The Folwell letters, June 29, 1863: “Co. I is rear guard of the grand army”

On June 28, 1863, Captain William W. Folwell lamented on the wait for the rear guard to cross the bridges at Edwards Ferry, as his command prepared to remove those pontoons.  June 29th found his company BEING the rear guard of the Army of the Potomac.  This was a two letter day for Folwell.  The first was posted in the morning:

Buckeys Town, Md.,

June 29th, 1863, 8 A.M.

Here I am.  Co. I is rear guard of the grand army.  We got to camp at 3 A.M. Got 3 hours good sleep and a good breakfast.  We march to Union Town.  We are well.

Just a short note. But some details that allow us to validate the movements of the engineers.  Aside from the pontoons sent back down the C&O Canal, the remainder of the detachment (parts of the Regulars and the 50th New York Engineers) was sent on a march toward Frederick, Maryland.  The march, which must have begun around mid-day on the 28th, took the detachment of engineers past Poolesville, over the Monocacy, and up to Buckeystown.

And this was the trail end of the Army of the Potomac.

Later in the day, Folwell had time to write another letter home:

Camp Engineer Brigade,

Frederick, Md.,

June 29th 1863.

I wrote you a hasty note in pencil this morning, which I mailed at Buckeystown, while marching hither.  Two miles this side of that place, we came up on the 5th Corps, which followed our trains.  I was then relieved of my duties as Provost Marshall.  I had some very active duty hurrying up some 11th Corps stragglers.  One fellow I had to handle roughly, and finally set two men with fixed bayonets to drive him on.  I was very glad to be relieved. Communication is cut off between us and Washington, the R.R. having been damaged at Mt. Airey Station some miles below here.  I presume, therefore, that said note will be slow in reaching you, as also this is likely to be.  Still, I wish to do all I can to keep you advised of my whereabouts and welfare.  We halted here at noon today, and pitched camp.  In the morning at two o’clock, we march, probably towards [Middleburg], the present H.Q. of the A.P. The news is scarce and uncertain.  Gen. Hooker is relieved and Gen. Meade is in his shoes.  It is said that both Reynolds and Sedgwick declined the appointment.  Co. I is rear guard again tomorrow, and no knapsacks will be carried.  Good Night.

Interesting, if the identification is correct, that Eleventh Corps soldiers would still be straggling on June 29.  That corps had crossed Edwards Ferry first, back on June 25.  There is, of course, a world of possibilities… to include mistaken identification.

I do find interesting that Folwell mentions a break in communications, but no problem with supply or delayed movements.  As I mentioned in the previous installment, Stuart’s cavalry moved through as a fast summer thunderstorm – there and gone.  Of course, Folwell was not getting all the news and knew nothing of the wagon train captured outside of Rockville the previous day.

At the end of the march, the engineers closed on Fifth Corps.  And the anticipated march for the following day was towards the Pipe Creek line. However, while the news of Meade’s assumption of command was correct, the rumors as to alternate commanders was not.

At this stage of the campaign, we leave the operations of the Potomac Crossing and the campaign transitions into the movements that would take the army to Gettysburg.  Folwell’s Company I was not to be in that fight.  Rather, they were placed back with their pontoons.  While not specific to my “lane” on Edwards Ferry, I’ll continue to post Folwell’s letters, so we may hear all of the engineer’s story.

(Citations from William Watts Folwell, Civil War Diary, unpublished, transcription retrieved from University of Minnesota Library, pages 423-24 (pages 429-30 of scanned copy))