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Rappahannock Landing Archaeological Survey ... - Fauquier County

Rappahannock Landing Archaeological Survey ... - Fauquier County

Between the spring of

Between the spring of 1862 and the fall of 1863 skirmishes and battles between the two armies took place within the project area vicinity. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the bridge at Rappahannock Station were crucial to both armies. Knowing the importance of these transportation systems, the Confederate Army destroyed the railway bridge (Figure 5) at Rappahannock Station on March 28, 1862 in the hopes of slowing the Union advance towards Richmond (Scheel 1985:26–27). The Confederate’s kept the Union from holding their position at Rappahannock Station and as such several conflicts took place over the next few months. Figure 5: Burning the Rappahannock Railway Bridge, Oct. 13th 1863 (Library of Congress 1863a). By August 21, 1862 the Union and Confederate armies held both sides of the Rappahannock River, the Confederates in Culpeper County and the Union in Fauquier County. Upon the discovery of General Stonewall Jackson’s flanking maneuver, which threatened supply lines at Manassas Junction and Washington, D.C. General Pope of the Union army was deployed to north and east. This move subsequently shortened the conflict on the Rappahannock. Around Brandy Station, approximately 8.85 kilometers (5.5 miles) from the project area, the largest Calvary battle of the Civil War took place on June 9, 1863. The battle marked the beginning of the Confederate army’s second invasion of the North. After the Confederate loss at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 the Union and Confederate armies headed south for the next few months with little being accomplished. Once again the armies occupied both sides of the Rappahannock and continued to spar one another avoiding an offensive strategy because of over-extended supply lines (Henderson 1987:16–17). On August 1, 1863, the Union Army crossed the Rappahannock attempting 13

to engage the Confederate Army; however, after a series of attacks from both sides the Union army withdrew and continued to keep their position on the north side of the Rappahannock River (Henderson 1987:17–25). On October 12, 1863 it looked like the Confederate’s would have their victory. They crossed the Rappahannock River and attacked Union position and had the Union army in retreat until they reach Bristoe Station (Scheel 1985:65–66). The Union won a crucial battle at Bristoe Station, and the Confederate’s were forced to fall back to the Rappahannock River. On the evening of the 6 th of November, 1863, orders were issued to fill up to the maximum with ammunition, to have three days’ cooked rations in the haversacks and be ready to march at daybreak…..We marched down and parallel with the river nearly to the railroad……The enemy were found to be strongly entrenched on the same side of the river on which we were, holding a tete de pont, back of which was a pontoon bridge. Their works consisted of several strong forts. On the south side of the river, immediately in our front, was a redoubt pierced for four pieces of artillery…. Further to the rebel right, at a distance of six hundred feet was a smaller redoubt, containing two three inch guns, said to have been taken from us, one at Antietam, and other at Chancellorsville. …On the further side of the river, on a big hill that dominated the whole, was a fort in which were planted several heavy guns, I should judge field thirty-two pounders, and furthers up on the same side of the river a small redoubt, Whether there was artillery in this or not I am unable to say, but I think there was, as we had artillery posted on a ridge, nearly opposite… (Anderson 1901:28–30) General Robert E. Lee was anxiously anticipating the Union Army to divide their forces, which they did. Lee’s plan was to hold the bridgehead on the north bank, which consisted of two redoubts and connecting trenches as well as batteries on hills south of the river (Figure 6, p. 15). As Lee later explained, by holding this position he could “threaten any flank movement the enemy might make above or below and thus compel him to divide his forces, when it was hoped that an opportunity would be presented to concentrate on one or the other part” (National Park Service [NPS] 2005). Major General George Meade divided his forces by ordering General John Sedgwick to attack the Confederate position at Rappahannock Station while Major General William French crossed at Kelly’s Ford approximately 8.047 kilometers (5 miles) to the southeast (Figures 7–9, pp. 16–17) . On November 7 th French was successful and crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford while Sedgwick moved toward Rappahannock Station. When Lee learned of these plans he sent a small resistance to Rappahannock Station and ordered the larger army to defend Kelly’s Ford. All this depended on whether or not Lee could maintain the bridgehead at Rappahannock Station until French was defeated (NPS 2005). 14

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