The Pursuit of General Lee's Army
July 11 - July 28, 1863

"We Act Like A Lot of Scared Monkeys."

Williamsport, Maryland, From Doubleday Hill

Williamsport, Maryland, view up Salisbury Street, from Doubleday Hill.  The Town Hall is the large building in the center.

Table of Contents


The Big Picture

Between July 7 - 10, General Lee dug in and fortified his defenses around Williamsport while his cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart kept the Federal Cavalry at bay.   At the same time, after some hard marching,  General Meade maneuvered his army into position to  attack the Confederates.   By July 12th Meade’s army was in place, but he sought the opinions of his corps commanders before bringing on a general engagement.  The majority of them were opposed to an attack.  General Meade decided to post-pone the fight one day, in part to allow time for additional re-enforcements to come up.  He stated he would not take the responsibility of provoking an engagement against the advise of so many of his commanders.*

The extra day was enough for Lee’s army to slip away, which they did during the night of July 13.

 Lee’s ‘escape’  exasperated the authorities at Washington.  President Lincoln’s informants led him to believe that General  Meade was being too cautious to pursue and defeat a weakened enemy, and thereby he lost a golden opportunity to defeat the Rebel army and bring a close to the war.

When he was informed by General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, of Lincoln’s dissatisfaction, Meade submitted his resignation.  Halleck declined.  So, the Army of the Potomac moved south, following Lee into Virginia.

Was General Meade’s leadership lacking?

Military historian Keith Poulter in a well thought out critical analysis of General Meade’s actions after Picket’s charge, to the crossing of General Lee’s army at Williamsport on July 14, concluded that Meade, who was a good defensive general, had an opportunity to  press Lee harder after the battle, particularly if he had not delayed his troops march toward Midddletown, on July 5 & 6.  Whether he could have defeated Lee’s army in battle north of the Potomac is debatable, but a more vigorous advance would have placed the Confederate army in a more perilous situation by possibly blocking his access to the river crossings at Williamsport.  But there is cause not to fault him in his pause to attack Lee’s formidable defenses on July 13th. 

Think of Fredericksburg.

When his anger subsided, President Lincoln came to appreciate what General Meade had accomplished at Gettysburg, instead of finding fault for what was not done.  Too much was expected of General Meade, which taints our understanding of him to this day.

The Little Picture

Comments from the soldiers of the 13th Mass indicate an agreement with President Lincoln’s assessment that aggressive leadership in the Army of the Potomac was still lacking.

They grumbled and marched their way back into hated Virginia, and re-occupied their familiar position at Rappahannock Station.  On the way they marked the 2nd anniversary of their 3 years service.

*Official Records, Volume 27, part 3, page 700.

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What's On This Page

The page opens with General Meade maneuvering the Army of the Potomac into position to give battle.  Charles E. Davis, Jr., and Private Sam Webster provide the narrative for the 13th Regiment.  Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery adds perspective from the high command of the Army of the Potomac.  Senator Henry Wilson of Natick, Massachusetts visited camp on July 12, and the soldiers of the 13th expected him to favor them with some remarks, but rain prevented it.  [Company H was raised in Natick].  A brief outline of the famous and powerful politician divides the narrative of this section.

In the next section, ‘The Army Really Wanted to Fight” Charles Davis neatly sums up the sentiments of a majority of the weary soldiers who were hoping for another victory, and a possible end to the war.   Reports in the Boston Evening Transcript sum up the military situation as it stood July 14th and 15th.

General Meade’s unfortunate reproach from Washington follows, with his reply included.

Map of the march south from the regimental history

The question of whether or not General Meade should have attacked Lee is examined briefly with the observations of Colonel Wainwright, while Sergeant Austin Stearns of the 13th Mass expresses the blow to morale suffered when the Confederate army slipped away.  Former member of the 13th Mass, John B. Noyes, now an officer with the 28th Mass, weighs in with his opinion. He also comments on the character of the Pennsylvania Militia, and the Pennsylvania farmers encountered during the campaign.  Another interesting remark from Lt. Noyes is in regard to his regiment’s march passed the village of Antietam, the exact same spot where Company B, picketed the river two years earlier. Its an interesting reflection on the passage of time, and the duration of the war.

The rest of the page is a strait forward narrative of the army’s  march to Warrenton, Virginia, with the 13th Regiment’s brigade, continuing on to their familiar campground of Rappahannock Station. The story is enhanced with my contemporary photos of the places the regiment marched.  I am finally able to visit these places, and have accordingly taken advantage of that fact on these new web pages.  

Davis and Webster provide the narrative, while Austin Stearns adds a couple of colorful vignettes.  Colonel Wainwright offers some interesting commentary on new Corps Commander, General John Newton, in the section titled “A Lazy Corps Commander?” 

The fleeting voice of ‘CLARENCE’, a  13th Mass correspondent to the Boston Transcript appears twice on this page.  Between late July and early September, his letters pepper the story of the regiment with some fun details.

It is interesting to note through all of this the First Corps was only 2/3 the size of what a division should be, as stated by Colonel Wainwright in his diary on July 29.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All images are from the Library of Congress Digital Images Collection with the following exceptions.  The map above is from the regimental history of the 13th Mass., Three Years in the Army, sketched by Sergeant William M. Coombs; General Wadsworth's portrait is from, "James S. Wadsworth of Geneseo" by Henry Greenleaf Pearson, NY, Scribners, 1913;  Charles Reed's sketch of the confused soldier is from the New York Public Library Digital Collections; Reed's sketch of the sleeping soldier is from Charles D. Billings, "Hardtack & Coffee" accessed digitally; W.L. Shepard's illustration of Lee's army crossing the Potomac is from "Lee and Longstreet at High Tide" by Mrs. James Longstreet, 1904, accessed digitally at the webarchive;  Louis K. Harlow illustration of Children visiting soldiers on the march is from Bits of Camp Life accessed digitally;  All the contemporary photographs are by Bradley M. Forbush;  ALL IMAGES have been EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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Maneuvering into Position

The following is from "Three Years in the Army, The story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers from July 16, 1861 to August 1, 1864."  by Charles E. Davis Jr.,  Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1894.

On the 11th of July General Lee issued to his soldiers the following stirring appeal:

General Orders
. 76.

July 11, 1863.

After long and trying marches, with the fortitude that has ever characterized the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, you have penetrated the country of our enemies, and recalled to the defense of their own soil those who were engaged in the invasion of ours.

You have fought a fierce and sanguinary battle, which, if not attended with the success that has hitherto crowned your efforts, was marked by the same heroic spirit that has commanded the respect of your enemies, the gratitude of your country, and the admiration of mankind.

Once more you are called upon to meet the army from which you have won on so many fields a name that will never die.

Once more the eyes of your countrymen are turned upon you, and again do wives and sisters, fathers and mothers, and helpless children lean for defense on your strong arms and brave hearts.

Let every soldier remember that on his courage and fidelity depends all that makes life worth living, — the freedom of his country, the honor of his people, and security of his home.  Let each heart grow strong in the remembrance of our glorious past, and in the thought of the inestimable blessings for which we contend, and, invoking the assistance of the Divine Providence, which has so signally blessed our former efforts, let us go forth in confidence to secure the peace and safety of our country.

Soldiers!  your old enemy is before you!  Win from him honors worthy of your righteous cause — worthy of your comrades dead on so many illustrious fields.

R.E. Lee,

The South was bound to have honor and peace, if it had to smash everything in the house.

Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery

From "A Diary of Battle", The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

The journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, commander of the First Corps artillery, adds much detail on the state of affairs between July 11 - 14.  Becasue Wainwright was part of the high command he had a bit of insight which the '13th Mass' regimental historian, Charles Davis, Jr., did not have.  Although Wainwright's opinions are his own, they come from a very experienced perspective.  They differ greatly in the general opinion that an attack by General Meade on July 13th would have carried General Lee's works.

July 11th, Saturday.  We have not moved at all today:  waiting, it is said, for the left of the army to move up to its position at or near Bakersville.

If I remember aright Bakersville is a small village near where our right rested at Antietam.  The rebel pickets opposite us are about 3 miles off at Funkstown.  The 11th Corps I find is off on our right at a little distance, & the 6th not far from us.  They say that some of the militia are coming down to join us, & that the 7th N.Y. is in the South Mountain pass.*  Also that Couch is coming down onto Lee’s rear with a large body of them.  I hear too that some of our advance claim to have destroyed Lee's Pontoon train, so that he cannot get across the Potomac, which is very much swollen. 

