Today in History:

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


Fredericksburg and abandon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the direct approaches to Washington City. I determined, therefore, to hazard the result and to fall furiously with my whole army upon the flank and rear of the enemy. During the night of the 22nd a heavy rain set in, which before day dawned on the 23rd had caused the river to rise 6 or 8 feet, carried away all our bridges, and destroyed all the fords on the river. To recross the Rappahannock and to make the attack as proposed was no longer practicable, but the rise in the river which had prevented the movement I believed also would prevent the retreat of that portion of the enemy which had crossed at Sulphur Springs and Waterloo Bridge, according to the reports which had been sent me by General Sigel.

Early on the morning of the 23rd, therefore, I massed my whole force in the neighborhood of Rappahannock Station, with the purpose of falling upon that portion of the enemy which had crossed above me and was then supposed to be between Sulphur Springs, Waterloo Bridge, and the town of Warrenton. As the river was too high to be crossed, and was likely to remain so for at least thirty-six hours, I had no fear that the enemy would be able to interpose between me and Fredericksburg or to make any attempt upon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad north of the Rappahannock. I directed General Sigel to march with his whole corps upon Sulphur Springs, supported by Reno's corps and Banks' corps, to fall upon any body of the enemy that he might encounter, and to push forward along the river to Waterloo Bridge. I directed General McDowell to move at the same time directly upon the town of Warrenton, so that from that point he would be able, if necessary, to unite with General Sigel on the road from that place to Sulphur Springs or to Waterloo Bridge. To the corps of General McDowell I had attached the Pennsylvania Reserves, under Brigadier-General Reynolds - the first of the Army of the Potomac which had joined my command.

On the night of the 22nd of August a small cavalry force of the enemy crossing at Waterloo Bridge and passing through Warrenton, had made a raid upon our trains at Catlett's Station, and had destroyed four on five wagons in all, belonging to the train of my own headquarters. At the time this cavalry force attacked at Catlett's - and it certainly was not more than 300 strong - our whole army trains were parked at that place, and were guarded by not less than 1,500 infantry and five companies of cavalry. The success of this small cavalry party of the enemy, although very trifling and attended with but little damage, was most disgraceful to the force which had been left in charge of the trains. General Sigel moved, as ordered, slowly up the Rappahannock in the direction of Sulphur Springs on the 23rd, and first encountered a force of the enemy near the point where a small creek, called Great Run, puts into the Rappahannock, about 2 miles below the Sulphur Springs. The enemy was driven across the stream, but destroyed the bridges. The heavy rains had caused this small creek to rise so much that it was not then fordable, so that the night of the 23rd and part of the morning of the 24th were spent by General Sigel in rebuilding the bridges. On the night of the 23rd also the advance of McDowell's corps occupied Warrenton, a cavalry force of the enemy having retreated from there a few hours before.

On the morning of the 24th General Sigel, supported by Generals Reno and Banks, crossed Great Run and occupied the Sulphur Springs, under a heavy fire of artillery from batteries which the enemy had established all along the south side of the Rappahannock. The bridge