Going to Gettysburg – My #Gburg150 Starts

A circular to the Army of the Potomac, issued this day (June 30) in 1863 read:

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
June 30, 1863.
The commanding general requests that previous to the engagement soon expected with the enemy, corps and all other commanding officers address their troops, explaining to them briefly the immense issues involved in the struggle. The enemy are on our soil. The whole country now looks anxiously to this army to deliver it from the presence of the foe. Our failure to do so will leave us no such welcome as the swelling of millions of hearts with pride and joy at our success would give to every soldier of this army. Homes, firesides, and domestic altars are involved. The army has fought well heretofore; it is believed that it will fight more desperately and bravely than ever if it is addressed in fitting terms.
Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant death of any soldier who fails in his duty at this hour.
By command of Major-General Meade:
S. Williams,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

One-hundred and fifty years later, might we say the whole country looks on again?  Television, newspapers, and magazines are once again featuring Gettysburg and the Civil War.  And it seems as if the entire Sesquicentennial is drawing into Gettysburg where all the roads and storylines meet.

I’m off to Gettysburg myself.  To experience the 150th of the Civil War, one actually has to get out there and be part of it.  Or at least that’s the way I see it.  I’ll keep this post open for additions today.  And as usual I’ll put up tweets and Facebook page updates where I can.

The hash tag is #Gburg150.  Let’s see if that reaches the “trending” list sometime over the next four days.

Advertisements

“Piracy more outragous than that of Semmes”: Lowell’s response to Darien, Ga.

If you have studied the Civil War for any length and to any depth, you’ll see the threads cross more often than not.  I’ve been writing, here on the blog, for the last few months about activities that occurred 150 years ago in South Carolina and Georgia. But of late I’ve changed focus to events that occurred at the same time here in Virginia and Maryland.  I could easily make the transition back to the Department of the South by mentioning calls for troops to defend Washington.  But the source material provide me a proper, perhaps subtle, way to link the two theaters of war.

On June 26, 1863, Charles Russell Lowell’s battalion of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry guarded the Potomac River fords and covered the crossing at Edwards Ferry.  An important piece to the overall operation, Lowell was at the time in Poolesville, Maryland.  But his mind, at least for a short time, focused on recent events on the Georgia coast.  Concerned about the news he’d read about the burning of Darien, Georgia, Lowell took time to write William Whiting, a Massachusetts politician who was serving as the War Department’s Solicitor.

Dear Sir, – Have you seen in the newspapers (our own and the rebel) the account of the destruction of Darien by our black troops, – a deserted town burned in apparent wantonness? If this were done by order, I cannot think that the effect of such orders has been duly considered.  I know how constantly you have been in favor of employing negroes as soldiers, and how much you have done to aid it, and I write in the hope that, if you find my views just, you may some time help prevent the repetition of such expeditions.

If burning and pillaging is to be the work of our black regiments, no first-rate officers will be found to accept promotion in them, – it is not war, it is piracy more outrageous than that of Semmes.  Without first-rate officers (and even with them) expeditions in which pillaging is attempted by order will infallibly degenerate into raids in which indiscriminate pillaging will be the rule, and, instead of finding ourselves at the end of the summer with an army of disciplined blacks, we shall have a horde of savages not fit to fight alongside of our white troops, if to fight at all.  Public opinion is not yet decided in favor of black troops; it is merely suspended, in order to see the experiment tried. I do not believe it can be made favorable to their employment if it sees only such results as these:  unfavorable public opinion will still further increase the difficulty of getting good officers, – and so on ad infinitum.

Of the absolute right and wrong of the case, I say nothing, – and of the effect upon the black race, – for those are outside questions; but in a military point of view, I think the net result of Darien expeditions will be against us. Expeditions to help off negroes and to interfere with corn crops are too important a mode of injuring the rebels to be neglected : if made by well-disciplined blacks, kept well in hand, they could be carried far into the interior and made of great service; but troops demoralized by pillage and by the fear of retaliation, which would be the natural consequence of such pillage, will not often venture out of sight of gunboats.  I have done what I could for the coloured regiments by recommending the best officers of my acquaintance for promotion in them, and I was very sorry to see that one Company of our Fifty-Fourth Regiment (in which I had taken an especial interest) was at Darien: I can fancy the feelings of the officers. This is written in haste, and is written loosely, but I wanted to call your attention to the matter….