How much of all the reports to believe I cannot say; but two things are certain; first that Lee has not crossed into Virginia yet; - & second that if he does not clear out soon we shall have another fight.  It would nearly end the rebellion if we could actually bag this army; but on the other hand a severe repulse of us would give them all the prestige at home & abroad which they lost at Gettysburg, & injure our moral greatly.  I trust therefore that Gen’l Meade will not attempt it, unless under circumstances which will make our chances of success at least 4 out of 5.

Our men have been strengthening their earthworks to day so that they are quite formidable.  I got a nice little dinner at the house of the principal man in the little village here.  I found that he was the man I spoke to yesterday.  His wife said they had been feeding the soldiers all day, & had not much left.  But she & her daughter, a right nice looking girl; got us up quite a fair spread; while the good man of the house brought out his best whiskey.  When I offered to pay the woman she was quite indignant; & it was only by representing to the husband that by taking pay from me, who could afford it, he would be able to give more to  those who could not, that he was at all persuadable.

*7th NY Militia recalled to NY when the draft riots broke out.  John Noyes also mentions seeing the camps of the 7th NY, while on the march, and there is a picture painted of their encampment.

Senator Henry Wilson of Natick, visits the army.

From "Three Years in the Army," continued:

Sunday, July 12.  Last night we were on picket, but were withdrawn this morning, when we moved across Antietam Creek and build earthworks, facing Hagerstown.  We were called upon to-day by Senator Wilson.  As Company H was from Natick, his place of residence, it was expected that he would favor us with some remarks, but the rain prevented.

A Brief Biography of U.S. Senator Henry Wilson

U.S. Senator Henry Wilson Henry Wilson was born February 16, 1812 into a poor New Hampshire family with the given name, Jeremiah Jones Colbath.  His shiftless drinking father had named him for a wealthy bachelor neighbor hoping for an inheritance.  At age 10,  Jeremiah was indentured to work for a farmer until age 21.  With little time for school, Jeremiah educated himself, not unlike Abraham Lincoln, by reading every book he could find on the subjects of history, biography, and philosophy.  When he reached age 21, he legally changed his name to Henry Wilson, and walked to Boston to begin life  anew.

He settled in Natick, where a friend taught him the shoe trade.  He worked so hard at it for 3 years that his health broke down and a doctor ordered him to take a break.  Accordingly he traveled to Washington to view the seat of Government.  The workings of Government were inspiring, but what most impressed him on the trip was his visceral reaction to slave pens, slave auctions, and slavery itself, ever present in the environs of the capital city.  He became forever dedicated to the anti-slavery cause.

Back home in Massachusetts after teaching for a brief period, he turned his attentions to industry and became wealthy in the manufacture of shoes.  He involved himself in the local debate society to keep up with important issues of the day, and he was active in the Massachusetts Militia, where in time, he rose to the rank of Brigadier-General, like Colonel Leonard of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

Business success allowed him to enter politics.  He repeatedly won seats in the Massachusetts legislature for the Whig Party in the 1830’s & 40’s.  It was the party’s anti-slavery stance that attracted him.

In 1848 he abandoned the whig party for the anti-slavery Free Soil party, but the new party was too weak to win elections. When the established political parties collapsed Wilson secretly joined the anti-catholic, anti-immigrant party, ‘The Know Nothings’  in order to promote his personal ambitions.  Yet, he still pushed for a national Republican party to oppose the spread of slavery into the country's western territories.  With  the support of Know Nothings and Democrats in the Massachusetts Sate legislature he got elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate in 1854, which caused many fellow Republican friends and allies to question his sincerity; — some of them for the rest of his political career.  But critics gave him credit for showing backbone in the crusade against slavery.

 “Listeners described Wilson as “an earnest man” who presented “the cold facts of a case” without relying on flamboyant oratory.  George Boutwell, who served with him in Massachusetts and national politics, judged Wilson an especially effective speaker during elections and estimated that during the course of Wilson's career he spoke to more people than anyone else alive.” *

Fast forward to 1861.  After witnessing the Union route at the Battle of Bull Run, and barely escaping capture, he returned to Natick and recruited a regiment of volunteers.

He also acted briefly as aide-de-camp to General McClellan, but a 30 mile horse ride proved too much for him.  He spent a week in bed; then resigned the position.  But his association made him more sympathetic to Little Mac than other Republicans in Congress.

He made it a point to avoid public criticism of the military operations of any general.

He was a political ally of President Lincoln and urged Lincoln to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, but like everyone else at the time, he underestimated Lincoln’s abilities, and at times thought him too weak to lead.

Henry Wilson continued in politics after the Civil War, with a long career that included a term as Vice President in the 2nd Grant Administration.

Wilson saw many of his political ideals added to the Constitution as the 13th 14th and 15th amendments. 

"He was not learned, he was not eloquent, he was not logical in a high sense, he was not always consistent in his political actions, and yet he gained the confidence of the people, and he retained it to the end of his life.” —Senator George Boutwell.

Too bad he was not able to speak with the soldiers in the 13th Regiment.

*Citation: Mark O. Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office. Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997), pp. 233-239

From “The Diary of Sam Webster:
      Sam Webster's journal was used as a primary reference for the regimental history.  Sam's comments are usually a bit more colorful, and in some cases add a little more detail to Charles Davis's narrative.

Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Sketch of Hagerstown, by A.R. Waud

Sunday, July 12th.  Move just across the creek beyond Funkstown and form line of battle facing Hagerstown and Sharpsburg pike. Hagerstown is held by our troops. A heavy rain came up just as they were forming and prevented any remarks from Senator Henry Wilson of Mass., who had come to see the Regiment.

Monday, July 13th.  Regiment put up a line of earthworks yesterday evening.  A little piquet firing all night.  The 8th, 51st and 39th Mass. are put into the 1st Corps today.  All as green as can be.

Tuesday, July 14th, 1863   Rebels are gone; got away over the river in spite of the high water, and the rain of yesterday.  March down and camp 1 1/2 miles from Williamsport, to the West of road.  Visit the town.  See John Martin and others.  At the old bakery they tell me that they told the rebels that their bank “couldn’t hold a candle to that of the 13th Mass.”

Got rid of the Provost on that same old Gettysburg pass, the “1st” being so great a resemblance to “15” that the guards didn’t know the difference and didn’t think of the date.  Are all intolerably pestered by the bugs at night, the field of clover seeming full of them.

From "A Diary of Battle,” The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

In the following passages Colonel Wainwright describes the situation as members of the high command understood it.  Of particular interest are his comments regarding the field returns of General Henry Baxter's 2nd Brigade of Robinson's Division.  The Division was completely wiped out in the fight at Gettysburg on July 1st.  The number of General Baxter's men was down to about 660 men.   He went into the battle of Gettysburg with about 1500.  General Paul's brigade, containing the 13th Mass, was in the same condition, with heavily diminished numbers.

Brigadier-General James Wadsworth, 1st Division, 1st Corps

July 13th, Monday.  I fully expected that we should have a fight this morning, but the whole day has passed without one. There was council of war at Army Headquarters, when all but Warren and Wasworth were opposed to fighting.  General Newton was sick and sent Wadsworth up in his place.  Warren was present as chief of staff.  Meade was in favor of waiting until tomorrow, as Couch would then be in Lee’s rear with his militia, and considerable reinforcements are expected up for ourselves tonight. 

My informant as to what took place in the council was General Wadsworth, who talks very freely on the subject, and loudly against the decision.  Could the General infuse his own courage and spirit of faith into each of the men, it would be well enough to drive ahead without taking anything into consideration.  But there are very, very few, among either officers or men, who have it.  There is something to be admired in the old man’s earnestness, and did it concern no life but his own, it would be grand.  His only idea seems to be that war means but fight.  Yonder are the enemy: pitch in.  I know nothing about the left of our line, but Lee’s position in front of us is very strong, and so far as we can see well mounted with artillery.  My opinion is most decided that we could not carry it.

Pictured at left is General Wadsworth, commander of the 1st Division, 1st Corps.  Pictured at right is Brigadier-General Henry Baxter, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps.

