October 15 - 21, 1863
It was a short period of time but a lot of important
decisions were made during the Autumn of 1863.
On October 15, 1863, Major-General George G. Meade
established the Army of the Potomac in a strong defensive line that ran
just below Union Mills along Bull Run Creek, northward across the
River Turnpike in front of Chantilly.
General Robert E. Lee’s plan to surprise and attack an
isolated part of Meade’s army was thwarted at Bristoe Station.
Division commander A. P. Hill’s disastrous attack on October 14th
destroyed two of four brigades in one of his divisions.*
General Meade reported his 2nd Corps
guns and 450 prisoners” in the engagement.
For the next two days,
Confederate cavalry commander,
Major-General J.E.B. Stuart probed the length of the Union lines
for a weak spot from which an attack could be launched. This
accounts for the reports from the 13th MA soldiers of heavy
skirmish fire heard along the Union lines, October 15 &
16. The Confederate cavalry probes kept the Union army on guard,
waiting behind strong fortifications for an expected battle.
The map shows positions of Meade's Army,
October 15th - 17th, 1863. John Newton's 1st Corps was at
Centreville, with Robinson's Division in front at Cub Run. G. K.
Warren's 2nd Corps connected to Newton at Centreville Heights, and also
protected Mitchell's and Blackburn's Fords, across Bull Run.
Major-General William H. French's 3rd Corps linked with Warren, and
McClean's Ford. Major-General George Sykes' 5th Corps was in
reserve at Fairfax Court House, with
all the Reserve Artillery. One division under Brigadier-General Rufus
King was ordered to report to Sykes. Major-General General John
Sedgwick's 6th Corps
guarded the northern flank at the Little River Turnpike, with pickets
spread out as far north as the Gum Springs Road. Major-General
Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry was picketing between Sudley Springs
and New Market.
On October 15, Confederate General
J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry with some help from General Henry
Fitz-Lee's cavalry, attacked John Buford's cavalry while
it escorted part of the Union wagon train across Bull Run at Yates
General French sent a division to help Buford who safely crossed all
the wagons. The Confederate cavalry bivouacked at Manassas that
their pickets held some of the fords. The pickets were swept away
in the morning. On the 16th Stuart rode Northwest to Sudley
brushed away Kilpatrick's pickets. The roads were muddy and traveling
was bad, so he bivouacked closeby. On the 17th Stuart continued
north around the Federal lines via Gum Springs to Frying Pan and
clashed with Sedgwick's pickets
there. He leisurely retraced his steps in the evening, having
been summoned by General Lee. Click here to view larger.
Meanwhile, after considering his options, General Lee
decided to withdraw his army back to Culpeper County. He
reasoned, a successful attack would only drive the Army of the Potomac
closer to Washington, D.C., to even stronger fortifications around the
city’s perimeter. An advance north was not possible because his
supply line couldn’t sustain a move across the Potomac river. The
farms of Northern Virginia were barren. The railroad bridge at
Rappahannock Station was burnt, so he couldn't remain where he
was. Whereas, back at
Culpeper, the terrain was favorable for launching another attack
the opportunity arise.
On October 17, he wrote Confederate President Jeff
“During the night of the 14th
the enemy continued his retreat, and is now reported to be fortifying
at Centerville. I do not deem it advisable to attack him in his
intrenchments, or to force him farther back by turning his present
position, as he could quickly reach the fortifications around
Washington and Alexandria, which we are not prepared to invest.
Should I advance farther, I should be compelled to go to Loudoun for
subsistence for the army, this region being natively destitute, and the
enemy having made the railroad useless to us by the complete
destruction of the Rappahannock bridge. Such a movement oddly
takes us too far from other points where the army might be needed and
the want of clothing, shoes, blankets, and overcoats would entail great
suffering upon our men. I can see no benefit to be derived from
remaining where we are, and shall consequently return to the line of
Lee informed General Stuart of the retreat and
ordered his cavalry to act as rear guard for the march south.
On the march south, the Confederate army diligently
destroyed 26 miles of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, thus
wrecking the supply line for Meade’s army. They destroyed
bridges, telegraph poles, tracks and ties. This would all have to
be repaired before General Meade’s army could follow the Rebels
south. Lee's plan worked, for a while. He was able to cross
his army back over the Rapphannock River unmolested, but the Federals
succeeded in repairing the busted tracks of the O & A much sooner
than he expected.
General Meade overestimated his
opponents strength at 80,000 men. He reported this at
noon, October 15th to General Henry Halleck, Chief of the
Army. Halleck’s 3 p.m. response (penned by
President Lincoln) stated:
“Reports from Richmond make Lee’s
present force only 55,000. Is he not trying to bully you, while
the mass of the rebel armies are concentrating against Rosecrans?
I cannot see it in any other light. Instead of retreating I think
you aught to give him battle. From all the information I can get,
his force is very much inferior to yours.”**
Authorities wanted General Meade to attack.
But Stuart’s cavalry probes kept Meade off guard,
wondering where Lee’s army was. At 7 p.m. on October18th, Halleck
again pressured Meade to march.
“If you cannot ascertain his
movements, I certainly cannot. If you pursue and fight him, i
think you will find out where he is. I know of no other
That night at 10 p.m. General Meade issued orders to his
army to march the
Major-General John Newton’s 1st Corps was ordered to
advance along the Warrenton Turnpike, and spend the night at Hay
Market. General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry division would
lead the way, scouting the road with the intent of forcing J.E.B.
Stuart's cavalry back to Warrenton.
J.E.B. Stuart knew Kilpatrick was coming down the pike
and set a trap at Buckland Mills. Kilpatrick obliged and rode
into it. Luring Kilpatrick's cavalry south toward Warrenton,
Stuart arranged for a flanking force waiting near Auburn to ride on
another road to Buckland Mills, thus cutting of Kilpatrick's line of
retreat. Then Stuart's party, which had lured Kilpatrick south,
would turn and attack him. If the plan worked, Kilpatrick's
cavalry would be surrounded. It did work with one significant
but Kilpatrick was cut off, and his troopers were routed. In his
report of the affair, General Stuart wrote:
“...the enemy broke and the rout was soon
complete. I pursued them
from within 3 miles of Warrenton to Buckland, the horses at full speed
the whole distance, their column completely disorganized, and
retreating in confusion.”
The episode was christened, “The
Buckland Races.” General Lee informed his authorities in Richmond, “Two
hundred prisoners, with horses, arms, and equipments, and eight wagons
and ambulances, were captured.”
To cover up his embarrassing rout, Kilpatrick fed
misleading information to General Meade, and claimed it was enemy
encountered that day, which caused his flight. General Meade
believed him and surmised Lee's army was at Warrenton. He acted
The next two days Army of the Potomac cautiously
Warrenton expecting an engagement with the enemy. Instead, it was
discovered the bird had flown; and Lee's army was safely ensconced
across the line of the
Rappahannock river, in Culpeper County. Further scouting revealed
the complete and utter destruction of the Orange & Alexandria
Railroad, General Meade's supply line. General Meade
this in a message to General Halleck, the morning of October
21st. Meade concluded the message with this thought:
“It seems to me
therefore, that the campaign is virtually over for the present season,
and that it would be better to withdraw the army to some position in
front of Washington and detach from it such portions as may be required
to operate elsewhere.”
This news greatly disheartened President Lincoln.
Halleck replied to General Meade at 3.30 p.m., “If you can conveniently
leave your army, the President wishes to see you to-morrow.”
So much for the week of October 15 –– 21. More
strategizing would follow. But we will get to that later on in
*NOTE: Brigadier-General Henry Heth’s two
brigades reported 600
Killed, Wounded or Missing in Brigadier-General William Kirkland’s
Brigade, and, 700 Killed, Wounded or Missing in Brigadier-General John
**Official Records, Vol. 29, part
II; (p. 326).
Reference sources for the essays,
narration, and footnotes found on this page are listed here.
War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union
and Confederate Armies, Vol. 29, Part 1, & Part 2.
(Accessed on-line at Cornell University).
The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade,
Volume 2; Charles Scribners & Son, 1913. (accessed on-line at
Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station,
Jeffrey William Hunt, Savas-Beatie, 2021.
A Want of Vigilance, The Bristoe Campaign, October
9 –– 19, 1863, Bill Backus and Robert Orrison, Savas-Beatie,
Miserable, Miserable Management, The Battle of
Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford; Michael Block,
C, from “A Want of Vigilance” cited above.
The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run
Campaigns, Bradley M. Gottfried, Savas-Beatie, 2013.
Lincoln, Speeches and Writing, 1859-1865.
Volume 2. The Library of America.
With Malice Toward None, A Life of Abraham
Lincoln, Stephen B. Oates, Harper Perennial, 1977.
Grant, Jean Edward Smith, Touchstone, 2001.
Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy
under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. I, (1861 –– March
1864); Houghton Miflin, Boston, 1911. [Accessed on the web
Mass.” –– What's On This Page
The week opens with the regiment (and the regiments of
their division) picketing at Cub Run
in front of the First Corps battle lines. They had been to all
these places before, hence the sub-title of this page, and as Sergeant
Austin Stearns wrote, they were “on unlucky ground.” In the
morning, October, 19th they
marched to Hay Market with their corps, and became somewhat entangled
in the aftermath of the Buckland Races. The Journal of Charles
Wainwright gives a few details about that scuffle. They proceeded to
Thoroughfare Gap the next day and made camp. Bad weather added
interest to the
marches. With time to rest in the trenches, or out on the picket
line, many of the soldiers used the opportunity to report on the late
marches experienced during the Bristoe Campaign to loved ones and
Surprisingly these recaps take up a large portion of this page, lending
a personal touch to the Bristoe Campaign from the regiment's
It was pretty much business as usual for the men
in the rank and file. The strategizing and worry was done at a
higher pay grade. They resumed their story telling of camp life,
curious anecdotes, and soldier experiences, and all the while hoped the
serious campaigning for this difficult year would soon end.
Contextual narration continues later on the page, as
again prodded into action by President Lincoln. This sets up the
move in which the 13th MA marches south to Morrisville near Kelly’s
Ford, followed by some roundabout marches after that. They
end up in a camp at Licking Run, helping to repair and protect
further sections of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad that had been
destroyed. Although there was much anxiety and maneuvering in the
Army of the Potomac, the few original men left in the regiment
played only a supporting role in all of it. But they had lots of time
to comment on the
everyday occurrences of a soldier’s life, and the stupidity of their
commanding generals. More about this on the next page, "Return to
images are from
the Library of Congress [LOC] Digital Collections with the following
exceptions: 2nd Lieut. Aubrey Leavitt, 16th Maine is from Cowans
Auctions, 6/21/2013, (accessed on-line); “Union Army at
Robert Knox Sneden from “Eye of the Storm” edited by Charles F. Bryan,
Jr. and Nelson D. Lankford, The Free Press, New York, 2000; “Map
of Catlett's Station”, (detail) also by Robert Knox Sneden is found
at LOC Digital Maps; Union
soldier on picket in winter, from Harper's Weekly, January, 1864, also
graphic of soldiers on the march in winter (Warren Freeman letter Oct
29) found at: [sonofthesouth.net]; Photograph of soldiers around
a campfire by Buddy Secor, used with permission; Map: “March to
Thoroughfare Gap” is scanned from American Heritage Picture History of
War, by Bruce Catton, 1960, I manipulated the map in photoshop;
in a rainstorm” is a detail from, “Professor Lowe's Balloon Eagle in a
Storm”, from Library of Congress; “Cavalry Fight” by Fritz Kredel
is found in “John Brown's Body”, by Stephen Vincent Benet, Rineyard
& Co. New York, 1954, (p. 109).; Illustration of Artillery in
Gen. Newton's Report is by Louis K. Harlow, "Bits of Camp Life";
Portraits of Captain
Howard Cary, Lt. Morton Tower, and Captain Oliver C. Livermore, from
Army Heritage Education Center, Digital
database, Mass. MOLLUS Collection; Captain John G. Hovey, 13th
Digitial Commonwealth, [digitalcommonwealth.org]; Capt.
Abel H. Pope from
Hudson, MA Historical Society; All other 13th MA portraits are
from various dealer and auction house sites, accessed digitally;
Painting of Soldiers
in a snowstorm is by William H. D. Koerner, found in Civil War Times
Charles Reed illustrations of soldiers grabbing fence rails, (Going
Into Camp) is from, “Hardtack and Coffee”, by John D.
