Advance To The Rapidan

Part 1:  THE CAVALRY CORPS RECONNAISSANCE; September 12 - 16, 1863

Engraving of a Cavalry Bugler

Table of Contents



My primary interest in the Cavalry fights summarized on this website are due to my own ancestor's involvement in them.  My eagerness to expand my understanding of his terse diary entries of 1863, is the catalyst for these Cavalry digressions.  This pleasant diversion regarding the Battle for Culpeper on September 13, & subsequent skirmishing along the Rapidan  River, began with the utmost enthusiasm two years ago, but as it dragged on, I became  anxious for time.  Part of the reason this section took so long to build is that this period of the Army of the Potomac's history is largely neglected.  It shouldn't be, a lot happened.  Every hear of the Bristoe Campaign or Mine Run?  Another reason it took time was the effort I made to visit and photograph locations close to me where these events happened.  This page was planned as a photo essay.

I offer it up as it is, perhaps not as fully developed as it could be.  The 13th MA Infantry is represented on this page via William Henry Forbush's diary entries, formerly of Company K, and a letter of Lt. John B. Noyes, formerly of Company B.  The page starts with an excerpt from the 13th MA regimental history, “A Failed Apology.”


Author William Jeffrey Hunt has studied for over 30 years, General Meade's command of the Army of the Potomac for the largely ignored period between the Battle of  Gettysburg through the appointment of General Grant in the East.  He was extremely generous with his expertise in helping me to understand specific details about the location of cavalry troops and artillery during the fight at Culpeper, September 13th.  I pulled back on some of the information he shared, in deference to his work, which I highly recommend.  You can find his works at Savas-Beatie Books.

I'd also like to thank John Hennessy for his photos of Somerville Ford, and my friends Walker Somerville and Brett Johnson for walking the ground and sharing their stories of the region with me.


In early August, 1863, General Robert E.  Lee pulled his army back behind Rapidan River, creating a stronger defensive line that was much easier to defend than one in Culpeper County.   General George G. Meade was reluctant to advance into Culpeper County because he also knew its specific difficulties as experienced by General John Pope a year earlier.  One of these difficulties was the lengthening of his supply lines, which required detaching a significant force to guard the Orange & Alexandria Railroad  between Alexandria & Culpeper.    Meade’s strategic preference was to shift his line to the left, to  Fredericksburg, where it was easier to send supplies.  The president however rejected this plan.  He wanted General Lee’s army to be Meade’s objective, and he desired an attack if practicable.   In mid September, after a brief respite & recovery from the arduous Gettysburg campaign, it was rumored that a portion of General Lee’s army was detached and sent west to strengthen the Confederate war effort in East Tennessee.

Gilbert Gaul painting, Federal Cavalryman

General Meade responded to this news and ordered his entire cavalry division into Culpeper County to test to the strength of Confederate resistance there.

Only Confederate Cavalry spread thinly across the broad  territory defended Culpeper County, but dashing and daring Commander J.E.B. Stuart wasn’t going to yield any ground without a fight.

On September 13, Union General Alfred Pleasonton’s entire cavalry corps advanced upon the village of Culpeper Court-House* from the north and the east.  The opposing sides battled it out all day.  Stuart put up an obstinate resistance, delaying the attackers until a last Confederate supply train could evacuate the village of Culpeper Court-house.  The fighting continued the next day along the banks of the Rapidan river.

The 2nd Corps Infantry commanded by General G. K. Warren, newly promoted for his impressive performance at Gettysburg, followed Pleasonton’s troops in support.

This page details the cavalry fighting on September 13 - 15, 1863, with a focus on the part played by 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C.  My G-G Grandfather’s unit, assisted Kilpatrick’s Division in the fight,  William Henry Forbush’s diary entries are included on this page. 

General Newton’s First Corps was initially ordered to assist the reconnaissance, but the order was changed to favor the 2nd Corps.  Feeling slighted, Gen. Newton Complained.  The result is noted in “A Failed Apology.”

*NOTE:  The village surrounding the Court-House was actually called Fairfax until the name was changed to Culpeper in the late 1860's.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All  images are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections with the following exceptions.   Illustration of the Cavalryman by Gilbert Gaul; Illustration of the “Telegraph Officer,”  was done by artist Par H. De Sta, from "L'Alphabet Militaire" accessed digitally;  Four views of Somerville Ford taken by John Hennessy, from the blog, Mysteries & Conundrums; "Exploring Culpeper and Orange –– Raccoon and Somerville Fords, November 27, 2013, by John Hennessy. The panoramic views and other photographs of contemporary Culeper County,were taken by the author.    ALL IMAGES have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.

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A Failed Apology

Major-General John Newton

The great Union Cavalry officer General John Buford complained about General John Newton's tepid support for the Cavalry reconnaissance on August 1st.  Part of Newton's First Corps crossed the Rappahannock River, but did not advance as Buford fought the Confederate Cavalry at Brandy Station all the way to Culpeper.  Buford's initial success was reversed when Confederate infantry arrived in time to push him back.  Buford felt with Newton's help, he might have held the ground.  This affair probably led General Newton [pictured] to feel slighted two weeks later by the following change in plans, when the cavalry once again advanced into Culpeper County.

The following is from “Three Years in the Army” by Charles E. Davis, Jr.,  Boston:  Estes & Lauriat, 1894.

On the 13th of September we received the following order;

September 12, 1863.

Commanding Officer First Corps;

I am instructed to inform you that a movement — reconnaissance — will be made to-morrow in the direction of Culpepper court House, and the commanding general orders that you hold your command in readiness to move at short notice, in case the development of the movement should be required.

Very respectfully, etc.                        
S. WILLIAMS,      
Assistant Adjutant-General.

 Subsequently the Second Corps was substituted for the First, which caused General Newton to feel that a reflection was cast on his corps, and it prompted him to address a letter to that effect to General Meade, and the following reply was received:

Headquarters Army of he Potomac,

September 14, 1863.

Maj-Gen. John Newton,  Commanding First Corps:

H. de Sta illustration from Alphabet Militaire

General:    Your communication of the 13th instant, in reference to the detail of the Second Corps to  support the cavalry reconnoissance sent in front of the arm yesterday, has been laid before the commanding general, who  regrets to learn that the detail has occasioned a feeling of disappointment among the officers and men of your corps.

The considerations which led the commanding general to select the Second Corps for this service were chiefly that the First Corps formed part of a line the continuity of which the general did not wish to break, as he could not force the consequences which might flow from an advance, and he was by no means certain that the reconnoitering party, together with its support, might not be driven back upon that line, and, moreover, he had in view the fact that the requiring on its part unusual watchfulness, and far more exhausting duties than had been performed by the corps in rear.  The commanding general trusts that this explanation will satisfy you that in assigning he Second Corps to the duty above indicated no distrust was entertained of the qualification of the First Corps to perform the service equally well.

I am directed to add that, while the commanding general has given in this instance his reasons for issuing a particular order, he does not admit the right of any subordinate commander to call in question his acts, and he regrets that you should have thought it proper to do so.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,              
Assistant Adjutant-General.

The soundness of the last paragraph just saved the apology from being a success.

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The Cavalry Clears the Way for the Infantry - Summary of Events

Major-General George G. Meade's Summary Report of Operations of the Army of the Potomac [Excerpt]

Report of Major-General George G. Meade, December 6, 1863.  [Excerpt]

On the 13th of September, intelligence having been received rendering it probable the enemy was making a retrograde movement, Major-General Pleasonton, in command of all the cavalry, supported by the Second Corps, Major-General Warren, crossed the Rappahannock at several points, and after a spirited engagement with the enemy’s cavalry, in which he captured 3 guns and many prisoners, drove the enemy across the Rapidan, but found it impossible to force the passage of that river.   Major-General Warren, with his corps, occupied Culpeper Court-house, taking no part in the engagement, which was entirely a cavalry fight.  The result of this movement proved that the enemy had sent Longtreet’s corps to the Southwest, but still held the line of the Rapidan in force.

    On the 16th of September, the army crossed the Rappahannock, and took up a position around Culpeper Court-House, with the advance of two corps on the Rapidan.

Report of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army

General Lee describes the action on September 13 & 14, 1863.

Report of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia.
September 14, 1863.

Mr. President:  * * * A little after midnight on September 13, General Stuart received notice of an intended advance of the enemy’s cavalry and made his preparations accordingly.

On the morning of that day they came in force, having crossed the Rappahannock at all fords from Stark’s, on Hazel River, to Kelly’s.  They were supported by a force of infantry.  He skirmished with them all day, and by 6 o’clock in the evening was pressed back to within half a mile of Cedar Mountain, with the loss, I regret to say of three pieces of artillery.  From this point he fell back after night to the Rapidan to prevent being turned, and to obtain supplies more readily.  He was greatly outnumbered, the enemy having three divisions of cavalry, with infantry, and he having three brigades, the fourth (Fitz. Lee’s) being still at Fredericksburg.

He reports that his men behaved with bravery, and that he took a considerable number of prisoners.  He left a picket force in front of the enemy at Cedar Mountain, and I have heard nothing from him this morning.  It may be a reconnaissance in force merely, but I have made preparations in case it should be an advance of his whole force.

    *    *   *   *   *   *   *    *

I am, with great respect, our obedient servant,       
R. E. LEE,   

Report of Colonel Edward B. Sawyer, commanding Gen. Kilpatrick's 2d Cavalry Brigade

Report of Colonel Edward B. Sawyer, First Vermont Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade.

Hdqrs. Second Brigade, Third Division, Cavalry Corps,
September 19, 1863.

Map shows roads from Hartwood Church to Kelly's Ford

Sir:  In accordance with orders this day received from division headquarters, I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by this brigade from the 12th to the 15th instant:

The brigade moved under command of Brigadier-General Custer, at 12 m. of the 12th instant, from Berea Church to Kelly’s Ford, where they bivouacked for the night.

On the morning of the 13th, they crossed the Rappahannock and marched in direction of Culpeper Court-House, the Fifth Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Alger, having the advance.  The First Michigan Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Stagg, was ordered to Stevensburg.  They met the enemy’s pickets about 1 mile before reaching town, drove them back to their reserve, when they encountered a brigade of cavalry and artillery, and were obliged to fall back and join the brigade just as they advanced into Culpeper.  They did good service in driving the enemy from the hill on the left of Culpeper Court-House.

After passing Brandy Station the Fifth Michigan Cavalry were ordered to dismount and deploy as skirmishers.  They advanced through the woods and through the town, capturing 1 prisoner.

The Sixth Michigan Cavalry, Major William Wells, were ordered to cut the enemy off on the left, but were unable to cross the stream.  They advanced toward the town in column, when they made a charge through the town, led by Brigadier-General Custer, capturing one piece of artillery and quite a number of prisoners.

    The Seventh Michigan Cavalry, Colonel W. D. Mann, advanced to the edge of the town, where they dismounted 100 men, who waded the creek and advanced as skirmishers over the hill on the left of the town, driving the enemy from the hill.

The whole brigade advanced about 3 miles toward the Rapidan and bivouacked for the night.

        On the 14th, the entire brigade, under command of Colonel George Gray, advanced to the Rapidan.  The Sixth Michigan was deployed as skirmishers to Somerville Ford, with the First Vermont as support.  Both regiments remained in this position thirty-six hours under heavy fire.  The First Michigan was supporting Captain Fuller’s battery.  The Fifth Michigan was support for dismounted skirmishers.  There was no change in the position of the brigade on the 15th instant.

For further particulars I transmit reports from regimental commanders.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant            
Colonel, Commanding Second Brigade.

Capt. L. G. Estes,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Route of Kilpatrick's Advance, September 13, 1863

The map below follows the path of the main body of Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division on September 13th.  The 1st Michigan Cavalry of General Custer's Brigade, was detached after crossing at Kelly's Ford and sent toward Stevensburg where they encountered enemy pickets.  They rejoined the rest of the Division as they entered Culpeper.  Fighting started around Brandy Station.  More fighting took place just north and south of Culpeper.

Map, Kilpaptrick's Route from Kelly's Ford to Culpeper & Pony Mountain

Diary of William Henry Forbush, 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C.

Lieutenant William Duncan Fuller's Battery, 3rd U.S. Battery C, was attached to General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's Division and participated in the fighting on September 13 - 15.  Since September 3rd, the battery was in camp at General Kilpatrick's Headquarters, 8 miles from Falmouth, at Hartwood Church.  On September 12th, they moved to Kelly's Ford.  The battery traveled at least 18 1/2 miles, with General Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division, on September 13.  They were engaged though where specifically I am not sure.  I believe they assisted General Custer's brigade during the final assault south of Culpeper to Pony Mountain.  Lt. William D. Fuller's report is near the end of this section.  A few entries from my Great-Great Grandfather's 1863 diary starts things off.  It will be followed by more detailed accounts.