General Henry Baxter, commander 2nd Brigade, 2nd Div.

About three o’clock in the afternoon we had a tremendous rain, which made the fallow fields in such a state that it was difficult even to walk about them.  To have kept the batteries suppled with ammunition or to have charged in line over them would have been impossible.  After the rain was over the enemy fired several shot from a couple of twenty-four-pounder howitzers, as if just to show that they were still there.  This was about an hour before dark.

Our reinforcements began to arrive about the same time; some 3 or 4 regiments came to this Corps.   Immense big things each one larger than most of our Brigades, but they have never smelt powder yet, & all but one are 9 mos. men.  Gov. Seymour showed his good sense in refusing to raise any such men.  Gen’l Baxter & myself were making up field returns of our Brigades to day & comparing notes.  I had 560 men present & 19 officers; he had about 100 more men, & 72 officers.*  A Battery must have a certain number of men present but no provision is made for replacing absent officers.  Two (?) of my Batteries now have only one officer each present for duty...

...We put our tents up this afternoon in rear of the hill.  Our meals we got in the town, all the mess arrangements being broken up for the time.

*Brigadier-General Baxter's strength on July 1st at Gettysburg was estimated to be about 1,447 men and officers in Busey & Martin's calculations, as referenced in Stephen A. Floyd's book,  Commanders and Casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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The Army Really Wanted to Fight

The map shows the situation and positions of the opposing armies and respective corps on July 13th, 1863.  The "13th Mass," is with the 1st Corps, at the edge of the village of Funkstown.  Click on the map for a larger view.

Map of Positions on July 13th 1863

The following narrative is from "Three Years in the Army, The story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers from July 16, 1861 to August 1, 1864.”  by Charles E. Davis Jr.,  Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1894.

Monday, July 13.  All day long could be heard firing by the skirmishers of both armies, and there were expectations that a battle would be fought.  The enemy was making earnest efforts to get across the river at Williamsport, but the water had risen so high that it was a dangerous undertaking without bridges.

In order to test the depth and current from time to time, the enemy would make a “nigger” attempt to ford the river daily; threatening him with his life if he didn’t comply, according to the testimony of one of our boys, who was there as a prisoner.

Fresh troops were constantly arriving to increase our numbers, and if the enemy would only wait long enough we would make bold to attack him.  In the meantime we became impatient at our delay.

We have heard men say that they would as lief fight as to eat.  We are not prepared to dispute the existence of such a propensity, though we believe it was extremely rare. We have in mind one of these heroes, who, previous to his desertion, had excited our admiration by his expressions of impatience because the opportunity for fighting had been so long delayed.  We couldn’t understand why, having enlisted as a soldier, all our fighting blood seemed to have vanished, and we hoped that some of the overflow from his abundant supply of courage might reach us; but it didn’t, because, as will be seen, there wasn’t any to overflow.  When we came within range of the enemy’s fire at the battle of Cedar Mountain this hero clapped his hand on his dipper, exclaiming, “By Gad!  I’ve lost my dipper!”  and “lit out” to find it. Three days after, he returned to relate the wonderful deeds he had performed while fighting in another regiment.  He was not court-martialed, though he ought to have been.  It irritated him very much to hear repeated day after day the stories he had related of his valor, polished and exaggerated by the wit of others; and so he decamped, and we never saw him any more.  His name may be found among those patriots who “struck for home,” having escaped being a hero for the lack of a good pair of legs.  One satisfaction we got out of this exhibition of heroism was that we were a little less ashamed to say we preferred eating to fighting.  Furthermore, we began to ponder on this abnormal appetite for human gore, which was said to exist, until we became convinced that few men desired to fight for the love of fighting.

According to our experience the present situation was one of the very few occasions during three years’ service when the army really wanted  to fight, excepting of course those particular moments when men are wrought to a high pitch of excitement, such as the moment of Pickett’s repulse on the third day of Gettysburg.Charles Reed illustration of a confused soldier  Lee was now about to cross the Potomac, and the opportunity seemed at hand when we might finish up the job so far as his army was concerned.  Here he was, his movement south retarded by a swollen river; his men demoralized; encumbered with a  large wagon train, including ambulances loaded with wounded and sick, and Lee himself most likely disheartened.  Our army did not want to go back into Virginia to engage in another series of unsuccessful campaigns.  For these reasons the army was anxious to fight, and our commanding officers were condemned in harsh and bitter terms by the rank and file, when it was learned that  Lee had crossed the river.

Tuesday, July 14.  Discovering that the few troops of the enemy that had been left in our front to scare us from activity had disappeared, we soon learned that the rebel army had succeeded in crossing into Virginia, making it perfectly safe for us to advance to the river without molestation.  As one of the boys facetiously said, “We act like a lot of scared monkeys.”

In the afternoon we marched to within a mile and a half of Willliamsport, which town we left March 1, 1862.  Being disappointed that Lee was allowed to cross without a battle, the regiment was hardly in a mood to visit its old friends with whom we spent nearly five pleasant months. Visits were paid us, however, by several persons, from whom we heard about the boys of the Thirteenth who were captured at Gettysburg, and who passed through the town with the division under General Imboden.  We got considerable information about the enemy, and learned how much they feared we would attempt to stop their flight, as they were in no condition to make much of an opposition.  This news had a still further depressing effect on us, and all night long we did penance by fighting the bugs which infested the clover-field where the regiment was encamped.

With respect to the operations of the Army of the Potomac at this time, it is interesting to read the testimony given before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, which the following is an extract:

General Sedgwick made the statement that a council of war was held by General Meade, July 12th, and that General Wadsworth, then commanding the First Corps in the absence of General Newton, General Howard, of the Eleventh, and General Pleasonton, commanding the cavalry, voted for attack, and that all others present strongly opposed it.

General Wadsworth’s testimony before the same committee was that a council was held at 9 P.M. on the evening of the 12th at Meade’s headquarters. That Meade stated briefly the condition of our forces, giving his estimates of our army and the best information he has as to the strength of the enemy.

That Generals Sedgwick, Slocum, Sykes, French, and Hays, pronounced decidedly against the attack.  That General Meade stated that he favored an attack.  That he came there to fight the enemy, and he did not see any good reason why he shouldn't fight them, but he could not take the responsibility of bringing on an engagement against the advice of his corps commanders.

Generals Meade, Warren, French, Hunt, Humphries & Sikes

Pictured right to left, General G. K. Warren, General William B. French, Commanding General Meade, seated, General Hunt, Chief of Artillery, General Humphries, and General Sykes.  Taken at Culpeper, Virginia, September, 1863.

Allowing Lee to cross the Potomac River without interference had a very demoralizing effect on the army.  To march all the way from Gettysburg to Williamsport merely to see that Lee got safely across the river seemed an unnecessary expenditure of muscle. The army felt exactly as General Meade described his own feelings to be, and it seemed a pity that his strength of mind was not equal to his judgment.  “Councils of war never fight,” has been said.  The army was heartily sick of this shilly-shally way of fighting.  The growing feeling of discontent that rankled in the hearts of the men found daily utterance as we marched along.

W.L. Sheppard illustration of Lee's Army Crossing the Potomac at night.

"Retreat From Gettysburg.  Accident During the Night Crossing Of The Potomac On A Pontoon Bridge.”  by W.L. Sheppard.


The following newspaper column tries to give a good summation of events that transpired during General Lee's crossing.

JULY 16, 1863.



Headquarters Army of the Potomac. 14th.   The first news of the retreat of Lee and his army into Virginia was received at Hagerstown at 4 o’clock this (Tuesday) morning, from a citizen who lived within their lines. Gen. Kilpatrick, commanding the cavalry division at that point, soon had his men on the road, and reached Williamsport at 7 o’clock, where he found 500 rebel soldiers, who had deserted.

The news reached General Meade’s headquarters at 5 o’clock, when General Buford’s division of cavalry was ordered to Falling Waters, where they engaged and captured a brigade of rebels under General Pettigrew, who was killed.  The position of the rebels was naturally a strong one, but their works were not of much account, consisting principally of hurriedly constructed rifle pits.

After Lee had recrossed the river it was ascertained that he had commenced  to move his artillery to the rear as early as yesterday morning which he continued during the whole day, depending almost wholly upon his infantry and cavalry to keep Gen. Meade in check.