Billings, Ilustrated by Charles W. Reed,
Boston, George Smith & Co. 1892, accesssed digitally at the web
archive; The Charles Reed sketch of soldiers marching, (Charles
Barber letter, Oct. 29) and the Edwin
Forbes illustration of soldiers marching in rain, and artist Frank
Beard's sketch of a soldier sleeping (Clarence correspondence, Boston
Oct. 22) are from the New York Public Library digital
collections; The steam engine by artist Framk Schoonover is
"Frank Schoonover", by Cortlandt Schoonover, Watson-Guptil
NY. 1976; The Walton Tabor sketch,
“Reveille”, is found in, The American Heritage Century Collection of
Civil War Art, (p.158-159). American Heritage, New York, 1974.;
The brush-fire image is a stock image found on-line at, The Daily
Reporter, [thedailyreporter.com] 2/20/2017; The sketch of
cavalry is from The Illustrated History of the
Civil War, by Richard Humble, Gallery Books, an imprint of W. H. Smith
Publishers Inc., NY: 1986.; That's all
for now. Maps, panoramic
views and other
contemporary Virginia were
taken by the
author/webmaster; [Bradley M. Forbush].
ALL IMAGES have been EDITED in
Top of Page
of the Campaign Thus Far
Blackburn's Ford, by Matthew Brady.
The following is from the
History of the 39th MA titled, “The
Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts Regiment; 1862 - 1865”; by Alfred S.
Row, Worcester, Mass., 1914.
[October 14, 1863] It was a four o’clock call of
the bugle, in the morning
of the 14th,
that summoned frost covered and sleepy soldiers from dreams to
realities, but their distress was somewhat offset by the appearance of
rations, of which they drew supplies for four days and thereby were
better equipped for the day’s progress which began at seven o’clock, as
one veracious chronicler states, with the First Corps on the left and
the Sixth at the right of the railroad. While these two Army
thus continuing their way in relative quiet, heavy firing in the rear
indicated that the Second and Fifth corps were having something to do,
the Second fighting the battle of Bristoe Station; General Warren
having his hands full in warding off the attack of the enemy while the
cavalry, on both sides, were piling up the portentous list of battles,
many of them bloodless, which adorn the histories of so many mounted
regiments. Centreville, so famous in the July days of 1861, was
now the evident destination of the forces and crossing Bull Run, at
Blackburn’s Ford, the scene of the first day’s fight in the memorable
First Bull Run engagement, the brigade arrived at Centreville not far
from noon. To build fires and to prepare a dinner, undisturbed,
was the next act in this day’s drama and, if tired soldiers caught a
few hours sleep before the next scene, it need not be wondered
at. Some of the men in the Thirty-ninth were participants in the
disastrous battle of Bull Run; to them it was a case of old
revisited, and if they took some pride in rehearsing their experiences
they did not fail of interested listeners.
But the day was by no means done; though
Centreville had been reached,
the enemy was still near, only a little way to the west, and picket
lines must be established. Accordingly the Regiment proceeded on
its somewhat confusing task, while the greater part of the division
on a reconnoisance. Apparently
there was little definite
knowledge of localities, since one writer observed that they reached
their destination at seven o’clock and marched around till eleven, and
another of Company E relates the interesting experience of trying to
obey the orders to follow Bull Run until the pickets of the Sixth Corps
were reached. After crossing Cub Run, three miles away, Major A.
D. Leavitt of the Sixteenth Maine, division-officer of the picket, went
on ahead to ascertain his whereabouts, leaving the Regiment in a
field. Returning in less than an hour, he reported a rebel camp
in the immediate front; in trying to retire, the line was halted
own pickets when it appeared that we had been more than a mile beyond
our own lines. On calling the roll, Sergeant Dusseault found that
twelve men were missing. Major Leavitt (pictured) would
one to go
back after them but himself and he found the missing men fast asleep
where we had been waiting. Bringing them all safe and sound to
their own, established the reputation of the Major with the
Thirty-ninth from that time on, as long as he lived. To one
member of Company E, “Johnny” Locke, the memory of the Major was
specially grateful, because of the latter’s kindness. The young
man had been suffering for days from a carbuncle on his neck; in any
other place than the army, he would have been laid up completely, but
here he kept going; he was one of those found by the officer and,
recognizing the condition of the soldier, he kindly got down from his
horse and mounted the boy in the saddle. Sidney himself could
have done no more.
The dawn of the morning of the 15th did not reveal the
situation with certainty to these inexperienced soldiers; they
they were very near the thrilling scenes of more than one and two years
before, that the sound of musketry and cannon-firing in their front
indicated the possibility of a third battle of Bull Run. It was
however, to watch and wait in constant expectation of orders to lend a
hand. One writer enlarges on the delights of persimmon-eating,
the October frosts having ripened the yellow delicacy to perfection,
and the various other diversions that unoccupied hours ever
suggest. Though the brigade was finally rejoined and there was a
movement towards Centreville with orders to pitch tents, before the
same could be obeyed a long threatened rain began to fall, putting out
whatever fires had been built and essentially adding to the discomforts
and uncertainties of the day. Rations were drawn late at night
and record is made of the giving out of a portion of whiskey as a
stimulant to the wet and weary solders.
Adolph Metzner sketch, LOC.
The experiences of the
17th did not vary essentially from those of the 15th; there were picket
duty, acting as reserve, the drawing of rations and all sorts of
prognostications as to what the outcome of the expedition would
be. While the cavalry of both sides kept up an exchange of
compliments, very few casualties were reported from any source.
That those who directed believed there was immediate danger was evident
in the degree of caution constantly maintained; roll-call every
hours and constant injunctions to be ready to move at any moment.
Union Army at
Centreville, August 1863
Robert Knox Sneden did this sketch
titled, “Eastern View of Centreville, Va., From Cub Run”,
showing the village of Centreville atop the hill with Cub Run in the
foreground. The distance between the two was estimated to be
about 3 miles.
From “Three Years in the Army, The Story of the
Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers” by Charles E. Davis, Jr.
Estes & Lauriat, 1894).
Thursday, October 15.
Moved back across Cub
Run to a hill near Centerville, where we remained
until the 19th. The fighting that we heard yesterday was by
Corps, which was
engaged with the enemy at Gainesville, and which it repulsed.
Diary of Sam Webster (drum corps):
Thursday, October 15th, 1863.
Allow us fire to get
breakfast, as the cause of the fires ahead last
night was two cavalry Regiments from Washington, whose train came in
about midnight. Move back during the day, and camp among the
rocks on the east bank of Cub Run, south of the pike. The fight
of yesterday [Battle of Bristoe Station, October 14, 1863] was
made by the 2nd Corps, which was attacked by rebels
who came down the road from Gainesville. Position occupied by 2nd
Corps was the one we laid on the night before, east of the
Railroad. They whipped the rebels, capturing 5 guns and 500
Cub Run, Virginia, View with
destroyed bridge, March, 1862 , by George N. Barnard.
Diary of Calvin Conant:
Thursday morning, 15; we
last night uninterrupted and woke up feeling better got
our Coffee and expect to move 2:00 –– went back on a hill and got
in line of Battle it is a drisley
day rains and the Sounds of heavy cannonading in the
Manassas & Bull Run
Friday, 16; morning all
day rained last night we drawed 4
days rations which makes 9 now on hand, drawer
of the Regiment went on Picket –– rains hard and the wind blows.
October, Saturday 17; Bright & Clear this
Morning last night
rough one it rained very hard & the wind blowed hard and a good
many tents were blowed down I slept with Sargt – Spencer we
double tent and slept dry & cosy all night my Partner
is on Pickett [Sergeant Spencer is: JOHN W.
age, 24; born, Berwick, Me.; carpenter; mustered in as priv., Co. G,
July 16, '61; mustered out as sergt., Aug. I, '64; residence, Stoneham,
Sunday, 18; All quiet went out &
& pleasant day had a good Bathe (get rid of bad
Diary of Sam Webster, (drum corps):
Saturday, October 17th,
Heavy rain yesterday and
today. Moved today a
Lt. Col. Batchelder has not got his “fixings” and very
generously occupies the best part of tent of Sawyer and myself.
Draw three (making nine) days rations.
Sunday, October 18th.
Clear and cold — at noon
very warm. The cavalry pushed up through
“Thoroughfare Gap.” A little firing at Gainesville, but the
rebels skedaddled. Have had some fine persimmons and wild
Got them away out across Cub run today.
History of the 39 Mass., cont'd:
The 18th marked the
end of the Confederate effort to
repeat the campaign of the preceding June and July, and that of
1862. General Lee writing to his wife on the 19th of October says:
I have returned to the Rappahannock. I
pursue with the main army beyond Bristoe or Broad Run. Our
advance went as far as Bull Run, where the enemy was entreched,
extending his right as far as Chantilly, in the yard of which he was
building a redoubt. I could have thrown him farther back, but I
saw no chance of bringing him to battle, and it would have only served
to fatigue our troops by advancing farther. If they had
been properly supplied with clothes, I would certainly have endeavored
to have thrown them north of the Potomac; but thousands were
barefooted, thousands with fragments of shoes, and all without
overcoats, blankets or warm clothing. I could not bear to expose
them to certain suffering on an uncertain issue.
From the foregoing it would seem that only the
Confederate cavalry had
been responsible for the Federal activity in and about the old Bull Run
battlefields, and now even the horsemen were to follow the foot forces
and the Union troops would again move west and southward.
Telegraph and Pioneer
Repercussions of the terrible battle of
Gettysburg were still felt in October, 1863, as the following newsclip
OCTOBER 17, 1863
FUNERAL OF A SOLDIER.––The
funeral services over the remains of John S. Fiske, Co. C, 13th Reg't.
Mass. Vols., who was killed at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, was
held at the house of John F. Fenno, Esq., at North Chelsea, on Tuesday
forenoon last. He was the first volunteer from North Chelsea, and
Serg't. Cody of his Reg't., in writing the particulars of his death,
said, “Our much beloved and esteemed friend, and brave comrade, was
wounded in a glorious cause, and died nobly defending the stars and
stripes, and doing his part to restore this once glorious Union.”
[Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer; October 17, 1863;
pg. 2, col. 3.]
The following article in the Boston
Transcript, gives a re-cap of
the Bristoe Campaign from the Union perspective. I have placed
this campaign map here, which shows locations mentioned in the article,
that it will be easier to follow along. Some of the engagements
of the campaign are indicated with yellow battle stars. The 13th Mass
began the march from Morton's Ford. For a more complete overview
of the campaign, see the Bristoe Campaign page of this website. Click here to view
the map larger.
Boston Evening Transcript, October 20,
FROM THE ARMY OF THE
Interesting History of
New York, 19th. The
following letter has
been received from the army.
Centreville, 17th. It is
that it was Lee’s intention to make a grand raid in the rear of our
army, cutting off railroad communication with Washington by destroying
the bridges, securing supplies for his half famished troops and horses
by seizing scattered wagon trains, and then by rapid evolutions,
throwing his main force on different points, and demoralize and destroy
Gen. Meade’s army in detail.
On Saturday last, [Oct 10] when Lee’s flank
discovered, Gen. Meade ordered a rear movement east of the Rappahannock
from Culpepper. Kilpatrick’s and Buford’s cavalry divisions, with
infantry supports, covered our rear. At this time Hill’s rebel
corps had advanced by way of Sperryville and Little Washington on our
north flank toward Warrenton via Waterloo. Our rearward movement
commenced at daybreak Sunday morning, and the army reached the rear
bank of the Rappahannock the same afternoon.
Finding that Ewell’s corps had not pushed us to the
river on Monday, General Meade sent three corps and Buford’s cavalry on
a reconnoissance over the Rappahannock toward Culpepper, and found no
heavy force there. Lee, in the meantime, had pushed his main
column toward Warrenton, in the hope of executing his well-planned
moves upon our rear, but our reconnoissance toward Culpepper led him to
believe it was General Meade’s intention to get in his rear. He
therefore halted his army and took position to give a defensive fight.
Up to this time Lee had the decided advantage.
was as near to Washington as Meade, and, unencumbered with
trains. He evidently expected to be attacked in force on Tuesday
morning, and maintained his post in line of battle until near noon
Tuesday, awaiting our advance. Gregg’s cavalry division had
retarded Stuart’s advance over the Rappahannock during Monday, and
although compelled to fall back from the river, prevented the continued
and prompt advance of the rebel cavalry to destroy the railroad.
Quietly, during the reconnoissance of Monday, Gen.
had prepared his trains and got them en route rearward, and during
Monday he had withdrawn his troops from the Culpepper reconnoissance,
destroyed the railroad bridge abutments, and sent pontoons eastward
before day-light on Tuesday morning.
Sunrise saw the whole army well on their way toward
Catlett’s Station and that vicinity, the cavalry and light batteries
protecting our rear and right flank. Cannonading and musketry were
frequently heard on our now left flank, as bodies of rebel cavalry came
down at different points, under the fixed belief that they would reach
the railroad and cut our line unopposed They were greatly
surprised at finding a force at every point miles from the line of
travel to meet and repel them from there.
