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Rappahannock Station and Mine Run: Fall 1863

After six weeks at Beverly Ford, the 44th crossed to the south bank of the Rappahannock on September 16 and camped near Culpeper. It remained in the camp, except for picket and fatigue duty, until October 11, when the army recrossed the river. The following morning, in line of battle, the Second, Third, and Fifth Corps crossed the river again. While marching over some hills, the 44th witnessed a cavalry battle at Brandy Station. But the enemy infantry retreated when approached by Union skirmishers. Captain Eugene Nash of the regiment, upon learning that Lee was attempting to flank the Union army, feared the onset of another Bull Run campaign. (1)

The result of the Confederate movements was for the 44th to once again cross to the north bank of the river. The men broke up their bivouac shortly after midnight on October 13, and crossed the river just after dawn. The Third Brigade acted as the rear guard for a 22-mile march, made without incident. Moving again at dawn on October 14, the regiment came within a couple miles of Manassas, where it stopped to eat its afternoon dinner. But the Second Corps, now marching behind the Fifth Corps, had become engaged with the enemy at Bristoe Station, a few miles to the south. The Fifth Corps was turned around and marched toward the engagement, but the Second Corps had already repulsed the enemy attacks, so the Fifth Corps, including the 44th, continued its march in the direction of Washington. The only casualty related relating to Company E was James Woodworth, who was accidentally struck in the back by a cavalryman rushing to save a cannon from falling off a pontoon bridge. He entered the hospital, and did not rejoin the regiment for two months as he recovered from his injury and other illnesses. (2)

After advancing as far north as Fairfax Court House, the Army of the Potomac slowly began to make its way south again. The Confederates had retreated after destroying railroads and bridges in an attempt to disrupt the Union supply system. The army passed through Manassas and over the battlefield on its return march south. It halted near Warrenton for an extended period, to rebuild railroads and bridges. Lee retreated south of the Rapidan River, but kept small concentrations of forces near the Rappahannock to prevent river crossings by the Union Army. (3)

On November 7, the Fifth and Sixth Corps were sent against Rappahannock Station, which Lee had ordered fortified and strongly entrenched. At 4:00 p.m. the Fifth Corps' skirmishers, including a "large" detachment from the 44th and the Third Brigade, began to charge toward the enemy's works, in line with the Sixth Corps. The charge was successful, and the skirmishers from the 44th were among the first to scale the fortifications and drive the enemy away. The regiment lost 3 killed, 3 wounded, and 2 captured in the action, which resulted in the capture of 1,300 soldiers and 8 pieces of artillery. Company E had two men seriously wounded, Josephus Simmons and Amos Vincent, neither of whom returned to action with the regiment. The victory freed the Rappahannock for crossing, and allowed the opportunity for Meade to launch an offensive campaign. (4)

General Lee had not committed to a large-scale action here; his goal was the destruction of railroad tracks to disrupt the Union supply lines. The 44th would close out the year at a place called Mine Run, November 29 to December 1, 1863. This was another Fredericksburg in the making, but cooler heads prevailed, and a slaughter was averted. The Confederates had managed to fortify the high ground opposite the Union lines near Mine Run, a creek west of Chancellorsville. In order to dislodge the Rebels, Union forces would first have to had crossed this stream in an area where the banks were from four to ten feet in height. Following this questionable feat, the advancing soldiers would have to attack Lee's army head-on, over a wide open upward-sloping field. The attack had been set for 8:00 A.M. on the 30th of November, but following a brief council, the commanding generals agreed that an attack would be folly. The 44th suffered only 4 casualties, and none from Company E. (5)

The regiment moved back north to Rappahannock Station, and spent the remainder of the year on guard duty. On January 25, 1864, the regiment left Rappahannock Station and reported to Alexandria, Virginia, for special duty. The 44th protected the daily trains traveling to the front from General Mosby and other Confederate guerillas. While at Alexandria, the regiment erected its "model" camp, a beautiful, well-designed camp whose evergreen arches and gravel streets attracted the attention of many visitors and a photographer from Matthew Brady's studio. Many of the visitors said that it was the nicest camp they had ever seen. The soldiers in the regiment, when not on duty, took the opportunity to visit downtown Alexandria and nearby Washington, D.C., and many of the men took the opportunity to attend the many churches nearby. At Alexandria, Captain Bradford Wood, a member of the original Company E, returned to the regiment from the Signal Corps and assumed command of Company E from Lieutenant Husted, who had commanded the company since Captain Clark E. Royce left due to sickness after Gettysburg. The regiment remained at Alexandria until April 29, when it returned to the Third Brigade and prepared for the 1864 campaign under a new commanding general, Ulysses S. Grant. (6)

1. Nash, 166-7.

2. James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, October 16, 1863; Nash 167-8.

3. Nash, 168-70.

4. Nash, 171-2.

5. Nash, 173-7.

6. Nash, 179-82.

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