Page images
PDF
EPUB

XIV.

POSITION OF THE ELEVENTH CORPS.

G

EN. HOWARD states that he located his command,

both with reference to an attack from the south, and from the west along the old turnpike and the plank road. The whole corps lies on a ridge along which runs the turnpike, and which is the watershed of the small tributaries of the Rappahannock and Mattapony Rivers. This ridge is terminated on the right by some high and easily-defended ground near Talley's.

Gen. Devens, with the first division, holds the extreme right. He has less than four thousand men under his command. Von Gilsa's brigade has, until this morning, been half a mile farther out the pike, and across the road; but on receipt of Hooker's 9.30 order has been withdrawn, and now lies with two regiments astride and north of the pike, some distance beyond Talley's, the rest skirting the south of it. His right regiment leans upon that portion of the Brock road which is the prolongation of the eastern branch, and which, after crossing the plank road and pike, bears north-westerly, and loses itself in the woods where formerly was an old mill. McLean's brigade prolongs von Gilsa's line towards Schurz. Dieckman's battery has two pieces trained westerly down the pike, and four on Devens's left, covering, near Talley's Hill, the approaches from the plank road. Devens has the Twentyfifth and Seventy-fifth Ohio Volunteers as a reserve, near the pike.

Schurz's (third) division continues this line on the edge of the woods to Dowdall's. His front hugs the eastern side of the clearing between the pike and the plank road, thence along the latter to the fork. Schimmelpfennig's brigade is on the right, adjoining Devens ; Krzyzanowski's on the left. Three regiments of the former are on the line, and two in reserve: the latter has two regiments on the line, and two in reserve.

On Schurz's right wing, the troops are shut in between thick woods and their riflepits, with no room whatever to maneuvre or deploy. This condition likewise applies to many of the regiments in Devens's line. The pike is the means of inter-communication, running back of the woods in their rear. Dilger's battery is placed near Dowdall's, at the intersection of the roads.

Steinwehr considers himself the reserve division. He is more or less massed near Dowdall's. Buschbeck's brigade is in the clearing south of the road, but has made a line of rifle-pits across the road, facing west, at the edge of the open ground. Two regiments are deployed, and two are in reserve. His other brigade, Barlow's, has been sent out nearly two miles, to protect Birney's right, leaving 110 general reserve whatever for the corps. Wiederich's battery is on Steinwehr's right and left, trained south.

Three batteries are in reserve on the line of Buschbeck's rifle-pits running north and south. Barlow has been, as above stated, massed in échelon on Devens's right and rear, with rallying point on the right of this line.

Two companies, and some cavalry and artillery, have been sent to the point where the Ely's Ford road crosses Hunting Creek.

Devens states that his pickets were kept out a proper distance, and that he had constant scouting-parties moving beyond them. In his report he recapitulates the various attacks made during the day. Shortly after noon, cavalry attacked his skirmishers, but drew off. This was Stuart protecting Jackson's flank, and feeling for our lines. Then two men, sent out from Schimmelpfennig 's front, came in through his, and were despatched to Hooker with their report that the enemy was in great force on our flank. Later, Lieut. Davis, of Devens's staff, with a cavalry scout, was fired upon by Confederate horse. Then von Gilsa's skirmishers were attacked by infantry, — again Stuart seeking to ascertain our position : after which the pickets were pushed farther out. Cavalry was afterwards sent out, and returned with information that some Confederate troopers, and part of a battery, were in the woods on our right.

But all this seems to have been explained as a retreat. “The unvarying report was, that the enemy is crossing the plank road, and moving towards Culpeper."

The ground about Dowdall's is a clearing of undulating fields, closed on three sides, and open to the west. As you stand east of the fork of the roads, you can see a considerable distance down the plank road, leading to Orange Court House. The pike bears off to the right, and runs up hill for half a mile, to the eminence at Talley's.

The dispositions recited were substantially the same as those made when the corps arrived here on Thursday. They were, early Saturday morning, inspected by Hooker in person, and pronounced satisfactory. As he rode along the line with Howard, and with each division commander in succession, he was greeted with the greatest enthusi

His exclamation to Howard, several times repeated, as he examined the position, - his mind full of the idea of a front attack, but failing to seize the danger of the two roads from the west, “How strong! How

asm.

was:

strong!”

An hour or two later, having ascertained the Confederate movement across our front, he had sent his circular to Howard and Slocum. Later still, as if certain that the enemy was on the retreat, he depleted Howard's line by the withdrawal of Barlow, and made dispositions which created the gap of nigh two miles on Howard's left.

Howard, during the day, frequently inspected the line, and all dispositions were approved by him.

And, when Barlow was ordered out to the front, both Howard and Steinwehr accompanied him. They returned to Dowdall's Tavern just as Jackson launched his columns upon the Eleventh Corps.

XV.

THE SITUATION AT SIX O'CLOCK.

ITI

T is now six o'clock of Saturday, May 2, 1863, a lovely

spring evening. The Eleventh Corps lies quietly in position. Supper-time is at hand. Arms are stacked on the line; and the men, some with accoutrements hung upon the stacks, some wearing their cartridge-boxes, are mostly at the fires cooking their rations, careless of the future, in the highest spirits and most vigorous condition. Despite the general talk during the entire afternoon, among

officers and rank and file alike, of a possible attack down the pike, all are happily unsuspicious of the thunder-cloud gathering on their flank. There is a general feeling that it is too late to get up much of a fight to-day.

The breastworks are not very substantial. They are hastily run up out of rails from the fences, logs from barns in the vicinity, and newly felled trees. The ditch skirting the road has been deepened for this temporary purpose. Abattis, to a fair extent, has been laid in front. But the whole position faces to the south, and is good for naught else.

Nor were our men in those days as clever with the

« PreviousContinue »