Friday 11.  Warm Day- Nothing new.  Everything Quiet –

 Saturday 12.  On Police.  Left the Camp (at) (crossed out) Near Falmouth Va. [Hartwood Church] and came as far as Calleys Ford  and halted for Night rained all night.

Sunday 13.  Crossed the River at Calleys ford [Kelly's] and came on through Culpeper to about 4 miles the other side of the Town and halted for the Night.  Captured 3 peaces of Artillery this day.

Fields east of Kellys Ford

The road turning to the right leads to Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock River, about 1/2 mile distant, direction west.  Cavalry probably came up along the road in the center.  These are the fields on the east side of the river, perhaps where some of them bivouacked on the soggy rainy night of September 12.  The road entering the picture on the left comes from Rappahannock Station.

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The Fight At Culpeper Court-House, Part I

Engagement at Culpepper September 13

Photo Essay with Text

From, Frank Moore's "The Rebellion Record" Volume 7, pages 501 – 505.

The following private letter from one who accompanied the Second New-York cavalry in the advance upon Culpeper, give the following particulars of the skirmishing :

Near Rapidan River, Va., Monday, Sept. 14, 1863.     

Kilpatrick’s division moved Saturday morning.  We arrived at Kelly’s Ford in the evening, and lay by our horses in marching order during the night.  Between three and four there came up one of the most drenching showers I ever experienced.  The rain fell in torrents, and we were soon standing in pools of water.  At daylight we crossed, capturing the enemy’s picket.  Our advance was rather slow and cautious till we reached the forest bordering on the old Brandy-Station battle-field.  Here we first struck the enemy in some force.

Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford view NW

Pictured is the Rappahannock River looking NW, taken from the modern bridge at Kelly's Ford.  Trees were less abundant during the war.

This account is from a private letter by one who accompanied the 2nd NY in the advance:  The First brigade, under Colonel H. E. Davies, which had the advance, kept it throughout the day, led the charge at a gallop.  We soon emerged on the old Brandy Station battle-field.  Here the sight was grand in the extreme.  The Second New-York cavalry (Harris Light) had the advance of the brigade, and were charging over the plain, supported by the other regiments, Colonel Davies leading every thing.  Off in the distance we could see Generals Gregg and Buford bringing up their columns at a gallop.  In the far advance charges were being made, and skirmishers were circling over the hills like the advancing waves of a flood-tide.  Prisoners and wounded began to come in.  The plain was soon cleared of the enemy and soon our force disappeared in pursuit.  Now commenced a running fight, till we reached the vicinity of Culpeper— the Harris Light still keeping the advance, and giving the enemy not a moment’s rest.  Whenever they made the slightest pause, an impetuous charge from this regiment would start them again.  For two miles before reaching Culpeper, the Harris Light was exposed to a very severe artillery fire, as great trees broken off and shattered clearly proved.

Some of the rolling terrain at Brandy Station

Pictured is some of the rolling terrain around Brandy Station.  Click to view larger.

A National account describes the action:  The whole corps advanced up the railroad toward Culpeper.  General Kilpatrick had the left, resting on the left of the railroad ; General Buford in the centre, and General Gregg, the right — the skirmishing and cannonading becoming quite sharp as we advanced.  As the cavalry moved across the plain in perfect order, some of the regiments in line, some in column, and a long line of skirmishers in front, with the batteries a little to the rear, the respective division and brigade commanders moving up with their staffs, it presented one of the most brilliant spectacles of the war.  The rebels did not make much resistance until we reached a point about one mile this side of Culpeper, where they opened three batteries upon Kilpatrick’s division, but not checking the advance in the least.

Home of John Minor Botts, Historic Auburn Farm, Brandy Station

Pictured is historic Auburn Farm, once owned by John Minor Botts, at Brandy Station, looking west.  The contending cavalry would ride over this ground on the way towards Culpeper. It is mentioned in the account below.  ––The current owner might like it to be a Costco.

              Richmond,  Sept. 14, 1863.

    The following is an accurate statement of what transpired in Culpeper.  About three o’clock on Sunday morning information was conveyed to the cavalry that the enemy were preparing to cross at Stark’s Ford, some eight miles above our forces, and at Kelly’s some five miles below them; and that they would no doubt be cooperated with by the corps of the enemy, which for some time past has been encamped on this side of the Rappahannock River, at the railroad bridge.  [Gen. Newton's 1st Corps–– B. F.]  The wagons were at once packed and sent to the rear, and the horses were ordered to be saddled, and the men are bidden to prepare for any emergency.  At daybreak, Brigadier-General Lomax, in command of Jones’s old brigade, now his own, and W. H. F. Lee’s, under Colonel Beale, of the Ninth Virginia cavalry, moved at once to the front and found all quiet.  Some hours later, couriers brought information that the enemy were crossing at Stark’s Ford, with six hundred cavalry and artillery, and were advancing on Culpeper Court-House, by the Ridgeville road, and were driving in the pickets there stationed.  The Seventh and Twelfth regiments Virginia cavalry were immediately sent forward to strengthen the picket on this road.  Major Flournoy at this time held the front with the Sixth regiment and a squadron of sharp-shooters from the Ninth Virginia cavalry.  About ten o’clock, Major Flournoy fell back to Brandy Station, and shortly thereafter Captain Moorman’s artillery opened fire on the enemy from this point.  Just then General Lomax received information that the enemy had crossed at Kelly’s a large force of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, and were advancing on the Stevensburgh and Brandy roads.  A very short time after this a sharp carbine fire announced their arrival at Brandy.  Major Flournoy fell back rapidly, contesting every hill, and only giving way when in danger of being out-flanked.  The Thirteenth Virginia cavalry, supported by  squadrons of the Ninth, was now thrown forward to the left of the railroad in Bott’s (formerly J. A. Beckham’s woods.  The Fifteenth Virginia cavalry was thrown forward to the right of the railroad in same woods.  Six regiments of the enemy were now deployed in a field near Brandy, with two batteries of artillery.  The infantry of the enemy were massed behind the cavalry and the timber.  Of course our men were compelled to again give back.

Edwin Forbes sketch of Culpeper from the Northeast

Artist Edwin Forbes sketched this view of Culpeper from the hills just north-east of the village.  The title is "Cavalry Reconnaissance to Culpeper" the date is September 16, 1863.  Forbes is playing catchup, (the battle occured Sept. 13) unless the sketch date is when he submitted the work to his editors.  ––Today this ground is covered with modern development.

The Rebel account continued:
        Another stand was made by our forces on the ground where the infantry first became engaged during Hampton’s fight on the first of August, and here a severe fight took place, in which artillery, musketry, and carbines were freely used.  At this time it was discovered that a column of at least two brigades of cavalry were moving on our right flank by way of Stevensburgh toward Culpeper Court-House.  While the artillery on the left showed that the enemy, who were moving on the Rixeyville road, [Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg's Division] were nearly at the Court-House, our forces, of course, were compelled again to give back, and this time the Court-House fell into the hands of the enemy.  In the fight made at this point, Colonel Beale, Ninth Virginia, was wounded slightly in the leg.

Culpeper from a hill NE of town

A somewhat similar view to-day from a very developed neighborhood north east of town.

The Confederate narrative, continued:
       At this time a train of cars was at the Court-House bringing off the plunder of our people.  This was fired upon some three or four times, and though the shells exploded just above the cars, scattering the fragments over them, yet no damage was done.  One shell passed into the house of Mr. Thomas Hill and exploded, but did no damage.  I am told that nearly every thing was removed from the depot at Culpeper Court-House, though I hear that we lost some four or five boxes of saddles, eight boxes of ammunition, and forty sacks of corn.  The excitement and confusion at Culpeper Court-House is said to have been very great and very striking.  Women were shrieking, soldiers were groaning with their wounds, and children were crying from fright, and the death-shots hissing from afar are howling and screeching over the town.

Train Depot, Culpeper

General Stuart was delaying the Federal advance while awaiting for a train loaded with supplies to leave Culpeper Court-house.

From: “Culpeper A Virginia County History Through 1920;  by Eugene M. Scheel (p. 208):
        On September 13 they [Federals] crossed the Rappahannock in force, and by late morning had reached the outskirts of the Court House.  There Rev. Barnett Grimsley was preaching at the Baptist Church when artillery shells began whistling overheard.  Grimsley dismissed the congregation, mounted his horse, and was off.  Many in the streets ran to the Episcopal Rectory, not for spiritual comfort, but because of its deep and commodious cellar.  As the Rev. John Cole’s frightened brother ran, hunched over, Reverend Cole shouted, “Stand up, you’re a better target that way.”  Fannie, Reverend Cole’s daughter, was afraid the Yankees would steal the bell.  She climbed to the belfry, draped the bell in black cloth, and cut the bell rope.  The shelling of Culpeper never should have begun, but the Federals sighted a train pulling into the station and thought it brought reinforcements.  In reality, it had been sent up from Orange to evacuate supplies.  George Neese recalled:  “The yankee gunners overshot our guns that were firing from the [north] edge of town, and I saw Yankee shell crashing through buildings and exploding all over and through the northern and eastern portions of town.   I know that this was a wild and boisterous stirred-up Sunday that the citizens of Culpeper Court House will not forget for years to come.”  The blue cavalry outflanked defending gunners and charged through the streets of town.  The melee did not end until nightfall:  The Court House was in enemy hands.

Mountain Run where Brandy Station Road crosses

An Account from a National Newspaper:
        The rebels did not make much resistance until we reached a point about one mile this side of Culpeper, where they opened three batteries upon Kilpatrick’s division, but not checking the advance in the least. On approaching near the town, the rebels seemed disposed to dispute our further advance.   A long line of dismounted infantry could be seen along a fence just across a deep creek, with two batteries in support.

General Kilpatrick ordered General Custer to dislodge them, which he soon accomplished.  The Sixth Michigan dismounted, and engaged the rebel skirmishers, and soon routed them in good style.  The Harris Light charged the battery on the edge of the town, capturing two guns.  This brought the division of Kilpatrick to the edge of the town.

Pictured left, is Mountain Run where the Old Brandy Station Road crosses.  Rebel skirmishers lined the creek.  On Sept. 13th, 1863, the steep banks were  swollen from the previous night's rain.  Federal troops had to cross this barrier before they could get to the Confederate defenses.  It was only passable at two places, here, where the road crossed, and also where the railroad bridge crossed. The 1st VT found it could not get over the creek farther to the south when they tried to flank the Confederate position, and had to cross near the railroad bridge.  The delay in crossing Mountain Run allowed the Confederate supply train to escape.

Report of Colonel Henry E. Davies, jr., Second New York Cavalry, commanding First Brigade.  (Excerpt) :

In pursuance of your orders I then marched to the left, and making a détour through the woods, attacked the enemy in the vicinity of Culpeper Court-House.  My skirmishers drove them back to the long range of hills before reaching the court-house, where they made a determined stand with a battery of artillery, on the right of the railroad, and a large force of cavalry.

Ridge by Wallach House

The ridge where the Wallach House once stood.  Colonel Davies, lined up his forces and artillery here, and to the north (left side of the picture), parallel to the Confederate forces across Mountain Run.  Brandy Station Road would be to the left, the railroad to the right.  View looking to the East.

Col. Davies continued:
        I got my battery in position and, after some moments’ shelling, ordered a charge on the guns, which was most gallantly made by a battalion of the Second New York Cavalry, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Harhaus and Major McIrvin, and supported by Captain Hasty’s battalion of the same regiment.  They made a charge that has never been surpassed in the records of the cavalry service, across a deep ravine and creek, up a steep hill, the road rough and stony, and through a heavy fire of shells, right up to the muzzles of the guns, two of which they captured and brought back in triumph, together with the officer in command of the battery and 20 of his men, and driving his supports without firing a shot, using nothing but the saber.

Map; Climax of the battle Sept 13 1863

The 2nd NY captures two guns, a lieutenant and 20 men.  When the  1st Vermont come up, Custer leads them over the stream into town, and captured a 3rd gun from the Confederates now hurriedly retreating.  Several other guns were nearly captured.

