On Monday, July 20, 1863, the 13th Regiment broke camp at daylight, formed up with the rest of McLaws Division and marched south.
It was “a hard day’s march,” the 17th’s Private Robert A. Moore recorded in his diary. “The boys are very much wearied.”
They’d walked eighteen miles, according to Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill, passing through Brucetown and finally camping near Millwood, Virginia.
Union cavalry was believed to be holding the gaps in the Blue Ridge east of Millwood. So, on Tuesday morning, Hill wrote, when they renewed the march at 7 a.m., they headed south on the west side of the Shenandoah River to the vicinity of Front Royal, a distance of about twelve miles.
Moore said they “forded one prong of the river & crossed the other on a pontoon bridge.” Hill wrote that the bridge was at the junction of the north and south forks of the river.
The brigade’s crossing was not completed “until 11 P.M.,” Moore recorded. “Our whole corps is here.” They camped for the night along the river.
“The wagon trains will cross tomorrow,” Hill wrote in his diary.
On Wednesday, July 22nd, the army left camp at first light and, on a clear and warm day, “crossed the Blue Ridge at Chester Gap,” Hill recorded.
On the east side of the mountains they were attacked by a small force of dismounted Union cavalry.
“We drove them back with severe loss to them in killed and prisoners,” Hill wrote in his diary. “The casualties in McLaws Division is only two wounded. General Hood’s Division crossed the mountains at Manassas Gap and drove the enemy before them.”
“The enemy had but a few pieces of artillery & some cavalry,” Moore recorded.
After a march of about sixteen miles they arrived at Gaines Crossroads well after dark (about 11 p.m.) and camped near Flint-Hill, on the road to Culpeper, some fifteen miles south and east of Front Royal.
Their commissary trains had crossed the river behind them and traveled slowly all day and night, Hill wrote. They reached the crossroads about 9 a.m. on Thursday, the 23rd.
“The troops cooked 3 days rations here,” Hill wrote, “and resumed the march at [noon] and took the road to Culpeper C.H. Crossed the north fork of the Rappahanock River at 3 p.m. and the Hazel River at 6 p.m.”
After that march of twelve miles, they camped for the night near the Hazel River. There was a large shower of rain that night that didn’t clear off until late morning on Friday.
They marched fourteen more miles on Friday, passing through Culpeper about 1 p.m. and camped two miles south, on the side of Pony Mountain, on the Stephensburg Road. They expected to remain there at least several days.