The regiment left the vicinity of Culpeper Court House at first light on June 16, 1863, heading northward on the Sperryville Turnpike. It was a Tuesday, and the weather was clear and very warm.
“The men have 3 days cooked rations in their haversacks,” Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill wrote. “The Subsistence trains will carry 10 days rations additionally.”
“A very pleasant day for marching,” 17th Mississippi diarist Robert A. Moore recorded.” Despite walking more than twenty miles, passing through Woodville, Sperryville, and almost to Washington, Virginia, “the boys complain but little of being fatigued.”
Nevertheless, it was hot and fatiguing enough for some that they fell out of the column by the roadside and, Hill wrote, “Several men of this Division died today from the heat.”
It got worse on Wednesday, when they added another eighteen miles, passing through Washington, Virginia, before camping near Hume, east of Front Royal.
“Have had a very fatiguing march today,” Moore wrote in his diary. “A great many have broken down & a good number have been sun stroke. The heat has been very oppressive.”
Indeed, Hill added: “The troops are suffering severely… Several of the men in the Division died today from being overheated.”
Division commander Gen. Lafayette McLaws wrote his wife, Emily, on June 18:
“The weather has been exceedingly warm, so oppressively hot that my men fell by the hundreds along the road. Some cases I am afraid proved fatal, but the majority I hope will be able to come up again and join us before many days.”
They were moving along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, the country rolling, the fields flush with clover and grasses, McLaws wrote, “untouched by man or animal, as there is no one to reap and no cattle to graze—all this caused by the Yankees.—The people appear to be all true to the south, and detest the Yankees most cordially.”
In the evening, after another eighteen mile march, the heat was broken by a thunderstorm and heavy rain, and Hill wrote in his diary that they camped “near Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad. This country is badly injured by the raids of the Yankees. They have taken off all of the horses and Negroes they could find and destroyed everything they could not take off.”