Daniel Amon Grimsley, (6th VA Cavalry Veteran) from Battles in Culpeper County:
        The Confederates posted their guns on the hill, between Capt Vinal’s and Mr. Chelf’s, supported by two squadrons of mounted men, while the fifth cavalry were dismounted at Bell’s Ford in order to hold that position, and a portion of the 6th dismounted at the railroad ford.  The Federal force moved forward very cautiously, forming their line of battle on the hill about the George house, extending round to the left, in front of the Wallach house, with two or three batteries stationed at intervals along this line.  Their batteries were turned principally upon the town and the train loading at the depot, with an occasional shot at the guns on the hill.

...After the departure of the train, which escaped without injury, taking off all the stores, the Federals showed a purpose to force an entrance into the village, and for this purpose, sent forward a brigade from the centre of their lines to charge Bell’s Ford and get possession of the crossing.  They came down the road, in columns of fours, in beautiful order, and looked as though they would sweep every thing before them, but they met at the ford a fire from our dismounted men, protected by the large trees, that at that time were about that point, which emptied many a saddle, broke up their organization, and drove them back in disorder.  They, however, rallied, and crossing the fields to the east side of the railroad, the embankment of which protected them from the fire of the guns on the hill, dismounted some of their men, who engaged the dismounted Confederates at the bridge, drove them back and opened the way for their mounted men.  They charged up the hill and made for the guns.  They were here met by the mounted squadrons, supporting the guns, and driven back under the hill.   The guns limber up to retire, one coming back directly towards the depot, the other going down to the road in front of Mr. Lathams’. [Piedmont Street –– B.F.]

The 2nd NY account continues:
        The enemy finally planted their guns up a high hill, at the entrance of the town.  It was a very commanding position.  The enemy must be dislodged, and that right speedily too.  The Harris Light were ordered by General Davies to do the work.  Major McIrwin led the charge, accompanied by Captains Downing and Mitchel, and Lieutenant Jones, and supported by two batteries.   General Custer, whose irrepressible gallantry led him far ahead of his command, came up and went with them.  Down the hill they went at a gallop —- a perfect avalanche of shot and shell crashing above them, and ploughing the ground around them.  Dressing the line for a moment at the foot of the hill on which the battery was, they charged up with such impetuosity that every thing gave way before them.  With great rapidity they dashed around in the rear of the guns, and in a moment they were ours.  After the guns were captured, General Custer came up, armed only with his riding whip, compelling many a man to surrender at discretion.  Captain Mitchel ordered a rebel to help limber up the guns.   He replied with perfect coolness that he was not going to help the Yankees capture their guns.  He again received the order and again refused.  Mitchel then drew his saber and said :  “Now do as you are ordered.”  This final pointed argument prevailed, and the rebel said : “Well, if I must, I suppose I must.”

Harpers illustration of Custer charging the hill, Sept 13

Harper's weekly illustration of General Custer Charging Up The Hill Upon The Enemy's Guns"

The National account continues; (the rebels move south of town):
        Buford and Gregg were driving the enemy on the right, and General Kilpatrick, with characteristic boldness, was about to charge the whole rebel force upon our left, and capture the train of cars that was moving off toward Orange, but was prevented by the unexpected discovery of a deep creek, which was only passable at one place in his front.  This enabled the train to escape, affording time to the rebel cavalry to take a strong position, a little to the rear of the town, in the woods on the Cedar Mountain road.  In the mean time, General Custer, at the head of the First battalion of the First Vermont, commanded by Major Wells, dashed into town, driving the rebels out of the town.

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The Battle for Culpeper Court-House, Part II

Once Federals breached the north end of town, the Confederate cavalry reteated to the ridges south of the village.  One of these ridges intersected the old Fredericksburg road to Mount Pony.  General Stuart was now present and took command of this force.  From this position their artillery could harrass the Union forces in the village.

Timothy Sullivan view of Culpeper 1862

Close-up showing the south end of the village of Culpeper Courthouse, August, 1862, (view to the Northwest from today's National Cemetery).  Photo by Timothy Sullivan. Note the troops on the flat cars in the middleground.  The village back then was called either Culpeper Court-House, or Fairfax.  The name was changed from Fairfax to Culpeper after the war, to clear up the confusion created with the Norhern Virginia town of Fairfax which was at the other end of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.

Colonel H. E. Davies, commanding the 1st Brigade, Kilpatrick's Division, describes the fight to hold the town:
After gaining this position and the town of Culpeper, I was fired on by a battery posted in thick woods on the left of the railroad, and ordered the Fifth New York Cavalry to charge and take it.  They charged most bravely, but the ground being bad, were much broken, and on gaining the crest of the hill were attacked by a much larger body of cavalry and driven back.  They were gallantly rallied by General Kilpatrick in person, under a heavy fire, and advanced again to the front.  At that moment I was on the right of the railroad, and ordering the Second New York to come in on the right of the the Fifth.

I rode over and led the Fifth again into the woods.  Here we met with General Custer, who was heavily engaged and did all that men could do to advance.  We were, however, overpowered by numbers and the Second New York were flanked and their extreme right driven in.  At this juncture the affair looked badly and I feared the command would be driven back, but I brought up the First [West] Virginia Cavalry, as the last regiment at my command, which had only the day before been supplied with Spencer’s rifles  Hitherto they had not taken any active part in the engagement, and on my call sprang from their horses and, led by Colonel Richmond, rushed into the woods.

This timely re-enforcement changed the event and the rebels were driven back in confusion, followed by my brigade through the woods and across the fields.  Here I received orders from the general commanding the division to halt and allow General Buford’s command to take the front.  From this last position we moved forward to Pony Mountain where we encamped for the night.

Conjectural Maps

I created these mapped interpretations of the 2nd part of the fight for Culpeper Court-House based on the reports, but it is conjecture at best.  I don't know where specific regiments were exactly, except  they were probably in position on the ridges and hills indicated.  I used contours from Culpeper GIS to place the Confederates on the ridge south-east of town. Today's landscape is very developed and photographic views are obstructed by trees, gas stations and houses.  The Federal artillery was active during this part of the fight but their positions are unknown.  Lt. William D. Fuller of  3rd U.S. battery C only stated, “it went into position at different points beyond Culpeper, firing on the enemy’s skirmishers, who occupied several houses, fences, and woods, as our cavalry pursued and drove them to and across the Rapidan River.”   The village was much smaller in 1863 than it is today, and the road network has changed.

Map 2nd NY chargesMap 2nd Union attack repulsedMap 3rd Union attack succeeds

Major William Wells, 1st Vermont Cavalry:
        We then received orders to charge into town, which we did, passing through, capturing eight prisoners, and one gun, with carriage, horses, etc., complete, and occupied a knoll on the south side of the village, where the regiment was subjected to a very severe artillery fire from the enemy’s guns, stationed at our front and left.  We were here directed by General Custer, commanding brigade, to attack the force occupying the woods to the left of the town, and holding the road leading in the direction of Orange Court-House.  Companies E and I of the first battalion were sent to the right, dismounted, and engaged the skirmishers of the enemy’s left.  The second battalion, (companies B, C, H, and G,) under Captain Adams, being sent forward, charged the enemy, driving them from the road, and through the woods back under the protection of their artillery, capturing twenty-six prisoners.  The fight at this place continued for a considerable length of time, three separate charges having been made by our men.  The force in front of the second battalion largely outnumbering their opponents, and being strongly supported, rallied and gained a temporary advantage, during which time they succeeded in removing their artillery stationed in our front.  A movement on our flanks was at one time attempted but it failed in its purpose, the enemy being compelled to retire.  The repulse of the enemy along the whole line being at this time — four o’clock P.M. — complete, they retreated in the direction of the Rapidan River.

   The National account concludes:
          The rebels had two other pieces in the woods to the rear of the town, strongly supported by a strong force of cavalry.  The Harris Light gallantly charged up into the woods where the rebels were posted, but were driven back by superior numbers.  The First Vermont, consisting of two battalions, numbering about one hundred and fifty men, under command of Major Wells, now gallantly advanced to charge under a heavy fire from the enemy’s battery.  The Harris Light promptly rallied, and both regiments charged into the woods and drove the rebels further toward the Cedar Mountain road.  Our loss here was the heaviest of any during the day.  General Custer, while leading the First Vermont, was wounded in the leg by the bursting of a shell, which also killed his horse, and the Harris Light sustained some loss, the extent of which I have been unable to learn.  The rebels now formed just beyond the woods, where they had a battery in position.  The Fifth New-York and one battalion of the First Vermont charged upon the battery, but were repulsed, the rebels returning to the woods in great force, but were driven out the second time, whereupon they retreated for the Rapidan, closely pursued for four miles by General Buford, when operations for this day ceased.

    Our casualties on this day were three killed and forty wounded.  On the fourteenth the cavalry advanced to the Rapidan, and found the enemy strongly posted at the respective fords on the other side of the river.  In the fight the day previous the rebels were commanded by General Stuart — his force consisted of Fitzhugh Lee’s and Wade Hampton’s divisions of cavalry and five batteries.   ––TROOPER.

The Fight for Culpeper; Conclusion

The fighting didn't end here.  Some Confederate cavalry rallied on Greenwood Hill.   General J.E.B. Stuart's troops made a stand in front of Pony Mountain.   The brigade at Stevensburg had moved there and set up a defensive position in front of the west slope for the Confederates to fall back upon.  Judge Grimsley gives good account of fight which he watched from Greenwood Hill.

Greenwood Hill, Culpeper

 Mount Pony is visible from the top of this, Greenwood Hill, but the view is obstructed by a recently constructed housing development.  In 1863, Captain Daniel Amon Grimsley, watched the battle from this hill, which commands the south edge of town.  The view is looking East from the sidewalk in front of the Greenwood estate, which is just to the right of this image.  The Confederates occupying this hill moved south to the next ridge to take their stand in the continuing resistance to the Federal advance.   They opposed troopers of Gen. David M. Gregg's Division.

Judge Daniel Amon Grimsley:
        From the Greenwood hill, the tussle between Hampton and Kilpatrick was plainly visible.  The entire force on either side was in full view.  The lines of battle, the advancing squadrons, the charging columns, the blazing batteries, the close grip of the skirmishers, made the scene, notwithstanding our own close quarters, as inspiring as any that we ever witnessed.  This will be remembered as the occasion on which Mr. Curtis, living near Georgetown, sought safety from the shells of the Federal guns by taking refuge in the basement of Mr. James Inskeep’s house.  He had scarcely reached his supposed place of safety before a shell entered the house, penetrated the basement, exploded and killed him.  An illustration of the soldier’s maxim “that one place was as safe as another in battle.”

Map Fight in front of Mount Pony

Judge Daniel A. Grimsley, Battles in Culpeper County continued:
        Jones, (Lomax) retiring by the Rixeyville road, and finding the town occupied by Buford’s troops, made a detour by way of Catalpa and Thos. Rixey’s, and joined the forces that had passed through the village on the hill south of Greenwood at the intersection of the Orange and Stevensburg roads.  Just before Jones came up, the Federal cavalry, then occupying the Greenwood hill, made an effort to capture the remaining gun left with the Confederates at this point.  It was posted in the road, just in advance of the intersection of the roads above referred to, supported by a squadron of cavalry.  The Confederates had dismounted the most of their forces here, and concealed them in the pines that grew on the west side of the road, in advance of the gun.  From their position near the Greenwood house, the Federals started a column to charge and capture the gun.  They came down the road and were soon protected by the descent, from the fire of the gun on the hill.

They ascended the hill, near the gun, in fine style, and dashed for it with the confidence of certain capture, but as they passed these pines and exposed the flank of column, they received a deadly fire at short range from the dismounted men, which emptied many saddles and scattered the remainder in conclusion over the fields.

All the Confederate forces had now gotten together, and occupied a line from the Ward or Thompson hill to the foot of Mt. Pony till about night, the Federals drawing off and the fight ceasing.  About dark the Confederates began to retreat, and fell back that night to the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, and Rapidan Station.  Hampton taking position at the former, and Jones at the latter place.  The Confederates occupied the hills about the Taliaferro and Nalle houses on the north side of the river, [Rapidan Station––B.F.] and also some points lower down the river about the Robertson house, and perhaps other places.

View to the west side of Pony Mountain

Pictured is the crest of Mount Pony.  When Stuart's Cavalry finally retreated, Federal troops established a signal station here, with commanding views of the surrounding area.  Kilpatrick's Division camped for the night on the west side of the mountain, pictured.  There would be more fighting the next day.  This view taken from near Greenwood Hill.

General Alfred Pleasonton's Dispatch to General Meade

Hdqrs. Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac,   
September 13, 1863 — 5.30 p.m.

General:   After my dispatch of 1 p.m. I moved Buford and Kilpatrick’s commands in pursuit of the enemy toward Raccoon Ford.

