Posts Tagged ‘Rappahannock Station battle 2’

November 12, 1863

                                                                                                                                                         Headquaters Pa. Reserves.

                                                                                                                                                         November 12th, 1863 

Dear Father:

                Your letter dated last Wednesday was received yesterday. You say you have not heard from me for two weeks—perhaps you will get my letters both at one time for I have written every week. On last Saturday we started from Warrenton Junction at daylight and marched a little beyond Bealton Station without any opposition. When no[t] far from Rappahannock Station the skirmishing began which ended in quite a brisk fight. The enemy occupied the heights on the North side of the river in small force, but held a fine position being strongly entrenched and having a battery posted in two small forts which they had built. When our skirmishers began to press them a Brigade was sent to their assistance from Brandy Station as they thought we had no considerable force. It was about sunset when the Sixth Corps was formed in line of battle and slowly moved upon the works. I think it was the most grand sight I ever saw, our banners were floating on the breeze and the column moved majestically on. After the Sun had gone down and it was beginning to get dusk, the order was given to take the place by assault, which was done in a style that could not be surpassed. The enemy could not see the strength of our line until we were within twenty rods of their breast works. They only had time to fire one volley till the 6th Maine, 49th Penna, 121st N.Y. and 5th Wisconsin were over the rifle pits and then a hand to hand encounter ensued. The enemy had one pontoon bridge over the river and our boys rushed to it—cutting off their retreat—thereby capturing nearly all of them, their arms and the cannon in the forts. It was a decided success. We lost sixty or seventy in killed and two or three hundred wounded, but none in prisoners. I was all over the field early the next morning while the dead were being buried—I noticed that many of the rebels had been killed with the bayonet. Their loss in killed was less than ours as they had the advantage of the embankments and pits.[1]
                Our Division is now occupying excellent log quarters that were built by [Confederate Major General Robert E.] Rhodes [Rodes] Division. Genl. Lee had given them orders to build winter quarters. They left in such haste that they did not get all their stores away. The position our Division occupies is about one third of the way between Kelly’s Ford and Culpeper and on Mountain Creek. I believe we hold Culpeper and perhaps to the Rapidan. The railroad which was completely destroyed is now rebuilt to Bealton and it is expected that it will be completed to the river by the middle of next week. It has not been disturbed on this side of the river.
                What the intention of General Meade is I do not know—some think that he intends to advance across the Rapidan on Gordonsville—others think that he will swing around on Fredericksburg.
                The weather is fine now and favorable for Military operations, but will not in all probability continue so long. I omitted to say that our Division was not engaged in the late battle.
                Last Sunday Harvey Clover had a very narrow escape, he rode past our picquet line, and a rebel sharpshooter drew a “bead” on him—the ball passed through his coat and killed his horse, but he made his escape owing to the length of his legs. The Venango boys are all as well as usual. I have no particular news to give you. Hasn’t Frank gone to Pittsburg Jct? Tell Mother that those shirts she made me—so large around the neck—have shrunk so that they choke me now. I think of nothing more.

                                Yours affy,                          J. D. Chadwick

Next posting:  November 22, 2013

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335


[1] The Second Battle of Rappahannock Station of November 7, 1863, was a Union triumph. Of the approximately equal forces involved (2000 men on each side), the Union lost some 419 in killed and wounded, while the entrenched Confederates saw nearly 80% of their force killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, approximately 1,670 men.