|Chapter XLI. GENERAL REPORTS.
munication, the following report of subsequent operations to the present date:
The railroad and the depot at Brandy Station being completed, and all the necessary wants of the army supplied, arrangements were at once made for an advance. The position of the enemy was know to be behind his strong intrenchments on the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers to a point as high up as Liberty Mills, west of Orange Court-House.
An attack in front had long been impracticable, and the instructions of the General-in-Chief confined my operations to such tactical maneuvers as my judgement dictated. A movement, therefore, to immediately turn either flank of the enemy was the question to be decided. I ascertained from reliable sources that the enemy had abandoned the design of guarding the lower fords, but relied for the protection of his right flank on an intrenched line he had constructed perpendicular to the Rapidan, leaving it at Morton's Ford and extending as far as Bartlett's Mill on the road from Robertson's Tavern to Raccoon Ford. (See accompanying sketch.)
I would hear of no works or defenses on the Orange and Fredericksburg turnpike or plank road. Ewell's corps, estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 men, held the line from Bartlett's Mill to near Rapidan Station, and Hill's corps, over 25,000 strong, held the left from Rapidan Station to Liberty Mills.
The plan I decided on was to cross the Rapidan at the lower fords, in three columns, and by a prompt movement seize the plan road and turnpike, advancing rapidly toward Orange Court-House, thus turning the enemy's works, and compelling him to give battle on ground not previously selected or prepared, and I indulged the hope that in the execution of this plan i should be enabled to fall on part of the enemy's forces before he could effect a concentration, and thus so cripple him as to render more certain the success of the final struggle.
In accordance with this plan, orders were issued on the 23rd for the movement. A storm occurring during the night of the 23d, the orders were postponed till the morning of the 26th, at 6 a. m. of which day the several columns were directed to move.
Major-General French, commanding the Third Corps, was directed to proceed with his corps to Jacobs' Mill, cross the Rapidan at that point, and continue his march by a road known to exist from Jacobs' Mill to Robertson's Tavern,where he would effect a junction with the Second Corps. Major-General Warren was ordered to cross at Germanna Ford and take the turnpike to Robertson's Tavern.
The Fifth Corps, Major-General Sykes, was directed to cross at Culpeper Ford, and entering the plank road, to continue his march as far as Parker's Store, and, if practicable, to the crossing of the road from Robertson's Tavern.
A division of cavalry, under Brigadier-General Gregg, was ordered to cross at Ely's Ford and proceed on the Catharpin road as far as Corbin's Bridge, to cover the left flank of the army. A division of cavalry, under General Custer, held the upper fords of the Rapidan, and the Third Division, under General Merritt, was ordered to guard the trains assembled at Richardsville.
Anticipating an attempt on the part of the enemy to check the heads of columns until he could get into position, and looking for this attack first on my right flank, the nearest to his know position,
|Chapter XLI. GENERAL REPORTS.