General George A. Custer

Gregg’s division taking the Cedar Mountain road, leaving a force to hold Culpeper.  I moved with the command toward Raccoon Ford, and drove the enemy handsomely from Pony Mountain, where our signal has been located, and then followed them to within 2 1/4 miles of Raccoon Ford.  Shall stop for the night.

General Gregg reports he has had an obstinate fight, but was driving the enemy on the Cedar Mountain road slowly.  Our loss as far as ascertained is 3 killed and about 40 wounded.  General Custer was wounded in the charge capturing the guns that were taken, and his horse was killed under him.  His gallantry was distinguished.

All the indications thus far go to show that the enemy’s army has retired.  I shall endeavor to-morrow to give you definite information.  Unless the cloudy weather  interferes shall be able to communicate by signal from Pony Mountain.

We captured quite a large amount of ammunition at Culpeper, which the enemy were endeavoring to take off by a train of cars.

Very respectfully,

A.  PLEASONTON,          
Major-General, Commanding.

Lewis T. Nunnelee, Moorman's Battery, Stuart's Horse Artillery.

The entire day was a lot of fuss on behalf of General J.E.B. Stuart.  After taking a tally of his battery's losses, Confederate Gunner, Lewis T. Nunnelee wrote in his diary:

Sunday, 13th
       At 3 o’clock this morning it was reported the enemy was advancing and in heavy force.  At 10 A.M. firing commenced at Brandy Station and in a short time our army commenced to fall back, our artillery and sharpshooters taking position along the heights from Brandy to near Cedar Run and Slaughters’s Mountain.  Keeping the large force of the enemy in check and falling back in good order.  The scene was closed a little before night by a heavy rain.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the capture of the guns, Sept 13

Our battalion of horse artillery suffered considerably, losing three pieces and near all of their detachments:  Capt. Griffin’s Battery from Baltimore, one piece, Capt. Chew’s Battery, one piece, ours, Capt. Morrman’s, lost one piece (Howitzer) with all its detachment except Sergt. Charles A. Boyd who made his escape.  [Pictured is artist Edwin Forbes rendition of the capture of the Rebel guns, dated the day after).

After all firing had ceased we continued to fall back to Rapidan Station.  We had a terrible march in the dark through mud and slush frequently sticking fast in the mud and would be pulled out by the cannoneers.  We reached Rapidan Station (10 miles) after 12 o’clock.

Crossed the Rapidan river into Orange Co. and parked near our old camp of March and April last.

The captured of our howitzer detachment were Corpl. William A. Morris, Privates Andrew H. Kirby, Charles H. Derr, William T. French, Richard A. Watts, Richard J. Perkins, James S. Rucker, Leslie C. Smithson, Robert A. Glenn, Aleck E. Whitten, James N. Feazle, and William W. Turner.  This was the first piece we ever lost and had they had timely notice would have made their escape, being in a ravine could not see the approach of the enemy.  My own piece too came very near being captured.  We were standing near a thick wood and the enemy suddenly made their appearance and but for Genl. Stuart and his staff firing their revolvers on them they would have come on us before we could have loaded and fired on them.  The enemy was very near on us once before while were were assisting to get Zachariah N. Mundy to an ambulance being severely wounded.

Our wounded for the day were Zachary N. Mundy, severely in the lungs by a piece of shell, and Thomas R. Yeatman.  John Herley was wounded, having gone with and was fighting as a cavalryman.

Here was another unaccountable mistake by commanders making a show of fight for effect.  The way I understand it Genl. Lee expected his army to winter in Culpeper Co. but from some cause had to evacuate it, and all the infantry forces had fallen back on the south side of the Rapidan River in Orange Co.  the cavalry alone remaining to watch the enemy.  As I first stated were were notified at 3 A.M. of the advance in full force of the enemy’s whole army amounting to at least 100,000 while we only had about 5,000 cavalry and could have started and fallen back across the Rapidan with our army in a few hours, without molestation, and no loss of any kind.  Yet simply for effect we had to skirmish with all these great odds against us and to me without the least hope of doing any real good.

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2nd Corps Support; A Letter of Lt. John B. Noyes (formerly 13th MA)

Letter, September 14th, 1863

Lieutenant Noyes

Private John B. Noyes of the 13th Mass., spent much of the Summer of 1862 using as much influence as he could muster, lobbying for an officer’s commission.  When he finally got one, it was largely through the recommendation of Major J. P. Gould of the 13th.  Major Gould invited Noyes to his tent, when the latter returned to the regiment in February, 1862, the first of the Antietam wounded to come back.  Major Gould led the regiment in that battle, and took the opportunity to get to know Noyes, a Harvard graduate, better.   Now that there were fewer men in the ranks, that was easier to accomplish.

Major Gould was impressed with Noyes, and recommended him for promotion.  When it finally came however it was in the 28th Mass., an Irish Regiment, with an admirable record.  Noyes had wanted an appointment in a new organization.  The touchy Irish officers rejected him at first, but Lt. John B. Noyes was not to be intimidated.  He took no guff and earned the respect of both officers and men of the 28th.  He joined the regiment in the midst of the Battle of Chancellorsville.  By September 1863, post-Gettysburg, his dis-satisfaction with the organization of the 28th had peaked, and he went behind Colonel Byrnes back (28th MA) when the Colonel was away from the regiment,  and tried using influence again, to get transferred elsewhere. Col. Byrnes was a cool customer, but not unfair as Noyes judged him to be regarding promotions.

Major Gould at this time, was on detached duty, in Boston, since just after the Battle of Gettysburg.  He was recently promised the Colonelcy of one of the new ‘veteran’ regiments being raised by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew.  (His appointment to the 56th Mass. was later changed to the 59th Mass.)  John Noyes heard of this appointment, and now wished he could apply to his former Major for a captain’s commission as he expresses it in this letter.  Several of his former 13th Mass. comrades did join Major Gould’s new command as officers.  Unfortunately for John Noyes, a very capable officer, his attempts to transfer out of the 28th MA backfired, and only caused Col. Byrnes to delay his appointment to captain.

Noyes father was  Professor of Divinity at Harvard.  John was well connected in society.  Mr. Stimson was a leading businessman of Boston whose son was a noted scientist at the Smithsonian. And Mr. Bowen, he refers to, is doubtless, Francis Bowen, a Harvard luminary.

The 28th Mass. was part of the 2nd Corps, so he marched with General G. K. Warren into Culpeper county during this reconnaissance.  They passed Rapphanannock Station, where the 13th was camped, but didn’t have time to visit them.  He also talks of the many desertions among the new recruits.  A recurrent theme in all the Army of the Potomac at this time.

His musings are always rich in detail and  commentary on the progress of the war.

Within one mile of Culpepper C.H. Va.
               Camp 28th Mass.  Sept. 14, 1863.

Dear Father

Your letter speaking of my long silence reached me Sept 11th.  I have not written many letters lately to be sure, but this has been owing to my arduous duties.  I wrote however to you Aug. 23d.   Sept 1st  I also wrote long letters to you and Martha from United States Ford.  Those letters I entrusted to Quartermaster Serg’t Miner, and they were doubtless mailed Sept 4th or 5th.  Have these letters yet reached you?   I wrote a long letter to George Sept. 9th, and one to you asking that a box be sent, Sept. 11th but omit “Bealton Station”.   Direct simply to “Lieut. John B. Noyes, 28 Mass. Reg’t, 2d Brig. 1st Div. 2d Corps, via Washington:  Harnden’s Express.  Send in addition to articles previously ordered a piece of soap & a couple of spoons.

Our Corps left United States Ford Sept. 4th and arrived at the old Camping ground the same day.  We were mustered for pay Sept. 5th.  Sept. 12th we broke camp, taking every thing to start on a new campaign?  That is the question.  At night we camped at Rappahannock Station.  Three of my recruits deserted.  Four are now deserters from my Company.  Two sent to the hospital reduces the effective strength of my conscripts from 16 to 10.  The regiment lost several on the 1st dates march.  Gen’l Caldwell commanding the Division can thank himself for a portion of the loss.  The Division marched before halting nearly 2 hours, the day terribly hot and water scarce.  The long pull caused even old soldiers to fall out from utter exhaustion.  Knapsacks and woolen blankets were thrown away, enough to furnish all who wanted to carry such articles, and were not supplied with them.  Several of my men exchanged old for new Knapsacks, and were glad to obtain blankets which are now needed these cold nights.  The Doctor said he never knew more men to fall out from exhaustion.  Yet the march was not more than 8 or 10 miles long, and from the duration of the halt it was evident that there was no hurry.  To march men in such a manner is criminal, and injurious to the service.  Recruits disposed to quit of course seized the opportunity.

 The 1st Corps is at Rappahanock Station and has been encamped there the past month.  No time was given for visiting the 13th Mass. Reg’t as I should have liked to have done.  I understand that Lieut Thomas Welles is home on sick leave.  Shortly after crossing the river cannonading was heard.  Gen’l Kilpatrick,  or Kill-cavalry, as he is sometimes termed and with some justice, considering the enormous losses of late in that branch of the service was in advance with two divisions of cavalry.  As we drew near Culpepper we passed a rebel battery of 3 guns which had been taken and sent to the rear.  I bowed to the Rebel Captain as he passed within a yard of me, and he returned the salutation.  The prisoners were a sturdy set of men who appeared to regard their new situation variously.  Some joked and laughed some were moody and silent, one or two put on long faces.  Possibly they had been having good times at Culpepper.

Last Eve’g Lieut. W. L. Bailey, A.A.A.G. of the brigade took tea at a house at Culpepper at which he was aquainted.  When under Gen’l Bank’s he, with five others was accustomed to visit the house or rather the females there dwelling.  As A.A.A.G. Bailey is entitled to be called Captain and not having his best clothes with him, he had borrowed Capt. Gregg’s blouse.  He knocked at the door which was opened by one of the girls.  Taking off his hat he looked at her till she recognized him when she said are you a Captain ?  How are  --& ---- &-- who were to come with you ?  To the question he successively replied.  Bailey was a serg’t or Corporal.  Of his 5 friends, one had been killed in battle, four had been discharged from the service on account of wounds.

This A.M. two squads of prisoners passed our camp.  One squad must have numbered 50 men.  The men looked well.  Three or four had new light gray uniforms.  One of the men said he was “pretty well for an old man.”  Our pickets are said to be on the Rapidan.  Cannonading is now heard.  Our Corps is the only one hereabouts.  Whether other Corps are to follow us I do not know.  I am fortunate this march in having my things carried.  Lieut. Fleming’s white boy “Shag” having gone home gave his horse, which he had picked up when near death, to Hector who cooks for Lt. Smith and me.  The horse now looks very well, Lt. Bailey giving it oats occasionally.  The horse carries my wollen blankets, tent, haversack, & rations with those of Lieut Smith & Fleming.  I can assure you that marching is easier for me now that it was on the last campaign when I had to carry everything.  Having transportation I am not without pork and onions.

It seems that my letter was delivered to Gov. Washburn.  That letter was dated Aug 31st or Sept 1st.  I wrote to Hinckley advising him to drop the matter of my promotion, but on account of the reconnaissance  of the 1st Corps the letter was not mailed till Sept 4th or 5th.  If the Governor takes no notice of my letter I shall be sorry it was written.  Had the letter not been written I should have applied to Maj. Gould of the 13th Mass for a Captaincy in the 56th Mass. of which he is to be commissioned Colonel, as the report goes.    Had he offered me a captaincy, which I have no doubt he would I would then have sent an application signed by Col. Byrnes with an additional letter containing reasons for desiring a transfer similar to those offered in my letter to Gov. Washburn.  As it is I think the Governor will pay no attention to my letter and if he did my chances in the Regiment would be poorer than before.  What are your sentiments on the whole matter ?

Our armies seem to be successful every where in the west, and South West.  I confess to no desire to march again on Richmond.  I think our Army is not equal to the undertaking.  Richmond must be taken by other means than an attack in front.  When all communications South — West have been cut off,  Gen’l Lee must give us battle on our own ground.  Why talk then of assaulting the enemy in their almost impregnable works?

The speech of Senator Sumner appears to me one of the most remarkable signs of the times.  He remarks upon England’s course, which as yet I have only read, are strong, states-manlike and conclusive.  No menace is indulged; the conduct of England is however utterly condemned.  When a friend of England of the character of Senator Sumner, and of his repute abroad, makes such a speech, it behooves England to beware.  The people of England and its rulers may judge from his speech what must be sentiments of American Statesmen, and American people who have not been considered Anglophilists, and who have even formerly been considered Anglophobists.  I think Senator Sumner deserves the thanks of the American people for his great effort.  Whatever fault may be found with the speech for its universal freedom inspirations, the cogent & conclusive arguments and reasonings upon the course of the English Government must be approved by all lovers of their country.

