brigade), the first steps towards Gettysburg were directly down the Leesburg Turnpike.   For those posted near Fairfax Courthouse (and I believe this to be McCandless’ Brigade), the route was through Vienna.    Indications are the Pennsylvanians started the movement that afternoon.

First Leg of Crawford's Division March
First Leg of Crawford's Division March - June 25th

What I have not depicted on this set of cuts off the McDowell map is where the two columns joined.    One soldier of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (McCandless’ Brigade) recounted starting the march at 3:30 p.m. and halting near Vienna in the early morning hours of the 26th, where they joined Fisher’s Brigade.  (Note 4)  Several routes would bring the two brigades together.  I cannot rule out that Fisher’s Brigade used the railroad (called on my my the W&OD but at the time was the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire) for part of their march.  Nor can I state specifically which, of several, routes McCandless’ Brigade took from Vienna to the Leesburg Pike.  But I think it safe to assume the junction was made on the night of June 25-26.

The next day the column was on the move again.  After crossing Difficult Run, Crawford’s men moved through the busy intersection at Dranesville, which of course was somewhat noteworthy in the Reserves’ history.  The Pennsylvanians had first gone into action at the Battle of Dranesville in December 1861.

Second Leg of Crawford's Division March
Second Leg of Crawford's Division March - morning of June 26

Of course a “third leg”  beyond Broad Run to Edwards Ferry, generally that followed the path taken by previously mentioned units.

Dranesville to Edwards Ferry
Dranesville to Edwards Ferry - Afternoon of June 26 Crossing on June 27

Crawford’s Division arrived at Edwards Ferry on June 26.  On a dispatch stamped for 9:25 a.m. that day, Crawford reports, “My command is crossing…. I will join General Meade to-night.  Sedgwick left Dranesville this morning.  Road is encumbered by trains of Third Corps….” (Note 5)   Later that day, General Hancock confirmed Crawford’s crossing in a report to Army Headquarters. (Note 6)

I find two issues of note in Crawford’s report.  First the timing – from Difficult Run (about the furthest west the column reached on the 25th) to Edwards Ferry is a 12 to 14 mile march.  VI Corps the trailing unit at this time, well south of the Pike, but closing on Dranesville.  Crawford’s report of the crossing matches with the Army Itinerary which states the Reserves arrived at Goose Creek on the evening of June 26 then crossed on June 27. (Note 7)  However in spite of the reports forwarded to Headquarters, General Daniel Butterfield inquired to the engineers at Edwards Ferry about Crawford’s crossing at 1 p.m. (Note 8)  Based on the timing of dispatches and reports, it appears Crawford’s command at least cleared the bridges in advance of VI Corps on the morning of June 27.

Second Crawford makes reference to III Corps wagons blocking the road.  Is it possible that III Corps still had trains in the area around the crossing some two days after the main body had passed?  I can only offer some speculations here.  It is what Crawford reported and III Corps was impeading the Army’s movement with its slow moving wagon trains.  However Crawford might not have been familiar with the corps badges standardized in March of that year.  Was perhaps Crawford confused over corps badges?  Maybe thinking the trefoil of II Corps (which had crossed the previous day and was still in the vicinity of Poolesville) was actually for III Corps?  Just speculation.

Once across the Potomac, Crawford’s Division marched to join V Corps near Ballinger’s Creek outside Frederick, Maryland.  There the division was formally assigned to that formation.  Of course at this same time, General George Meade commanding V Corps was assigned to command the Army of the Potomac, and was replaced at corps command by General George Sykes.

The march of Brig. Gen. George Stannard’s Vermont Brigade is, for me at least, surrounded by questions.  The Army itinerary simply states the brigade moved “from the Defenses of Washington, left the mouth of the Occoquan en route to join the Army of the Potomac.”  (Note 9)  Stannard’s official report leaves off discussion of the route taken, stating the brigade moved from the Occoquan on June 25 to arrive at Gettysburg on July 1. (Note 10)  Col. Francis V. Randall of the 13th Vermont stated his regiment was on picket duty near Wolf Run Shoals prior to June 24.  The regiment then marched to Centreville on the 25th and from there to Gettysburg on July 1.  (Note 11)

So where did Stannard’s men cross the Potomac? Certainly if the Brigade consolidated at Centreville, the logical point was Edwards Ferry.  But this places Stannard’s men on the same roads as VI Corps on their first day of march toward Edwards Ferry.   The only hint I can see regarding Stannard’s crossing at Edwards Ferry is the report by General Henry Benham at 8:35 p.m. on June 27, in which he mentions the passing of the “Vermont Brigade” on the upper bridge.  (Note 12)  Personally I would rather attribute that reference to “The Old Vermont” Brigade of Col. Lewis Grant, part of General Albion Howe’s Second Division, VI Corps, which crossed on the 27th.   There are a couple of resources that I do not have access to at this juncture which might clear this mater up.  So I’ll table discussion until such time.

(UPDATE:  I have collected enough information to trace the Second Vermont Brigade’s march to Edwards Ferry)

As much of the sites associated with Crawford’s and Stannard’s commands passing to Edwards Ferry are either in Fairfax County or were already covered by previous posts, AND since this post is already longer than anticipated, I’ll forgo a “route of the march” tour suggestion for now.



  1. History of the Pennsylvania Reserves, by J.R. Sypher.  Elias Barr and Co., Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1865.  p. 428.
  2. Ibid.  p. 434.
  3. Orders from AAG Seth Williams to General S.W. Crawford, 9:30 a.m., June 25, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 309.
  4. Letter from “Tinicum”, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, Company F.  July 6, 1863.  Access from the Pennsylvania Reserves Volunteer Corps Historical Society web site.
  5. Dispatch from Crawford to Seth Williams, 9:25 a.m., June 27, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 353.
  6. Dispatch from Hancock to Seth Williams, June 27, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 354.
  7. Itinerary of the Army of the Potomac and co-operating forces, June 5-July 31, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 145.
  8. Dispatch from Butterfield to Capt. Turnbull at Edwards Ferry, 1 p.m., June 27, 1863. OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 353.
  9. Itinerary of the Army of the Potomac and co-operating forces, June 5-July 31, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 145.
  10. Report of Brig. Gen. George J. Stannard, U.S. Army, commanding Third Brigade.  July 4, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 348.
  11. Report of Col. Francis V. Randall, Thirteenth Vermont Infantry.  July 10, 1863.  OR. Series I, Volume 27, Serial 43, p. 351.
  12. Dispatch from Benham to Seth Williams, 8:35 p.m., June 27, 1863.  OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 353.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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