The direct connection between Lowell and Colonel Robert G. Shaw shows through in this letter.  But clearly Lowell’s response was not predicated only on the honor of his close friend, or simply to impress Josephine Shaw.

To the question about legitimate military targets, Lowell’s views were not far removed from that expressed by Major-General David Hunter, in instructions to Colonel James Montgomery, who’d led the Darien raid.  Now I’ll avoid the “then where did this get out of hand and who is to blame?” line of thought for now.  Instead would call attention to how Lowell equated the burning of Darien to actions by Confederate commerce raiders.

And consider the audience of Lowell’s letter.  Whiting, in his role as Solicitor, had published a lengthy examination of the legal grounds to wage war upon the Confederacy, titled The War Powers of the President and the Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason, and Slavery.  Whiting argued those engaged in rebellion may not be afforded legal rights and privileges granted under the Constitution.  Instead he reasoned the government was released from the obligations “… to respect the rights to life, liberty, or property of its enemy, because the constitution makes it the duty of the President to prosecute war against them in order to suppress rebellion and repel invasion.”

With respect to private property, Whiting went as far to say, “… the blowing up or demolition of buildings in a city, for the purpose of preventing a general conflagration, would be an appropriation of them to public use.”  Whiting concluded, “… the government have [sic] the right to appropriate to public use private property of every description; that “public use” may require the employment or the destruction of such property….”

So if we follow Whiting’s logic, was the burning of Darien was a legal, legitimate military action?

Lowell also spent considerable time on the worry the black regiments – the U.S. Colored Troops – would not gain acceptance by the general public.  Was that concern born of political goals?  Or is this derived of the abolitionist cause?  Or is this a military officer considering the needs of the front lines?

(Citations from:

Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell: Captain Sixth United States Cavalry, Colonel Second Massachusetts Cavalry, Brigadier-general United States Volunteers, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1907, pages 265-7.

William Whiting, The War Powers of the President: And the Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason and Slavery, Boston: John L. Shorey, 1862, pages 20,33, and 52.)

Marching Through Loudoun: June 28, 1863

As the morning broke over Loudoun County on June 28, 1863, not only had the Army of the Potomac completed its passing, but also the Army of Northern Virginia… of course save some Confederate cavalry posted on the Blue Ridge and what stragglers remained from the long marches.

The engineers completed the task of pulling up the bridges at Edwards Ferry that morning.

June28Positions

Orders from army headquarters had the “land pontoon,” that Brigadier-General Henry Benham mentioned the previous day, moving up to Frederick and following the Fifth Corps on the line of march. The remainder of the bridging, at Benham’s suggestion, was supposed to move down the C&O Canal to the Navy Yard for repairs. But there was a problem with that plan – Stuart had damaged the canal at Lock No. 23. So for the time being a lot of equipment lay at Edwards Ferry.

That bridging equipment laying at the crossing site was a resource the army might need on short notice, should fortunes turn. So it had to be secured. At 2 p.m., Major-General Henry Halleck, in Washington, asked Major-General George Meade about Edwards Ferry:

It is reported here that the supplies at Edwards Ferry and returning by the canal are left unprotected. If so, Lee’s cavalry will probably destroy them. It is reported that Lowell’s battalion of cavalry, left at Poolesville, was sent to Sandy Hook, contrary to my orders. If so, there is not a cavalry picket on the line of the Potomac below Edwards Ferry, and we have none here to send out.

Meade replied promptly indicating he’d directed Lowell back to Poolesville. It would be several days, July 4 according to a report from Benham, before the equipment was in Washington.

That closes my sesquicentennial coverage of the march of the Army of the Potomac through Loudoun and the crossing at Edwards Ferry. I could probably offer up a dozen more long winded posts about particular aspects of those two subjects, which I’ll save for “slow” blogging days where I need a filler. But for now let me revisit some of the conclusions I offered up a few years ago with respect to Edwards Ferry:

Hooker anticipated major fighting in Loudoun prior to June 24, and prepared to meet Lee. Three infantry corps fronted the Bull Run and Catoctin Mountains, with three more within immediate supporting distance.

First bridge at Edwards Ferry supported supply route. Such alleviated the pressure on the road network through Loudoun. This also lends the argument Hooker didn’t anticipate moving into Maryland, in force, prior to June 24.

The road network brought the army to Leesburg. One or more of the river crossing sites around Leesburg had to be used when the army moved across the Potomac.

