Meade Looks South as Lee Rounds Up Deserters

November 1, 1863 (Sunday)

General Lee will hunt you down.

General Lee will hunt you down.

When last we visited General George Meade and his Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln was urging him to attack General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, just across the Rappahannock. Since that time, Meade had given up on his idea of shifting the army to Fredericksburg, and was slowly moving south along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.

For the most part, his infantry kept a sluggish pace, while his cavalry corps lined the river and kept an eye upon the Confederates, who still had troops on the northern side, though only near the former railroad bridge. The Rebels were tasked with bringing over as much of the iron confiscated from the railroad as possible. With such a guard as Jubal Early’s Division, the Union cavalry were little more than spectators.

The destroying of the railroad was actually a defensive measure undertaken by Lee. Without the railroad, Meade’s troops could not quickly receive either supplies or reinforcements. This would force Meade to hold his army back and away from the Rappahannock. Hopefully, this would also mean that the season for campaigning was at an end.

By the 30th, Meade’s infantry held a line stretching from Warrenton Junction to Warrenton. By now it was clear that Lee had no plans to attempt another offensive move to the north. The Confederates were more than ready to move into their winter quarters.

This had been a very intense campaign season for them. Through Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, it was a spring and summer of bitter victory and and appalling defeat. The Southern troops quickly fell into the routine of the encampment. Makeshift log huts were built, and infantry drill was again a daily occurrence. General Lee had moved out of his tent and into a cabin. On the 28th, according to Lee, his slave Perry was “engaged in constructing a chimney in front, which will make it warm and comfortable.”

Lee was indeed warm and comfortable, but was also looking to the comfort of his own men. Food and supplies were in great want, as was forage for the horses.

Railroad torn up by Lee's men.

Railroad torn up by Lee’s men.

However, he feared that desertions would soon be on the rise. Recently, the government in Richmond pardoned a few deserters, and here Lee envisioned the worst. On the 30th, Lee wrote to Secretary of War James Seddon, expressing concern that the government was becoming too lenient with deserters. Typically, if a soldier was found to be a deserter, he was executed. “I fear that pardons,” wrote Lee, “unless for the best reasons, will not only make all the blood that has been shed for the maintenance of discipline useless, but will result in the painful necessity of shedding a great deal more.”

In this respect, Lee was serious and grim: “I am convinced that the only way to prevent [desertions] is to visit the offense, when committed, with the sternest punishment, and leave the offender without hope of escape, by making the penalty inevitable.”

The next day, apparently looking for blood and examples, Lee informed Jeb Stuart that he had sent two regiments of infantry “to scour the counties of Rappahannock, Page, Madison, and Greene for deserters.”

In Meade’s Army, however, the spirits were rising. As they inched south, so did the repairs to the railroad. On this date, it was opened all the way to Warrenton Junction. Many anticipated another offensive. Lee’s bold move in October had thrown them back from the Rapidan all the way to Manassas.

Very approximate map showing Meade's two options.

Very approximate map showing Meade’s two options.

Already Meade had some sort of objective in mind. That was, of course, the Army of Northern Virginia. However, finding it in an attackable position was not so easy. He would first have to maneuver Lee where he wanted him – no easy task. In doing so, he also had to watch that Lee did not do the same to him. Lastly, and often most importantly, Meade had to make sure that Washington was covered, and that was a very short leash.

Like Lee, Meade also had to deal with desertions, ramping up to a rate of nearly 5,000 each month. With the added weight of conscripts, they were certain to rise even more. Meade had little love for soldiers who had to be drafted, finding most “raw and unreliable.”

Perhaps the greatest factor against him was time. Though the weather had been warm and pleasant over the past several days, November in northern Virginia was notoriously nasty. With rains and snows and the effect both have on an army slogging toward an enemy, Meade fully understood that it could all end in some Burnside-esque Mud March II.

But on this date, Meade was hurrying forward the pontoons. The wagon train laden with them was at Catlett’s Station, and more were on their way. It was clear to any who saw them that Meade was at least contemplating recrossing the Rappahannock in the very near future.

Meanwhile, in the Union camp...

Meanwhile, in the Union camp…

Meade’s concerns and apprehensions that had been building since restarting his army south were expressed to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck the following day. Meade understood that Lee’s Army was massed along the Rappahannock River, and would heartily contest any crossing from Kelly’s Ford in the east to Sulphur Springs in the west. He was doubtful that any crossing could be made in Lee’s front.