Nor was Lee less mystified and nonplussed when he
learned that he had been successfully outgeneraled by Gen. Meade.
pushed on Stuart’s cavalry from the Sulphur Springs upon our rear on
Tuesday evening, and rushed forward Hill’s corps at double-quick to
support them. Ewell advanced more leisurely. Hill’s troops
were double-quicked on Wednesday from Warrenton to Bristoe to support
the cavalry and light batteries who were engaged in the vain endeavor
to cut off our rear guard. The result of their efforts has been
heretofore stated. The gallant and indomitable Warren gave them
battle and a lesson in the history of the war not easily forgotten.
On Wednesday night we had recrossed Bull Run and
a line, front to the enemy, from Chantilly on the north to Wolf
shoals on the south. Not a farthing’s worth of property had been
abandoned or destroyed by the enemy out of millions of dollars worth
transported from Culpepper, nearly sixty miles in three days.
At this hour, Lee having been foiled in his grand
endeavor to annihilate Gen. Meade, has now fallen back toward the
Rappahannock, discomfited, dejected, disgusted. A heavy
reconnoissance is again advancing in that direction, and from the
heights of Centreville, where I am now writing, can be heard our guns
announcing that we have met the rebel outposts.
Let me relate a fact which has a very important
on the conscripts of the army. When General Warren was attacked
at Bristoe, he threw his infantry from the hill south of the road down
through the swampy ground, and ensconced them along the embankment of
the railroad under a shower of shell and musketry. The raw
conscripts, and there were hundreds of them in the command, gave
themselves up for lost. Pale and trembling they involuntarily
went forward, took position with their comrades and performed their
part of the fight. Every whistling rifle ball, every shrieking
shell they apprehended was destined to destroy them individually It was
beyond their comprehension when told that they had met, charged and
beaten a brave enemy in a fierce fight and captured several hundred of
Hill’s veterans, five guns, and three standards, beside killing and
wounding 100 of the rebels, and come out of the conflict unhurt.
Their immediate commanders say that they fought equally well with those
of two years experience, exhibiting no signs of fear when the first
impulse had passed.
And now to change gears a little, a
story of camp life.
This story comes from the memoirs of Sergeant Austin C.
Stearns, “Three Years in Company K” edited by Arthur
University Presses, 1976.
Amongst the Subs was a Frenchman who was a
sweet singer, and many
were the nights we used to sit and hear him sing; he always sang
One cold night after a hard days march we had made our
coffee and were
sitting around our camp fire smoking. We got Frenchy to
sing. The Marseillaise Hymn was a great favorite with us, and
Frenchy could sing it in a way that only a Frenchman can. I
don't know whether it was in the air or what it was, but we all said we
never heard sweeter singing than on that cold and clear evening in
October. Before he had finished one verse the regiment began to
around and as he proceeded the men from other regiments came, and soon
had nearly the entire brigade around our little fire. After [his]
singing a song or two, the Colonel sent for him to come to
headquarters, and Frenchy was there singing when I went to sleep.
We stayed here a few days and then marched towards
Thoroughfare Gap. When we marched away, Frenchy’s gun and
knapsack were there but no Frenchy; he had deserted [and] we
heard his sweet singing again. Crossing the battlefield of the 2d Bull
Run, I noticed many familiar objects but, not stopping. I had not
as much time to look around as I wished. As we passed a tree, a
grinning skull protruded from the ground — some poor fellow hastily
buried and the rain had washed the earth away.
Photo by Buddy Secor.
NOTE: There are two possibilities for
the identity of the drafted man, "Frenchy." They are:
Private Robert Rapp, age 28, born, France, Occupation: Painter,
Enlistment credited to Northridge, mustered in: July 24, 1863;
deserted October 24, 1863. The other candidate among the Company
K drafted recruits is, Private Edmund Treatest, age 30, born, France,
occupation: Sailmaker, enlistment credited to Worcester, MA;
mustered in: July 24, 1863; deserted October 19, 1863. The
date and occupation favor Treatest as the best guess for Austin Stearns
Return to Table of Contents
Thoroughfare Gap; October 19
American Heritage published a
wonderfully illustrated book on the Civil War in 1960 with a narrative
by famed Civil War author Bruce Catton. I received a somewhat
mouldy copy of the book as a gift from a friendly neighbor some years
ago. One of my favorite features of the volume is the graphic
illustrated maps of major battles. Although it is not advisable
to lift images from old books, I liked this graphic map so much, I
manipulated it, and cropped it to show the relationship of the Bull Run
Battlefield, and the Stone Bridge to Centreville, Gainesville, and Hay
Market. This is the route that Gen. John Newton's First Corps
followed to Thoroughfare Gap, which is just above Hay Market, on
October 19th & 20th, 1863. Rebel General J.E.B. Stuart was at Hay
Market foraging for his cavalry on the 18th.
History of the 39 Mass., cont'd:
Ordered out and to
pack up in the morning
the 19th the prospects were not improved by a severe rain storm which
completely drenched both tents and apparel so that, to regular burdens,
was added the weight of water absorbed by the fabrics.
at about eight o’clock, the route was along the Warrenton turnpike, the
very road, so prominent in all accounts of the two Bull Run fields,
with the sad sights of only partially covered bodies of those who had
perished in the engagements; the severe rain was constantly
the heaviness of the way and Thoroughfare Gap, the reputed destination
of the march, seemed a very long distance off.
The vicinity of
Haymarket on the Manassas Gap Railroad was reached about 4 p.m. and the
noise ahead indicated a fear that the enemy was there in force, our
artillery keeping up a vigorous shelling of what was thought to be the
rebel position. Camps were made and tents pitched only to have
the vexatious order “Pack up” given just as we were disposed to get a
bit of rest. Rations, too, were scarce and everything combined to
make the day and night particularly trying; at 3.30 p.m. or
of the 20th an advance was made through Thoroughfare Gap, though there
were those who thought “No Thoroughfare,” on account of the
difficulties of the way, would be a better designation.
Diary of Calvin Conant:
Monday, 19 Severe Thunder
Storm this morning
rained by drops Marched about 8 o’clock went through & a
beyond —Gainesville and went in to camp cleared
My Shoes are all out. We brewed fresh
relieved today this Morning as we marched.
From “Three Years in the Army,” by
E. Davis, Jr.;
Monday, October 19.
Marched at 8 A.M.
to Hay Market, which place we reached, after several
slight skirmishes, in the afternoon; distance twelve miles. On
our way we crossed the battlefield where we fought August 30, 1862.
Since our last visit to Hay Market the entire town,
of a church, had been burnt by order of General Stahl, it is said, as a
punishment to the inhabitants for firing on Union troops.
As we were going into camp General Stuart made a dash
to our picket
line, capturing some pickets, besides killing two or three. In
consequence thereof we were kept under arms all night.
Artist A. R. Waud sketched
this rough image of Haymarket in 1863 after it was burned. The loose
sketch suggests the remains of several burnt structures, right left and
Diary of Sam Webster:
Monday, October 19th, 1863.
Packed up early, expecting to
march to Rappahannock
station but instead
went out the pike to Gainesville and on to Haymarket. Camped to
northwest of what is left of it in a woods. Had passed over the
Bull Run battlefield through Groveton. At night a muss is kicked
up in front, and considerable cannonading, and infantry
skirmishing. No fires allowed.
Journal of Charles Wainwright, 1st
Corps Chief of Artillery
It is remarkable that Colonel Wainwright
made the time to continually update his journal with lengthy detailed
entries. The information is tip-top as Calvin Conant of the 13th
MA would say.
Haymarket, October 19, Monday.
I was correct in both my
expectations as to today; for we started in the rain this morning
after sunrise. Our corps led off again over the stone bridge on
the main road to Warrenton. This took me for the first time over
the Bull Run battle-ground.
My greatest surprise is that, once
defeated our army was not annihilated; for there was only the one
narrow, high bridge, and no ford near. Neither can I see why we should
have fought at all at this point last year, instead of allaying back to
Captain Cooper tells me that even the wagons were
not sent over the run until it was known that the fight was going
against us. He describes the whole flat south of the bridge as
jammed full of artillery, waggons, and ambulances at the time the
retreat commenced; while the enemy had possession of the bluff down the
steam, and batteries on it which commanded every part of it. The
more I learn of Pope’s campaign, the more thankful I feel that I
escaped taking any part in it. [Bull Run Battlefield pictured
below. Robinson's 2nd Division was marching along the Warrenton
Turnpike in front of the Stone House, pictured.]
We kept on the Warrenton road until we reached the
Manassas Branch Railroad and then turned off to this place.
Kilpatrick’s Div. of Cavalry was ahead of us, some distance, so we
marched over fifteen miles undisturbed getting in about Sundown.
Haymarket a year ago must have been rather a pretty
little village of
half a dozen houses, pleasantly situated at the base of some low,
wooded hills. But in one of his raids through here at that time
Gen’l Stahl burned all the houses on the ground that his column had
been fired on from them while passing through. We had just light
enough after our arrival to get the troops into position; I placed two
art’s (Stewart & Stevens) commanding the road from Thoroughfare
Gap; & two more commanding the road coming in from the north.
Head quarters were on a knoll just south of the road we had come in by.
Very soon after we got here an orderly of Gen’l Davies,
who commands one of Kilpatrick’s brigades came in, & reported that
Kilpatrick had driven the rebel cavalry as far as New Baltimore;
that there the enemy had been reinforced & had cut off Davies
brigade, so as to isolate it from any part of our army. The 1st
Brig. 1st Div was at once ordered out in that direction (south west).
They had been gone half an hour when Davies’ men came in helter skelter
by the Thoroughfare gap road, the rebels mixed up with them.
fact some of the enemy were ahead, who running upon our pickets, did
not distinguish them in the dark from the cavalry, & fired. Our
picket line had not been pushed out as far as it should have been,
& at this point was composed mainly of conscripts who ran in at
once, the rebs following right on to Stewarts guns. Lt Mitchell,
on finding the enemy so near & their balls falling in showers
among his guns, let fly a volley of cannister into them or rather into
the darkness where he thought they were. This opened their eyes
as to what they had run afoul of, so they cleared out.
We were just
sitting down to supper at the time, when without warning Mitchell fired
all his guns; they were not over 500 yds from us, the sudden flash,
& loud reports therefore gave us all a terrible start, the whole
thing came very near being a bad stampede.
By the time I had mounted & ridden out the spot
Davies’ men were coming in while Elder’s horse Batt’y, which was with
them, had gone into position some 300 yds to the front, & was
firing in a most lively manner; for effect I suppose, as there was
nothing visible to fire at. Davis came in with his men, &
soon after Kilpatrick brought the rest of his command in by the New
As they talk the matter over at H’d Qts, it appeared to
me as if there had been very bad management on Kilpatrick’s part; but
it is hard work to provide against such surprises in this wild, wooded
country. –– As I turn in all is quiet, the cavalry are within our
lines, but the Brigade sent out to aid them has not returned.
Thoroughfare Gap; Tuesday, Oct 20th ––
The Iron Brigade came in this morning; they had got lost
in the woods and wandered around a good part of the night. They
find but few shot, small squads of rebs striking them once in a while.
Our total loss in the Corps last night was 3 killed, 6
wounded & some 50 missing. Kilpatrick may have lost a couple of
hundred altogether; probably more. He has gone to the rear to day
& Buford passed out ahead of us this morning. He is an infinitely
better officer, & I for one feel as if things were much more likely
to be done in a soldierly manner.-–– In the afternoon we followed
through the [gap], & are now in position on the west side.
Thoroughfare Gap in the Bull Run Mountains is a short,
narrow passage not wide enough for all its three occupants, a railroad,
stream and common road, so that in places the last runs along the bed
of the stream; and at all points is narrow, rough and rocky. The
hills on either side are not high but wooded from base to summit.
Here we have a very good position on an open ridge which forces a sort
of amphitheater around the opening to the Gap on this side. The
day has been wet again; consequently our camp ground is wet and
The wagons remained on the others side of the gap.
THE BUCKLAND RACES
At 3 p.m. October 18th, General Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry
Division moved out on the Warrenton Turnpike searching for enemy
infantry. The 1st Vermont Cavalry of General Custer’s brigade
pushed enemy cavalry pickets out of Gainesville, where the entire
division bivouacked for the
night. That evening, General Meade ordered the 1st Corps, General
Newton, to march the next day to Hay Market in support of Kilpatrick’s
J.E.B. Stuart was at Haymarket on the 18th,
foraging. The pickets at Gainesville alerted Stuart of
Kilpatrick’s advance. Hoping to catch Kilpatrick off-guard, and
inflict some damage, General Stuart sent a message to Brigadier-General
Henry Fitz-Lee’s cavalry division, then bivouacked around Auburn, to
ride to his support. Stuart then crossed his division to
the south side of Broad Run
General Stuart reported the situation:
“Selecting advantageous positions for sharpshooters
and artillery along Broad Run, I determined to delay the enemy until
Major-General Lee, who had been notified to come to my support, could
arrive, knowing that I could at least delay the enemy, and believing if
Kilpatrick was detached, as I supposed he was, I could inflict
upon him severe injury.”
