The Slow Pursuit

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Posted by webguy on Wednesday 12 June 2013

The Slow Pursuit

(June 8-14, 1863)While the Army of Northern Virginia continued to dash north, Hooker's Army of the Potomac continued its deliberate crawl in pursuit. The 22nd Massachusetts remained encamped near Kelly's Ford (map location A)through the first week of June 1863. On June 9th, Parker reports that the 22nd "...heard heavy booming all day, indicating a sharp cavalry fight" (Carter 323). Indeed, only thirteen miles to the west, Alfred Pleasanton's cavalry clashed with that of J.E.B. Stuart at what would become known as the Battle of Brandy Station. The next day, the 22nd moved up six miles to Kelly's Ford to support the cavalry in the event that the battle continued and Pleasonton required infantry assistance, but the fight had concluded. The 22nd MVI returned to camp at night on the 10th of June. Walter Carter wondered about the location of Lee's army in a June 11 letter home:

"We cannot imagine where we are bound for now. Perhaps the rebs are on their way to Washington; I seem to dread continually now a third 'Bull Run," and yet I think it will not be realized.; everything breathes of approaching fight, and I say 'let it come!' We can fight now as well as ever, and the men can die as gloriously as they did at Chancellorsville, with all the radiance of ancient chivalry. Nothing so inspiring as to see a dauntless, brave man rush into battle fearlessly, and I am proud of the risk a soldier runs of at least dying in a worthy cause" (Carter 279-280).

The entirety of the army set into motion over the course of the next few days, with the Third Corps marching past the 22nd MVI on the 12th, and the First Corps on the 13th. With the rest of the Fifth Corps, the 22nd MVI broke camp after sundown on the 13th and moved north. Parker expressed some modicum of surprise that Pleasanton's cavalry had seized control of the fords from Stuart, enabling unopposed crossing. Reaching Morrisville (map location B) late on the 13th, the 22nd camped for the night. The next day, they made the long trek from Morrisville to Catlett's Station near Bristersburg (map location C)-- some twenty miles; and only a few miles south of the location of the Bull Run battlefield that so concerned Walter Carter (marked with a red dot on the map). According to Parker, there was little water to be had on this march, which made the already unpleasant Virginia heat all the less bearable. While at a halt to rest-- a rest used to brew coffee-- the regiment received orders to march on to Bristow Station, but the orders were countermanded to the relief of the leg-weary men of Henry Wilson's regiment.

Sources: Carter, Robert Goldthwaite. Four Brothers in Blue. Second Printing. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1978. Print. Parker, John Lord. Henry Wilson's Regiment: History of the Twenty-Second Massachusetts Infantry. Reprint. Baltimore MD: Butternut and Blue, 1996. Print. Note: Map routes are estimates. Actual historical routes may have varied.


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