There was, however, something else that he had been considering – a flanking maneuver “by a decided detour either to his left, by way of Amissville and Sperryville, threatening his communications by Culpeper or beyond, or a similar movement to his right, attempting to seize in advance the heights of Fredericksburg and opening communication with Aquia Creek.”

Meade, as he had before, heavily favored Fredericksburg. To move via Sperryville meant that he would have to abandon his own supply line. Also, the country was rough and broken, the roads already in terrible shape. And so, it was in this letter that Meade broke the news that he had “determined to attempt the movement by his [the enemy’s] right, throwing the whole army rapidly and secretly across the Rappahannock at Bank’s Ford and Fredericksburg, and taking position on the heights beyond the town.”

This move echoed Burnside’s late the previous year, and Meade had certainly learned from that disaster. “I have every reason to believe it will be successful,” he wrote in conclusion, “so far as effecting a lodgment on the heights in advance of him [Lee]; and if he follows and gives me battle, my object will be accomplished.”

Halleck would receive the message, hand-delivered by courier for obvious reasons, on the 3rd, and reply after a quick talk with President Lincoln.1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 2, p407-408, 806-807, 809; The Bristoe Campaign by Adrian Tighe; “The Mine Run Campaign – An Operation Analysis” by Kavin L. Coughenour. []

The President Desires That You Will Prepare to Attack Lee’s Army

October 24, 1863 (Friday)

Meade will soon have a lot to say about why he can't do stuff.

Meade will soon have a lot to say about why he can’t do stuff.

For a time, President Lincoln was fine with General Meade’s assessment. He agreed that moving to attack General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia wasn’t such a great idea. The Rebel Army, while retreating back to the Rappahannock, had destroyed the Orange & Alexander Railroad, Meade’s would-be supply line. He could no longer support an army on the north bank of the Rappahannock. But there were other options before him. There was a chance, however slim, that Meade could move the Army of the Potomac to Fredericksburg. General-in-Chief Henry Halleck took issue with this idea, but that didn’t mean Lincoln threw it away completely. More than likely, however, they would rest most of Meade’s Army while sending reinforcements to General Grant in Chattanooga.

Meade had traveled to Washington on the 22nd, when he met with Lincoln and Halleck. These possibilities were discussed, but no clear path was chosen. He returned to his army the next day without orders of any kind, even ones for the nearest of futures.

On the day Meade returned, two brigades of cavalry and a brigade of infantry marched to Bealeton, a few miles north of the Rappahannock. This reconnaissance in force stumbled upon Jubal Early’s Division from Richard Ewell’s Corps. They were on the north side of the river protecting the wagons still carting over the iron taken from the destroyed railroads. Both sides faced off, but nothing came of it. Meanwhile, Meade moved most of his army closer to the railroad, as repairs were already underway.

Also that day, Col. George Sharpe, deputy provost marshal in Alexandria wrote an interesting message to General Meade. Sharpe had under his command a gaggle of spies, who generally gave him some fairly bad intelligence. This was especially true when it came to which troops were in and out of Lee’s Army.

This latest message was no different. Sharpe’s claim was that Richard Ewell’s Corps had left for Tennessee on the 19th – the day of the so-called Buckland Races. This wasn’t immediately disprovable since by that time Lee’s infantry had already started on their march south. Not only had Ewell left, told the spies, but Lee was unable to receive any additional reinforcements because the division at Petersburg (George Pickett’s Division) had also gone to Tennessee. Other gossip included the arrest of A.P. Hill for his poor showing at Bristoe.

Here's that swell map I was telling you about.

Here’s that swell map I was telling you about.

Rumor had it that Lee’s Army now consisted only of A.P. Hill’s Corps, and even that was supposedly commanded by someone else. Meade forwarded the message on to Halleck in Washington, who showed it to the President. After a bit of thought, Lincoln replied to Halleck.

“Taking all our information together,” wrote Lincoln, “I think it probable that Ewell’s corps has started for East Tennessee by way of Abingdon, marching last Monday, say, from Meade’s front directly to the railroad at Charlottesville.”

Lincoln drew upon not only Col. Sharpe’s report, but from three other sources. When added up, it wasn’t a far fetched notion that Ewell had moved west.