Gen. Meade held a council of war on Saturday and Sunday evenings, consisting of his Corps Commanders, when the question of attack was freely discussed.  All the generals assembled are in favor of an immediate attack, except Genls. Sedgwick, Slocum, Sykes and French.  Gen. Meade himself was in favor of active operations, but finding his Corps Commanders equally divided he hesitated to give the order, and the rebel army was allowed to make its escape.

An order was issued last night for a movement along the whole line at 7 o’clock this morning.

Yesterday afternoon about 2000 Pennsylvania militia, who had arrived in the vicinity of Hagerstown were taken to the front and put into action.  They were ordered to charge the enemy, which was done promptly, but not without some loss.

New York, 15th.  The World publishes the following dispatch:

Hagerstown, 14th, via Washington, 15th.  The rebels commenced to retreat across the Potomac Sunday night. Lee sent all the wagon trains and plundered stock over the ford at Williamsport. — The ford is still very deep, and some wagons were destroyed, and a few cattle.

The infantry and artillery retired along the pike to Williamsport, thence down the Maryland shore to a point opposite Falling Waters, where they had a pontoon bridge which they made some days ago at Williamsport.

They arrived at the pontoon bridge at 12 o’clock last night and commenced crossing at once.

Hill and Ewell seem to have got away altogether, and Longstreet and Stuart protected the rear.

Stuart was driven beyond here last night by Kilpatrick, who this morning moved down toward Downyville, and with Buford attacked Longstreet and Stuart while attempting to cross.  We presume a corps from the army of the Potomac was also engaged.

The rebel picket outside Hagerstown was withdrawn at 4 o’clock this morning.

Lee himself crossed the Potomac on Sunday.

We captured between 1500 and 2000 prisoners.

The rebels took away several thousand stolen horses.  They have left at Williamsport a number of the wounded in the Gettysburg fights.

Firing at Downesville has been brisk all day.

The rebels said they waited for an attack from Meade long enough.  Their fortifications are very extensive, running over ten miles in a good position.

The retreat was hastened by his want of subsistence, they having eaten up everything here, and sent for supplies to Martinsburg.

Lee will be apt to occupy Winchester at once, unless a Federal force interferes with his march there.

Several hundred rebels are reported to have been drowned while crossing at the ford and on the bridge.

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Halleck, Lincoln & Meade

The selected telegraph exchange speaks for itself.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,           
July 14, 1863 — 11 a.m.  (Received 12.10 p.m.)

Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck,
                               General-in-Chief :

On advancing my army this morning, with a view of ascertaining the exact position of the enemy and attacking him if the result of the examination should justify me, I found, on reaching his lines, that they were evacuated.  I immediaely put my army in pursuit, the cavalry in advance.  At this period my forces occupy Williamsport, but I have not yet heard from the advance on Falling Waters, where it is reported he crossed his infantry on a bridge.  Your instructions as to further movements, in case the enemy are entirly across the river, are desired.

GEO. G. MEADE,      

Washington, D.C.,  July 14, 1863 — 1 p.m.

Major-General Meade,
                               Army-of-the-Potomac :

The enemy should be pursued and cut up, wherever he may have gone.  This pursuit may or may not be upon the rear or flank, as circumstances may require.  The inner flank toward Washington presents the greatest advantages.  Supply yourself from the country as far as possible.  I cannot advise details, as I do not know where Lee's army is, nor where your pontoon bridges are.  I need hardly say to you that the escape of Lee's army without another battle has created great dissatisfaction in the mind of the President, and it will require an active and energetic pursuit on your part to remove the impression that it has not been sufficiently active heretofore.

H. W. HALLECK,      

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,                 
July 14, 1863 — 2.30 p.m.  (Received 3.10 p.m.)

Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck,
                               General-in-Chief :

Having performed my duty conscientiously and to the best of my ability, the censure of the President conveyed in your dispatch of 1 p.m. this day, is, in my judgment, so undeserved that I feel compelled most respectfully to ask to be immediately relieved from the command of the army.

GEO. G. MEADE,      
Major-General Commanding.

Washington, D.C.,  July 14, 1863 — 4.30 p.m.

Major-General Meade,
                               Army-of-the-Potomac :

My telegram, stating the disappointment of the President at the escape of Lee's army, was not intended as a censure, but as a stimulous to an active pursuit.  It is not deemed a suficient cause for your application to be relieved.

H. W. HALLECK,      

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Should General Meade Have Attacked?

The following excerpts sum up the conflicting feelings within the Army of the Potomac.  Col. Wainwright expresses the opinion that General Meade showed good judgement in post-poning his attack, while Sergeant Austin Stearns expresses the frustration of the soldiers in the ranks.

From "A Diary of Battle,” The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

Williamsport, July 14, Tuesday.  This morning when we turned out Lee was gone clean over the Potomac into Virginia again.  People at home of course will now pitch into Meade, as they did McClellan after Antietam, for letting him escape.  My own opinion is that under the circumstances and with the knowledge General Meade then had he was justified in putting off his attack until today.  Everything went to prove that the enemy could not cross the river until it fell, as General French reported having captured the whole of their pontoons. It seems, however, that he did not get them all, for Lee had enough left to make one bridge with the help of some canal boats.  I hear that a citizen came into our lines in the afternoon and reported Lee withdrawing then.  I know that none of his guns in front of us were removed until after the rain, for I examined all the tracks this morning. Had we attacked anytime before dark we should have encountered the whole of their artillery.  As the guns on his left had the farthest to go to reach the crossing, they certainly were not the last removed.

Edwin Forbes Painting of Lee's Defenses near Funkstown

Last Stand of the Army of Virginia.   Painting of General Lee's defensive works near Hagerstown, Maryland, after the battle of Gettysburg.  Oil painting on canvas by Edwin Forbes.

We pushed on to this place at a pretty good rate, passing directly through their line of works. These are by far the strongest I have seen yet; evidently laid out by engineers and built as if they meant to stand a month’s siege.  The parapet was a good six feet wide on top, and the guns, which are very thick, were all placed so as to get a perfect cross fire and to sweep their whole front.  When shall we learn to put up such field works?  It is just as easy to put them up right as wrong, but ours are never laid out with an eye to their whole length, or even to the length of a corps. Brigade commanders are directed about where to place their men, and even the best of them only look after their own front; there is no reliance on mutual support and protection.  The only way a proper one could be taken up would be to have an engineer officer at corps head-quarters, and have it thoroughly understood that he was responsible for the position of all field works, and no division commander could say him nay, or interfere with him. There is a curious jealousy in our army, a grasping after power which does not rightly belong to them, which must be owing to our new-fledged generals not knowing the exact duties and powers of their position, and consequently being afraid that they will not get all they are entitled to.

We halt tonight about 1/2 a mile from Williamsport in the Courtyard of a large, but rather dilapidated house.  It had been a fine one in its day, & still bore quite an aristocratic appearance.  The owner, like all of his class in Maryland was rank secesh, but of course held his tongue, & did what could to give us a supper  - The day has been cool & cloudy with some rain.

The following is an excerpt from Sergeant Austin Stearns memoirs, “Three Years With Company K,” edited by Arthur Kent, University Associated Press, 1976.

The question was often asked “why were we lying around here idling away our time?”  “Why were we not moving on the enemy?”  Were the McClellan tactics to be again used and the rebs again escape?  It began to look like it.  O how we wished we had “Old Joe”;* how he would [have] pressed and fought and drove that rebel army!   The Lord was indeed on our side, for it rained every day and the “Old Potomac” was running with full banks, which made the crossing very difficult  It was a very critical time for Lee and his army.  We thought then, and I have no reason to think otherwise now, that if Meade had pushed as we had  a reason to expect he would, he might have taken a large portion of the rebel army and destroyed a vast amount of the munitions of war.  Report said that a “council of war” held at this time, Howard, Wadsworth, and some others of the newly appointed officers were for moving on the enemy immediately, while others and by far the greater part were for delay, and their council prevailed.  There is no question but what the rebels would have made a most desperate resistance and there would have been hard fighting and there would have been a long list of killed and wounded on both sides, but in the end would it not have payed; would it not have saved thousands of lives and millions of treasures; for with the army of Virginia destroyd, the cause of the rebels would have been most desperate.  But, say some, how if the Union army had been licked.  All I have to say is, that would have been impossible, for the Union army were flushed with victory and reinforcements were constantly arriving, and food and ammunitions were in abundance, and from my own personal knowledge had confidence in their officers to an extent never before seen and it would have taken a larger force than Lee commanded to stay their onward march.

