The Folwell letters, June 22, 1863: “Still at Edwards Ferry”

For Monday, June 22, 1863, Captain William W. Folwell offered a short entry:

Monday [June 22], 8 A.M.

Still at Edwards Ferry.  Beautiful morning.  All quiet.  We shall probably move or rather make our camp this morning across the canal on to a pleasant hill-side. [Lieutenant James L.] Robbins goes to Washington to-day, I presume. He will attend to sending up our baggage and Co. books.  He will send up an express box with “goodies” from home. We could live very well up here if we could get bread. The natives around here scarcely use it, but make all kinds of short cakes and biscuit, which to me are an abomination.  We hope to have a mail within two or three days. Oh, I am so stupid.

Unclear to me if the last sentence was in reference to some missed opportunity with the mail, or a general self-deprecating remark.  Something lost to time.

Very little here of the war situation.  Just an uneventful day in an eventful campaign.  When that occurs, the focus is, as we see in the entry, upon things such as mail and food.  As a Loudoun County resident, I can take some pride that the “abominable” short cakes and biscuits which Folwell referenced were on the Maryland-side.  You know, over in Montgomery County.

Adding some that broader context here, June 22 saw an attempted ambush of Major John S. Mosby’s command.  Then later in the day came orders for the engineers to place a bridge over Goose Creek near the mouth.  The engineers were also to look into blazing a path from the Eleventh Corps camps (near where modern Dulles Toll Road crosses Goose Creek) down to Edwards Ferry.  And in addition, elements from the First Corps constructed a bridge over Goose Creek at the Alexandria-Leesburg Turnpike.  We’d call these tasks part of the “mobility” function of combat engineers.  In other words, making it easier to move friendly troops.  Specific to the situation on June 22, the bridges and blazed path would allow movement of the First and Eleventh Corps to reinforce the Twelfth Corps then in Leesburg.  Furthermore, as events would later dictate, would allow the movement of the army to Edwards Ferry and thence across the Potomac.  Those mobility corridors, built by the engineers and other detailed troops, would save the army hours of marching time in the days which followed.

Something that gets overlooked when we focus on valuable minutes on the battlefield of Gettysburg is that hours were saved, spent, and, at times, wasted on the roads from the Rappahannock to Adams County… by both sides.

(Citations from William Watts Fowell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 415 (pages 421 of scanned copy))

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