Young General George Armstrong Custer’s brigade took the
lead of Kilpatrick's two brigades, Monday morning, the 19th of
October. Kilpatrick's 3rd Brigade was held in reserve.
General Custer wrote:
“At daybreak on the morning of the 19th, my brigade
took the advance and skirmished with the enemy’s cavalry from
Gainesville to Buckland. At the latter point I found him strongly
posted upon the south bank of Broad Run. The position for his
artillery was well chosen. After a fruitless attempt to effect a
crossing in his front, I succeeded in turning his left flank so
completely as to force him from his position.”
Custer left out that he and his staff rode too close to
the bridge at Broad Run and was nearly killed by a well aimed
Confederate shell.* The entourage quickly departed for the rear
and continued issuing orders. Repeated attempts to take the
bridge head-on failed. Thats when the flank movement was put into
play. Troopers crossed Broad Run on both sides of Stuart's line
to get around his
flank. This eventually caused the Confederates to fall
back toward Warrenton.
But all was not as it seemed. General Stuart
“The enemy was baffled in repeated attempts to force
the passage of Broad Run. Very soon they appeared to abandon the
attempt in my front while moving detachments toward my flanks.
“About this time I received a dispatch from
Major-General Lee stating that he was moving to my support, and
suggesting that I should retire before the enemy with Hampton’s
division in the direction of Warrenton, drawing the enemy after me,
when he would come in from Auburn and attack them in flank and rear.”
After taking the bridge over Broad Run
at Buckland Mills, Custer's men halted to have breakfast.
Kilpatrick pursued Stuart down the Warrenton Pike. Click here to view map larger.
Stuart withdrew slowly. General Kilpatrick
obligingly stepped into the
trap. After a short rest he ordered his two brigades, forward in
pursuit of the enemy's cavalry. Kilpatrick rode out with
Davies Brigade, but General Custer refused to follow until his men, who
had been fighting all morning, rested and had their breakfast.**
This proved fortuitous for Kilpatrick.
FItz-Lee’s cavalry arrived on the scene just as Custer’s
men were beginning to move out. They quickly re-formed to protect
the bridge over Broad Run at Buckland which was Kilpatrick’s escape
route. A heated engagement began.
“I was preparing to follow when information reached me
that the enemy were advancing on my left from the direction of
Greenwich. I had scarcely time to place my command in position to
resist an attack from that direction before the enemy’s skirmishers
Both sides brought up artillery but a mile long line of
dismounted Confederate Cavalry continued to advance and put intense
pressure on Custer's guns.
“A desperate effort was made to capture my
battery. Pennington continued to fire until the enemy were within
20 yards of his guns. He was then compelled to limber up and
retire to the north bank of Broad Run. The other portions of the
The battle sounds at Buckland was Stuart’s signal to
turn on his pursuers.
Stuart described the rout of Kilpatrick’s cavalry:
“The enemy at first offered a stubborn resistance to
my attack but the charge was made with such impetuosity, the First
North Carolina gallantly leading, that the enemy broke and the rout was
soon complete. I pursued them from within 3 miles of Warrenton to
Buckland, the horses at full speed the whole distance, the column
completely disorganized, and retreating in confusion.”
“About 250 prisoners were captured, together with 8
wagons and ambulances, …with many arms, horses and equipments, and the
whole division dispersed in a manner graphically described by one of
their own writers as “the deplorable spectacle of 7,00 cavalry dashing
riderless, hatless, and panic-stricken” through the ranks of their
Confederate Cavalry continued the pursuit of
Kilpatrick's cavalrymen to Gainesville
and Haymarket where they encountered Union First
Corps Infantry. Stuart's report continued:
“…Crossing at Buckland, Major-General Lee pushed
down the pike toward Gainesvile, while with the few men of Gordon’s and
Rosser’s brigades which could be collected after the chase …I
moved to the left and pressed down toward Hay Market. Here a
cavalry force and the First Army Corps were encountered. The
latter retired a short distance beyond Hay Market, and I attacked their
infantry pickets by moonlight, capturing a number of them and
scattering them over the fields. Major-General Lee met their
infantry near Gainesville and took many prisoners belonging to the
First Army Corps on that road also, the pursuit being continued by both
divisions until after dark.”
To hide the embarrassment over the complete disorganized
route of his
division, General Kilpatrick and General Custer claimed it was enemy
cavalry supported by infantry that drove them back. This
General Meade to believe Lee’s Army was in force at Warrenton.
Consequently he ordered a cautious advance in that direction which took
two days to complete. Meanwhile, Lee’s army crossed the
NOTES: *James Harvey Kidd, "Personal
Recollections of a Cavalryman" (p. 212-215) is cited in
Gottfried, p. 80, Noter 10; "The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine
Run Campaigns." [See sources secton on this page.]
**Robert J. Trout, "After Gettysburg:
Cavalry Operation in the Eastern Theater, July 14, 1862 to December
31, 1862.: Hamilton, MT: Eagle Editions, Ltd., 2011.
This is cited in Gottfried, p. 80, Note 12; "The Maps of the Bristoe
Station and Mine Run Campaigns." [See sources secton above, on
Diary of Sam Webster:
Tuesday, October 20th, 1863.
Row last night was caused by
Kilpatricks brigade of
cavalry, and the
rebels. The cavalry had been out, and, coming back, prepared to
camp on the hill which is just through and opposite Thoroughfare Gap —
where we encamped May 29th, ’62 — when the commander thought he would
take a better look at some squadrons he had seen on adjacent hills and
supposed to be our troops.
A glass showed them to be rebels; upon
which he ordered his wagons forward through the Gap to the east side.
As they moved slowly (and the rebels intended to get into him,) as soon
as he got them fairly into the Gap, he put a couple of shells over
their heads which accelerated their pace wonderfully. The rebels
came down on him, following on through the Gap. The Seventh
Maryland was on piquet, and not connected with the pickets of the 1st
division. As the cavalry came to the rear right lively the rebels
followed them up, and some of them (the rebels) got to the rear of
Colonel Webster’s line and into his reserve, killing and wounding
several, and taking about 15 prisoners.
The Colonel himself had a
narrow escape. The men were continually calling him, the
being very dark. The rebels hearing it took up the cry, and at
last he answered one of them, who was quite close, the Johnnie replying
with a shot.
Saw John Carr, today, of Russell’s Company 1st
Maryland Cavalry. His horse was pretty well “played.” Moved
about 4 p.m. through the Gap, and camped on the hill. It was made
a right hard march for us though the distance was short. We
didn’t cross the stream — east of the mountain — until after dark, and
it was quite tedious getting over on the west side after dark and
climbing a high hill. [His field diary adds: “Rather hard
for so short a march only 5 miles.”]
From “Three Years in the Army,” Charles
E. Davis, Jr.:
Tuesday, October 20.
About 4 P.M. we marched through
Thoroughfare Gap, going into camp about
midnight on the hills on the west side of the mountain. It was about
eighteen months since we first landed at Thoroughfare Gap. Those
of us who still preserved a fondness for beautiful scenery had an
opportunity of gratifying it to-day. In addition to the natural
beauties of the spot, it was as fine an agricultural section as one
could wish to see.
Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:
Tuesday, 20. Tuesday
Morning foggy Sun soon
it off now it
is clear & warm marched about 4 in afternoon —
went through gap
(Thoroughfare) and stopped on the other side
Pictured is the East side of
Thoroughfare Gap, looking west along modern hiway 50. Chapman's
Mill is directly to the right of this view, but it is across modern
interstate 66 and very difficult to photograph well. Photo taken,
February 2012. As the soldiers noted, the recent heavy rain made
the roads difficult to travel.
Newton's Report of the Fight
Report of Maj. Gen. John Newton, U. S.
First Army Corps, of skirmish at Hay Market.
First Army Corps,
November 12, 1863.
General : I
have the honor to forward
herewith my report of the skirmish at Hay Market.
I have not hitherto considered it necessary to make any
official mention of an affair with which my command had so little to
do, but so much has lately been published about it, that I feel it
incumbent on me to state the circumstances, and let blame, if any, fall
where it is due.
My command was stretched along the road from Gainesville
to Thoroughfare Gap, communicating by pickets on the cross-roads with
the Warrenton pike.
Immediately upon receiving notice from General
Kilpatrick of the
pressure upon him, and which was reported to me to be cavalry strongly
supported by infantry, I sent the First Brigade, First Division of this
corps, commanded by Col. W. W. Robinson, out toward the Warrenton pike,
and succeeded in preserving one brigade ( I think Custer’s), which was
being driven in from that road. General Kilpatrick’s main body
came in on the road from Thoroughfare Gap in great confusion.
My pickets allowed our cavalry to pass through them, and
attempted to repel that of the enemy, but being unfortunately but
necessarily posted in the open ground, they were overborne, and
on the road from Thoroughfare Gap. My command was promptly under
arms to repel attack, and the One hundred and forty-third
Pennsylvania Regiment (Colonel Dana), of the Third Division, was
ordered forward to support Elder’s battery, which went into position
and opened fire upon the enemy about 400 yards in advance of my line of
battle. This was about 7.30 p.m. The enemy picketed in front of
my line until about midnight, when they retired.
In conclusion, I have to regret that my losss in killed,
wounded, and prisoners amounted to about 50, most of the latter being
through the misconduct of an officer of the pickets, who has since been
dismissed the service on that acount.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig. Gen. S. Williams,
by Clarence Bell, July,
This story is an exerpt from Clarence
Bell's article titled “Frills”, published in Bivouac Magazine, August
Although the fight at Buckland is
probably a low point in General Custer's career, (his baggage wagon was
captured when Davies' Brigade was routed, and his personal love letters
were published in the Richmond newspapers to embarass him) the soldiers
in the 13th MA were part of the re-enforcements he encountered when he
rode to safety, and there is a good chance they saw him.
Therefore, this is as good a place as any to include this
remembrance of the flamboyant general.
He is pictured here as a
Major-General. He was still a brigadier when the events at
Everyone that served in the Eastern army must remember
the dashing cavalry general in the velvet jacket. Always the
same, faultless in attire, elegant in horsemanship; as he passed by,
the soldiers gazed after him with admiration and envy. He seemed
to be all “frills”––dress, movement, and general
appearance. You could have taken him without a change in apparel,
from the field, to the most polished assemblage in civil life, and he
would have been an ornament in either place. How our hearts
thrilled as we saw him galloping across the country, taking a stone
wall or a rail fence, flying; horse and rider seeming to be a
organization; his light hair floating in the breeze, and his cap,
profusely ornamented with golden cord, set jauntily on the side of his
head. Under all circumstances, rain or shine, you found him
“dressed to kill.” It seemed as if a whole wagon train was
necessary to the transport of his wardrobe.
One thing more than all else endeared him to the hearts
of the infantrymen–– he always recognized human beings in the
dust-covered musket-bearers who dragged their weary way along over the
dilapidated and narrow roads of Virginia. To a man that but a few
moments before had scrambled up a steep bank to escape being crushed
beneath the hoofs of the horse of an up-start-lieutenant, that owed his
position on the staff of a brigadier to the wealth of his family, it
seemed like a revelation of another order of beings to see a general
officer invariably take to the open country, rather than to disturb or
discommode the infantry column in the natural thoroughfare. No
matter how foppish he might appear, no sneer or expression of disdain
was ever heard as he rode along. We might be drenched with mud,
or ragged and shoeless, yet there was one in the Army of the Potomac
always dressed up, and that one was Genral Custer. How the
enthusiasm glowed at his achievements––now some brilliant charge
––then, a daring raid –– his fame broadening with every campaign.
We claimed his exploits as belonging to the entire army, and the fact
that among its members was the “Flower of American Chivalry,”
reflected honor upon us all. Ah ! how our hearts saddened
in those July days of 1876, when we heard the sad news of Custer’s
Clarence H. Bell
Boston, July 1884.
Evening Transcript, October 28,
1863; Letter from CLARENCE
With time to rest after the hard marches
of the late campaign, 13th MA correspondent Clarence catches up with
readers, with news of the past two weeks. Correspondent
CLARENCE may indeed be Clarence Bell, Company D, who authored the
article above. The writing style is similar.
BOSTON EVENING TRANSCRIPT
October 28, 1863.
1st Brigade, 2d Division, 1st
Thoroughfare Gap, Va., Oct. 22, 1863.
Letter From The Thirteenth Regiment.
