Thursday, November 7, 2013

They Rushed The Bridge

Albion P Howe
Along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad on November 7th 1863 the Second Battle of Rappahannock Station was fought.
Confederate General Robert E Lee withdrew his forces across the Rappahannock River in late October 1863.  A pontoon bridge was left at the town of Rappahannock Station, the only connection to the north shore.  The crossing was protected by two redoubts and Confederate artillery posted on the south side of the river.

Union commander Major General George G Meade approaching the river divided his force.  Major General William H French was to cross the river downstream at Kelly’s Ford, while Major General John Sedgwick attacked the Confederates at Rappahannock Station.  They were to rejoin and move on Brandy Station.

On November 7th 1863 about noon French’s force crossed the river at Kelly’s Ford, pushing the Confederates at the crossing back.  Shortly after noon Sedgwick advanced on Rappahannock Station.  Lee moved his troops to meet the threat on the two fronts.  Union Major General Albion P Howe’s division, a part of Sedgwick’s VI Corps drove in Confederate skirmishers about 3 pm and began to pound the Confederate batteries with his own artillery fire.  Posted at the bridge that day was Confederate Brigadier General Harry T Hay’s brigade with four guns of Captain Charles A Green’s Louisiana Guard Artillery, about 2,000 troops.  Sedgwick continued the shelling through the late afternoon, leading Lee believe the move against Rappahannock Station was feint to cover French’s crossing.  Sedgwick waited until almost dark, and then his infantry rushed the Confederate works.  Union Colonel Peter Ellmaker’s advanced on the double quick, surging over the Confederate works and fighting hand to hand with Hay’s men.  On the Union right Colonel Emory Upton’s brigade seized the bridge.

The Confederates gave up quickly.  Hundreds of Confederate soldiers surrendered, while others excepted by swimming the icy cold river.  There were 1,670 Confederate killed, wounded or captured in the short fight.  Union casualties were only 419.

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