Stephen sent me a novel a day or two ago in response to my letter to him written while he was on  a visit to you.  How does Mr. Stimpson do ?  Give him my regards when you next meet him.  I received a letter from Lieut Hoppin a few days ago, but have not had time to answer it.  Let Martha give my regards to my friends.  What does Prof. Bowen think of the present position of affairs ?  I had occasional conversations with him on war matters when I was at home over his nice ale.  Give him and Mrs. Bowen my regards.

        With love to all, I am as ever,
Your Aff. Son
John B. Noyes.

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Skirmishes Along The Rapidan, September 14


The following morning, September 14, the Union cavalry pushed its reconnaissance down to the Rapidan river to see whether the Confederates would defend it, or if not, to force a crossing into Orange County.  A reporter covering the exploits of General Kilpatrick's 2nd NY Cavalry, explained the difficulty of the task, due to the terrain along the banks of the river.  All of the high ground was on the South side of the river, and this gave all the advantages to the Southerners.  He wrote:

“To fully understand the strong position occupied by the enemy after they had been forced across the Rapidan, and the dangers to which our brave troopers were exposed in defending it, the reader must first have some knowledge of the topography of the place. The banks of the Rapidan and the country immediately adjacent, are peculiar to itself.  The right bank, [south] from the crossing of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to Germania, is almost one unbroken bluff, from 50 to 100 feet high, save where here and there a roadway debouches to one of the numerous fording places, or the rains have washed the bank away and formed a ravine.  Back of these bluffs are ranges of hills interspersed with a wooded country. The left bank [north] is comparatively low, rising but a few feet above the river when at its height, and extending back for from one half of a mile to one mile and a quarter is a level plain, over which the eye can sweep without woods or hills to obstruct the view.  It was across this plain and the river the rebel cavalry and infantry were pursued by our gallant troopers on Monday, the 14th, and held the same against all comers until relieved as before stated.”
Major-General Alfred Pleasonton

General Pleasonton rode with Buford and Kilpatrick’s cavalry divisions to Raccoon Ford.  They arrived at  9 AM.  They found the Confederates present, and ready for a fight.  As soon as the Federal force was spotted the Rebels across the river sent a short barrage of artillery fire into their midst, narrowly missing General Buford.  Fortunately no one was killed.  Dismounted troopers advanced to the ford and kept cover under a ridge along the river bank. From here sharpshooters of boths side kept up a continued fire across the river for two days.  General Buford called up Edward D. Willaston’s battery, 2nd U.S. Battery D, to engage with the enemy artillery.   Artist Alfred Waud captured it in action.  While General John Buford's 1st Cavalry Division engaged the enemy at Raccoon Ford, General Pleasonton ordered Kilpatrick's command [3rd Cavalry Division] west  towards Somerville Ford to see if a crossing could be made there.  This ford was less protected upon their arrival but that was changing very fast.  Confederate artillery was hurried forward and a hot engagement between Lt. William D. Fuller’s 3rd U.S. Battery C, and guns under the command of CSA Lt.-Col. Thomas H. Carter ensued.  This page will take a closer look at Gen. Kilpatrick’s engagement at Somerville Ford.

Major-General Alfred Pleasonton, pictured right.

Further to the west along the Rapidan, elements of General David M. Gregg’s 2nd Cavalry Division rode south from the area of Cedar Mountain toward Rapidan Station, of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  A scouting party commanded by Colonel Horace Sargent, 1st MA Cavalry, found the Confederates in a strong position straddling several hills on both sides of the river.  General J.E.B. Stuart  commanded the enemy troops here.  He had an impregnable position especially for the small scouting party sent to oppose him.  To his astonishment Colonel Sargent was ordered to attack.  General Gregg's orders were to find out how strong Confederate defenses were south of the river.  Although Col. Sargent advanced his squadrons with extreme caution he nonetheless suffered several casualties.  General Pleasonton reported these in his dispatch to head-quarters on the morning of September 15.

Alfred Waud's Sketch of Williston's Battery in Action at Raccoon Ford

A. R. Waud sketch of  Buford at Raccoon Ford Sept. 14 1863

Artist A.R. Waud, accompanied the expedition to the river and captured Edward B. Williston’s Battery D, 2nd US Artillery, in action with General Buford's Division at Raccoon Ford.   Waud's article appeared in Harper's Weekly Saturday, October 3rd Edition.

Artist Waud wrote in part:

“CULPEPER, Friday, September 18.
       “Your artist was the only person connected with newspapers permitted to go upon the recent advance to the Rapidan.  An order of General Meade’s sent all the reporters back.  It was a very wet and uncomfortable trip part of the time.  I did not get dry for two days; and was shot at into the bargain, at Raccoon Ford where I unconsciously left the cover and became a target for about twenty of the sharpshooters.  Luckily I was not touched;  but I did some tall riding to get out of the way.  We have doubts here whether we shall advance further.  Meade keeps his own counsel; but the general idea is against moving further on this line.

“...General Buford made an attack to unmask their force at Raccoon Ford, while another cavalry division was doing the same at Somerville Ford; since which time shelling and sharp-shooting has been constantly kept up on the river banks. ...Wollaston’s battery is shown in the view of Raccoon Ford.  ...Butler’s and Wollaston’s [Edward B. Williston, 2nd U.S. Artillery, Battery D, –– B.F.]  are the only horse batteries of light twelves in the service.  Both did good service.”

This engraving of A.R. Waud's full sketch appeared in Harper's Weekly, giving some indication of the missing half of the drawing above.

Harper's Weekly engraving of Raccoon Ford Fight

The Army of the Potomac –– General Buford Attacking the Enemy at Raccoon Ford, September 14, 1863. Sketched by A.R. Waud.

Fighting at Somerville Ford

Meanwhile, General Kilpatrick arrived at Somerville Ford  just before the enemy’s defending infantry was in place, and he immediately deployed troopers to try and force a crossing.  The men of the 1st Vermont, preparing to cross the open plain, were fortunately recalled when enemy batteries were spotted suddenly deploying on the high ground across the Rapidan.  Lucky for them.

Lt. William D. Fuller’s battery, 3rd U.S. Battery C, was called up to engage the few Confederate defenders then present.  Fuller's accuracy was deadly and caused much suffering in the Confederate ranks.  But in the coming hour more Confederate Artillery gradually arrived to defend the crossing and they gained the advantage in fire-power.  The  newspaper correspondent writing about the 2nd NY Cavalry, quoted above, wrote the following:

“At one time the enemy concentrated the fire of fourteen guns upon one battery of the Third Division.  General Pleasonton directed General Kilpatrick to "silence that battery."  General Kilpatrick replied, "I cannot do it, Sir."  "Then," said the commanding General, "no one can do it."  Our battery was withdrawn.”

The battery refered to was Lt. Fuller's.

General Kilpatrick reported on the day's activities:

“On the morning of the 14th instant, I moved my command to Somerville Ford, on Rapidan, deployed Sixth Michigan, dismounted, gained the ford under heavy fire from enemy’s sharpshooters, and after an artillery duel of one hour was forced to withrdraw, but still holding the ford.”

General Custer was wounded towards the end of the fighting on September 13th, so Kilpatrick's 2nd Brigade, the "Michigan Brigade" was in charge of Colonel George Gray, 6th Michigan Cavalry.  Colonel Gray reported on the 14th:

Map of Kilpatrick's skirmishes, Sept. 14, 1863

“This regiment, being the first to reach the river and the ford, was at once dismounted, when the men were placed in such position as to commend and protect the ford on this side.  Here they remained all that day and next, and the intervening night, during the day-time constantly engaged in skirmishing with the enemy.  The bravery and fortitude of the men of this regiment is almost without parallel in the annals of warfare.

“Occupying a road leading along the river’s edge to the ford, with scarcely a semblance of protection or cover, the enemy, on the other side, in rifle-pits, and behind natural cover, pouring on them a continual fire of musketry, and their guns from the surrounding heights throwing not only shell, but also grape and canister on my men.  Yet here they kept their ground from the forenoon of Monday, the 14th, to nearly day on the morning of the 15th, causing many of the enemy to fall, as could be seen by the eye, and was also well attested by the frequent visits of the enemy’s ambulances to their lines.  The loss sustained by this regiment on the 14th was 2 men killed and 5 wounded.”

The map pictured shows some of the important fords along the Rapidan river. Cedar Run, (mentioned in Lt. Fuller's report) and the Rapidan River, are outlined in light blue.  Cedar Run flows from Mitchell's Station.

Kilpatrick's Division rode from Pony Mountain to Raccoon Ford, then to Somerville Ford on the morning of the 14th.  Buford's Division was at Raccoon Ford.  A scouting party from General David M. Gregg's 2d Cavalry Division skirmished in the late afternoon at Rapidan Station (not shown) .  It is south of Mitchell's Station along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, and would be below Robertson's Ford on this map. There was a skirmish at Robertson's Ford on September 15..  The route the cavalry took is not stated, but I have indicated some likely roads to the ford in dark blue.  From Somerville Ford to Robertson's and beyond, the road in use then was right along side the north bank of the Rapidan River.

General Pleasonton's Dispatch to General Meade

The Cavalry Commander kept General Meade informed of the action along the river.  At 2 p.m. he sent the following communication.

Headquarters Cavalry Corps,                  
September 14, 1863 — 2 p.m.

General:  I have positions on the Rapidan at Somerville and Raccoon Fords, the enemy occupying the opposite side.  We have not been able to effect a crossing in consequence of the advantages the opposite side gives in commanding the fords.  At Somerville Ford, General Kilpatrick reports the enemy having about 2,000 infantry, and infantry has also been seen opposite Raccoon Ford.  Two negroes report that an infantry column came down this morning and occupied the rifle-pits on the other side.

If a corps was placed at raccoon ford and another at Mitchell’s Station, with a third at supporting distance at Culpeper, I could cross the river below, and then move in rear and uncover these fords.  I believe the largest part of Lee’s army has gone South.

Very respectfully,                                
A.    PLEASONTON,                  
Major-General, Commanding

Picture of Somerville Ford, looking south

Somervile Ford from the same position Alfred Waud sketched it

Photo of Somerville Ford, 2012, by the author.  Compare the contours of the hills with the engraving below.


I'd like to take a closer look at the artillery duel because my G-G Grandfather William Henry Forbush, formerly of Company K, 13th Mass. Infantry, was a member of Fuller's battery.  The battery was supported by troopers in the 1st & 7th Michigan Cavalry.  None of the Michigan units made much of the scuffle along the Rapidan in September, 1863.  They had more exhilerating adventures to relate.  But here is a little of what they wrote. Colonel W.D. Mann of the 7th reported:

“On Monday marched to Rapidan, where, by personal direction of General Kilpatrick, I took position under cover of ridge in support of battery, which position I held until night, when I removed, by order of Colonel Gray, to point near Somerville Ford road, where I remained without casualties until night of 15th instant.”

Colonel Peter Stagg, 1st Michigan Cavalry, was one of the units supporting Lt. William D. Fuller's battery at Somerville Ford.  He reported the folowing:

“On the morning of the 14th, we reached Somerville Ford, and were ordered to support the second section of Fuller's Battery, posted on an eminence to the right of Cedar Run, which was engaging the enemy across the river.

“After the battery was obliged to retire from the field, we remained as a support to our dismounted men at the ford until after dark under a constant fire from the enemy's artillery and sharpshooters, losing 1 man killed.”

It was a menacing duel for both sides.  Here is Lieutenant Fuller's report.

Report of Lieutenant William D. Fuller, Battery C, Third U.S. Artillery.

Camp of Fuller’s Battery,
Light Company C, Third U.S. Artillery,

Stevensburg, Va., September 19, 1863.

Captain:   In obedience to orders received from headquarters Third Division of Cavalry, I have the honor to make the following report of the movements of this battery:

Lieutenant William Duncan Fuller

The battery left Hartwood Church on the 12th of September, and marched to Kelly’s Ford, on the Rappahannock, and encamped for the night.  Early next morning it crossed the river with General Custer’s brigade of cavalry, and marched to Culpeper.  Later in the day it went into position at different points beyond Culpeper, firing on the enemy’s skirmishers, who occupied several houses, fences, and woods, as our cavalry pursued and drove them to and across the Rapidan River.