Hooker wanted second bridge at Monocacy on June 24. But, with the report of Confederate activity west of Leesburg, he opted to co-locate the second bridge at Edwards Ferry. A well planned river crossing for an army like that Hooker commanded should have at least two lines, within mutual supporting range but not so close as to cause traffic problems. I’d submit Hooker’s hand was forced by those false reports. (And I’ll admit, there are no primary “a-ha!” sources stating such exactly. My presumption is based on the timeline more than anything else.)

Confusion over movement and bridge placement cut into time line. At least half a day on June 25 is lost due to these issues. Double bridge placement added to congestion. I’d offer no set figure of time lost. But with Hancock, Crawford, and others reporting wagons from the preceding corps still crossing at Edwards Ferry, even on the last day of the crossing the trains were still tangled up.

Improper positioning of cavalry allowed Stuart to cross the Potomac. We can “armchair general” this all day. But lets also consider the cavalry was stretched thin with the requirement to cover the movement across the Potomac.

Edwards Ferry crossing enabled success at Gettysburg. I think that part is somewhat self evident. Given that Hooker’s “strike for his line of retreat” was never really an option, the Army of the Potomac had to move into Maryland and eventually Pennsylvania. A crossing point upstream of Edwards Ferry was not practical for several reasons, namely security. A crossing point downstream was not practical due to poor access points and the width of the river. And of course a march into Washington and back out to Maryland would add several days to the movement. By that time, Lee’s infantry might be past the Susquehanna. As it was, the speed at which the Army of the Potomac was able to move up during that last week of June took a little initiative away from Lee, forcing him to concentrate the far flung Army of Northern Virginia. The events of June 25-27 lead to the events on July 1-3.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part I, Serial 43, page 63.)

Missed assignment at Rowser’s Ford

For this post, let me pitch a curve ball – let it hang out there over the plate – and see if anyone crushes it.  I’ll say this is but an interpretation that I ask you to roll around a bit to see how it fits.

If you’ve studied Major-General J.E.B. Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg, you are familiar with the story.  Colonel Charles R. Lowell, commanding a battalion of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, was supposed to be guarding Rowser’s Ford on the night of June 26-7, 1863.  But a set of contradictory orders from Major-General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, and Major-General Samuel P. Heintzelman, commanding the Washington Defenses (22nd Corps if you wish).  This missed assignment can be traced through a series of events to a proximate cause… well perhaps.  So let me walk this one backwards to demonstrate.

First, the area of operations we are discussing – the western side of Montgomery County, Maryland:

PoolesvilleArea

This is a snip from Martenet and Bond’s map of Montgomery County, Maryland and more a political map than topographical (which is always my preference).  But it will do.  The map is oriented about 45° off to the right, with true north pointing roughly to the upper left corner.  You see Poolesville in the middle with Edwards Ferry below;  Rowsers Ford on the right and the Mouth of the Monocacy on the left.

Charles Russell Lowell

As mentioned an earlier post, on June 25, Lowell received orders to cover the Potomac crossings, from the Mouth of the Monocacy to Great Falls.  His command based out of Poolesville.  Let me offer Lowell’s own words, from a letter to his future wife Josephine Shaw* written on July 1, 1863, the command confusion that occurred over those days in late June:

On Friday night [June 26] at half past ten, I got orders to report next day to General Slocum.  As I had to get in my patrols from a space of over thirty miles and had besides to reduce the baggage of the Regiment from eight wagons to two, I didn’t start til 8:30 the next morning, made a comfortable march of twenty-five miles, reported as ordered, and went quietly into bivouac for the night, as I supposed. But at 11 came two dispatches from General Heintzelman, one ordering me to remain at Poolesville, or to return if I had left, the other notifying me that General Halleck sent the same order.  I was considerably disturbed, and telegraphed at once to General Hooker and to General Heintzelman and notified General Slocum.  In the morning, 4 o’clock, I got order from General Hooker to report to General French, and from French to report immediately; also orders from Heintzelman to take no orders that did not come through his, Heintzelman’s, Headquarters.  This was embarrassing, but I decided with much reluctance to obey Heintzelman….  So I moved down the Potomac about fifty-seven miles, and, when I reached the mouth of the Monocacy, met some of my wagons with the news that the rebels in strong force had crossed the Potomac at the very ford I was especially to watch….

So this explains why no Federal pickets covered Rowser’s Ford on the night of June 27-28, leaving an open door into Maryland for Stuart.