On the other hand, Lee’s army was a defeated one; they were not on the “sacred soil” but far from their supplies, short in food and ammunition with an angry river running between them and safety.  From my own personal experience these were most depressing things for a soldier.

*Major-General Joseph Hooker.

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Letter of Lieutenant John B. Noyes, 28th Mass.

John B. Noyes, former member of Company B, 13th Mass, now a 25 year old officer with the Irish 28th, offers his usual critical assessment of affairs in this letter home.  He is in agreement with Colonel Wainwright, that battle at Williamsport would have been sanguinary.  Also like Wainwright, Noyes gives voice to the low opinion of Pennsylvania Farmers and Pennsylvania Militia expressed by many other Union soldiers.  — He marched right passed the very spot Company B picketed at Antietam Ford in August, 1861.

Sanford Gifford, Camp of the 7th NY near Frederick, 1863.

Sanford Robinson Gifford, "The Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Frederick Maryland, 1863"; oil on canvals  [cropped].  My apologies to the artist for cropping out some of his beautiful clouds.  John Noyes mentions seeing the 7th NY camped here while on the march.

    Camp 28th Mass. Vols. Near Sandy Hook Md     
Pleasant Valley, Friday July 17th 1863.

Dear Mother

The rebels are driven out of Maryland and we now are upon the barren fields of Va.  In a letter of the 12th inst. to father, sent to day, with a postscript acknowledging the receipt of money in letters of date, I believe, July 4th & 10th, I have made remarks on the concluding portion of the Campaign, which may be good for nothing. The Army of the Potomac has failed to crush the Army of Gen’l Lee.  Still it is not well to too hastily blame the Union Generals.  It will be seen that Generals French, Slocum, Sykes and Sedgwick commanding respectively the 3d, 12th, 5th & 6th Corps, were opposed to an immediate advance upon the Rebels, while no Corps Commanders save Wadsworth of the 1st Corps and Howard of the 11th favored it.  Gen’l Meade himself is said to have favored our advance.  Had our army advanced the encounter would have been hand to hand and of the most deadly nature.  The armies would have been about Equal in number, for the 60 or 70,000 men that left Falmouth to fight Gen’l Lee had been terribly reduced by stragglers and battle.  Our Corps for instance is but 5000 strong, and my Company has lost more from the marches than from the battle at Gettysburgh.  Our Regiment drew but 136 rations yesterday.  This number includes pioneers, drummers, teamsters &c, in fact every man with 28 on his cap, whether bearing a gun or not.

Had we attacked the rebels we should have had to advance upon their entrenchments which were very strong indeed, with good ground behind for retreating purposes.  To get at the rebels we should have had to advance over an open space of a thousand yards, exposed to their terrible fire. It is very easy to talk at home of surrounding the rebels, but to do this with a force barely equaling theirs – hic labor, hue opus est.  During the whole of our arduous campaign we have had to do all the fighting.

Through out the march I have met with none of the much talked of Pennsylvania militia that will be demanding bounties and untold acres in the years to come for their inexhaustible patriotism.  The 7th N.Y. State Militia, of all our supports that were to come, I saw encamped at Frederick, Md. July 9th.  But while I met none of the militia we had reason to expect to assist us, I saw aye, as I marched through towns, but a few hours before deserted by the rebels, stalwart men, who should have volunteered to defend their homes, who should have been foremost to give us every assistance, and in every way impede the rebels. While on Pennsylvania soil the same miserable, swindling, with some honorable exceptions, was practiced upon us, that might be excused perhaps in Virginia where scarcity of provisions might well be pleaded in extenuation of high prices.

The patriotic Pennsylvania women did not blush at selling 3 pound loaves of bread at 75 cents, and milk at 25 cents a canteen full, and miserable little biscuits at 25 cents a dozen, at the same time that the fields were blooming with grain.farmer  Fine indeed were the wheat fields of Pennsylvania through which we passed, and great indeed was the destruction caused by our Army in its onward march, most of the way through the fields, trampling down roads through the yellow grain 50 to a 100 feet wide, or more.  Nor did our men weary with fatiguing marches respect the stacked wheat but lugged it away to rest their aching limbs upon the wet and moist nights.  The Army of the Potomac which drove the rebels from the rich harvests of Pennsylvania has no tears to shed for the losses of the Pennsylvania farmers.  The Philadelphia Enquirer may laud her Regiments, the uprising of her people, a heroic bearing.  We saw nothing of it.  We saw enough to show that the people cared not to take care of themselves and were little thankful to their liberators.

We were informed that out of the flourishing town of Uniontown Md., very near Penn. and much like it, three men had gone into the army.  One hundred & fifty would have been a small number to have left its borders had the town been in Virginia.

Farewell to Penn.  We must have gone through Copperhead counties.  In conversation with a Pennsylvanian, an officer in a New York Regiment, I think, although he may have been in the 140th Pennsylvania, he exhibited a much stronger and deeper contempt for the Penn. populations we met than myself.

The Marylanders were somewhat more cordial, and it must be granted that they have exhibited a commendable alacrity in the way of enlistments lately.

Perhaps the rainy weather may have had something to do with the delay in the movement of our Army lately, for it must be confessed that it did rain pouring on the afternoon of the 12th inst, & a portion of the day including the Eve’g during which the rebels were hurrying their retreat.  To be sure we have marched hard for a month or more, nearly all the time in rain, but marching and fighting are different things, and I for one pray to be engaged in battle when the rain will not moisten the powder of the cartridges, when it is not impossible to Keep a pipe lighted, to use a rough illustration, because of the quick falling drops.

detail of Edwin Forbes painting, soldiers marching in the rain.

On the morning of the 14th inst. we advanced.  Gen’l Caldwell’s Division was very close upon the pursued rebels.  We had some not very agreeable sounding missiles passing over our heads in pretty accurate range, which compelled us to change our position slightly.  One or two very dastardly acts were done.

The rebels, it is said, held up a rag which was supposed to be a flag, and had their guns stacked behind a breastwork about 3 rods long.  A body of Cavalry charged; the rebels fired upon them when within about 20 feet of the works, killing a Major and a large number of others, and then immediately surrendered.  They should have been bayoneted on the spot.  Seven horses, which I counted, lay within two rods of the works.

I said we advanced early A.M. on the 14th inst.  About 60 of our men, and five officers were on picket the previous evening.  We did not come up to the firing till we had advanced, I should judge, 3 miles or so.  We passed through the extended line of works of the rebels, which were in a very filthy condition, not speaking much for their cleanliness.  Much as I should have desired to annihilate the rebels, I should hardly have wished to cross the open fields in face of the rebel fire.  Had the rebels been in their entrenchments in force, and we advanced the result would have been doubtful.  A man behind entrenchments is a man & a half.  We proved ourselves much stronger at Gettysburgh, July 3d.  Indeed our artillery did the business for us, much to our satisfaction, with the help of a brigade to the right of us.  I am speaking of the 2d great charge of the rebels, directed upon Gen’l Caldwell’s Division.

Wednesday Am. we left Falling Waters, and marched through Sharpsburgh to Antietam Iron Works, passing over the identical camping ground of Co. B. 13th Mass. Vols, which with Co. A, you will recollect, was stationed at Antietam Ford in August 1861.  The ground was perfectly familiar to me, and I only regretted that I could not fall out and get dinner at the Miller’s, one of my old haunts when I wanted a good meal, of old.  I assure you I was never hungrier than when I passed that same Miller’s house. Crossing the canal which was dry, we marched along the excellent tow path, about 8 miles, when we halted for the night.  I had no dinner.  My coffee and Sugar had been stolen from my darky’s haversack the night before when rations were very scarce. Making a cup of strong tea for supper I went crackerless to bed, my poncho beneath me, my tent over me in place of a blanket.