The battery camped near Pony Mountain the night of the 13th instant.  On the morning of the 14th, it moved down to the Rapidan River.  The battery was in position near Cedar Run, under direction of General Kilpatrick, firing across the river at the enemy’s cavalry and bodies of infantry, who showed themselves frequently.  The general afterward directed the battery to be brought over Cedar Run, and to come into battery at a greater distance up the Rapidan, for the purpose of forcing a crossing. [Lt.-Col. Peter Stagg, 1st Michigan. says this is Cedar Run near Somerville Ford. –– B.F.]

At this point a heavy and continued engagement began with batteries of the enemy, advantageously posted across the river, on ground commanding our positions completely.  The enemy maintained a plunging fire on us, from at least twelve pieces of artillery, both rifled guns and smooth-bores.

An accurate fire was nevertheless continued by our guns until General Kilpatrick directed the battery withdrawn by sections.  This was done with regularity, and without any casualties.  The battery had been subjected to much annoyance from the fire of the enemy’s sharpshooters, in the early part of the day.  The night of the 14th, we encamped about a mile back from the river, near General Kilpatrick’s headquarters.  I remained in camp on the 15th.  On morning of the 16th, a Confederate force crossed the river, and attacked the cavalry on the river bank, under cover, of a severe artillery fire across the river.  I ordered a section of the battery down at once, but the enemy had been driven back again by our own cavalry.  The section remained in position, the guns massed by bushes in edge of the woods during the day, and was withdrawn at night.  On 17th, marched to Stevensburg.

Lieutenants Meinell and Kelly commanded sections, and, as on many a battle-field before, worked their guns with skill and gallantry.  The accuracy of our fire was repeatedly shown, and quite a number of the enemy’s wounded were seen carried to the rear.  I beg to call the attention to the efficient services of First Sergt. Daniel Munger, of this battery, who also commanded a section.

I am, captain very respectfully,

William D. Fuller,
First Lieutenant, Third Artillery, Commanding Battery.

Captain Estes,
      Assistant Adjutant-General.

Post-war photo of WIlliam Forbush

William Henry Forbush's Diary Entry, September 14, 1863

My own Great-Great Grandfalther's take on the engagement was a bit different.  He says his battery ran out of ammunition, so its interesting to contemplate how many rounds were fired.  Private William Henry Forbush wrote:

“Monday 14.  Started and came to the Rappidan River and Shelled the Rebels but we got out of Ammunition and fell back to a peace of woods then went to an open field and camped for the night –”

Though he was out-gunned, Lt. Fuller didn't report any casualties in his battery.  By contrast, Lt. Jacob Counelman reported 4 enlisted men wounded in his battery, 1st U.S. Battery K;  during the several days fighting.

However, across the river, on the Orange County side, the Confederates had a rough time of it.  Fuller's gunners were deadly accurate in their fire.  Charles Furlow, a soldier in the 4th Georgia Infantry was present at Somerville Ford (his diary is at Yale University).    He described the action:

“When we arrived within half a mile of the river our Brigade was halted and ordered to stack arms and clear the road so that the Artillery could pass, then rode down to the river to see what was going on.  In front of us I could see nothing but a few Cavalry skirmishers who were firing now and then at our pickets.  A mile or two below, at Raccoon Ford, Genl Stewart was fighting them and using some Artillery.  About 2 o’clock our Division Battalion of artillery came up and passed to the front.  As soon as the enemy saw it they ran out some pieces and soon a brisk duel was going on which lasted some time.  Our Artillery lost six killed and eighteen wounded.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas H. Carter, C.S.A., commanded the Confederate battery that opposed Lt. Fuller.  One of his men, Andrew Lethers, met a gruesome death; his head was shot off.*

“On the 14th, my command joined the division near Somerville Ford, and I was immediately ordered to the assistance of General Early, whose artillery had not yet arrived, and who was then skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry at the river.  Here the enemy was found in considerable force of cavalry and artillery.  Four guns of my battalion were planted on the left of Halsey's house, and opened on a body of cavalry threatening the ford.  The cavalry at once withdrew, but the enemy soon responded with eight pieces of artillery.  After some delay, occasioned by the necessity of an examination of the ground, additional guns were brought to the assistance of the four already engaged, and the enemy's batteries were forced to retire.  Owing to the disparity in the number of the guns in the early part of the engagement and the superiority of the enemy's ammunition, the loss sustained here was heavy for a skirmish of the kind, summing up 6 killed and 17 more or less severely wounded.  Captain Carter calls attention to the good conduct and efficiency of Lieutenant Robinson and Privates James Allen and William Smithers. My battalion remained in position at this ford until the 18th, when it moved to Morton's Ford.”

*Source:   David F. Riggs, 13th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, Va.:  H.E. Howard, Inc. 1988), p. 100. Via Patricia Hurst, Soldiers, Stories and Fights Orange County, Virginia 1861-1865; p. 370.

A.R. Waud's sketch, Webb's Brigade On Picket, Somerville Ford.

Alfred Waud's sketch of Gen. Webb's infantry picketing Somerville Ford

Webb's Brigade On Picket, Somerville Ford, from Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1863

Somerville Ford, engraving from Harper's Weekly

Usually I prefer to post the artist correspondent's original drawing over the engraved version, but in this instance I believe some of the landmark details in the engraving are more clearly defined than in the original sketch.  Patricia J. Hurst, an historian who lived along the Rapidan River beneath Clark's Mountain wrote extensively about the area.  She included this engraving in her book Soldiers, Stories, Sites and Fights, Orange County, Virginia, 1861-1865 and the Aftermath.  She said of this view, “This sketch appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1863 and is the only photo that is probably in existence of the old Somerville mill dam on the Rapidan River.  Old Somervilla is on the far right in grove of trees.  The house accidently burned during the war.  Old Lessland across River Road was then on the river at the left of the sketch.  The old Somerville Mill road shown on war maps, Route 626, is in the area of the middle ridge of fortifications on the high ridge.”


From his position in the vicinity of Cedar Mounain, General David McMurtrie Gregg's 2nd Cavalry Division was scouting the river crossings further west.  Rapidan Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad was among them.  He sent a large scouting party of 600 men commanded by Horace B. Sargent, 1st MA Cavalry, to the river to test the enemy's strength at that place.  It turned out to be heavily defended by Confederate Cavalry legend General J.E.B. Stuart himself.  Sargent recognized the impossibility of attacking such a stronghold, but was ordered to do so regardless.  Sargent was careful in his approach, yet still suffered several casualties. 

Benjamin W. Crowninshield gives a descriptive narrative from his book, History of the First Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston & New York, 1891.

Horace Binney Sargent, photo from the regimental history

General Gregg, commanding the 2nd division, on the morning of the 14th of September ordered the 1st Massachusetts, 6th Ohio, and 1st Rhode Island cavalry, under command of Colonel Sargent of the 1st Massachusetts, to push the enemy across the river, and develop his strength on the other side.  As the other side was particularly open, and at least a division of infantry could be plainly seen there, enjoying themselves, with the bands playing popular Confederate airs, this order seemed somewhat unnecessary, and Colonel Sargent [Horace Binney Sargent, pictured] sent a dispatch setting this forth, thinking General Gregg was not aware of the situation.  But on its reiteration the three regiments pushed on towards Stuart’s cavalry, and at once encountered the fire of a large number of pieces of artillery from the south bank, besides that of the battery on this side, which was located near a house on a small hill just at the ford.  When the head of the column reached the edge of the woods, on the road to the ford, it halted, while a short survey of the ground was made by Colonel Sargent before he should march into the open ground.  The road sloped down gradually into a meadow of large extent, which bordered the river, and just above the ford itself was a hill with farm buildings and trees, and about the buildings a force of cavalry –– the 9th Virginia –– and a battery of horse artillery.

For some time the enemy did not see our men; and while they sat on their horses chatting, somebody woke up a nest of those peculiarly lively wasps called yellow jackets.  They did not mean to be insulted with impunity, and swarmed out in force.  It was just becoming very lively and unpleasant, when the boom of a cannon across the river was heard, and that thrilling sound which is the forerunner of mischief, in comparison with which yellow jackets are amiable and delightful.  Not a thought more was bestowed on them, for the first shell came near enough to throw dirt upon the head of the column and followers came thick and fast.  The situation at once became very hot and trying for our cavalry, who were without artillery, and absolutely unable to inflict any damage on the enemy.  Action was embarrassing, for without artillery no injury could be done the enemy, even on our own side of the river; while to charge him, there was every chance of annihilation on the way to his position on the hill above the ford.  …The moment any body of men became conspicuous, they drew the fire not only of the guns at the ford, but of a much larger number across the river, on higher and perfectly open ground, which could direct a plunging and intersecting fire on us, and search out every inch  of our ground.  As if to add insult to injury, a large body of infantry was there in camp, with field music, to enjoy our discomfiture; and they did seem to enjoy it hugely.

Colonel Sargent and staff posted themselves on a little eminence, in plain sight of the enemy, and appeared to be pleased to make targets of themselves.  At times, many guns were fired at them, covering them with dust and dirt.  Why any escaped being hit was a marvel; but artillery fire is not always certain.  Colonel Sargent, feeling nettled that his remonstrances had not been listened to, pushed close up and repulsed a charge made by the 9th Virginia cavalry regiment.  The Confederates seeing our inability to inflict any injury, and protected by the strong force with artillery across the river, reinforced their cavalry; and about dusk made an attack on our forces and inflicted considerable damage, almost entirely on the 1st Maryland.  Our troops were in turn reinforced, and repulsed the enemy, and after dark all were withdrawn, and the Confederates crossed to their side of the river.

Buddy Secor Photograph, Cavalry Charge

Colonel Horace B. Sargent's stated the following casualties in his report of the engagement:

The casualties are reported as follows:

Killed, 3; wounded, 22; missing, 4.  I think the casualties in the First Maryland Cavalry were occasioned in a large degree by charging beyond the skirmish line over bad ground and not hearing recall of bugle.  The charge was very gallantly entered on, and opportune.  We took 3 prisoners;  several rebels wounded are reported.

The next day, September 15th,  General Pleasonton's relayed these casualties to headquarters, stating 5 killed & 17 wounded.

Return to Table of Contents

Skirmishes Along The Rapidan, September 15

Pleasonton's Dispatch to General Meade

Headquarters Cavalry Corps,         
September 15, 1863 — 10 a.m.

The enemy have increased their force at Raccoon Ford.  Have opened fire on Buford, who has withdrawn to the woods, but can hold his position.  They have also picketed the different fords above with infantry since last night, and have brought down additional batteries to Raccoon and Somerville Fords.  General Gregg’s loss yesterday was 5 killed and 17 wounded.

    A.    PLEASONTON,      

General George G. Meade.

General Kilpatrick's Dispatch to General Pleasonton

Headquarters Third Division, Cavalry Corps,   
September 15, 1863.

Lieut. Col. C. Ross Smith,
        Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps:

Colonel:    Colonel Gray, commanding pickets at Somerville Ford, reports that the enemy are constantly throwing up intrenchments opposite the ford and have four field batteries in position.  Their people from the rifle-pits are firing upon my men by volleys.  I shall strengthen my pickets at the ford.  He also reports a large number of camp fires in rear of the batteries.  I shall also strengthen my pickets at Robertson’s Ford.  The enemy have planted a battery of six guns at this ford.

Very respectfully,

J. KILPATRICK,           
Brig. Gen. of Vols., Commanding Third Division.

Fighting At Somerville Ford

General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, 3rd Division Cavalry Corps

Tensions remained high all along the Rapidan River on September 15.  Confederates brought up infantry re-enforcements and both sides dug-in during the previous night, adding earthworks and artillery lunettes to their defensive positions.  At Somerville Ford, the 6th Michigan Cavalry still held the road in front of the ford.  The newspaper correspondent who covered the expedition tells this story:

[QUOTE]:  “On the morning of [September 15] the rebel pickets in front of the Sixth Michigan advanced in a friendly way to the bank of the river, and were met in the same spirit by our men.  A large number of men washed themselves in the river on both sides, and there was the usual jesting and bantering between the parties, the same as has frequently been recorded of pickets when not shooting at each other.  Lieutenant Segrix and a private named George Brown, of the Sixth Michigan, finally started for the river to wash, and when near the bank the men on the opposite side, without giving any notice whatever, fired a dozen shots at them.  Lieutenant Segrix escaped uninjured, but his companion was wounded in the leg and arm, and George C. Chandler, of the same regiment, was killed.  Not satisfied with this base act of treachery, they fired and hit one of the men who was carrying Brown from the field.”  [ENDQUOTE].