“If you have a plan matured, I have nothing to say” Lincoln wrote to Halleck in closing. “If you have not, then I suggest that with all possible expedition, the Army of the Potomac get ready to attack Lee, and that in the meantime a raid shall, at all hazards, break the railroad at or near Lynchburg.”

Col. George Sharpe - now with seven years bad luck!

Col. George Sharpe – now with seven years bad luck!

Halleck had no plan, of course. Lincoln’s would have to do, and he relayed the President’s wishes to Meade: “The President desires that you will prepare to attack Lee’s army, and, at all hazards, make a cavalry raid, to break the railroad at or near Lynchburg, and such other places as may be practicable.” About the attack itself, he said nothing more. On the raid, however, he cautioned that the troops making it “must mainly subsist upon the country.”

The railroad at Lynchburg, some 140 miles south of Meade’s Army, was a vital line between Richmond and the West. With this cut, Lee could not easily draw reinforcements from either Longstreet’s or Ewell’s Corps (the latter of which was figured to be en route to join the former).

In the time that it took Halleck’s message to reach Meade (around two hours), the general had learned enough to rain on Lincoln’s parade. Two deserters had arrived in his camp and reported that Ewell’s Corps was still very much with Lee’s Army. In fact, it was troops from Ewell’s Corps that the Federal Cavalry saw arrayed before them near Bealeton. From the looks of things, Meade deduced that Lee intended to defend the Rappahannock River crossing. It was even possible, based upon reports that two pontoon bridges were staged near said crossing, that Lee intended to once more attack.

Of the raid, Meade said little that was encouraging. He believed that it would be “more likely to succeed with small than large numbers.” Perhaps 2,500 would do. He also mentioned that the Confederate cavalry that recently threatened Harpers Ferry had fallen back to protect the more southerly passes, and to “resist such expeditions as we now propose, or perhaps to operate on my rear, should I advance.” Additionally, wrote Meade, the weather was horrible and the roads were mostly impassable and the streams were flooded. If Lincoln really wanted a cavalry raid, it was going to be a mess.

Halleck received the message that evening, but by then Lincoln was already out and everything would have to wait until the following day. The matter, however, must have been dropped with the new information. Though Halleck inquired from General Benjamin Kelley at Clarksburg, West Virginia, if he had heard anything about Ewell’s move west, nothing more was said of a general advance by Meade or even a cavalry raid to Lynchburg. In fact, it would be three days before Halleck again contacted Meade.1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 2, p370-371, 375-376, 384; The Bristoe Campaign by Adrian Tighe. []

General Meade Goes to Washington

October 22, 1863 (Thursday)

Lincoln sees exactly what Meade is saying.

Lincoln sees exactly what Meade is saying.

General George Meade, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, had been the previous day called to Washington. This came about after claiming he could do little more against General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The trip from Centreville to the capital was a short one, and he arrived around 2pm.

Upon his arrival, he found President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck waiting for him. Though Lincoln, of course, wanted Meade to attack Lee at once, he sympathized with the army commander’s plight. Meade’s supply line, the Orange & Alexander Railroad, lay in complete ruin, systematically destroyed and dismantled by Lee’s forces from Bristoe Station south to the Rappahannock River. Also, the land along the destroyed rail line was a desolation, picked clean by three years of almost constant fighting, especially this most recent campaign.

To Meade, Lincoln was “considerate and kind,” as the President almost always was in these situations. “He found no fault with my operations,” wrote Meade to his wife, “although it was very evident he was disappointed that I had not got a battle out of Lee.” Most importantly, Lincoln agreed with Meade that “there was not much to be gained by any farther advance.”

General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, on the other hand, was a different matter. A rift had formed between him and Meade and more recently they had exchanged terse words which ended in Meade offering to resign and Halleck almost apologizing. Halleck believed there was an absolute necessity for something to be done, though he couldn’t say just what it was.

Meade had a suggestion, one that he hinted upon the day before. If the army could get to Fredericksburg, establishing control of the railroad running from the supply depot at Aquia Creek, he might be able to outflank Lee. Time was important. As soon as the Confederates caught wind that the Federal Army was moving on Fredericksburg again, they’d destroy the Aquia line, leaving Meade in the same predicament in which he now found himself. Halleck did not at all like this idea.

Toward the end of the meeting, two messages arrived in Washington, which no doubt forced the small gathering to continue on. The first was a statement made by a spy named William Arndoff from Jefferson County, which had been recently invaded by John Imboden’s Rebel Cavalry. They took Charlestown and managed to convince Halleck that Harpers Ferry was under threat.

