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THE FEINT BY THE LEFT WING.
EN. HOOKER'S plan embraced, besides a cavalry
raid to sever the enemy's communications, a demonstration in force on the left to draw the enemy's attention, and the throwing of the main body of his forces across the river on the right.
As early as April 21, Doubleday of the First Corps had been sent down the river to Port Conway with some thirty-five hundred men, to light camp-fires, and make demonstrations with pontoons, after doing which he returned to camp.
On the 23d Col. Morrow, with the Twenty-fourth Michigan, went down, and crossed the river to Port Royal in boats.
These demonstrations had been intended to co-operate with Stoneman's raid, which at these dates should have been well on Lee's rear, and to unsettle Lee's firm footing preparatory to the heavy blows Hooker was preparing to deliver; but, as Stoneman was delayed, these movements failed of much of their intended effect. Nevertheless, Jackson's corps was drawn down to the vicinity, and remained there some days. On Monday, April 27, Hooker issues his orders to the First, Third, and Sixth Corps, to place themselves in position, ready to cross; the First at Pollock's Mills Creek, and the Sixth at Franklin's Crossing, by 3.30 A.M., on Wednesday; and the Third at a place enabling it to cross in support of either of the others at 4.30 A.M. The troops to remain concealed until the movement begins. Artillery to be posted by Gen. Hunt, Chief of Artillery of the army, to protect the crossing. Gen. Benham to have two bridges laid by 3.30 A.M. at each crossing. Troops, as needed, to be detailed to aid his engineer brigade.
Gen. Sedgwick to command the three corps, and make a demonstration in full force on Wednesday morning to secure the telegraph road. Should any considerable force be detached to meet the movement of the right wing, Sedgwick is to carry the works at all hazards. Should the enemy retreat towards Richmond, he is to pursue on the Bowling-Green road, fighting wherever he reaches them, while Hooker will pursue on parallel roads more to the west.
This order was punctually obeyed. Gen. Hunt placed forty-two guns at Franklin's, forty at Pollock’s Mill, and sixteen at Traveller's Rest, a mile below, a number more being held in reserve. Those in position were so disposed as to “enfilade the rifle-pits, crush the fire of the enemy's works on the hill, cover the throwing of the bridges, and protect the crossing of the troops.” (Hunt.)
These three corps camped that night without fires, and the pontoons were carried to the river by hand to insure secrecy.
At daybreak, Wednesday, Russell's brigade crossed in boats at Franklin's with little opposition. The bridges were then constructed; and Brooks's division passed over with a battery, and established itself strongly on the south side.
At the lower crossing, Reynolds's attempts to throw the bridges early in the morning were defeated by sharpshooters and a supporting regiment. But about half-past eight, the fog, which had been quite dense, lifted; and under fire of the artillery the Confederates were driven away, and the crossing made by Wadsworth.
During Wednesday and Thursday the entire command was held in readiness to force a passage at any time, the bridge-heads being held by Brooks and Wadsworth respectively.
THE REAL MOVE BY THE RIGHT WING.
OOKER was a master of logistics. The forethought
and excellent judgment displayed in all orders under which these preliminary moves of the army-corps were made, as well as the high condition to which he had brought the army, cannot elicit higher praise than to state the fact, that, with the exception of the Cavalry Corps, all orders issued were carried out au pied de la lettre, and that each body of troops was on hand at the hour and place prescribed. This eulogy must, however, be confined to orders given prior to the time when the fighting began.
On April 26 the commanding officers of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were directed to march Monday morning, the 27th, towards Kelley's Ford, on the Rappahannock, - some fifteen miles above its junction with the Rapidan, — Howard leading.
As much secrecy as possible was enjoined, and the men were not to be allowed to go down to the river. Eight days' rations to be carried in the haversacks. Each corps to take a battery and two ambulances to a division, the pack-train for small ammunition, and a few wagons for forage only. The rest of the trains to be parked in the vicinity of Banks's Ford out of sight. A sufficient detail, to be made from the troops whose term was about to expire, to be left behind to guard camp, and do provost duty.
Meade was ordered to march the Fifth Corps in connection with the Eleventh and Twelfth, and equipped in similar manner.
The three corps to be in camp at Kelley's Ford, in positions indicated, by four P.M. on Tuesday.
The first day's march was to the vicinity of Hartwood Church. Next day, at four A.M., the head of the column was in motion; and at four P.M. the three corps were in camp at Kelley's Ford.
At six P.M. the pontoon-bridge was begun, under charge of Capt. Comstock of the engineers, by a detail mostly from the Eleventh Corps. Some four hundred men of Buschbeck's brigade crossed in boats, and attacked the enemy's pickets, which retired after firing a single shot. About ten P.M. the bridge was finished, and the troops crossed; the Eleventh Corps during the night, and the Twelfth Corps next morning.
The Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment was sent out as flankers to prevent the Confederate scouting-parties from annoying the column. In this they failed of entire success; as the rear of the Eleventh Corps was, during the day, shelled by a Confederate battery belonging to Stuart's horse artillery, and the Twelfth Corps had some slight skirmishing in its front with cavalry detachments from the same command.
As soon as Hooker had seen to the execution of his first