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.)


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.)


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