But why was Lowell’s cavalry there in the first place?  Days before they were covering the southern approaches to Alexandria (which, had they not moved, might have put them in contact with Stuart on June 26-7).  But a shifting of cavalry detachments in Maryland left an opening that Lowell’s command had to fill.   Lowell’s orders placed him in the operational sector controlled by Hooker, replacing a unit from Hooker’s Cavalry Corps.  Over the previous week, Hooker had issued orders to other formations out of the Washington Defenses, particularly Major-General Julius Stahel’s division, without input from Heintzelman.  So you might say Hooker had reason to assume Lowell was his to order about.

What was the unit shifted out of Maryland?  A detachment of cavalry from the Reserve Brigade, Cavalry Corps, under Captain Samuel McKee had patrolled the area around the Mouth of the Monocacy from mid-June until June 23.  At 11:35 p.m. on the evening of the 23rd, McKee received orders to “Report with your command to General Pleasonton at Aldie tomorrow.  Cross at Chick’s Ford, if practicable.”

McKee’s men had to cross into Virginia and then of course cross back again in a few days.  Why was McKee ordered to move?  Well, on June 22, Brigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton, in a report to Hooker’s headquarters, suggested the move:

If it is deemed necessary that a force from this corps should remain on the Upper Potomac, I would request permission to relieve Captain McKee by a regularly organized force, but would respectfully suggest that some of the cavalry which is in Washington may be put upon that duty.

Why did Pleasonton want McKee back?  Explaining his status after the fighting in Loudoun Valley, Pleasonton wrote, in the same report:

As an example of the reduction in numbers, I would state that, when the Reserve Brigade, consisting of the First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth U.S. and Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, went into action on the 21st instant, it only numbered 825 men, the remainder of the men of this brigade being either dismounted or at the mouth of the Monocacy with Captain McKee, who has or should have 1,100 men. Under these circumstances, I have the honor to request that Captain McKee’s command and all other effective men of this command may be ordered to join me at once, and that prompt measures may be taken to supply the number of horses that I need.

Most of the Reserve Brigade’s casualties came near the close of the fighting at Upperville.  The brigade made an ill-fated charge on Vineyard Hill and suffered heavily for it.

If Pleasonton had not sent the Reserve Brigade into a difficult charge at Upperville, he wouldn’t have needed McKee at Aldie.  Lowell would have remained in Virginia and might have encountered Stuart in Fairfax County instead of missing him in Montgomery County.  And maybe someone would have been covering Rowser’s Ford on June 27-28. Or maybe not.  Regardless, the reason Lowell was in Maryland to begin with was due to something that happened days earlier in Loudoun Valley.  At a minimum, this demonstrates that operational moves don’t happen in a vacuum.

* Josephine Shaw was the sister of Robert Gould Shaw. This of course explains Lowell’s interest in events at Darien, subject of another post I’m working up.

(Citations from Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell: Captain Sixth United States Cavalry, Colonel Second Massachusetts Cavalry, Brigadier-general United States Volunteers, by Edward Waldo Emerson, pages 268-9;  and OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part III, Serial 45, pages 258-9 and 273.)

Marching Through Loudoun: June 27, 1863

In contrast to previous days, June 27th was a relatively orderly crossing at Edwards Ferry. While serious command issues rose and came to a sharp conclusion, the troops kept crossing the river. At least through the morning, Major-General Winfield S. Hancock remained in the Edwards Ferry vicinity, tracking movements.

First in the line of march on this morning 150 years ago was Brigadier-General Crawford’s Pennsylvania Reserves. He reported the command was on the bridges by 9:25 a.m. “I will join General Meade to-night. Sedgwick left Dranesville this morning. Road is encumbered by trains of Third Corps.”

Around the same time, Brigadier-General John Buford’s division crossed at Edwards Ferry, NOT the Mouth of the Monocacy as ordered the previous day. Here is one of those gaps of information that I’d love to resolve. Were the previous day’s orders countermanded? Apparently so, as Assistant Adjutant-General A.J. Alexander reported Buford’s movement. But I’d love to see the full conversation and what prompted the change.

Around mid-day, Hancock reported on the progress as he returned from Edwards Ferry:

General Sedgwick and part of his command have arrived and the trains are rapidly crossing. The supply train of the Fifth Corps and General Crawford’s trains are in advance. General Crawford’s troops have crossed. The artillery are well out on the road I came.