Since we occupied a position on the Rapidan, we have
miles, and taken part in a very interesting campaign, the result of
which has been, that Gen. Meade thwarted the rebel commander’s plans,
and has shown his signal ability to successfully lead the Potomac
Army. I will endeavor to give a general outline of our movements
since leaving the Rapidan.
Late on Friday night, the 9th inst., we
received orders to march, and at two o’clock, Saturday, we were on the
morning was very dark, and the road very narrow and
muddy, lying through dense forests. As a consequence, the
brigades were greatly extended and the halts very numerous. We
travelled all the morning, and at noon the corps was massed in the
woods at Morton’s Ford. The trains were all left in our former
camp about eight miles off. Here the brigade remained during the
afternoon, and I thought that the flitting opportunity for rest had
arrived, so I spread my rubber blanket on a pile of fallen leaves.
As I had nothing for a pillow, I appropriated a bag of
near. This was “splendid,” and I snoozed comfortably for a long
We marched till twelve, arriving at Stephensburg after
traveling a distance of ten miles. Here we rested till ten A.M.
Sunday, when we again began the retreat, marching all day, and arriving
at the Rappahannock at dusk, near Kellly’s Ford. On the bank of
river an ambulance, broken down, was blazing, having been set on fire
to prevent its being of service to the rebels.
There being but
one pontoon bridge laid, the Second Division was obliged to ford the
river, the water being two feet deep.
We remained at the ford
till two A.M. Tuesday, the 13th inst., when we started again. Our
teams had safely arrived at Bealton on Sunday, and were on the move
toward the North. We traveled all day, arriving at Warrenton
Junction when two corps formed a battle line, expecting an attack from
the enemy but after a stop of an hour, no enemy appearing, the corps
again moved, arriving at Bristoe at eight P.M.
At daybreak we again went on and marched ten miles to
fortifications at Centreville. From the heights the scene was
truly beautiful. Far away over the plains of Manassas the long
dark lines of troops and the white lines of wagons could be seen, all
pouring in toward Centreville. The troops, as fast as they
arrived took position in the hills, while the wagons were massed in the
rear in immense parks.
Edwin Forbes sketch, Centreville, 1862
After dinner the Second Division was sent
out on the Bull Run road, and took position on Cub Run.
We left Cub Run at daybreak on the 19th inst., and
crossing Bull Run at the Stone Bridge, and passing on over the battle
field. Along the road, before reaching the Run, were scattered
large numbers of unexploded shells and pieces of caissons and artillery
wheels, many bearing marks of fire. Just in the road, near the
bridge, lay a human soul, broken and covered with mud.
On the field, the scene was sad and sickening. The
bodies of the
fallen were never perfectly buried, and the crows and buzzards had
scratched the loose covering of earth from the mound, leaving the
skeletons exposed to the gaze of passers by. Around the numerous
graves scraps of cloth, equipments and broken guns betokened the
fierceness of the conflict. At one point, in a grove of oak
trees, the bodies of the dead were covered with stones, and many of
these being displaced, the whole frames of the dead were shown
partially enveloped in blue rags, signifying the last resting place of
the Union soldier. The shattered trunks of trees, with numerous
branches scattered over the rocky mounds, showed a severe artillery
fire. It seemed almost a sacrilege to see these remains bleaching
beneath the sun, and handled by those, still moving in the scenes in
which they once moved, and fighting for the country, for the
preservation of which those men had laid down their lives. Almost
forgotten by the friends of the Union, their memories shall be forever
fresh in the hearts of their loving comrades.
We arrived at Haymarket, on the Manassas Rail road, at 5
P.M. on the
19th, and encamped in line of battle, having marched eleven
miles. In consequence of the continual alarm among the pickets,
causing repeated discharges of musketry, the entire Division was kept
under arms, and the amount of sleep obtained that night was of very
little benefit, but during the morning of the 20th, as no movement was
made the loss of sleep was amply made up.
In the afternoon we
began the march to our present position passing through Thoroughfare
Gap in the dark, making a march of seven miles. We are now
settled in camp, and our correspondence with friends in Boston will be
Thoroughfare Gap from the
west side looking east.
Pictured is the west side of
Thoroughfare Gap. The north side of the gap
is on the left. Photo taken February, 2012. It is very
difficult to capture a good image of the gap, as an elevated Interstate
66 runs through the pass, as seen here. An older road parallels
I-66 on the south side.
Diary of Sam Webster:
Wednesday, October 21st, 1863;
Got on the Dr’s old grey [Dr.
Lloyd Hixon ––B.F.] and
went off up the north side of the mountain
to the foot of the rocks, and got some fresh beef of — well, I don’t
know who killed it, but maybe the man aforementioned had owned
it. Also got chestnuts.
Diary of Calvin Conant:
Wednesday; am lying on the west side
gap come through last night awful
wet and muddy road moved up on a hill
went in to camp was detailed to go on
Patrol went out about 3 miles
picked up about a dozen [Confederates] come in with
them delivered them over to a
Captain of 39th Mass I am very tired
Thursday, 22; we
are in Camp it
a warm day and had
this afternoon under Capt Cary [Captain William Howard Cary, Company
October 23, Friday; Cool but pleasant our
bought — Bread
enough to make the boys 8 days rations Cold out looks
like rain I am
Diary of Sam Webster: Friday,
October 23rd, 1863;
Lieutenant Joe Webster, son
of Noah (of 7th Md), gave me his photograph
yesterday. Brother Ike has come back from the wagon train to
remain with us. Very strict rules about passes; can hardly get
out for wood and water. Nights are getting very cold.
[Webster's Field Diary adds:] Slept splendid last night.
Ike slept here. He came up this afternoon from the wagon train
Note: I have information on Sam's relative
from the book, “Maryland's Blue & Gray,” by Kevin Conley
Ruffner, 1997, Louisiana State University Press.
Joseph P. Webster, Born at
Bel Air, Hartford County, Maryland, September 26, 1835.
Occupaton: farmer. Height: 5'11", light complexion, brown
hair, gray eyes. Enlisted as private in Company C, 7th Maryland
Infantry Regiment, at Bel Air, August 18, 1862. Appointed 2nd
Lieutenant, September 9, 1862. Discharged for ruptured veins in
stomach and testicles January 1, 1864. Married Laura C. Mitchell
at St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church in Havre de Grace, January 7,
1874. No children. She apparently died before
Webster. He died in Baltimore, August 13, 1915.
Pictured is a closeup view of the
southwest side of Thoroughfare Gap. This farm road is very close
to the entrance of the Gap on the west side. Photographed April, 2021.
Private Albert Church Brown,
Sometimes its worth a glance into the
letters and histories from the 13th Mass' sister regiments, especially
during this middle war period where source material from the regiment
grows thin. Both Warren Freeman of Company A, and Sam Webster of
Company D, 13th MA, state that there are only 9 or 10 original members
of the respective companies left, that are serving in the field. The
rest are in hospitals or on detached duty. Some will return, but
not a lot. The rest of the numbers are made up of conscripts,
most of a dubious character. This is emphasized again in the
November 25th entry of the regimental history. (To be posted on a
In this case, Albert C. Brown was a
recently arrived conscript in the 16th Maine Regiment. Brown, age
was mustered into Company C, 16th Maine Infantry on August 15,
1863. He reached his regiment on October 10th. So at the
time this letter was written to his aunt, he had only been in the field
13 days. Albert would survive his war-time service, and live
Camp near Thorofare Gap
Va Oct 23d ’63.
I received your letter last evening and was very glad to hear from you.
I am going to commence to answer it this morning but whether I shall
have time to finish it remains to be seen.
Instead of remaining where we were the night after I
wrote my last letter to you, as I expected, about dark we received
orders to start again & marched till two or three o’clock the next
morning. Since then we have been on the move pretty much all of the
time—part of the time following the Rebs and part of the time they have
been following us. Our Corps has been in no engagement yet, although we
have been so near it that we have heard cannonading all around us
nearly everyday for the last week. Whenever we have halted we were
drawn up in line of battle so as to be ready in case of an attack.
We arrived at the place where we are encamped at present
Wednesday night. Just before we reached this place we passed through a
run between some mountains called Thoroughfare Gap. We had some
climbing and wading to do but got through safely.
The weather has been pleasant most of the time since we
came here. We have had some rain and the roads are getting to be a
little muddy in some places. There is some talk of going into winter
quarters before long. When we do, we will be likely to have easier
My health is good yet accepting a slight cold which I
suppose I contracted by sleeping on the ground. I have had plenty to
eat, drink, and wear so far & I guess as a general thing, Uncle Sam
takes pretty good care of his soldiers. I have had no letter from home
since I wrote to you before. I am looking for one every mail now. I
don’t know as I have anything more to write at present. Write as soon
as you can. Give my love to all hands and accept a share yourself.
From your nephew
C. Brown, Esqr.
Austin Stearns Reminiscent of the
Camp at Thoroughfare Gap
Sergeant Stearns tells a tale of the
soldiers' love for tobacco, from the camp at Thoroughfare Gap.
The sister regiment, 16th Maine, is once again mentioned. From “Three
Years in Company K” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns,
(deceased) edited by Arthur
University Presses, 1976.
The Sutler had not been with us since leaving the
Rapidan, consequently tobacco was very scarce with us and those who
were fortunate enough to possess the article could get promises to pay
of fabulous sums. I had a very small piece about an inch square
that I had carefully guarded and used very sparingly. One day,
being on brigade guard and not thinking but what the other regiments
had tobacco in plenty, I filled my pipe and was commencing to smoke,
when a crowd of 16th Maine boys all [began] saying “Cant you give me a
small piece? I haven’t had a chew for three days,” or, “I
haven’t smoked for a week.” I could not resist their appeals, so
giving all I had with me to the Corporal, told him to divide.
Jordan, who was detailed as cook for the Colonel, came
to me and said if he had some money he knew where he could buy some of
a teamster. Money was almost if not quite as scarce as
tobacco. I had a little money, but not wishing to part with all I
gave him a half dollar, telling him that he could have half that would
buy. He took it and I did not see him for over a week, [and] then
he had no tobacco for me or anyone else. I said nothing to him
about it, [but] I afterwards found out by some of the boys what Jordan
done with my half dollar and after laughed at my expense.
Colonel Batchelder had no money or tobacco, and being an
inveterate smoker, offered Jordan a fabulous sum if he could find him a
piece. Jordan, who was privileged to go back to the teams, found
a teamster who had a piece he would sell for cash, but would take no
promise to pay, so he came to me, knowing I always had money. He
bought the tobacco and gave it to the Colonel, [pictured] and at
pay day received
his pay and then told the boys of the joke he had played on me. I
failed to see where the joke came in and afterwards there was trouble
In about a week we moved away, and coming upon the
teams, John Hill found a teamster that had a plug of Navy that he would
sell for one dollar. He brought the man with him and the
tobacco. Hill, Rawson, and Sanborn would each take a piece and
pay me at pay day. I was always willing to accommodate, so I paid
the dollar and the boys were again happy.
NOTE: Jordon is Corporal Samuel
Jordan, age 37, born: Maine; Occupation: Wheelright, from
Shrewsbury, Mass. Mustered in August 9, 1862, mustered out August
1, 1864 at experation of service. He was one of the captured at
Return to Top of Page
Part II; General Meade's Troubles with
We will leave the 13th MA at Thoroughfare Gap for a
moment, and the rest of the Army of the Potomac, to briefly look at a
rising star in the west; one that would eventually merge into the east
and change the character of the war.
The war in East Tennessee was about to take a positive
turn after a brutal setback. On September 19 & 20, 1863,
Confederates won a stunning victory at Chickamauga Creek.
Casualties were high on both sides; 16,179 Union, & 18,454
Confederate. Major-General William Rosecrans, commanding, brought
Union Army to the city of Chattanooga to re-group.
Braxton Bragg followed them up and laid siege to the city by occupying
the high ground all around its eastern and southern perimeter.
Rosecrans seemed stunned by the defeat and from appearances, did little
trapped Union army, cut off from its supplies ran low on
rations. The man President Lincoln and Secretary of War
to turn things around was Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, the victor of
Fort Henry, Fort Donnelson, Shilo, and Vicksburg.
After several creative endeavors to conquer the near
impregnable Confederate bastion failed, Major-General Grant privately
reasoned out a new daring plan of action and set it in motion.
His army moved south of the fortress and crossed the Mississippi river
onto the Confederate side, unmolested. This in itself was a
notable achievement. Next, the administration in Washington
wanted him to swing 100 miles south to co-ordinate an attack on Port
Hudson with General N. P. Banks army in Louisiana. But General
Banks wasn’t ready. Rather than delay the expedition and give the
enemy time to prepare for an attack, as he reasoned, Grant decided to
push forward, abandoning his supply base, and make a dash 60 miles east
to confront General Joseph Johnston’s Confederate troops at Jackson,
Mississippi, the state capital. He then intended to reverse
course and turn west from Jackson to attack Gen. Pemberton’s
Confederates at Vicksburg. Vicksburg was more vulnerable to
attack from the east. Grant wanted to accomplish this in a week,
so his army wouldn’t run short of supplies.
