Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Union: Major General George Meade commanding the Army of the Potomac.
Confederate: General Robert E. Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia.
Prelude: Since the Battle of Gettysburg, back in July, both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia had not been doing much more than skirmishing along the Rapidan River. Each commander had been looking for some type of advantage that could be exploited.
Lee was hampered by the reassignment of Lieutenant General James Longstreet and his corps to General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, presently defending Chattanooga, TN.
On the other hand, Meade had sent two of his own corps to the same theatre of operations.
Lee decided to strike.
10 October, 1863: Lee sends his forces around Meade’s right flank, crossing the Rapidan and driving the Federals back.
12 October, 1863: A Confederate division, under Lieutenant General Richard Ewell, crosses the Rappahannock River at Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, and advances toward the northeast. The axis of Lee’s advance is Manassas junction, scene of two previous battles.
Meade continues to pull back but there is some fight in them.
13 October, 1863: Battle of Auburn: Lee sent his cavalry, under Major General J.E.B. Stuart ahead to scout the best routes for advance and to give support to Ewell. At Auburn, the cavalry was cut off and surrounded, forcing Stuart to force his way out of the area in order to avoid capture.
14 October, 1863: Battle of Bristoe Station: Another Confederate corps, commanded by Lieutenant General A.P. Hill saw an opportunity to cut off Major General George Sykes V Corps as well as capture a station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Hill launched his assault with the aim of splitting the Federal line. As the attack was in progress, out of a railroad cut appeared Major General Gouverneur Warren’s II Corps. Warren proceeds to send a heavy fire into Hill, forcing the Confederates to pull back. For his efforts, Hill lost 1200 soldiers while inflicting 380 causalities on the Union forces.
15 October, 1863: Meade finds a good defensive line and completes his retreat. Lee, finding the Federals in strong positions, decided to pull back himself, ordering the railroad torn up in the process in order to dent the Federals its further use.
20 October, 1863: As the Army of Northern Virginia heads back across the Rappahannock, Stuart took an opportunity to ambush some Federal cavalry near Buckland. The Union troopers fled and the resulting chase became known as “The Buckland Races.”
Meade decided to pursue Lee, hoping for e decisive strike on the Confederate forces.
7 November, 1863: Meade went on the offensive and hit Lee in two places:
Battle of Kelly’s Ford: III Corps, under Major General Samuel French, forced their way across the Rappahannock using a pontoon bridge. This results in the capture of two Confederate regiments and driving off the rest.
Battle of Rappahannock Station: Southwest of Kelly’s Ford, V and VI Corps make a frontal assault on Major General Jubal Early’s division, forcing them across the Rappahannock and capturing two of the Confederate brigades.
Lee pulled his army back from the Rappahannock and found a good defensive position between there and the Rapidan. Meade begins a series of probes in the area as snow began to fall. It would soon be time for go into winter encampment, so if Meade wanted to strike a blow on Lee, it needed to be done soon.
27 November, 1863: Battle of Mine Run: Lee established a defensive line along a stream called Mine Run. Meade was probing for a way to bypass Lee and maybe strike at the Confederate capital of Richmond. At Payne’s Farm, the two meet. Meade attempts to punch his way though the Confederates before Lee could concentrate his army. The next day, a way is found around the Confederate’s left flank that could be turned to the Federals advantage. An assault is planned for 30 November, but is cancelled before it began when Lee reinforced the area.
1 December, 1863: Meade orders his army back across the Rappahannock and into winter quarters. Lee orders the same as soon as the Federal threat has gone.
This campaign did little to accomplish anything. Lee tried to push the Army of the Potomac at least past Manassas, but was not able to do so. Meade saw a chance to push for Richmond, but still saw Lee as too strong to push aside.
Both armies were in camps for the winter, it would be spring before anyone would take the offensive in Virginia.
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