Around 1 p.m., headquarters inquired, via telegram, as to the state of the crossing. The response came at 8:35 that evening, from Brigadier-General Henry Benham, who at last had moved up from Washington:

I have been here awaiting the passage and taking up of the bridges since 11 a.m. During this time the cavalry supply train and about two-thirds of the Sixth Corps have crossed on lower bridge. Vermont Brigade and Wright’s division are now to cross on upper bridge. The First Division of cavalry have passed, and there is now passing the First Brigade of General Gregg’s division. It is now almost entirely across. I understood that this cavalry division was to be the last to cross.

So as the sunlight faded on June 27th, the last parts of the Army of the Potomac had left Virginia. Brigadier-General David M. Gregg brought the rear guard across, and the Army of the Potomac left Loudoun County. The only action left, with respect to activity in Loudoun, was to pull up the bridges.

June27Positions

(UPDATE: Minor change to the map today.  Gregg’s cavalry division “took over the picket line” from Buford’s on June 26.  I interpret that to mean Gregg stayed in the vicinity of Aldie until the morning of June 27.  Gregg arrived in Leesburg around 1 p.m. that day.)

In his report, Benham added his concerns about pulling up the bridges in a timely manner. No doubt that sat well among the headquarters staff with whom he’d argued with over the last several days. Benham had a “land pontoon” train, with under 1,000 feet of bridging, ready to move from Poolesville. He planned to move remainder of bridging, that pulled out at Edwards Ferry, back to Washington by way of the C&O Canal. Some components of the bridges were out of the water by midnight (taking advantage of 83% moon illumination that particular night). But most of the work would wait for the following morning. Somewhat anti-climatic, but the great crossing was over.

One other Loudoun County crossing occurred, starting that evening and completing in the early hours of June 28. Major-General J.E.B. Stuart with three brigades of cavalry reappeared earlier on June 27 after taking a wide route around the marching Federal infantry. The Confederate troopers fought a brief engagement at Fairfax Courthouse. After a rest, the column moved to Dranesville where they found Sixth Corps campfires still warm and captured a few stragglers. But Stuart had orders to join with Lieutenant-General Richard Ewell somewhere in Pennsylvania. To get there, he needed a safe crossing of the Potomac. And good fortune smiled on Stuart that evening. Rowser’s Ford, which depending on where you stand is on the extreme eastern tip of Loudoun County, was free of Federal pickets, according to a civilian who met Brigadier-General Wade Hampton. Although the river was higher than usual from the rains.

Hampton’s brigade crossed early in the night, but reported to me that it would be utterly impossible to cross artillery at that ford…. A ford lower down was examined, and found quite as impracticable from quicksand, rocks, and rugged banks. I, however, determined not to give it up without a trial, and before 12 o’clock that night, in spite of the difficulties, to all appearances insuperable, indomitable energy and resolute determination triumphed; every piece was brought safely over, and the entire command in bivouac on Maryland soil.

In all actuality, the crossing likely continued well into the early morning. But Stuart was across the Potomac, although a little late.

While Stuart crossed, on the other side of Maryland, Major-General George Meade received word he was the next commander of the Army of the Potomac. Exit Major-General Joseph Hooker.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part II, Serial 44, page 693; Part III, Serial 45, pages 353 and 354.)

Camp to the “left of the Magnetic Iron Ore” : Finding Eleventh Corps Camp

One intriguing aspect of the marching through Loudoun County is the location where the Eleventh Corps camped during their stay.  Most of the other units found camps near well known placenames – Leesburg, Aldie, Guilford Station, Gum Springs.  But the Eleventh camped at “Trappe Rock.”  The placename is not marked on any modern maps.  And we can’t trace an evolution to modern placenames (Farmwell to Ashburn, for instance).  Instead this is a vague reference to some place known then, but not known today.

Trap rock is supposed to be stuff like this:

Maybe it is out there along Goose Creek and I’m just not adventuring far enough into the underbrush.

At one time I thought it may refer to outcroppings in the quarry astride the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Park. But I’ve dismissed that option as being impractical for several reasons.

Going back to the orders that sent the Eleventh Corps to “Trappe Rock” those read:

The First Corps, General Reynolds, and Eleventh Corps, General Howard, will march at 3 a.m. for Leesburg from Centreville, one corps taking the route by Frying Pan, old Ox Road, and Farmwell Station, crossing the railroad; the other by Gum Springs, Farmwell, crossing Goose Creek near Trappe Rock.