Grant knew the plan was too risky to gain approval from
the authorities in Washington, so he didn’t tell them. When his
army of 40,000 men was consolidated on the east side of the Mississippi
river below Vicksburg, he set off. Before leaving he
telegraphed Halleck in Washington on May 11, “you may not hear from me
for several days.” The message would take several days to reach
Grant’s campaign was a tremendous success. He
fought 4 decisive battles against 2 Confederate commands within a week,
and brought his army to the outskirts of Vicksburg’s eastern
perimeter. The city was surrounded. Grants army settled in
for a siege. Eventually the city surrendered on July 4, 1863.
On July 13th, President Lincoln pronounced Grant's campaign “one
of the most brilliant in the world.”1
After Vicksburg fell the President sent General Grant a letter.
Washington, July 13,
Major General Grant
My Dear General
I do not remember that you and I ever met
personally. I write
this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable
service you have done the country. I wish to say a word
further. When you first rached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I
thought you should do, what you finally did –– march the troops across
the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and
I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than
I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed.
When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I
thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you
turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a
mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you
were right, and I was wrong.
Yours very truly
Lincoln, Speeches Letters Miscellaneous
Writings, Presidential Massages
and Proclamations. 1859 -1865 Vol. II. The Library of America.
October 3rd, Grant received a telegram at Vicksburg: “It is the
wish of the Secretary of War that as soon as General Grant is able he
will come to Cairo and report by telegraph.”
The message was
received by General Grant on the 10th of October and he
immediately left for Cairo. He arrived on the 16th, and
telegraph message stating that fact. The next day he received a
report to Louisville, where an an officer of the War Department would
meet him. Grant traveled by train which stopped at
indianapolis en-route. As his train started to pull out of the
ran up to stop it saying Secretary of War Stanton was coming into the
station and wanted to see Grant. Accordingly the train waited for
Stanton to board. During the ride to Louisville, Secretary
Stanton handed General Grant two orders,
offering him the choice between them. They were identical in
creating the "Military Division of the Mississippi"; with General Grant
given command. The orders merged the armies of the Department of
the Ohio, the
Cumberland and the Tennessee, and all the territory from the
to the Missippi River north of General N. P. Banks' command. The
difference in the two orders was that one of them retained General
Rosecrans in command, and the other relieved him. Grant accepted
23rd, 1863, about the same time General Meade's drama was playing out
near Washington, General Grant arrived at Chattanooga, and took charge
of affairs. His star was on the
When Grant took command in Chattanooga, Lincoln rested a
little easier. “In Grant's hands Chattanooga was sure to be
In fact the way he fought, it wouldn't be long before he counter
The administration's faith in Grant's leadership
out west was in stark contrast to the attitudes toward the
leadership in the Army of the Potomac.
At the same time of Grant's ascendance in the west,
President Lincoln was urging General Meade to do something with his
army. As stated above, after easily taking Warrenton, (Genl.
Kilpatrick had deceived General Meade that Lee's infantry was posted
there) General Meade reported to Halleck in Washington, that the Orange
& Alexandria railroad, was torn up for miles, and the enemy had
safely retreated back across the Rappahannock river. Therefore,
he suggessted, in a telegram the morning of October 21st, the
campaigning for the season was at an end. Specifically he wrote:
“It seems to me
therefore, that the campaign is virtually over for the present season,
and that it would be better to withdraw the army to some position in
front of Washington and detach from it such portions as may be required
to operate elsewhere.”
General Halleck replied a few hours later with a summons
to meet with the President in Washington.
General Meade was aware of the frustrations the Lincoln
administration had with him. He had already tendered his
resignation twice. Once after Gettysburg and recently on October
18, when he replied to General Halleck:
“If you have any orders to give me, I am prepared to
receive and obey them, but I must insist on being spared the infliction
of such truisms in the guise of opinions as you have recently honored
me with, particularly as they were not asked for. I take
this occasion to repeat what I have before stated, that if my course,
based on my own judgment, does not meet with approval, I ought to be,
and I desire to be, relived from command.”3
Relations with Washington were strained as General Meade
could not help
but surmise. The diary entires of President Lincoln’s friend,
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles provide specific examples of
opinions flying around the White House.
“Sept. 21, Monday. I asked [Pres. Lincoln] what
Meade was doing
his immense army and Lee’s skeleton and depleted show in front.
He said he could not learn that Meade was doing anything, or wanted to
do anything. “It is,” said he, “the same old story of this Army
of the Potomac. Imbecility, inefficiency –– don’t want to do
–– is defending the Capital. I inquired of Meade,” said
he, “what force was in front. Meade replied he thought
there were 40,000 infantry. I replied he might have said 50,000
and if Lee with 50,000 could defend their capital against our 90,000.
–– and if defense is all our armies are to do, –– we might, I
thought, detach 50,000 from his command, and thus leave him with 40,000
to defend us. Oh,” groaned the President, “it is terrible,
terrible, this weakness, this indifference of our Potomac generals,
with such armies of good and brave men.” [Secretary of the
Navy Gideon Welles, pictured.]
“Why,” said I, “not rid yourself of Meade, who may be
good man and a good officer but is not a great general, has not breadth
or strength, certainly is not the man for the position he
occupies? The escape of Lee with his army across the Potomac has
distressed me almost beyond any occurrence of the War. And the
impression made upon me in the personal interview shortly after was not
what I wished, had inspired no confidence, though he is faithful and
will obey orders; but he can’t originate.”
The President assented to all I said, but “What can I
do,” he asked, “with such generals as we have? Who among
them is any better than Meade? To sweep away the whole of them
from the chief command and substitute a new man would cause a shock,
and be likely to lead to combinations and troubles greater than we now
have. I see all the difficulties as you do. They oppress
–––And that was before the Bristoe campaign, which
the Army of the Potomac back to Washington D.C.’s doorstep. To
add to the President's anxiety at this time were elections in two large
Union states where a few months earlier, the anti-war Copperheads were
On October 14th Welles wrote:
from Pennsylvania and Ohio are cheering in their results. The
patriotic sentiment is strongly in the ascendant in both States, and
defeat of Vallandigham is emphatic. I stopped in to see and
congratulate the President, who is in good spirits and greatly relieved
from the depression of yesterday. He told me he had more anxiety
in regard to the election results of yesterday than he had in 1860 when
he was chosen.
“Our papers dwell on the masterly movements of Meade,
street rumor glorifies him, but I can get nothing to authenticate or
justify this claim of wonderful strategy. Lee has made a
demonstration, and our army has fallen back, –– “changed its
base,” they call it at the War Department; in the vernacular, retreated.
This retreat may have been, and
skillfully executed. It is well to make the most of it. It
is claimed Meade has shown great tact in not permitting the enemy to
outflank him. Perhaps so. I shall not controvert, if I
it. I would not decry our generals, nor speak my mind freely if
unfavorably impressed concerning them, in public. Meade does the
best he knows how; Halleck does nothing.”5
On the 20th of October, Major-General Daniel
Sickles was present in Washington meeting with the President.
Sickles intended to boost his own reputation at Gettysburg by
further undermining General Meade. Sickles claimed Meade wanted
retreat after the first days fight, but he, Sickles had voted to stay
and fight it out. Sickles' subterfuge somewhat resonated with
Welles, though not wholly, for he knew Sickles was of a bad character.
Such were the circumstances of General Meade’s visit to
Washington to see the President on October 22nd. He wrote to his
wife about the meeting.
General Meade's Visit to Washington
Letter to his wife
October, 23, 1863.
Yesterday I received an order to repair to Washington,
to see the
President. I arrived in Washington at 2 p.m.,
to leave at 6 p.m, but was
detained so late that I remained there
all night, and left this morning, early. The President was, as he
always is, very considerate and kind. He found no fault with my
operations, although it was very evident he was disappointed that I had
not got a battle out of Lee. He coincided with me that there was
not much to be gained by any farther advance; but General Halleck was
very urgent that something should be done, but what that
something was he did not define. As the Secretary of War was
absent in Tennessee, final action was postponed till his return.
Letter to his wife. “The Life
and Letters of
George Gordon Meade” Charles Scribner & Sons, 1913.
During the next two weeks, the last of October, and the
beginning of November, as work teams repaired the Orange &
Alexandria Railroad, (the army's crucial supply line) Union
scouted out the enemy positions.
General Meade weighed his options and thought up a new stragtegy for
an advance; one that he hoped would find approval from President
who was directly urging him to attack Lee's Army.
NOTES: [See Sources at top of page.]
1. Oates, Lincoln; p. 349.
2. Oates, Lincoln; p.
363. also, Lincoln Papers, Smith, Grant; p. 264.
3. O.R., Vol. 29, Part 1.
4. Welles Diary, p. 439 -
5. Welles Diary, p.
Return to Table of Contents
Back to Bristoe Station; October 24
Map showing the route of march from
Thoroughfare Gap in the Bull Run Mountains to Bristoe Station on the
Orange & Alexandria Railroad. The Regiment slowly
15 mile distance on a rainy day, October 24th.
First Corps Marching Orders
Army of the Potomac,
October 23, 1863––8 p.m.
Commanding Officer First Corps:
The major-general commanding directs that you move your
corps to Bristoe Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.
The brigade of the Third Corps now there will be relieved by you.
As soon as the bridge over Kettle Run is finished, you will have it
properly guarded, and will guard the road as fast as finished as far as
the crossings of Slaty Run.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Major-General, and Chief of Staff.
From “Three Years in the Army,” by
E. Davis, Jr.;
Saturday, October 24.
At 7 A.M. we retraced our
steps through the Gap to Hay Market, then
south to Gainesville, fording Broad Run, and on to Bristow Station,
camping on the recent battlefield; making a distance of fifteen
miles. The march, by reason of the rain and muddy condition of
the roads, was a wearying one.
Charles E. Davis, Jr., continued:
All this marching and
countermarching, forming lines of
skirmishing, [October 10 –– 24; B.F.] was to prevent Lee’s
attempt to turn the right flank of
our army and interpose himself between us and our base of supplies,
with the possibility of an attack on Washington, or transferring the
next battle-ground from Virginia to the States north of the Potomac.
We were now camped on the farm of General Ewell, of the
army. The whole estate was in ruins; houses destroyed,
cut down, and every fence-rail burnt. Twelve days ago his own
army camped on this spot, and probably his men burnt the rails, as our
army was not allowed to touch rails.
John Newton's Report of the March.
October 24, 1863––4 p.m.
The head of my column has just arrived here (Bristoe),
after an extremely bad march. I do not expect the rear of it
until long after dark. I started at 7 a.m.
Old Heath's Coat
From Austin Stearns' memoir, “Three Years in
Company K” edited by Arthur
University Presses, 1976.
We twisted around and camped a few days at Bristoe near
where the fight was a few days before, when we halted here the first
night. Heath the straggler laid his coat down near the fire where
we were making coffee; some of the boys discovered that pest of
the soldier “Army Crums” [lice] had taken possession and, not wishing
to have them so near, took a stick and pushed the coat into a hole a
few rods away.
Heath soon returned and missed the coat, declared
that some one had stole it. How he tore around and swore he would
lick the man that had. After we had plagued and laughed enough
one time, we told him we saw it going toward a hole, and perhaps if he
looked quick he might find it before they had time to bury it all
up. Heath took the hint and said no more about it.
Once day as we marched along we saw General Custer with
his long golden
Diary of Sam Webster:
Saturday, October 24th, 1863:
March this a.m. in cold wind
and rain to Bristow, camping to the West
of Railroad and near the right of the rebel line on the 14th inst.,
right in the midst of rebel graves, — mostly of North Carolina
men. One of Company B, says he has counted 75 graves. The
position occupied by the 2nd Corps is on the other side of the Railroad
and nearer the creek. A few chimneys remain where were
I first passed this way. Only 8 or 9 of Company D, who came with
us then are here now. Corporal Joe Miles is one; he has
but a short time from Belle Island, where he was a prisoner. I
have omitted mention of Corporal Joe Kelly, left at Rappahannock
station in September. He died in hospital September 18th of
Note: For more on
death of Joseph
Kelly, see my previous webpage: “Advance to the Rapidan, Part 2.”
In the Table of Contents reference, “The Death of Corporal Joe Kelley,
[Pictured is the Bristoe Station
Battlefield in the vicinity of where Brigadier-General John Cooke's
North Carolinians charged from the distant ridge to the railroad tracks
(which are behind the photographer). The graves
of NC troops scattered the campground of the 13th Regiment.
