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Aldie and the March to Gettysburg

The 44th spent the latter part of May and the first half of June guarding various fords along the Rappahannock from the Confederates, who were stationed on the south side of the river. But on June 11, the sick, including Sidney Burroughs, were sent away to Washington. The men had suspected that Lee's army had crossed the river and gotten ahead of them, and this action confirmed it. The evening of June 13, they began chasing the Confederates. They made a series of difficult, all-day marches, often making more than twenty miles in a single day in hot and dry weather. Many of the men in the regiment were barefoot, or nearly so, and the heated sand and rocks of the roads hurt and blistered their feet. (1)

Colonel Rice led the regiment to the town of Aldie on June 19, camping there until the morning of June 21, when the Third Brigade was ordered to assist in repelling an enemy cavalry raid. That morning, the 44th left its camp at 3 a.m., crossed a series of fields, and formed for battle in a growth of oak trees, to the left of the Union Cavalry, and under the direction of General Pleasanton. The advance of the Confederate cavalry had dismounted and took position behind a stone wall. The 16th Michigan was sent out first, to move the dismounted cavalry from their advantageous position. The 44th N.Y. and 20th Maine were sent out next, with orders to pick off the gunners in a Confederate battery of six guns stationed to the left of a road. The 83rd Pennsylvania was sent on a circuitous route to the left, to sneak over the stone wall and then surprise the enemy. (2)

The attack surprised the enemy, who retreated back across a creek and opened up an artillery fire on the infantry and cavalry. But the Union artillery was too strong, and the same pattern continued for more than four miles, the Confederate cavalry behind a wall, the Union dislodging them and chasing them to the next wall. The enemy cavalry made one last stand at a bridge, but the 83rd Penn. and 16th Mich. charged them and broke their line and they fled in confusion. The Union cavalry chased them for several miles. The tired infantry followed far behind and eventually placed in support of artillery. The brigade bivouacked for the night, and returned to its camp at Aldie the following morning. (3)

They remained at Aldie for four more nights, leaving early on June 26, crossing the Potomac at Edward's Ferry, and camping in Maryland, making twenty miles that day. The regiment was at Frederick, Maryland, when it learned on June 28 that Hooker had been replaced by Fifth Corps commander George G. Meade. Some of the men believed the rumors that McClellan was returning to take command, but they turned out to be false. (4)

1. James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, June 28, 1863; Nash, 136.

2. Nash 136-7; "Report of Colonel Strong Vincent, 83rd Penn., commanding Third Brigade," June 22, 1863, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Vol. XXVII, Part 1, p. 613-5.

3. Ibid.

4. Nash, 137.

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