"Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 1863. "The brigade is now scattered."

On January 20, 1863, Burnside attempts a flanking manoever at Fredericksburg, to become know as his "mud march."  Around 11am, Generals Franklin and Hooker begin their move. Slocom fills their gap, and the Second Vermont Brigade takes Slocum's position. The Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth, with the Second Connecticut battery, march to Fairfax Station, where they occupy, in part, the stockades and barracks which had sheltered Slocum's men. The Station, a military village of sheds and store tents, is the base of supplies for the thousands of troops at Centreville, Fairfax Court House, Union Mills, and other points in the vicinity, and as such needs to be strongly guarded.  The Twelfth and Thirteenth move on seven miles farther to Wolf Run Shoals, where one of the highways leading from Fairfax Court House south to Dumfries crosses the Occoquan. By evening it begins to rain. ~ 2 George Grenville Benedict,  Vermont in the Civil War 424 (Burlington Vt 1888)

Wolf Run Shoals, on the Occoquan River, was an important crossing point for travelers between Alexandria and Richmond dating to colonial times. A history of the ford during the Civil war is found here.

"January 20. For the twelfth time we are in a new camp. Our present one is half a mile south of Fairfax Station. At seven o’clock this morning everything was in readiness to be moved, and the regiment in line. Our Lieut. Colonel gave the command, Battalion! Right Face! Forward March! and arrived here at ten o’clock in the forenoon, five miles from our former encampment.

"[P]resent indication warn us that before we can possibly got our tents pitched, [a storm] will be upon us." 
J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 73-74 (1864)

"Tuesday 20th. Reveille rather earlier than usual. Reg't broke camp & marched at 7 o'clock. The day was clear & just cold enough to make it good marching. Stood the march to Wolf-run-shoals on the Occoquan river, pretty well; a distance of about 12 miles. 1 mile from our old camp to F.C.H. 3½ to the Station, & about 7½ to our present camp. 

"My feet got a little sore, because I marched in my "gunboats" which have rather thin soles, but I put on boots on the way & so came comparatively comfortable. We made but two halts on our journey & so were pretty tired when we reached here.  

"At Wolf-run-shoals, we found an old camp & shanties, just left by a reg of Gen Slocumb's corps, with fires still burning in the fireplaces. We secured one of these shanties & put our shelter tents over for a roof & were pretty comfortable. C.O. F. was detailed to remain & watch over the company interests in the old camp. Gen Slocumb passed us on our march. Also a part of his wagon train was passed by us. 

"5 weeks & 4 days we have remained in Camp Fairfax. Peace to its beauty." Diary of Horace Barlow, 70-71, Co. C, 12th Regiment

"Jan. 20. "This morning at five ... the beat of the drum. Soon the camps are all lighted; the rolls called; things packed; the mule teams loaded; and we are marching a little after day-light. We have gone but a few rods, when one comes from the brigade hospital to our company: "John Canady is dead," he said: "died at midnight." "died at midnight." "John Canady is dead," passes down the line from mouth to mouth. The next day a soldier goes back to see that his body is sent to his friends.

"None have any regrets at turning their back on this place; for the brigade has four dead men now in the hospital, and a hundred and fifty sick,- some with typhoid fever, but most with the measles.

"We have reached our destination the middle of the afternoon - a high bluff near the Occoquan river, (twelve miles march,) with aching backs and weary legs. ... As soon as it is known that we are to halt here through the night, all are working in great haste. The trees (for we are in a pine forest) fall as if the men were clearing the land. The tents are close behind us; and pitched before dark. We have no stoves; no brick with which we can make fireplaces; and the ground is frozen. ...

"A battery of cannon follows us, and is planted to defend the fords of the river; and the telegraph is strung through the forest.

"The brigade is now scattered; two regiments are here; the other three at Fairfax Station, -eight miles in the rear." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864).

Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

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