Here's today's approximate map.

Here’s today’s approximate map.

Apparently, Mr. Arndoff was talking with a neighbor who was a staunch Rebel and who believed him (Arndoff) to be the same. Among his jabberings, the neighbor believed that Lee was about to cross the Potomac with “the largest and finest army he has ever had.” Lincoln, Halleck and Meade all knew this was untrue. Nearly all of James Longstreet’s corps had left for the west over a month ago, greatly reducing Lee’s forces. This was mere fantastic speculation. But of the other items, there was something to ponder.

The Rebel neighbor also claimed that Imboden’s Confederates had fallen back to Front Royal. He believed it was to regroup for another attack and to join with Albert Jenkins’ Cavalry, but Lincoln, Halleck and Meade probably dismissed the latter part.

Another message arrived around the same time. This was from General John Foster, commanding at Fortress Monroe. He had received Richmond newspapers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st. They spoke of “Lee’s intention to retire to a position near Richmond, having failed to bring General Meade to battle.” So far this was exactly what Meade suspected. But the papers also noted that “all interest is now centered in the operations of the armies at Chattanooga.”

This was something that all had suspected might come from Lee’s failed offensive. Longstreet’s corps had left, so next might be Richard Ewell’s. Meade had suggested as much, even going as far as to offer to send more of his forces west in response.

Halleck is growing bored. He wants to do something, but doesn't know what. Not Fredericksburg though.

Halleck is growing bored. He wants to do something, but doesn’t know what. Not Fredericksburg though.

Overall, nothing really came from this meeting. It did, however, plant some seeds in the minds of Lincoln and Halleck. The time had slid by and Meade decided to stay the night in Washington.

Probably after the meeting had broken up (but possibly not), Meade received a message from the front. Written around 6pm, it detailed the events of the day. Basically, Federal cavalry had pursued the line of the Rebel march, south toward the Rappahannock. They encountered strong Confederate pickets and skirmishers at Bealeton Station, but even stronger just north of Rappahannock Station. This was absolute evidence that Lee had retreated south of the Rappahannock, but held a strong bridgehead on the north bank.

Still, nothing could be decided. Meade would return the next morning, leaving Lincoln and Halleck to ponder the possibilities.1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 1, p10-11; Part 2, p368, 369-370; The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade. []

‘The Campaign is Virtually Over’ – Meade to Call it Off?

October 21, 1863 (Wednesday)

General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was safely entrenched on the south bank of the Rappahannock River. They held the fords and crossings from Brandy Station to well downstream of the destroyed railroad crossing. A small vanguard was left on the norther bank to welcome Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry upon their return from the Buckland Races. It took little time for some of the Rebels to latch onto the idea that fighting was finished for the year. The cold rains certainly reminded them that autumn was fully upon them. Some even built winter quarters.

Meade: Oh it is a bit late for this, isn't it?

Meade: Oh it is a bit late for this, isn’t it?

Not only the chill, but General George Meade’s sluggishness must have convinced the Rebels that the Federals had decided to hold off until spring. This was not, however, true. Meade was sluggish, but not stalled. For too many days had Meade entertained the idea that Lee might again try to turn his right flank. Finally convinced that it was not so, Meade began construction of a double-lane pontoon bridge across Broad Run near Bristoe Station – the only major crossing he would have to make on his route to the Rappahannock.

Still cautious, Meade’s Army moved slowly on the 20th, but when it was discovered that no great force of Rebels lay immediately before them, they began to pick up the pace. As they marched south along the Orange & Alexander Railroad, they witnessed the destruction wrought by Lee’s men. The houses and private homes of civilians were, of course, untouched, but the railroad was no more.

The Confederates had pulled up the spikes, and lifted the iron rails onto bonfires built from burning ties. Once heated, the rails warped. Many were wrapped in devilish cravats around the necks of trees. “Not a rail along here will do to lay again,” wrote a III Corps division commander. “Not a tie is left. All are burnt and the bridges are all destroyed.”

The destruction of the railroad wasn’t done out of bitterness or some kind of malice. It was the most important thing to come out of the present campaign. “I have reason to believe that the Orange and Alexandria Railroad has been destroyed from Bristoe Station to Culpeper Court-House,” wrote Meade to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on this date. The news was devastating. The line was essential to Meade’s Army if they wished to hold a line anywhere near the Rappahannock River. The working parties sent to repair it would need myriad guards, which would have to come from Meade’s own army. This would sap his strength so that he could not “see the practicability of an advance on this line to Gordonsville.”