General Kilpatrick reported a Confederate attack on the 6th Michigan, still holding the road in front of the ford.  He says the 5th Michigan came to the rescue and beat back the attack, but neither regiment mentions the affair in their own reports !  The same newspaper correspondent gives us a glimpse of what happened.

[QUOTE]:  “While holding these fords the enemy made several formidable attempts to cross the river and obtain a footing upon the left [north] bank.  They did succeed in landing small parties at several points, but were as often repulsed.  The most serious attempt was made on Tuesday, the 15th, when a general movement along the whole line took place.

Colonel George Gray, 6th Michigan Cavalry

“...On the same day the picket of the Sixth Michigan, under Lieutenant Lovell was flanked in a similar way, but Colonel Gray [pictured, left] being on hand drove the enemy back with the balance of his regiment.  The Fifth Michigan, Colonel Alger, came up promptly to their assistance, but fortunately their services were not needed.  In this affair the picket fought nobly –– one man, Robert Tronax, with his seven-shooting Spencer rifle, killing six rebels while they were crossing the river.”  [ENDQUOTE].

Over at Robertson's Ford, there was more of a dust-up with Kilpatrick's 1st Brigade.  More on that below.  Here is what General Kilpatrick reported:

“On the 15th instant, by a skillfull attack, the enemy succeeded in gaining a crossing at Robertson's Ford, with a force of infantry, which Colonel Davies at once drove back, re-occupying the ford.

“An hour later the enemy attacked the Sixth Michigan Regiment at Somerville Ford, but was repulsed by Colonel Alger, of the Fifth Michigan Regiment. For the remainder of the day firing was continued along the line without material result.”

As I said, neither Colonel Alger of the 5th Michigan, nor Brigade Commander Colonel George Gray of the 6th Michigan made any mention of the fighting at Somerville Ford on September 15.  Here is Colonel Gray's report:

“About 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning of the 15th instant, the men of this regiment were relieved, and went into camp to the rear, having been on the river bank and at the ford, in the position above mentioned, and under the circumstances above described, more than thirty-six hours.

illustration of Confederate skirmishers

“After dark of the same day, about 8 o’clock in the evening, 100 men of this regiment were again ordered to the ford, where they remained, as in their former position, during the night.  This brings the report of the part taken by this regiment down to the time required by the order from brigade headquarters.  The subsequent proceedings I should be glad to report if it was proper under that order.”

Another example of the non-reporting on September 15th from Kilpatrick's 2nd Brigade is demonstrated in Colonel Peter Stagg's report for the 1st Michigan Cavalry.

“The next morning [15th] we resumed our position as a reserve to the picket, and withdrew to the woods at 10 p.m.”

As for the Confederates at Somerville Ford, the Georgia volunteer, Charles Furlow, reported more fun about a turkey than anything else.

   Charles Furlow Diary:
          “Sept. 15.  Remained at camp of the day before.  Considerable fun going on, on the picket line over a turkey.  The yankees shot a turkey and attempted to get it, but our sharpshooters drove them off.  Our men attempted to get it then but were driven off in turn by the yankees.  Thus it went on for half the day, but the yankees, I think finally got it.  This made our men mad so they went over and captured the yankee skirmishers to pay for it.”

Private William Henry Forbush, 3rd U.S. Battery C, suggests the day was quiet in his diary entry of September 15th, although he did return to the river from camp and he did go into battery.   I wonder if he witnessed the turkey incident.

William Henry Forbush Diary:
        “Tuesday 15.  Left and came out to a peace of woods and came in Battery     at night limbered up and went into Camp for the night.  Pleasant Day – ”

“Wednesday 16.  The Rebels came down on our cavalry at the River and about 100 of the Rebels came across but our men drove them off again.  Pleasant day.  On Guard.”

Four Views of Somerville Ford

Somerville Ford Road, North Side, View North Somerville Ford
Somerville Ford, Orange County Side, view west Somervalia

Photographs from the blog, Mysteries & Conundrums; "Exploring Culpeper and Orange –– Raccoon and Somerville Fords, November 27, 2013, by John Hennessy.  Pictured top: Somerville road, view to the north, and Somerville Ford from the south (Orange County) side looking west across the Rapidan. [the river takes a n/s bend at the ford]  Bottom: View across the river towards 'Somervalia,'  Close up view of 'Somervalia.'    This 1867 Georgian-Victorian design house was built to replace the Colonial Home that burned during the war.  Bricks for the house were made on the farm.  A bridge was located at the ford until it was replaced by current route 522.


I'm unsure if the 100 Rebels crossing the river that my G-G Grandfather refers to, is the same incident Charles Furlow referenced at Somerville Ford, where some pickets were captured, or if it is a reference to the skirmishing at Roberston's Ford.  I'll have to let it stand on its own.  The reason so many of the reports mention being withdrawn during the night is again explained by the newspaper correspondent quoted above.

[QUOTE]:    “When in the rifle-pits, every man had to lie flat upon the ground, or run the chance of being deliberately shot, for the enemy would fire at the sight of a head or limb.  Several of the Ninth New-York cavalry [Buford's 1st Division at Raccoon Ford] amused themselves, while on picket by raising their caps on sticks, just so the enemy could see them;  this would draw a volley instantly.  Several caps held up in this way were pierced with bullets.  These pickets could only be relieved at night.  Notwithstanding the dangerous position, every man was eager to be one of the party on picket.  The men seemed to enjoy it as much as they would to go on a picnic at home.  When the cavalry pickets were finally relieved by infantry, [the morning of September 16]  the pickets in front of one division were relieved in the day time.  One trooper at a time would walk from the rifle-pits to the rear and one of the relief would go in.  The scene was an exciting one; and notwithstanding dozens of shots were fired at each man in turn as he crossed the plain, a majority of the men passed over the distance at a walk.   The fact that but few were wounded has led me to believe that possibly the cool daring of the men aroused a little manhood in the enemy, and that they did not try very hard to hit any one.  The last to leave the rifle-pit at this point was Lieutenant Emerson, of the First Michigan cavalry.  He is a man of commanding presence, and as he stalked across the plain, his long beard sweeping the air, was the observed of all.  When within a few rods of cover two shots were fired at him.  He at once made an offensive gesture, when instantly a dozen bullets whistled past his head –– one singeing his hair.”  [ENDQUOTE].

These guys were tough.


General Kilpatrick's summary report refers to minor skirmishes at Somerville & Robertson's Ford on the 15th.   Unfortunately, his officers at Somerville Ford failed to say anything more about it.   However, his First Brigade commander, Colonel Henry Eugene Davies wrote a fairly detailed report of the rhubarb at Robertson's.

Possible site of Robertson's Ford on the Rapidan RIver, Taken from the North side lookng south.

Possible location of Robertson's Ford on the Rapidan River.  View to the south.  The precipitous rise on the south side of the river is not apparent in this view, but it does exist.  See image below.

General Alfred Pleasonton to General David M. Gregg,  8.30 a.m.

Hdqrs. Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac,   
September 15, 1863––8.30 a.m.

Brigader-General Gregg,
        Commanding Second Cavalry Division:

General,:   General Kilpatrick will connect with you to-day and give you assistance to push the enemy in front of you across the river, if you think it can be done.  You will occupy the line of the Rapidan until further orders, picketing well above and to your flank, and keeping me fully advised of anything that occurs.  Send your train back for supplies, and, if you can spare the men, send to my headquarters for your share of new horses out of the 1,000 just from Washington.  Let the officers see Lieutenant Spangler about them  He is to be found near my headquarters, north of the Rappahannock.

Very respectfully,

        Major-General, Commanding.

Twin Mountain Ridge

The ridge opposite the Rapidan near Robertsons Ford

Pictured in this photo is the ridge opposite the ford, mentioned in Col. Davies' report when he writes, “In the evening the pickets I had first established were driven back from the river’s edge to a crest of hill some 400 yards from the bank, which they successfully held.”  View taken from the river bank looking north.  Somerville Ford is 3 miles down river to the right.

Report of Colonel H. E. Davies, 1st Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division

Colonel Henry Eugene Davies, & Lt. Jacob H. Counselman, pictured below.

Stevensburg, Va.,        
September 20, 1863

Captain:    I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the skirmishes on the Rapidan River, from the time of our arrival on that stream until we were relived by the infantry of the Second Corps:

Colonel Henry Eugene Davies

On the evening of Monday, the 14th instant, I made a camp about 1 1/2 miles back of the river, and was directed by general commanding division to picket Robertson’s Ford.  This, from all information I could obtain in the country was pointed out to me as the ford next above Somerville, the latter being held by Second Brigade of this division.   I sent a strong picket to this point, and established at once a communication with the right of the Second Brigade, and through the night and the following day, Tuesday, September 15, made every effort to open and establish communication with the left of Brigadier-General Gregg’s command.

In the afternoon I learned the position of General Gregg’s pickets.  His extreme left was not on the river but in rear of Pony Mountain.  I also discovered that below the ford I was picketing, and between my position and General Gregg’s, there were two other fords unguarded, the upper one also called Robertson’s Ford.  I immediately sent to this point a battalion of the Second New York Cavalry, commanded by Captain Griggs, with instructions to clear out a few of the enemy who were on the north bank, to connect with General Gregg by patrols, to throw up rifle-pits for his carbines and hold these fords at all hazards.

In the evening the pickets I had first established were driven back from the river’s edge to a crest of hill some 400 yards from the bank, which they successfully held.  I should here state that the north bank of the Rapidan, along the line I held, is entirely commanded by the south bank, which rises abruptly from the river to a great height, is thickly wooded at most points, and, from the narrowness of the river within short carbine range of the other side.  I increased the picket at the ford I have first mentioned to a battalion.  These dispositions were made during the afternoon and evening of the 15th.

At daylight the morning of the 16th, I directed that the outposts along the whole line should be pushed to the river and a determined effort made to clear every enemy from the north bank.  This was done most successfully by Captain Griggs on my right, who, in a short time, drove every rebel in his front across the river excepting a party stationed at Robertson’s house on his extreme right, who had a position he could not take with the force at his command.

Lieutenant Counselman

At the ford I have first alluded to, the enemy made a determined resistance, and crossing a regiment of infantry made a brisk attack on my lines, and for a few moments it seemed that the battalion there on duty would be driven back.   Fortunately, at this moment they were re-enforced by another battalion of the Second New-York that had been sent down to relieve them, who, led by Captain Hasty, sprang from their saddles and rushed to the assistance of their comrades.  This force sufficed to hold the enemy in check, and word having been sent to my headquarters, boots and saddles sounded, and within five minutes after the alarm was given the brave First [West] Virginia Cavalry, supported by a section of Lieutenant Counselman’s battery, was galloping to the scene of conflict.

On reaching the ground they dismounted, formed, deployed as skirmishers, and advanced across the field as well as could be done by any infantry in our service.  In less time than I have taken in writing this report, with the assistance of Lieutenant Counselman’s guns, the enemy were driven across the ford in confusion.  They left 3 dead on the ground, and were seen to bear off many wounded.

From the opposite bank during the day they at intervals opened a fire on our men, which on every occasion, however, was promptly silenced.  Twice during the morning they brought artillery into position from commanding points and opened, but were immediately silenced and driven off by Lieutenant Counselman. [Lt. Jacob Henry Counselman pictured.]

Just before sunset they succeeded with oxen in getting four guns into position on the summit of the mountain beyond the ford, and opened a heavy fire with shells upon the woods where my reserves were stationed.  This was immediately replied to by Lieutenant Counselman, who, with a well-directed shot, blew up one of their limber chests, when they retired.  The only result of the shelling was the killing of four horses.  During the night all was quiet.

I have mentioned that the enemy had retained possession of Robertson’s house on my extreme right, and I determined the next morning to drive them from that position.  I took a section of artillery to the place before daylight and masked it in the woods; as soon as day broke, by throwing out a line of skirmishers, I drew the enemy from their position when I opened on them with the guns.  Two shells sufficed to drive them over the river and we had the position.  From this time until we were relieved by the infantry, all was quiet with the exception of occasional firing across the river.

I would mention for good conduct and gallantry, Major Capehart, First [West] Virginia Cavalry, and indeed the whole of his regiment, in which each man endeavored to surpass the other in daring, and Captains Mitchell, Downing, Hasty, and Griggs, Second New York Cavalry, who against great odds, fought most gallantly.  Of Lieutenant Counselman and the men of his command, I would speak in the highest terms, and desire particularly to mention Sergeant Regan and Corporal Bartlett, of the battery, who by their admirable practice with the guns contributed much to our success and challenged the admiration of all who saw the shots they made.  Dr. Capeheart, and Captains Siebert and Poughkeepsie, of my staff, renders me most valuable assistance.