Another clue is from the supplemental instructions sent out on June 16.   At that time, the orders for the First and Eleventh corps were intermixed. The respective commanders, Major-General John Reynolds and Major-General Oliver O. Howard, were told to decide amongst themselves who went to Trappe Rock and who went to Herndon Station (and eventually Gilford Station).  The supplemental instructions issued at noon that day read in part:

If the column via Gum Springs can find a better and more practicable road via Bitzer’s, the dam and lock to the left of the Magnetic Iron Ore (see the map), there is no objection to going that way.  A road may be found via Gum Springs, T. Lewis, Freeman’s, Moran’s, Bitzer’….

Those are specific place names on the McDowell map, and are easy to correlate.

EleventhCorpsCamp

There are two “Trappe Rock” mentions in that area of Goose Creek.  Only one is near a “Magnetic Iron Ore” notation.  We also see that Major-General Dan Butterfield was hovering over the McDowell map when writing these orders.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, the orders of June 16 were invalid within hours of their issue.  Instead of just marching past “Magnetic Iron Ore” and “Trappe Rock” the Eleventh Corps was to hold there.  In an update to Brigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton on June 17, Butterfield noted, “General Howard is at Goose Creek (Trappe Rock mill-dam and canal lock).”  Looking at the Goose Creek map, there was indeed a mill, dam, and canal lock in that vicinity.  It was know as Cochran’s Mill, thought it is unclear to me when that name was in effect (pre- or post-war).  That location matches to the area upstream of the present day, and abandoned, Balls Ford Bridge.

Belmont Ridge Rd 14 June 09 114

If so, the area has changed a bit since the Eleventh Corps camped there:

IMG_1045

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part III, Serial 45, pages 150 and 151.)

Marching Through Loudoun: June 26, 1863

On June 25, 1863, Loudoun County witnessed a lot of movement.  Even more Federal troops were on the move on June 26.  In the evening of the 25th, Major-General Joseph Hooker issued orders for the next day:

The following movements of troops will take place to-morrow, the 26th instant, viz:

I. The Twelfth Corps (Leesburg) will march at 3 a.m. to-morrow, leaving a sufficient force to hold Leesburg until the Fifth Corps comes up; will cross the upper bridge at Edwards Ferry and the Monocacy at its mouth, and proceed up the Potomac as far as Trammelstown (Point of Rocks), and then to Middletown, unless otherwise ordered. The detachment that remains behind will rejoin the corps on the arrival of the Fifth Corps at Leesburg.

II. 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. The Reserve Artillery will cross on the lower bridge at Edwards Ferry, and follow the Fifth Corps.

III. Headquarters will leave at 3 a.m., via Hunter’s Mills, to Poolesville, where the camp will be to-morrow. IV. The Second Corps (Gum Springs) will march at 6 a.m. to-morrow, via Farmwell, Farmwell Station, and Frankville, cross on the lower bridge at Edwards Ferry, and take the road crossing the Monocacy a little below Frederick City.

V. The Sixth Corps (Centreville and Fairfax) will march at 3 a.m., via Chantilly Church, Frying Pan, Herndon Station, and Dranesville, to Edwards Ferry, and, after covering the withdrawal of the bridges, will follow the Second Corps.

VI. The Cavalry Corps will cover the movement till all the trains have crossed the Potomac, when one division will be thrown forward to Middletown.

These orders, which governed the movements through June 27, put the entire Army of the Potomac in Maryland… for the first time since the previous October.  For today’s map, consider the twisting blue lines which, in some cases, represented the line of march of several formations.  As yesterday, the grey unit symbols indicate the start position and the blue is the evening location.  (And again, I’ve posted a set of maps focused on the crossing sequence.)

June26Positions

Notice the division of Brigadier-General Samuel Crawford (third of Fifth Corps) reached Edwards Ferry that evening.  And Brigadier-General George Stannard’s Brigade, which would become part of the First Corps’ Third Division, moved up to Herndon Station.

In addition to the movement, Special Orders No. 173 released nine batteries from the Army of the Potomac to the Washington Defenses.  While on paper this seemed to reduce the artillery arm at a critical time, these batteries were worn down, short on equipment, and short on personnel and animals.  Even with this reduction, the Army of the Potomac took 362 artillery pieces north.