Musing, he referenced moving the army back to Fredericksburg, but stated that similar repairs would be required for the railroad running from Aquia Creek, but only if the Rebels caught wind of the Federal shift.

“It seems to me, therefore, that the campaign is virtually over for the present season,” concluded Meade, “and that it would be better to withdraw the army to some position in front of Washington and detach from it such portions as may be required to operate elsewhere.”

Halleck’s reply was ominous: “If you can conveniently leave your army, the President wishes to see you to-morrow.”

Today's approximate map (Fredericksburg is in the lower right corner - see it?)

Today’s approximate map (Fredericksburg is in the lower right corner – see it?)

Though he barely paid it much ink in the message, Meade was already contemplating a move to Fredericksburg. The railroad from Aquia Creek was still in running shape, and perhaps if they were swift in their movements, they could beat Lee’s Cavalry to the crossing.

For the night, however, Meade would have to be content with his army hugging the rail spur running from Warrenton Junction to Warrenton. John Buford’s Cavalry probed deeper, with some troopers even catching sight of the Rebels across the Rappahannock. The next day, while Meade visited Washington, his Army would continue south.

“This was a deep game,” wrote Meade candidly to his wife come evening, “and I am free to admit that in the playing of it he [Lee] had got the advantage of me.”1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 1, p362, 369-370, 452, 464; Part 2, p361, 362, 799; The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 2; The Bristoe Campaign by Adrian Tighe. []

Pell-Mell, In Great Disorder and Confusion – The Buckland Races

October 19, 1863 (Monday)

Jeb Stuart thinks it's a fine day for a horse race.

Jeb Stuart thinks it’s a fine day for a horse race.

As the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia retreated south from Bristoe Station, Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry acted as rear guard, waiting until the morning of this date to fall back. As they did, they were pressured by Judson Kilpatrick’s troopers, acting as the vanguard to the Federal Army of the Potomac, finally set in motion by General George Meade.

From the south bank of Broad Run, Stuart held his ground, positioning sharpshooters and artillery from two of his four brigades to welcome the descending Yankees. To the southeast, his other division, under Fitz Lee was in the area of Auburn. Stuart’s position was strong, but he had not enough men to protect his flanks. Kilpatrick quickly realized this and started to make movements to turn them. Seeing what was happening, Fitz Lee made plans of his own. Treating Stuart’s flank as bait set for a trap, he proposed to Stuart that when the time was right, he’d pounce upon Kilpatrick’s flank just as Kilpatrick was about to pounce upon Stuart’s. Stuart loved the plan, though it would take some time to make it happen.

In that time, Kilpatrick advanced, throwing George Armstrong Custer’s Brigade to the front. The Federals pushed Stuart’s two brigades away from Broad Run, crossing at Buckland Mill, just north of Greenwood. The Rebels fled southwest, through New Baltimore and even through the Bull Run Mountains. But the Federals halted. Custer wanted his men to eat lunch, and so Kilpatrick, perhaps perturbed, sent his other brigade, under Henry Davies, down the pike toward Warrenton.

Davies ran into some of Stuart’s skirmishers around New Baltimore. By this time, his and Custer’s Brigade were separated by three miles. And it was also at this time that General Kilpatrick received first word that there was another large force of cavalry to the southeast, near Auburn. Not wishing to take chances, Kilpatrick sent a regiment of Michiganders to investigate. Soon enough, they uncovered Fitz Lee’s division near Greenwich. This position easily placed them not only on Kilpatrick’s left flank, but also in his rear.

Approximate map of Stuart and Lee's positions just prior to their counterattacks.

Approximate map of Stuart and Lee’s positions just prior to their counterattacks.

Fitz Lee pressed on, but was disgruntled to discover that Custer’s Brigade had lingered and, with the foreknowledge of their coming, had established a defensive line on a ridge above Buckland to receive them. The task had now changed from a flank to frontal attack. Fitz Lee deployed artillery, formed into line and advanced with dismounted skirmishers to the front.

The booming of artillery let Stuart know that Fitz Lee was in position. Seeing an opportunity, he ceased his retreat about three miles away from Warrenton, formed all three of his brigades, and advanced himself upon Davies at New Baltimore. The initial reception was hot, and Davies troopers were stubborn, but Stuart had the advantage in numbers, and before too long, threw them back.