Hardtack by Winslow Homer

The next AM the Brigade Quartermaster was saluted with loud cries for hard tack.  I heard Gen’l Caldwell remark to him that the brigade should not move without rations. Accordingly crackers enough for four a piece were delivered to the men obtained I know not where.  The officers however Could get none. Nor could they get them at noon when two days rations were distributed to the men.  However I borrowed a few for diner, and not until night could I replenish my haversack.  About 25 miles were accomplished on the 15th, the Men Keeping up, because they did not wish to lose their rations.

For a week past rumor had it that Gen’l Foster was in Va.  I could not believe it.  It seems that some of his 9 months men whose term had about expired among them the 43d Mass. were at Harper’s Ferry.  Hence the rumor.  We are now resting and clothing ourselves.  New shoes, breeches &c are to be given the men.  It rained hard last night, and has rained all day to day.  Delenda Est Carthago.  I must have money.   Rec’d letters from George and Journal of the 9th and 10th.  Has postage on newspapers risen?  You put 2 stamps on our papers.

Your Aff. Son
                    John B. Noyes.

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The March To Warrenton

Alexander Gardner photo of Pontoon Bridges across the Potomac at Berlin.

  Alexander Gardner took this photograph of the pontoon bridges across the Potomac River at Berlin, Maryland in October, 1862.  The army [First Corps] crossed here again on July 18, 1863.  Sam Webster met his father at the Berlin Telegraph Office, while camping here on July 16.

From Charles E. Davis, jr."Three Years in the Army,” continued:

Wednesday, July 15.  Instead of following Lee’s army across the river at Williamsport, we took a south-easterly direction, marching through Bakersville, Keedysville, and Rohrersville, to Crampton Gap, a distance of twenty miles, where we camped.  During the day we crossed a portion of the Antietam battlefield.  “The enemy was driven out of Maryland,” as the papers stated, while we were styled  “The defenders of the nation’s honor.”  The statement didn’t seem to be quite in accordance with the facts, nor are we at all satisfied that the “nations’s honor” had been very well defended.

In the meantime we continued singing “What will you do when the war breaks the country up?”

We marched down the mountain, through Burkittsville, to near Berlin, where we encamped — a distance of eight miles.  The sutler arrived with a load of luxuries, and he afforded almost as much pleasure as the paymaster.

Thursday July 16.  The second anniversary of our muster in at Fort Independence.  One year more of service.

From “The Diary of Sam Webster”:
The Diary of Sam Webster.  Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Thursday, July 16th.   March through Berkettsville, to within a mile or two (by the turnpike) from Knoxville, which I visit.  Find Libby, get something to eat, and then go down the R. R. to Berlin.  Met several acquaintances. Found Pa on the steps of the telegraph office.  had been there only a few minutes. Has been to Wilmington, Delaware, where he smashed a rebel’s jaw for talking disrespectfully of abolishionists.  Brother Ike is reported paroled, and at West Chester, Pa.

Sam refers to his younger brother Isaac, or Ike Webster, who he last saw at the College Church Hospital in Gettysburg.  After no word from Ike for two weeks, Sam might have wondered if Isaac was not killed, or 'gone up' as he put it.  In fact Ike was one of many 13th Mass soldiers captured, who accepted the Confederate Parole offered and was marched to a parole camp at West Chester, PA.  For many, the parole gave them an un-anticipated furlough from the front lines.  This is discussed on the 'Fate of the Prisoners' page of this website.

The parole in question was controversial because at the time it was issued, the Government had  just stated that any such battle-field parole from the enemy would not be valid, and those who accepted it would be punished and then returned to duty.  Unfortunately, those who obeyed orders had risked dying in Southern Prisons though they could not have known it at the time.  Colonel Wainwright commented on the whole mess in his journal entry of July 21, 1863.

“There is a good deal of talk being made about War Department Order No. 207, regulating the giving of parole by prisoners.  It does not admit of any parole being binding which is not given at the regularly appointed places of exchange.  The thing had been much abused, no doubt, by paroling men on the battlefield, as also by officers who gave thier parole in order to escape gong to Libby.  But the present order should have its exceptions as in the case of a badly wounded man, whose chance of recovery would be very small if he shoud be moved.”

What the Colonel did not yet know, is that the official parole process broke down at this time, and some of those captured  were now prisoners for the duration of the war.  Chances of survival for prisoners continued to decrease later in the war.

From Charles E. Davis jr. "Three Years in the Army, continued:

Saturday, July 18.  Yesterday we saw the Fifty-first Regiment, whose term of enlistment (nine months) had expired, start for home.  This regiment was placed in the second division of our corps on the 13th inst., and fortunately for its members they escaped the honor of dying for their country.

A pontoon bridge having been completed across the Potomac, we crossed to Waterford, about eight miles, passing through the village of Lovettsville.

The town of  Waterford.

Contemporary view of the town of Waterford, taken June, 2017.

Sunday, July 19.  Marched eight miles to a point beyond Hamilton and camped in the woods near Harmony Church; arriving, alas ! too late for church services.  A lieutenant and six men were detailed and started on the 25th for Boston for the conscripts, substitutes, volunteers, and bounty-jumpers who were assigned to the Thirteenth.

Scenery on the road south of Waterford

Scenery on the road south from Waterford.

Private Edward Lee of Company K

From "Three Years With Company K, by Sergeant Austin Stearns:

       Down near Harmony where we bivouacked one night, Lee of K went out to forage. Night came on and he was wanted for guard, but he had not returned.   Morning came, and we were ordered to march, but no Lee.  Where was he? but no one could answer.  We moved on, some of the boys taking his gun and equipments, [and] about noon he turned up and reported for duty.  He said he went to a house and they gave him something that was in harmony with his feelings and he imbibed so freely that he knew nothing till after we had moved; when he came to himself he started without even a look or a smile.

Crossing Goose Creek

From  Charles E. Davis jr. "Three Years in the Army”, continued:

Winslow Homer humorous illustration "Mud" from Camp Life

Monday, July 20.  Marched at 4 A.M, reaching Middleburg at six in the evening, a distance of sixteen miles.  Two of General Newton’s staff were captured by Mosby’s guerrillas.

On reaching Goose Creek we found the water between three and four feet deep and without a bridge, so we were obliged to ford it.  A soldier acts a good deal like a cat when his feet first touch the water.  In this case the banks were very slippery, and before they knew it, a good many made an unexpected plunge into the stream, to the great merriment of others who had succeeded better.

We found two hundred sick and wounded rebel soldiers at this place, abandoned by the enemy, who were hastening on towards Richmond.  We also found a large quantity of stores stolen from the people of Maryland and Pennsylvania, which were appropriated to the uses of the Army of the Potomac.

Sergeant Austin Stearns wrote of this crossing:

“I remember of fording Goose Creek one hot summers day where the water was three feet deep if you could keep in the right place, but if you turned but a very little to down stream, to four. Some of the boys plunged right in, not caring for the wet; others would take off their pants and, tucking up their shirts, go through dry with the exceptions of their coat tails.  I chose the later way as there was time enough, so strapping my pants and boots on my back and taking a middle course, I got there all right, but when I reached the opposite bank could not climb up, for the banks were steep and so many had gone before that it was only one mass of soft slippery mud. There was nothing to stick to; it all wanted to stick to you.  Others were in the same perdicament, and after vainly trying several times and slipping back each time, I got a friendly hand and came out all right at last with dry pants and boots.  The Gen’l sat on his horse and laughed as though he enjoyed it.”

Goose Creek, the crossing north of Middleburg

The high banks of Goose Creek, where the army crossed.  This photograph is taken late June, 2017, from the bridge, where Foxcroft Road, VA Route 626, crosses Goose Creek North of the village of Middleburg.  The view looks South, the bridge crossing the creek in an east/west direction at this place. The army likely crossed very near here.

From "A Diary of Battle”, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

Wainwright's friend,  James M. Sanderson

Middleburg, Monday, July 20th.-  Our march today has been to the east on the district of country we came down last autumn; indeed our Corps is hugging pretty close onto the Bull Run Mts, & has about all the army to the right of us.  But although we are thus supposed to be separated from the enemy, we found to day that Moseby’s men could strike any who were too venturesome when  here.  The bridge over Goose Creek being gone, & the ford at that point being too deep, Major Russell was sent up stream to try another; old Sanderson went with him. - an orderly came back to say that the ford was good; but nothing has been heard of the others, who  are now doubtless heading straight for Richmond with a better prospect of getting there soon, than the rest of the army has. —  How they were captured we do not know, whether they foolishly rode on across the stream, or whether they were only watering their horses in the stream & found themselves covered by the rifles of a party of Moseby’s men. — The orderly who was sent back thinks the latter most probably, & the lay of the land around the stream makes me of the same opinion.  — Every one is sorry for Sanderson; still the idea of his going to the Libby, with his love of good eating & for little comforts, is so ridiculous that every one laughs when they first hear of  it.  Major Russell is not at all regretted, unless it may be by the General, he having succeed in making himself pretty thoroughly disliked during the fortnight that he has been with this command.

