Today in History:

30 Series I Volume XII-II Serial 16 - Second Manassas Part II

Page 30 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

cation with Fredericksburg, to which point the Army of the Potomac was being brought from the Peninsula, with the purpose of re-enforcing me from that place by the line of the Rappahannock. My force was too small to enable me to extend my right farther without so weakening m y line as to render it easy for the enemy to break through at any point. I telegraphed again and again to Washington, representing this movement of the enemy toward my right and the impossibility of my being able to extend my lines so as to resist it without abandoning my connections with Fredericksburg.

I was assured on the 21st that if I would hold the line of the river two days longer I should be so strongly re-enforced as not only to be secure, but to be able to resume offensive operations; but on the 25th of August the only forces that had joined me or were in the neighborhood were 2,500 men of the Pennsylvania Reserves, under Brigadier-General Reynolds, who had arrived at Kelly's Ford, and the division of General Kearny, 4,500 strong, which had reached Warrenton Junction. The line of the Rappahannock is very weak, and scarce opposes any considerable obstacle to the advance of an army. It is but a small stream above the forks, and can be crossed by good fords every mile or two of is whole length. The movement of the enemy toward my right occasioned me much uneasiness, in consequence of the instructions which bound me to keep in close communication with Fredericksburg, but I instructed General Sigel, who occupied the right of my line and who expressed great apprehensions that his flank would be turned and proposed to withdraw from his position toward the railroad, to stand firm and hold his ground, and to allow the enemy to cross at Sulphur Springs and develop himself on the road toward Warrenton; that as soon as any considerable force had crossed at that place I would rapidly mass my army during the night and throw it upon any force of the enemy which attempted to march in the direction of Warrenton. The whole of the cavalry, under Brigadier-Generals Buford and Bayard, was pushed considerably to the right of General Sigel, in the direction of Fayetteville and Sulphur Springs, to watch the movements of the enemy in that direction, and to picket the river as far up as possible. General Sigel was ordered, if any force of the enemy attempted to cross below Sulphur Springs, to march at once against it and to notify me, as I was determined to resist the passage of the river at any point below the Spring. Copies of my dispatches to the General-in-Chief and of his replies, the dispatches from General Sigel and my orders to him, given during the 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of August, are appended, which show completely the condition of things, my understanding of the movements of the enemy, and the dispositions which I made and proposed to make in relation to them.

Finding that the continued movement of the enemy to my right, whilst heavy masses of his force still confronted me at Rappahannock Station, would within a day, if allowed to continue, either render my position on the Rappahannock wholly untenable or force me to give battle to the enemy in my front and on my right, I determined on the afternoon of the 22nd to mass my whole force to recross the Rappahannock by the bridges and fords near Rappahannock Station and by Kelly's Ford below, and to fall on the flank and rear of the long column of the enemy which was passing up the river toward our right.

I accordingly made the necessary orders on the night of the 22nd of August. The attempt would have been dangerous, but no recourse was left me except to make this attack, to retire to Warrenton Junction and abandon the line of the Rappahannock, or to retire in the direction of

Page 30 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.