But it was not a rout. Davies’ troopers would now and again turn in good order to fire crisp volleys into Stuart’s advance. Needing this to end now, Stuart ordered another charge, and soon another brigade came screaming down upon the Yankees. This sent the Federals into a full retreat, streaming towards Custer’s Brigade.

Meanwhile, the Northern infantry advanced south at a lumber, with John Newton’s I Corps in the lead. Mistaken word from Kilpatrick told him that Stuart’s Cavalry was augmented with infantry. If this were true, perhaps Lee’s entire army was still in the Bristoe or Auburn area. And if that were true, his fear that Lee might outflank him on his right might become realized. And so the Union infantry was cautious and slow.

Fighting at Buckland Mills.

Fighting at Buckland Mills.

As Davies’ Cavalry fell back from Stuart’s strong advance, they could see behind them Custer’s Brigade now facing Fitz Lee’s Rebels. In fact, the closer they came to Custer, the closer they also came to Fitz Lee. And soon enough they were skirmishing with both Stuart’s and Lee’s troopers.

The ground undulated and was dotted with woodlots. So when Fitz Lee’s main line appeared, it was seemingly out of nowhere to Custer, who even believed them to be infantry. He barely had time to form his line when the attack burst upon them. Fitz Lee managed to dislodge Custer’s defensive line, throwing it back to the north side of Broad Run, but may have had a little help from Davies’ Federals. Though the troopers in Davies’ Brigade knew that it was Custer at Buckland, Custer’s men had no idea who was kicking up the column of dust down the road on their right. Convinced that it was indeed Rebels, and probably infantry at that, Custer called a retreat.

As Custer’s Brigade cleared the bridge across Broad Run, Davies was cut off. Kilpatrick tried to get a message through, but it was to no avail. When the Rebels seized the bridge, not all of Custer’s men were across. This forced them to run for their lives or swim to the opposite shore. “This they did,” reported Col. Thomas Owen of Fitz Lee’s Division, “pell-mell, in great disorder and confusion, to save themselves the best way they could.” Fitz Lee then sent Col. Owen’s Brigade across the bridge in pursuit of Custer’s fleeing remnants.

Kilpatrick better hope he's got his running shoes in that breast pocket of his.

Kilpatrick better hope he’s got his running shoes in that breast pocket of his.

Though Kilpatrick’s warning to Davies probably did not get through, Davies was deft enough to figure it out on his own. His brigade turned northward, making for the crossing a bit upstream from the bridge at Buckland. By now, the Federals were broken and the route became a race to the crossing. But with Stuart giving chase, pockets of Davie’s men would turn and beat them back, spoiling whatever plans Stuart had to capture Davies’ Brigade.

As Fitz Lee sent Col. Owen’s Brigade in pursuit across Broad Run, so did Stuart send the brigade under James Gordon across. Both, however, soon ran into a heavy skirmish line from John Newton’s I Corps, ending their day in a petered out and weakening fire, until dusk and dark settled in. In disarray, Kilpatrick’s Division managed to escape, though that was hardly what they set out that morning to accomplish.

For Stuart’s Rebels, the spoils were fine indeed, and included General Custer’s tent and personal papers, as well as Judson Kilpatrick’s horse. The Federals managed to lose 250 wounded and killed, with a similar number captured. Stuart’s losses were much less – probably around fifty killed and wounded, and maybe less.

Stuart’s actions had allowed General Lee to fully slip across the Rappahannock, twenty miles south. He wad absolutely delighted with how the day worked out, and dubbed the skirmish “The Buckland Races.” General Meade, however, was convinced (due to Kilpatrick’s word) that Lee’s infantry was before him. In a letter written to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck at 9:30pm, he summed it up: “The enemy’s infantry follow him [Kilpatrick] up, and are now in front of our infantry pickets. All the intelligence I have been able to obtain indicates the concentration of Lee’s army within the last two days at Warrenton.”

He did not know if Lee was retreating farther south, but figured by the following day, if Lee attacked, it would be clear. Of course, Lee was nowhere near the Federal infantry, and Meade was bound spend the next few days trying to figure that out.1

Approximate locations of everyone near dark.

Approximate locations of everyone near dark.

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 1, p382, 451-452, 461, 473; Part 2, p354; The Bristoe Campaign by Adrian Tighe. []