Colonel Wainwright's friend, Major James M. Sanderson, pictured above, was captured by Mosby's raiders and sent to Libby Prison, along with the unpopular Major Russell of General Newton's staff.

The day was a good one for marching, so that the men came along pretty well, except at the crossing where they made a good deal of fuss about going down into the water; & where Lt Rosengarten made considerable of a fool of himself in trying to force them over.  The report that Moseby was about, tended to keep the men pretty well within sight of the column & the provost -guard begins to understand its duty better than formerly.  Gen’l Newton I fear is given to talking somewhat big in orders; at least one issued to day in which he says “straglers” will be brought back by shooting at them” sounds very much that way, especially as they were not shot at.

Middleburg is a wretched little place of a couple of dozen tumble down houses, & no men.  It is rankly secesh, & most of its male inhabitants are out with Moseby & other freebooters.  The troops are camped to the south of the village.

NOTE:  On July 26 when the army was camped at Warrenton Junction Wainwright wrote:  —we heard from Sanderson yesterday morning through two ladies who came in from Culpepper:  one of them the wife of he Editor of the "Washington Star," was an old aquaintance of his, & he got permission to visit her as he passed through the town. She told us that they were captured as we supposed, while watering their horses in the creek.  They had been quite well treated so far, being allowed to ride as far as Culpepper, whence they were sent to Richmond by rail.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  From the Photographic History of the Civil War:  While Colonel Sanderson was confined in Libby Prison he issued a statement sustaining the contention of the Confederate authorities regarding the rations issued the prisoners, for which he was denounced by a mass-meeting of officers held in the prison who declared that their food was insufficient to sustain life.

Louis K. Harlow Illustration, children marching with soldiers

From “The Diary of Sam Webster”:

Tuesday,  July 21st.  The loyalty of the people on the north side of the pike through Snicker's Gap was exemplified yesterday.  A girl 14 or maybe 16 years old on the way to school  emptied here dinner basket and gave her dinner to the men -- and did it willingly.  A short distance further on, at a house on the right of the road, the lady of the house gave all the bread, etc., she had just taken out of the oven. She said she was doing this “for her government,” and, if she “had only known they were coming, she would have baked more.”  Besides, she had her boys carrying out water to the road.  As an offset Charlie Haas, of 94th N.Y. last evening while waiting at a house for some milk was, with another, surprised by gurerrilas, brought by the man of the house, and carried off to Mosby’s over the Bull Run Mtn. Mosby wished him to join his band, but he refused. He was paroled to go to Alexandria, came into camp instead, and a guard was sent to arrest the man who betrayed him.  He was found upstairs under a bed, where, he said, he was hunting for something.  Said he had never seen Charlie. (This is all from the story as afterward told by Charlie.)  Gen. Newton, formerly of the 6th Corps is now commanding the 1st.

From  Charles E. Davis jr. “Three Years in the Army”, continued:

Wednesday, July 22.  [Middleburg] We spent the day in picking blackberries, which were in great abundance, and hunting for new potatoes.  In the evening, about 10 o’clock, we started as rear guard to the wagon train, and marched until 3 A.M. — a distance of ten miles.  Before reaching White Plains, the Thirteenth was halted and sent out for picket duty.

Thursday, July 23.  Marched at 10 A.M., arriving at Warrenton at 4 P.M., a distance of twelve miles. We passed through the town to the west, camping on the hill.  It was about a year since we camped in this vicinity, where we had such a feast of blackberries and sulphur-spring water.

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Letter from Clarence

The following correspondence published in the Boston Evening Transcript is the first of several in a series of reports submitted from "CLARENCE" of the 13th Mass.   Clarence may possibly be Clarence Bell, who wrote several post-war articles published in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars, and occasionally mentions clerking at Head-quarters.

Scenery on the road south of Hamilton, view north

Scene on the road south of Hamilton, headed to Middleburg;  View to the North.  The yellow house pictured in the letter below is in Hamilton, Virginia, photographed June, 2017.


Warrenton,Va. July 24th.

From The 13th Regiment.  We left the town of Middleton, in the afternoon of July 14th, crossing the South Mountains, through Boonsboro, marching to Funkstown, near Hagerstown, arriving at midnight, having travelled seventeen miles.*  At daylight we again started, but halted after marching a short distance, in order to allow a baggage train to pass us.  We then moved, passing through a portion of Hagerstown, and over the battle-field of Antietam to Smoketown and Keedysville, thence to the mountains, where we encamped, having gone about twenty two miles.  At daylight on the 16th we again started and passed through Crampton’s Gap and Burkittsville to within two miles of Berlin, having made about twelve miles.  We remained in camp the 17th.   On the morning of the 18th we left Berlin, and marched to the Potomac, crossed upon the pontoons (the same upon which we crossed last October,) and encamped within a mile of Waterford, Va.  It was surprising to see this part of Virginia in so prosperous a condition, as the wheat was all harvested, and standing in miniature monuments on the extensive fields.

The corn crops were very large, but owing to the scarcity of rain in the months of May and June, they are not in a very flourishing condition.  At nearly every house, by which we passed, the gardens were well stocked with vegetables, which excited an internal craving, sometimes too strong to be resisted.  A large number of the houses displayed the Stars and Stripes and it was also noticed that the white men were rather more numerous than in October last, giving the impression that Lee had suffered by desertions.  On the 19th we started at daybreak, passing through Waterford, and marching to Hamilton, a distance of seven miles.  Here the Union sentiment was still more prevalent.  hamilton, va; yellow house.A large number of the houses hung out the old flag, and the ladies were decked with the “red, white and blue,”  and stood for hours passing water to the soldiers. One house displayed the flag in the front yard, and the national shield in the window, while on the sill lay a sheet of music - the “Star Spangled Banner.”  Col. White, of White’s rebel cavalry, belongs to this place.  One of the citizens in the course of his remarks, said that he expected that this would be the last time any large body of troops would pass through that place, and that we should have peace within six months.  He considered that the backbone of the Rebellion had been broken by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and that it was no use to hold out longer.

We left Hamilton at six o’clock on the morning of the 20th, passing through Purcellville, and crossing Goose Creek, passed through Middleburg, camping just outside the town.

This place is one of the hottest “secesh” homes in the State, and is a gloomy contrast to Waterford.  There are a large number of sick and wounded rebels in the town, at a hospital established in one of the houses. An encouraging Union sentiment was noticed along the road, and at one point a lady was offering loaves of splendid bread to the men, having already distributed a barrel of flour in that way and this too, after her spring house had been broken open by the Union troops, and all her butter and milk taken, beside a large quantity of poultry.  A gentleman, at one of the houses, invited a party of three of us, in to dinner.  The prices of salable articles were very different and more reasonable than in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

Six men and three officers of each regiment are to be sent for the conscripts, and this letter goes by one of the members, as no letter can be sent from the army for some time.  Blackberries are in great abundance, and are eagerly appropriated by the soldiers.  The soldiers are strongly in favor of the draft, and “itched” to have a chance at the New York rowdies.  The whole gang would have been cleaned out in double quick.

We left Middleburg in the afternoon of the 22d, and travelled all night to White Plains, but which we did not reach till midnight, although the distance was only nine miles.  The road was in bad condition, being crossed by innumerable streams, the beds of which were filled by rocks.  At five on the morning of the 24th we again moved, passing through White Plains and crossing the Manassas Gap Railroad, arriving here at three this afternoon.  This city is no comparison to what it was when we first came here in July, 1862, and the desolation of war is fearfully apparent.  Nearly all the ladies are in deep mourning, and at the battle of Gettysburg there were thirty Warrenton men killed.  It is thought that we are to remain here for a few days.  The rebs are at Culpepper.


