Moving to the Rapidan

Both the Union and Confederate armies in Virginia were recuperating from their losses at Gettysburg. But Union cavalry was pressing Lee’s army at Culpeper.

August 1, 1863, Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill wrote:

“The enemy Cavalry, consisting of 2 brigades, advanced to within 2 miles of Culpeper C.H. They were met by a part of Lt. General A.P. Hill’s Corp. and driven back with sever loss in killed and prisoners. Our loss was 7 slightly wounded.”

The brigade was drawn up in line of battle late in the evening to support the Confederate cavalry. The 13th regiment, meanwhile, moved its camp to the vicinity of Mitchell’s Station on the Orange Railroad, about six miles south of Culpeper.

Two days later, a Monday, the brigade fell back to a new bivouac at Summers Ford, on the south side of the Rapidan River. 17th Mississippi Lieutenant Robert A. Moore recorded in his diary that “the position is being fortified and we will make a stand here. The weather for the last three days has been very hot indeed.”

On Tuesday, Moore wrote that he had read Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s amnesty proclamation for stragglers and deserters, which Davis had written Lee on August 2 also included release of “a number of those in confinement,” which was his only good response “when you ask for reinforcements….”

The weather continued warm with a brief shower on Wednesday, August 5, when the 13th regiment moved camp six miles southeast to “Orange County near the [Zoar] Church,” Hill wrote.

The 13th Regiment’s chaplain Thomas Sterling West wrote in a letter home:

“We are camped in a beautiful grove about 21 miles from Fredericksburg. The head of our column pointing in that direction.”

On Saturday, August 8, the 13th regiment resumed serious drilling for the first time since before Gettysburg and two days later Hill recorded:

“All of the [detailed] able bodied men in the Brigade were ordered back to duties in their companies and their places are to be filled by wounded and disabled men. This was done in accordance with a late order by the Secretary of War.”

On the 11th, Moore was complaining that the weather “has been quite sultry,” but added that “the boys were much rejoiced at being ordered out on picket this evening, by which they were excused from battalion drill.”

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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