Calvin Conant identifies graves from the 48th NC, Cooke's
Brigade. Warren Freeman wrote that the graves appeared to be dead
from the 40th NC, but there is no such unit involved in the fighting at
Bristoe. I believe it is a mistake on the part of the original
transriber of Warren's letters, and that he wrote Fortyeigth, not
Fortieth. The mention of the 48th NC, and Sam Webster's
diary entry, leads me to
believe the regiment was encamped on this ridge south of the
Brentsville road, rather than the fields north of the road, closer to
Broad Run, (which is woods and a golf-course today).
Diary of Calvin
October, Saturday 24, rainy day Marched at 8
everything all wet went to Bristoe Station distance about
12 miles had
to ford a creek knee deep got all wet wood is
scarce am camped
on the ground where the 2d corps fought the rebs on our retreat.
October, Sunday 25, quite a plesant
night was rather Cool we are now in the same place as last
night I find a goodly number Rebbel Graves one spot
8 in a roe all of Company K, 48 N.C., sevral Captains &
Lieutenants buried here* drawed 3 days rations of Bread
Coffee Sugar and
one of Pork.
October, Monday 26, Cool morning
pitched our Camp
over new no drill to day continued Cool all day.
October, Tuesday 27, last night was a
Ice froze 1/4 of inch thick in the brook near Camp I
with the cold all night Company drill this fore noon
I can hear
heavy firing in the distance we are in the same Camp among the graves some 200 or
more all around
October, Wednesday, 28, Very Plesant day warm
out in Shirt-sleeves Inpected by Captain Livermore
Livermore, pictured) Battalion drill
October, Thursday 29, Clear cool
night was very cool I am Ordly at Head
Quarters our boys
come in from
*48th North Carolina is in Brigadier-General John
Cooke's Brigade, Major-General Henry Heth's Division, A.P. Hill's
Corps, C.S.A. Heth's division fought on the south side of the
road, in the fields pictured in the photograph above.
Warren Freeman, Company A
Warren's letter gets a little ahead of
this narrative but he gives a simple yet effective description of the
hardships of these marches. He also mentions that he is one of
only 8 original members left of Company A, who were present when he
joined it in
January, 1862. The rest of the company are mostly good for
nothing conscripts. Sam Webster also noted his company had the
same number of original men present.
Camp at Bristow Station, Va., October 29,
Dear Father and Mother, —
After this long lapse of time I again
resume my pen to let you know that I am in the land of the
During the last three or four weeks we have been driven about from
pillar to post with so much rapidity that there has been no chance for
writing during the day, and the nights are so cold that it is almost
impossible to use the pen.
We left our camp near the Rapidan on
the 10th instant at about three o’cock A.M. ; the night was dark,
road muddy, so we made slow progress till daylight. We marched
down the river to Raccoon Ford, [Morton's
Ford––B.F.] and lay there the remainder of the day,
and at night orders came to pitch tents. We had just got them up
when orders came to down with them and pack up again; when this
done we lay round till about eight o’clock,
when we started on the back track and marched several hours, but on
account of the darkness did not make much progress, so we lay down for
the rest of the night; rolled our blankets at daylight, but did
march till late in the forenoon, when we started for Kelly’s Ford, on
The rebels were quite close behind us on this
march; at times we could see them shelling the rear-guard. Our
division had to ford the river; the water was nearly up to our waists
and rather chilly. We halted about half a mile from the ford and
made fires to cook our coffee, when we had to move about half a mile
further back behind a hill, where we lay all night. Next morning
back down to the river on picket; lay there that day and night, till
one o’clock next morning, when we marched to Warrenton Junction;
there at ten o’clock, when we got some breakfast; lay there in
battle till about three o’clock in the afternoon, when we started
on and reached Bristow Station a little after dark: marched this
day about twenty-seven miles. Routed out before daylight next
morning to cook our breakfast and draw more rations; marched that
to Centreville, about twelve miles, got there a little before noon, and
soon had our tents pitched, when we had to pack up and go out on the
Bull Run road about four or five miles: our regiment was deployed
By this time I felt about used up, but in the
course of the night I got a little rest. In the morning we fell back to
Cub Run, about a mile and a half from Centerville; we lay there till
Monday, when we marched to Haymarket, about ten or twelve miles;
there till late the next afternoon, when we marched through
Thoroughfare Gap in the night. We
halted here till the 24th, when
we marched to this place in a heavy rain-storm.
The roads were
very bad, and we had to ford one stream up to our knees; the distance
was about twelve miles.
We are camped right on the spot where the
Second Corps had their fight. There are a number of rebel graves all
around here — there are eight quite near my tent; they belong to
Fortieth North Carolina Regiment,* I perceive by the head boards.
I think this will give you some idea of soldier’s life.
Contrast it with your own pleasant home, abounding in peace and
comfort. I trust I may live to get out of it; time will
certainly matters look rather dark just now, — so it seems to me.
Personally, I have much to be thankful for: I am one of eight of
the boys that were in Company A, when I enlisted; then the
numbered more than 100 men; some are on detached service, others
hospitals and rebel prisons. A few of these men will return to us
again, but the number will be small. The conscripts that go to
make up the company are of little account, and not to be relied upon in
battle. But I must close,
With kind remembrance to one and all,
* This is more likely the Fortyeighth North Carolina
of Brig-Gen John Cooke's brigade. Calvin Conant references graves
of the 48th. I cannot find reference to the 40th NC at the
Letter of Charles
Barber, 104th New York
Here is a great letter from same brigade
All the marching and bivouacking in wet weather and wet clothes got
all the men sick. Charles Barber writes things to his wife that
unmentioned in his letters home to his parents. Whereas Warren outlines
his personal difficulties leaving the rest to be infrerred, Charles
bit on the miserable conditions the soldiers endured even in the
simplest of movements.
I have corrected the spelling and added
punctuation to the original formatting of the letter to make it more
readable. Originals edited by and Rayond G. Barber and Gary E.
Swinson 1991, Torrance, CA.
Va Oct 29 –– 1863
My Dear wife and children
I rec yours of the 23 last eve. Very glad to hear
from you. I am well now but I have been having the ague caused by
cold wet and exposure marching all day and all night in the rain and
mud fording streams three feet deep and getting wet through and through
to the skin then sleeping on the wet ground under wet blankets and cold
nights without fire (we was close [to] the enemy and could not
have fires). It was all too much even for my strong
constitution so it brought on the ague. We was all sick but
are better now.
We are now at Bristoe 20 mile from the Rappahannock
station. We expect another campaign and hard fighting after
the rail road is repaired. The rebs tore up 25 mile of the road
that must be repaired before we can advance.
I shall write to you once a week or as often as I
can. The mail has been stopped but is open now. They
are making out the pay rool to day. Probably we shall be paid in
two weeks; do not sent me any box till the campaign is
over. I will write when to send it; look to the
stove pipes in both houses and be careful with fire. Do not
sell the cow. Try and get feed for her. Tell C. to write to
We have just drawn our winter clothing with our over
coats but we expect hard work before we go in to winter quarters.
I see hard times but I am not a bit discouraged. I am doing my
duty and I do it with a stout heart and strong hand and a bold front.
We are now camped on the ground where the battle was a
few days ago. The dead are buried all around us. We buried
the dead horses since we come here. We marched over the old
Bull run battle ground. Some of the dead was not
buried. Their bones still lie there bleaching on that bloody
Ah the war is a terrible thing but I still hope to
get home safe and see the war ended honorably. Oh how I could
enjoy the comforts of home. I often see the time that I
would give 20 dollars for a bed to sleep in but still I will not
complain. It is all right. I am willing to stay my
time out and that will not be long. I am serving in my last year
now. I have only eleven months longer to stay even if I serve my
full three years. Keep up good courage. The time we hope
long that will keep us a part. Then I can see my family. I
cannot imagine how little Charlie looks and acts with pants on.
It don’t seem as if he is big enough to wear pants.
Well time is making great changes in all things and of
course our little family is no exception. As the general rule I
think Willie had better not smoke any more nor use tobacco in any
way. Has H paid all that note? Has Joe Steele paid that
other dollar? Does that man pay the house rent
punctual? Keep out of debt. Now is the time to pay debts
but it is the wrong time to go in to debt. Well let us do
the best we can and hope for the best and trust the future to a
God of justice. Let us keep up our courage and hope.
in the Regiment
While the regiment camped at Bristoe
Station, Colonel Leonard of the 13th Mass., commanding the brigade,
took the time to tend to a
little regimental business. In this instance he addresses
promotions in the regiment. It is interesting to note the
promotion of Captain Joseph Colburn to Major in the 59th Mass Vols.,
one of the new "veteran" regiments then oganizing in
Massachusetts. Jacob Parker Gould, formerly Major J. P. Gould of
the 13th MA, was appointed Colonel of the 59th. Colburn would be
serving with a friend. Gould was away on detached duty at this
time. He was at the conscript camp on Long Island, Boston Harbor, and
would not return to the 13th MA.
Pictured left to right, William B.
Michael J. Dagney,(top), Morton Tower.
Pictured left to right, Samuel E. Cary,
Abel H. Pope, Joseph Colburn.
Letter; Colonel Samuel H. Leonard to John
Governor of Massachusetts.
The following is from the
State House Executive Correspondence Collection.
Head Quarters 13th Regt.
Bristow Station Va., Oct. 27, 1863
John A. Andrew
Gov. of Mass.
the honor to recommend for promotion to fill vacancies existing, the
following named personas.
First Lieut William B. Kimball, to be Captain in place
of Abel H. Pope
discharged for disability.
Second Lieut. Michael J. Dagney to be First Lieut. in
place of Wm. B.
First Lieut Morton Tower to be Captain in place of
promoted to Major 59th Mass. Vols. October 23, 1863.
Second Lieut Samuel E. Cary to be 1st Lieut. in place of
First Lieut M. L. Smith declined promotion and Lieut
nominated in the above place for reason that by regular promotion he
would have succeeded to it, but expecting another position which he
failed to get. He now desires his proper place in line.
I am Very Resp’y Your
Col. 13th Mass. Vols.
Colonel Charles Wainwright,
Chief of First Corps Artillery
Bristoe Station; Tuesday, Oct 27th. ––
We moved from the Gap to this
place on Saturday last in
disagreeable rain, which made everybody cross; so that I had
quarrels with my friend Robinson as to the right of way along the
narrow roads. That general is not over amiable at any time, and
on the march such a day as Saturday was, he appears to be determined to
see how disobliging and ugly he can make himself. [General
John C. Robinson, pictured.]
We were I suppose no longer considered necessary on that
& so were brought over here to be turned into “navvies” & set
to work rebuilding the railroad. Large details from the Corps
been at it every day since our arrival, & “as many hands make light
work”, have pushed it on very rapidly.
Lee’s men must have been
equally industrious at destroying; all the rails & sleepers
torn up, the latter burned & the rails heated in the fires so made
& bent out of all hope of straightening; many of them were
wrapped around the trees. Beside this they destroyed all bridges,
broke down the walls of some culverts, & tried to fill some of the
cuttings. The destruction of the bridges over Bull & Broad
has delayed our work considerably as rails &c have had to be hauled
from the former point in wagons. These bridges are now said to be
finished so we may expect to hear the scream of the locomotive along
here by tomorrow. A large proportion of the sleeps used are cut
neighboring woods by the men.
Corps headquarters and my own tents are on the same
knoll on which
we spent the night of the 13th when on our way up. The house
lea of which we then sheltered ourselves has been destroyed, as well as
every thing else in the way of a building about here. It is a
position, but dry; so we have had full benefit of the high &
bitterly cold wind which has prevailed ever since our arrival, &
have been just about as uncomfortable as we well could. A tent
a stove is far from a desirable residence such weather as this.
keep big fires burning out of doors but the wind blows the smoke into
ones eyes whichever side of the fire you get; a shovel full of hot
coals in your tent helps along nicely if constantly & carefully
replaced; but I look with envy on the n-ggerrs belonging to the
construction corps who have good stoves in their Sibley tents.
discomfort is increased by the want of a decent servant. I could
get one when I was at home last month & have been working along the
best way I could with an orderly to care for my horses, & John
Brown (Sanderson’s boy) to look after my tent. He is remarkably
even for a n-gger, & almost useless. Ben ( another
cook too gets worse instead of better; so I have written to ask
make another effort, so soon as they get settled in town, to send me
both cook & groom. Anything will be better than what we now
I do not hope for first rate men, but think cleanliness may be procured
together with a moderate amount of skill & intelligence.
The newspapers tell us that Gen’l Rosencratz has been
suppose the authorities think that the people demand it on account of
his late failure; or else he is not enough of a politician to
them. I cannot myself see that any blame attaches to him for the
disaster at Chattanooga; & believe nothing can be worse than
constant hanging of commanders. Thomas who succeeds him stands
very high among the old army officers; much higher than Grant,
placed in supreme command at the west. [Major-General William
Starke Rosecrans, pictured.]