*Clarence seems to be travelling in the rear of the regiment at the start, as he wrote he left Middletown, Md on the 14th.  The regiment was already at Williamsport then.  The reference to the New York rowdies refers to the city's Draft Riots, July 13-17.

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A Lazy Corps Commander ?

Colonel Wainwright was a bit of a conceited, upper-crust New York State aristocrat, but he worked hard at his military vocation, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery, and he was good at it.  He was very opinionated, especially regarding the character of others; from the President on down to the men in his batteries.  His criticism of the new corps commander of Major-General John Newton is amusing.

From "A Diary of Battle", The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Edited by Alan Nevins.

Major-General John Newton, Commanding 1st Corps

Warrenton; Friday, July 24th - We started early this morning & having a short march to make reached this place before noon.  Gen’l Cutler with the 1st Division & all the train went by a road to the east of us, while the main body pushed on direct.  Cutler got a good bit ahead of us, & was in the town even before the cavalry.  Seeing his column in the distance, Newton at first thought it was the enemy & commenced to form line of battle. - we halted on the outskirts of the village & there Gen’l Newton gave us orders as to posting his command by the map, without visiting the ground himself.  Two Batteries supported by the 3d Division were to cover the road to Waterloo; their Batteries & the 1st Division the road to Sulphur Springs; & the 2nd Division to camp between the two.  I had just got those on the Sulphur Springs road placed, when Cutler began to move his troops off, having rec’d orders to go elsewhere.  After some little trouble, I got him to hold on until I could see Gen’l Newton about it.  The General was lying on a bed in the hotel, reading, & had a great aversion to being disturbed;  nor could I persuade him to go out & look at the ground himself at all.  On my representation that the position was the most important point of all around the town & that the whole Corps was posted there last year when we came in, he admitted that it ought to be held.

Then he wanted me to go out & post the infantry as I thought best.  This I refused to do as not being a part of my business.  Still he was unwilling to look after it himself; & finally sent Maj. Baird, his Acting Adj’t Gen’l out with orders to post the 1st Division as much in the manner that the Corps was placed last year as possible.  — I trust that our new general does not mean to be so lazy all the time. Very likely it does not matter this time how the troops are posted, as there is probably no danger whatever; but his neglect has given much dissatisfaction, & caused a loss of confidence in him as a commanding general.

Warrenton Virginia, Courthouse in foreground

It has been quite warm to day for the first time this month; the whole of July up to the present has been cool & wet.  Our H’d Qts tents are pitched in the Court yard of the hotel; the general & a number of his staff occupying rooms in the house.  The town looks much as it did last fall, only still more deserted.  The inhabitants come out of their houses more, & I noticed some of the surgeons & Q.M’s having a good time at several of the places.  One of the bands came up & played in front of our quarters this evening, which brought out all the niggers, & a number of the white girls too.  None of the other Corps have come here to day, but I understand that army H’d Qts will be here tomorrow.

Pictured is the town of Warrenton, Virginia; Court-house on the right.

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The  Brigade Advances to Rappahannock Station

The First Corps was marched to Warrenton Junction on the 25th, where Corps Head-quarters was established, and most of the corps paused to refit.  The 2nd Division [13th Mass] however, continued to advance along the railroad, the 13th's Brigade stopping at Rappahannock Station in support of the cavalry.

From Charles E. Davis, jr.;  "Three Years in the Army," continued:

Saturday, July 25.  [Warrenton]  Yesterday was spent by some of us in visiting the acquaintances we made on our previous visit; reaching “across the bloody chasm,” and shaking hands with some who could sink their prejudices against a Yankee long enough to pump him for information of what was going to be done.  We were otherwise engaged in throwing up earthworks.

This morning we were turned out at 3 A.M., and marched at five o’clock to Warrenton Junction, twelve miles, which place we reached at noon.  Here we rested for an hour or two and then marched to Catlett’s Station, three miles, and, for some unexplained reason, immediately returned to the Junction.

illustration of girl with umbrella in rainstorm

At night, while a heavy thunder-shower was coming up, and we are congratulating ourselves at being snugly encamped, the “general” was sounded from brigade headquarters for us to pack up, and just as it began to rain we marched to Bealton Station, eight miles, where we arrived at midnight, soaked through to the skin — all on account of having no umbrellas.

Sunday, July 26.  The Thirty-ninth Massachusetts was added to our bridge to-day.  Having full ranks, it looked to us more like a brigade than a regiment.

Blackberries were all about us in great quantities, and we made the most of our opportunity to pick them.

We changed camp during the day to a higher ground, not the same spot where we camped June 13.

Monday, July 27.  Marched to the Rappahannock Station, taking position in the old fortifications above the bridge, where we could easily see the rebel pickets across the river.

Orders were read to the regiment “not to build fires nor to go to the top of the hill.”  Three or four of the boys, whose curiosity could not be restrained, ventured to the summit in spite of this command, and on their way back met an officer who awarded them four hours’ “knapsack drill” as punishment for disobeying orders.

Tuesday, July 28.  Our position was behind a hill.  The only part of our division with us was our brigade and a small cavalry force, the remainder of the division being scattered along the railroad to Warrenton Junction.

A small force of the enemy’s cavalry were in sight across the river, and, as we believed, too few in number to dispute our advance.

We were completely washed out by a thunder-storm to-day.

Letter from Clarence

Another entertaining letter from Clarence brings this page to a close.

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 1863.

Bealton, Va., July 27th.

From The Thirteenth Regiment. We left Warrenton on the morning of the 24th, and marched to the Junction, a distance of nine miles.  We went into camp about noon, expecting to remain several days, but at 8 P.M., orders were received to strike tents and proceed to Bealton, seven miles south, upon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.  It being very near sunset, myself and one other member started on ahead, so as to get through “ere night her sable mantle spread,” and also to pass by daylight the shaky bridges, which span the numerous streams. (always dry, or stagnant in summer), in this section of Virginia.  The planks of these bridges are a yard apart, and the crossing, even in the daytime, is attended with considerable danger; superlatively so, in the night time.  We managed to cross all of them with little difficulty, the last being half a mile from this point; but as we took a short rest after crossing the last bridge, it was very dark indeed, when we started on again.  We had not gone ten paces, ere we were stopped by a stentorian voice, thundering out “Halt,” and after answering and making a few queries, we found that we were at the outside line of cavalry pickets.

Charles Reed Sketch of soldier sleeping

The sentinel advised us to go back a little way, and wait till the troops came up, as by that time the cavalry pickets would be advanced to the Rappahannock.  It had now commenced to rain, so we each selected a smooth, soft  sleeper of the railroad track, which was free from knots, and laid down across the road, with the rail for a pillow.  We spread our rubber blankets over us and actually  got to sleep, although the water leaked through the rubber blanket as it would through a handkerchief.  We knew that there was no danger in our position, as the cars had not run beyond Warrenton Junction, and horse-men could not move along the track, the bridges being so very numerous.  I do not know how long I slept, but suppose it was for a couple of hours, when I was awakened by a friend, with the information that the troops were coming.  We then marched the remainder of the distance, and entered the station, a sort of freight house, which had often been used for a  supply depot by “Uncle Sam’s children.”  Winslow Homer Illustration of Mule peaking into a tentWe here turned in and slept comfortably until morning, when we were awakened by the braying of some mules, which had been tied to the doors of the building by the muleteers, who were probably sleeping inside; and the hungry brutes were striving to start them up to obtain their daily food. We jumped up, and soon we joined the brigade.  At Warrenton Junction, the officers and men detailed to proceed for the conscripts left us for Boston, and we shall expect an addition to the Thirteenth of five hundred men.  Yesterday, the 39th Massachusetts was assigned to this brigade, so we now have six regiments.

The 39th has eight hundred men, while the other regiments number but five hundred; but the expected conscripts will make it a good sized brigade.  Gen.  Briggs, formerly of the 10th Massachusetts, will be in command.  Gen. Paul, our commander, who was severely wounded at Gettysburg, is at that place.  He has lost one of his eyes, and the surgeons are endeavoring to save the other.  Last night the brigade was ordered to the Rappahannock, as the cavalry had succeeded in capturing, uninjured, the railroad bridge there.  The troops marched down, but the tents and baggage were left at this place.  The mail is just leaving, and I am compelled to close my letter.


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