There are several events, which readers are likely familiar with, in regards to the movement north playing out on June 26 – the movement of Major-General John Reynolds’ wing toward the South Mountain passes; Hooker’s dispute with Major-General Henry Halleck over Harpers Ferry; the poor performance of Major-General Julius Stahel and his relief.  But those all occur “over” the Potomac.  So allow me to focus on things in Loudoun for now.

As mentioned in the orders, the Cavalry Corps had the duty of covering the movement.  That duty fell to Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s division.  At 1 a.m., Brigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton issued orders for Gregg to relief Brigadier-General John Buford’s pickets.  The orders also sent Gregg’s trains to Edwards Ferry, to reduce one more encumbrance for the rear guard to worry about.  Gregg sent one column down the Little River Turnpike towards Fairfax to ensure that road was clear.  The other troopers closed the picket lines in from the south, converging near Leesburg.

Likewise, Pleasonton ordered Buford to send his wagons and artillery across at Edwards Ferry.  Buford’s troopers, however, would cross at the Mouth of the Monocacy, at the fords in that vicinity.  (Keep those orders in mind tomorrow.)  Buford’s command camped around Leesburg that evening, waiting to cross the next day.

At the crossing site, rains continued.  The Twelfth Corps started early that morning on its short march to Edwards Ferry.  Crossing on the upper bridge, the corps turned up the canal towpath.  Major-General Henry Slocum made no mention of the difficulties that hindered the Third Corps the previous evening on the same route.   While Slocum’s command crossed, the Reserve Artillery moved on the lower bridge and then to Poolesville.

As these and other units converged on Edwards Ferry, the crossing point became a choke point.  Muddy roads, stragglers, and baggage wagons congested the roads leading to the crossing site.  On the far side, one road lead to Poolesville.   Around mid-day, Brigadier-General Marsena Patrick arrived and started making order out of the mess.  Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac crossed and headed out for Poolesville.

Also at around mid-day the Second Corps and Fifth Corps closed on the crossing site. To help clear up the mess, army headquarters issued instructions to Major General Winfield S. Hancock, commanding the Second Corps, to hold his column until the preceding formations had crossed their trains.  This would delay Hancock’s crossing until well into the evening.  One of his infantrymen, Captain Samuel W. Fiske of the 14th Connecticut (Second Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps), wrote:

Then I will speak of the way our division got over a river. Problem: A division and its trains to cross the Potomac.  Means: A double pontoon-bridge. Time needful for doing it; Just about one hour.  Way in which the thing was militarily accomplished: Said division was encamped, after a day’s march, near Edward’s Ferry, on the southern side.  At nine, P.M., orders came to strike the tents, pull up stakes, and move.  We accordingly moved – about half a mile, and halted till nearly midnight, then crossed over, and stood in the muddy road two or three hours waiting for orders to encamp. Finally, receiving orders, turned off into a large field of wheat just ready to cut, and bivouacked at four, A.M.  At half-past six, A.M., received orders to evacuate the wheat-field, which was already destroyed, and Uncle Sam will have to pay for, and encamp in a grass-field a little distance away, which Uncle Sam will have to pay for.  Then, a little later, came the order to move on the day’s march. So here was the hour’s work accomplished in the course of the night by making three removes of camp, and at the trifling expense of a night’s rest to the troops between two days’ marches, and with the ultimate result of getting the same exhausted troops to Frederick City a day later than they were ordered and expected.

Hancock himself closed the day with a report to headquarters:

My command is just going into camp about 1 mile from the river. My headquarters are near the residence of Mr. Vesey, about one-quarter of a mile to the right of the Poolesville road (going from here toward Poolesville), and 1 mile from the river My own train, and those of commands which preceded mine, have crossed the bridge. There are no trains the other side of Goose Creek, to my knowledge, excepting those of the Sixth Corps.

A brigade of cavalry is covering the roads leading to the bridges on the south side of Goose Creek. The Sixth Corps had not arrived at 11 o’clock.

The hard marching of June 26 put three more infantry corps in Maryland.  Only one corps, the Sixth, two cavalry divisions, and the newly attached Crawford’s Division and Stannard’s Brigade remained in Virginia.  The long line of men, animals, and equipment was almost across the Potomac.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 27, Part III, Serial 45, pages 314 and 338.  Samuel W. Fisk, Mr. Dunn Browne’s Experiences in the Army, Boston: Nichols and Noyes, 1866, pages 175-6.)