Our loss, considering all things, was very slight, but 1 man killed, Sergeant Norton, of Company D, Second New York Cavalry, in whose loss his comrades deplore a brave and gallant soldier, and 6 wounded, but 1 case serious.  The men were well handled by their officers and fought most under cover;  hence so slight a loss.

Respectfully submitted.

H. E. DAVIES, Jr.,                       
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

        Capt. L.G. Estes,
            Assistant Adjutant-General.

Colonel Davies was very soon promoted to Brigadier General.

Lieutenant Jacob Counselman's report reiterates the fact that enemy batteries intermittently opened fire from the heights across the river.  He wrote:

“On the 15th, again took position near the river, and assisted in driving the enemy’s skirmishers to the other side.  Later in the day the enemy opened their batteries several times upon our skirmishers from the heights on the opposite side of the river,  when I immediately engaged them each time and succeeded in silencing them, it is believed with considerable damage.

“As regards the manner in which my men conducted themselves on this occasion, I can only say their gallantry was unsurpassed, their coolness and courage, while under the hottest fire I ever witnessed, was the subject of remark of every one, and the commendatory words of  praise which I hear on every hand makes me proud of the battery which I command.”

View to the South side of the Rapidan near Robertsons Ford

This photograph shows the high ground on the south side of the Rapidan River where  Robertson's Ford once was, and  from which Confederate Batteries fired upon their Federal counterparts.  Once again the ever-present Clark's Mountain dominates the landscape.  The location of the house mentioned in Col. Davies report is unknown, though it was close to the crossing.

Rapidan River Near Robertson's Ford

Below is a photograph of the Rapidan River at one of the locations we believe to be the old Robertson's Ford.  View is on the Culpeper side looking Southwest to the Orange side of the river.

Robertson's Ford Area - Rapidan River

More About Robertson's Ford

I found the following interesting information about Robertson's Ford in the late local historian Patricia Hurst's self published book, “Soldiers, Stories, Sites and Fights Orange County Virginia 1861-1865 and the Aftermath” 1998. (p. 130-131).  Her photograph of the ford accompanies her text.  Patricia passed away last year, 2018.  A few copies of her book were offered for sale by the Orange County Historical Society by her surviving brother, and I picked up a copy.

Robertson’s Ford –– was a ford named for the Robertson family on the Culpeper side of the river.  The skirmishes on September 15th and 23rd, 1863, caused confusion as shown in the official correspondence.  Ann Robertson, widow of William Robertson III, whose property Deloraine was on the river (Culpeper County) –– the ford Robertson’s or Deloraine was named for the family and  property.  A son, William A. Robertson, resided down river at Claremont (Culpeper County).  Patricia Hurst's photo of Roberton's Ford, 1986A horse ford was at William A. Roberton’s home.  The Robertson family owned one hundred ten and a half acres further down river on the Orange County side.  There was a crossing to the property –– the third crossing referred to in the Union reports.  (Two members of two generations of the Robertson family drowned in the river crossing to this tract of land.)

Previous research on the fords and traditional information verify the first Robertson’s Ford as the ford which was determined by the Union army also.  An additional historical note on the first Robertson Ford is that this ford when known as Downey’s Ford was the ford Thomas Jefferson crossed en route to the White House.

Thomas Jefferson’s itinerary shows that after leaving Orange C.H. (after visiting James Madison at Montpelier on November 2, 1800) Jefferson traveled nine miles to Downey’s Ford.  He then traveled three miles to Somerville’s Mill.*  The River Road was also known as the Stevensburg Road as Route 647 (Culpeper County) led to Stevensburg and Route 647 was reached by traveling the River Road (Stevensburg Road) and crossing the river.

Alexander Downey owned a mill and lived on the Orange County side of the river.  The stream is still known as Downey Mill Run and empties into the river near Robertson’s Ford.  The old ford road still remains in part on the Orange County side of the river and road to the ford on the Culpeper side of the river.

*NOTE:  “Letters for Old Trunks, Thomas Jefferson to John Millege,”  Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 48 (1940):  98.


Civil War era map showing Downes Ford (also Robertson's Ford0

While Patricia Hurst knew where the Ford was, today its exact location is a little sketchy.   It is indicated in different locations, (though very close to each other) on different period hand-drawn maps.  The map pictured shows Downes Ford, where Robertson's is indicated on some other maps.  This seems to correspond with what Patricia Hurst wrote.

  I walked the river with my friend Brett Johnson, an impeccable  and unsung researcher, and we went to the spot where Brett thought the ford had been.  Then, ee talked with the current property owners, and they told us wehre they had created their own mule ford on the property not far from Brett's spot, and invited us to walk the property.  It was a privilege to do so.  We came away undecided as to the exact spot along the river.  But as the sky dimmed in late afternoon light we paused on the river bank.  We stood where they once stood.  It is easy to imagine that in the quiet stillness of the dark night, you can stand here, contemplate that fact, and perhaps hear them still.  Its beautiful along the Rapidan.

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General Meade Reports to Washington & Awaits a Response

General Pleasonton's cavalry reconnaissance was a success in providing crucial information on General Lee's whereabouts to General Meade & the Washington authorities.  General Longstreet's Corps was detached from Lee's army, and General Lee, with the infantry of Richard Ewell & A.P. Hill present, would defend the line of the Rapidan River.  On the morning of the 15th General Meade prepared his army to advance into Culpeper county if so ordered.  By the afternoon he had received enough information necessary to accurately report the condition of Lee's Army to General Halleck & President Lincoln.  Awaiting their response he sat up most the night.

General Pleasonton expressed worries in the evening of September 15, the enemy would cross the river the next day and attack his spread-out cavalry pickets.  He requested General Warren move some infantry closer to the river to meet that threat.  General Warren disagreed.  He suggested Pleasonton fall back in the event the enemy did advance. General Meade agreed with Warren's assessment.

The following communications reveal the development of these events.

General Warren to General Meade

September 15, 1863.

Major-General Meade:

Sir:    The following is a copy of dispatch to General Warren from General Pleasonton:

Mitchell’s Station,  [September —. 1863.]

Major-General Pleasonton desires me to inform you that General Kilpatrick reports that the enemy have brought up heavy re-enforcements, and they have been cheering all along the line, and bands playing, and they tried to stampede his pickets to-night.  You can see heavy camp-fires, and you can hear the rumbling of artillery and trains, and he thinks your corps should be here by daylight, as they have sufficient infantry to making a crossing against our forces, as we have such a long line to protect.  They have now the railroad bridge to cross on.

C. ROSS SMITH,      
Lieutenant-Colonel, and Chief of Staff.

Major-General Warren,
                    Second Corps.

General Meade to General-in-Chief Halleck, 4.30 p.m.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,         
September 15, 1863 — 4 p.m.  (Received 4.30 p.m.)

Major-General H. W. Halleck :

The latest intelligence from the front is 10 a.m., when General Pleasonton reports that the enemy have increased their forces, both infantry and artillery, at the several crossing places threatened by our cavalry.  The enemy have likewise a force of infantry and artillery on this side of the Rapidan (at the railroad crossing), evidently to defend and dispute the possession of the bridge at that place.  General Warren remains at Culpeper, to which point our trains run, and the telegraph is being opened to Mitchell’s Station, the rebels having left their line intact.  Two scouts have arrived from below, having been some 5 miles south of Chancellorsville.  They confirm the report of the departure of Longstreet’s corps, but heard nothing of Ewell’s or Hill’s corps leaving.

Your telegram of 11 a.m. this day has been received.  I have given orders to concentrate and mass the different corps at the several crossing places on the Rappahannock, but shall wait your letter before making any further forward movement.

GEO. G. MEADE,         

General Warren to Adjutant Williams, 8.50 p.m.

September 15, 1863 ––8.50 p.m. rm

Deserters and the current opinion of those I can get anything out of are positive that Longstreet’s corps has gone to Richmond or farther south;  that Ewell’s and Hill’s corps are about Orange Court-House, and General Lee is in command.  Pleasonton reports Germanna Ford as the best place to cross.  He says:  “If you (I) were at the Rapidan Station now to occupy the attention of the enemy I believe I could effect a crossing below.”  I cannot move down there with safety, unless another corps moves out here.

From the best information I can get to-night, the enemy still hold this side of the Rapidan bridge, so I cannot have it reconstructed.  The map indicates steep banks on each side from that point down to Somerville Ford.  The Clark’s Mountain gives the enemy all the command, and I believe there is no command for our artillery till Germanna Ford is reached.  There is a mill race on the other side, which gives the enemy’s infantry shelter.  It seems to me that the best way to turn the enemy is by a rapid move of troops toward Germanna or Ely’s Fords.

General Pleasonton said he would report in full about he crossing to-night, but he has not yet done it.  He says will you ask General Meade to let me have the cavalry Kilpatrick and Gregg left behind on picket ?  We are very short-handed at this time.  Lieutenant Gillespie has arrived.   I will send both him and Lieutenant Roebling out to-morrow.

G.K. WARREN,         

General S. Williams.

General Warren to Adjutant Williams, 11 p.m.

September 15, 1863 –– 11 p.m.

I have seen General Kilpatrick’s dispatch.  I do not much fear an advance of the enemy to-morrow.  If I understand the object of our move the cavalry should dispute the advance of the enemy if attempted, and fall back upon me if necessary.  We together will stop them, or fall back fighting if not strong enough.  I do not feel authorized to advance, unless another corps moves out to take my place, in which case I think I could do it without risk.

G.K. WARREN,     

General S. Williams.

General Meade to General Halleck, Midnight

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
September 15, 1863 –– 12 p.m.

Major-General Halleck,

General:   Your letter of this date, per Captain Wager, has been received, read and destroyed.  In accordance with the views therein expressed, I have ordered the army to cross the Rappahannock, and shall take up a position to-morrow with my left at Stevensbug and right at Stone-House Mountain.  I will then picket the Rapidan with infantry, and thus relieve the cavalry, and will endeavor, by means of the latter, to obtain more information.

I have no doubt Longstreet’s corps has gone south through Richmond.  I have heard of no troops passing through Lynchburg from Gordonsville, but he can take the road from Petersburg.  He has undoubtedly gone to re-enforce Bragg.  I am satisfied Lee has still Ewell and Hill with him ;  not less than 40,000 or 45,000 infantry and over 5,000 cavalry.  I hardly think he will cross the Rapidan to meet me at Culpeper, unless he is ignorant of my actual force.  If he does not, it will be a difficult problem to attack him or compel him to fall back, as he has such advantages in the line of the Rapidan, enabling him, by means of artillery and rifle-pits, to hold it with much less force than is required to force the passage.  I will not make the attempt unless I can see my way clear, and I do not much expect any great success than requiring him to fall still farther back.

I am a little concerned about my line of communications, which will be lengthened by this movement some 20 miles, and I would be glad if the cavalry now in Washington belonging to this army could be sent out, and this arm increased by re-enforcements.  I will advise you further by telegraph.

Respectfully, yours,

GEO. G. MEADE,            

 Infantry Relieves the Cavalry Pickets

On Wednesday morning, September 16th, as General Meade’s army crossed the Rappahannock River and advanced into Culpeper County, elements of General Warren’s 2nd Corps infantry moved to the Rapidan and relieved the cavalry pickets.  General Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division moved camp to Stevensburg.  The Division lost during the 3 days fighting, 7 killed, 34 wounded, and 17 missing.  They would be on the move again a week later when General Meade ordered a reconnaissance into Madison County on the Confederate left.

Illustration of artillery limber by Louis K. Harlow

It proved less bloody than the reconnaissance to Culpeper but still required some bold riding and fighting at a place called Jack’s Shop.  That fight would be the last one for Lt. Fuller’s 3rd U.S. Battery C, for a little while, as they were soon after relieved from active duty on September 26, by Captain Alexander Pennington’s 2nd U.S. Battery M.

As for my Great-Great Grandfather he probably enjoyed the rest, however short or long,  except for the rain.  I will close with his words.

Diary of William Henry Forbush:
Thursday 17.  Left the woods on the Rappidan River and came near a place called Stevensburg and halted for the night.  Rainy night.
Friday 18.  Left the camp and moved about ˝ a mile to where there was not so much mud.  Rainy all Day.  Wrote a letter home.

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Page Updated December 1, 2019.

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“Started and came to the Rappidan River and Shelled the Rebels but we got out of Ammunition and fell back to a peace of woods "