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"Remounts The Life Blood of the Cavalry Caught in Traffic" Topic


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184 hits since 12 Sep 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0112 Sep 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

"General Robert E. Lee began moving his army out of the lines near the Rappahannock River on June 3. His counterpart, General Joseph Hooker, must have considered the necessity of moving his army shortly thereafter, though exactly when he did so remains a bit of a mystery. Rather than going after Lee and bringing him to battle, Hooker sought President Lincoln's permission to move against Richmond. Astonished that Hooker had even considered such an option, Lincoln promptly reminded his general, "Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your…objective." Counseling Hooker to hold his army between the enemy and Washington, Lincoln urged the general to "Fight" Lee "when opportunity offers," and to "fret him and fret him."

General Hooker longed to break free of the shackle chaining him to the capital, and Lincoln had just dashed his dream. Now, without an alternative plan, Hooker became a general adrift, lapsing into bouts of sullen petulance, broken only by short flashes of his old combative bluster and arrogance. Forced into a race against a foe already several days ahead of him, Hooker reluctantly determined in the early evening hours of June 12 to abandon his lines near Falmouth, as well as his sprawling supply base at Aquia Landing, and head north to pursue Lee. According to Brig. Gen. Marsena Patrick, Hooker's grizzled provost marshal, the move would commence at three o'clock on the morning of June 13. "[Shut] up to the defence of Washington," as Patrick observed, Hooker elected to move his army in two columns; the I, III, V and XI Corps, along with the Cavalry Corps, would follow the line of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, while the II, VI and XII Corps, along with the Reserve Artillery, would move up through Dumfries and across the Occoquan River, into Fairfax County.

By June 1863, picking up and moving had become a matter of routine for soldiers in either army and could be accomplished in minutes; evacuating the massive Union supply bases scattered around Aquia Landing, Falmouth and Dumfries quickly and efficiently proved more of a challenge. General Patrick had Union malcontents and other prisoners in his guard house to release or transfer to other facilities. Lieut. Colonel Charles Sawtelle, placed in charge of the evacuation by Brig. Gen. Rufus Ingalls, counted 10,000 sick and wounded men who needed to be moved. Lt. Col. Albert Austin, Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton's Chief Commissary, looked to distribute as many rations as possible from the smaller depots, including the depot at Bealton, before he had to load them onto wagons or trains headed north. Train cars and locomotives needed to be loaded upon barges and shipped north, while tons of forage, grain and all manner of other supplies for men and animals alike had to be loaded onto wagons or other conveyances or destroyed…."
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