I have about given up
trying to understand their changes at Washington, I now only hope that
they may by chance hit upon the right way & bring matters to a
speedy close. The papers also tell us that Stanton & the
President are far from pleased with the way Meade has conducted this
little campaign, & that he is ordered to fight at all
hazards. I trust this last part is not true, & that we shall
not be forced into a battle where the chances are against us.
As to Meade’s falling back to Centreville without
fighting, I of course do not know all the ins & outs of the matter;
nor am I sufficiently acquainted with the country more to the front
where he could have offered battle. But so far as I do know the
I should say that Warrenton was the only other spot, & it was too
late to secure that position when he had found out certainly what
Lee was after. As to attacking Lee, I do not believe that it
could have been done successfully at any point , as the time of his
march was full of very strong positions. Some say that when he
abandoned the line of the Rapidan we ought to have cut loose &
pushed right on for Richmond. The only real difficulty in this
would have been in getting supplies forwarded to us there by the time
the stock we took with us was exhausted. But as the powers at
Washington never would have consented to our leaving that city to its
fate there is no use talking about the matter.
The President has issued a proclamation calling for
300,000 more men to fill up the companies and regiments now in the
field. I hope this may bring us some men, though I have very
great doubts as to whether the last previous call has been
Nothing has yet been done decidedly as to re-enlistment of the old men
who have served two years. If the new call should through any
means be fully answered it will fill up every organization now in
service to its maximum, I should think. A few recruits of one
kind and another continue to arrive every day, but none for the
I have three Batt’s, Reynolds, Stewart & Thomas, out
on the high ground east of the railroad covering our flank in that
direction. We had a small alarm come in that quarter yesterday
& got under arms, but it did not amount to anything. The rest of my
command lies on the other side of the road near H’d Qts.–– The
Maine & 1st M’ld are still with me.
Camp to Kettle Run, October 30, 1863.
Fuller Queen did this sketch titled, “Waiting For The Cars, Hagerstown,
Md.” in a portfolio titled, “Sketches with Co. B, 8th Reg. Pa.,”
under the officers of the old “Southark Gaurd.” LOC.
Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:
Friday, 30 Come off
Guard quite a warm morning
10 more men detailed
to go on Picket –– drawed 2 days rations. Soft Bread,
the 104th N.Y. were sent off to Kettle Run I am staying
with J. B. [J. B. is probably Corporal John Best, as Conant was
himself a corporal ––B.F.]
Saturday, 31. Rainy day we had a post Inspection
and Muster in by Lieut-Colonel of 12 Mass got wet
beef this morning cleared off
Pleasant moved Camp at noon
Kettle Run [This may be Lt. Col. David Allen, Jr., 12th Mass. Vol.
Battle of the Wilderness, May 5, 1864.––B.F.]
Charles E. Davis, Jr., “Three Years
in the Army”, continued:
Saturday, October 31. Moved
mile or so to the westward into a pine grove, near Kettle Run which we
found a much more agreeable spot. Nights were getting cold enough
for a furnace fire, but we believe furnaces were not allowed in the
Calvin Conant, continued,
November. Sunday, 1.
Pleasant day we
are now busy in fixing up our new Camp
as we are in the woods it takes a deal of Choping had a Company
Inspection at 10 o’clock.
Monday, 2. Pleasant day Company drill in
drill in afternoon under Capt. Cary. [Capt. William Howard
Cary, Co. G; brother of Lieutenant Sam Cary––B.F.]
Tuesday, 3. Very pleasant day Went out on
Picket am on the
extreme left of our Div Pickets 9 men to do the duty for 2
good Post as it is where their is plenty of wood.
Wednesday, 4. Am on Picket it is a very
got a loaf of Bread pie[?] In Camp had a tip top dipper of
beans this Morning for breakfast our Sutler come
up went in &
Evening Transcript; Correspondence
Clarence's letter explains the spread
out dispositions of General John Robinson's 2nd Division, 1st Corps.
BOSTON EVENING TRANSCRIPT
November 9, 1863.
1st Brigade, 2nd Divison 1st
Bristoe, Va. Nov. 4th
From the Potomac Army.
This corps is at present engaged in
protecting the Construction Corps, consequently we are required to
change our position occasionally. The 2d Division remains at this
place but covers a large extent of country, embracing the late battle
ground, which has been cleaned up, and could not be recognized, save by
the graves of both men and horses, and the appearance here and there of
an unexploded shell.
The 1st brigade is now stationed at Kettle Run, a mile
on the line of the railroad, half a mile from its former
position. The headquarters of the division are situated between
the brigade camps, but nearer to the 2d brigade, and close to the
railroad, which must necessarily greatly interfere with the slumber of
our General and his staff, especially when the engineer of the incoming
train rushes his “iron steed” past the diminutive camp, with the shrill
whistle screaming at its loudest note.
The weather continues cold, and its frigidity increases
if not in reality, while we change the heading of our letters, viz.,
from October to November.
The health of
the army is
better than it has been for some time past — the cool air serving to
strengthen the sickly and toughen the well. Large bodies of
cavalry are constantly passing, and it is expected that something
interesting will occur in a few days. A large quantity of
soldiers’ freight has just been received and delivered, and the boys
have once more been making merry over the remembrances from home.
Return to Top of Page
Catlett's Station, (6 miles) November 5, 1863
Robert Knox Sneden sketched this map of
3rd Corps Headquarters around Catlett's Station in October, 1863.
General Newton's First Corps would relieve them November 5th. Two
days later the left wing of the Army, comprised of the 1st, 2nd, &
Corps, under Major-General William French would advance and engage the
enemy at Kelly's Ford, as General Meade decided to advance upon the
enemy into Culpeper County, Virginia.
Orders to Move Camp Toward Catlett's
November 5, 1863.
Army of the Potomac,
November 5, 1863––1 p.m.
Commanding Officer First Corps:
The major-general commanding directs that you move your
corps at once to the vicinity of Catlett’s, and hold two divisions of
it ready for further orders.
You will assign one division to guarding the railroad
from Manassas to Warrenton Junction, as follows: One brigade at
Bristoe; one brigade at Warrenton Junction, to protect that
other brigade will be distributed to guard the bridge over Cedar Run
Kettle Run. The small bridges and culverts must be guarded by
detachments. The road from Manassas to Warrenton must in addition be
patrolled, if practicable, with the force assigned to the duty of
protecting the road.
Major-General, and Chief of Staff.
Pictured is the railroad bridge over
Cedar Run at Catlett's Station, October, 1863. The bridge is
being repaired after General Lee's retreating troops tore up the
railroad during their retreat from Bristoe back to Culpeper County on
the south side of the Rapidan October 17. Note the camp tents in
background on the horizon. They are probably 3rd Corps
troops. Click here
to view larger.
Letter of Warren
Freeman November 5.
It seems like a lot of the regiment were
on guard or on picket duty at this time.
Camp Near Bristow Station, Va.,
Dear Parents, –– I
received your kind letter of October 30
(No. 104) in due time: glad to learn that you are all as well as
I went on picket last Friday and came in Sunday; found
the regiment had
moved camp about a mile further up the railroad toward
A lot of boxes for the boys came in yesterday. I wish you could
one for me about the 14th of this month. I wouldn’t put in
that would be likely to spoil if the box should be detained a few days
the way. I would like some figs, raisins, and nuts, condensed
butter, one or two pies, and a little cake; I wish you would send
coffee-pot, a stout one, –– have the handle and nose riveted on;
one pair wool socks –– that will do.
Colonel Leonard has returned and taken command of the
Fire in the
Camp of the 16th Maine
Major Abner Small of the 16th Maine, had
been away from his regiment on recruiting duty. He returned on
November 11th, and observed, “When I rejoined the regiment I found it
in good spirits and visibly strong. More than five hundred
recruits had been sent from Maine... our aggregate present was six
hundred and fifty men.”
The fact that so many new and
inexperienced men were among the ranks of the 16th Maine, explains the
remark of Sam Webster in his journal November 5. “Great fun out
of some fellow's hunting Company C.” The natural reflex of the
seasoned veterans was to mis-lead the green recruits. The
following day a fire burned through the camps of Company E & F of
that regiment. This caused another comment from Sam Webster,
Charles E. Davis, Jr., “Three Years
in the Army”, continued:
Thursday, Nov. 5,
1863. Marched at 4 P.M. to Catlett’s Station, ten miles,
and bivouacked. We had seen so much of these places, we wished
General Meade would hasten on to Richmond, where we could spend the
winter among the “sassiety” of that city.
When we were in the
vicinity in the spring of 1862, it was “on to Gordonsville,” but
now it was different.
“Learn to labor and to wait,”
says Longfellow; but that was written “befo’ de
Friday, Nov. 6. Changed camp to high ground on the
east side of the station.
Last week, while at Bristow Station, an old friend of
the regiment, a commissary of subsistence, made his appearance in our
camp, and before his departure agreed to sell to the officers a barrel
of whiskey, which was purchased by
subscription. Of course it was
to be used for medicinal purposes only, that is, when the men were
liable to become unfitted for duty by unusual fatigue or exposure
during bad weather. Now, it so happened that the camp was
excessively dusty, making the cobwebs in the throat impenetrable, and
this whiskey was the only thing that would remove the
obstructions. When it came to pass that the possession of this
whiskey was known among the men, we pestered the lives nearly out of
the officers with requests for this very effective medicine, with more
or less success according to the disposition of the officer. When
exposure seemed a frail and insubstantial reason, we invented
one. If this narrative of ours should by chance be read by one of
our temperance friends, he will hold up his hands in horror, possibly,
at this statement. We can only say, in excuse, that we were too
young to appreciate what a terrible enemy we were fooling with.
As soon as our service ended, having no further need of stimulants,
But never mind what has happened since, we are relating only what
occurred while were were in the service.
The Sixteenth Main boys had another streak of hard luck
to-day. As they went into camp behind us, in the tall grass, it
took fire, and before you could count ten, was all ablaze, leaving
nothing behind but piles of blackened knapsacks, clothing, and
Austin Stearns, “Three Years in
Company K” :
One windy day as we were resting
in a field where the grass was long and dry, some of the boys built a
fire for cooking. Some of the sparks blew into the grass and
before anything could be done the fire went up through the 16th Maine
and down toward the Rappahannock River with the speed of a race horse,
throwing up huge volumes of black smoke as it went through the pine
Diary of Calvin Conant,
Thursday, 5. I am on
picket pleasant but
little cool come in from Picket & the Reg marched in
half hour afterward went to near Catletts Station
Went into Camp for the night about 9 o’clock
6. Pleasant day we are now in
place we stayed last night Moved Camp over on a
hill the wind blows hard drawed
ration of Whisky I don’t feel well at
all Capt gave me a good drink of whisky.
Diary of Sam Webster:
Went visiting to 3rd Division —
but at Corps Headquarters found them
packing up, and that orders had been sent to move. Got back to
camp a few minutes before the order reached them. Marched about
three oclock, halting short of Catlett’s, to East of Railroad and
getting tent up and supper in by 10 p.m. Great fun out of some
fellows “hunting Company C,” As they didn’t say of what Regiment
they got various directions. They belonged to the 16th Maine.
November 6th, 1863.
Reveille before sunrise, and camp
guard mounted. Considerable
bustle made by the cavalry discharging their pieces — thought it
rebels. Move across the ditch behind us and encamp on a high
hill covered with tall dry grass which caught fire and burn a company
of the 16th Maine. “Don’t they suffer!”
(In spite of the fun we made of them the 16th was a good
Sam Webster makes several mentions of
the 16th Maine in his journal. The soldiers of the 13th Mass.
often made fun of them, as they did truly seem to be a "hard luck"
regiment. But at the same time they knew it was a good
regiment. Major Abner R. Small wrote the excellent history of the
16th Maine, and occasionally made snide references to the snobs in the
13th Mass, whenever opportunity presented itself, yet likewise, they
gained respect for each other the longer they served together.
Colonel Leonard of the 13th, often commanded the brigade and was
popular with the Maine men. From
the 16th Maine regimental history, we learn the regiment had just been
clothing and blankets the very day before the fire.
From, “The Sixteenth Maine Regiment in the War of
the Rebellion, 1861-1865”, by Abner Ralph Small; B.
& Company, Portland, Maine: 1886.
Nov. 5, 1863.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bankhead, corps
inspector, came to inspect and condemn some government property, when
the regiment was ordered to pack up. Marched at 4 p.m., and
halted at Catlett’s Station at nine o’clock. Distance, six
miles. Clothing, blankets, etc., were issued to the regiment.
The command was alarmed by the
cavalry discharging their carbines. During the day moved to a
good camping ground. Companies E and F lost some property by
fire. “No insurance.”
to Top of Page