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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Soggy and stiff from rain that fell through the night, the 1st Brigade was ordered under arms at 6:20 a.m. to accompany a reconnaissance by Crawford’s 3rd Division of the Fifth Corps. That reconnaissance was to be coordinated with the movements of a division from each of the Second, Sixth, and Twelfth Corps. No one would have an opportunity to dry their clothing or equipment before the movement began, but that would have mattered little, as the seemingly never ending precipitation would continue for the rest of the day.

The 1st Brigade did not move until sometime between 11:30 a.m. and noon. There was no need for alarm or hurry now as word had filtered through the ranks that Lee had successfully crossed to Virginia during the night. Once in motion the Brigade had an unimpeded two-hour march, during which time they picked up Confederate stragglers, and finally came upon the enemy’s abandoned rifle pits and breastworks. Those were best described as having been hastily constructed defenses that could have easily been brushed aside had the entire Union army attacked in force the previous day.

The regiments of the 1st Brigade finally reached Williamsport at varying times, between two and four, after covering seven miles. The 22nd Mass. actually occupied the Confederate works, while the rest of the Brigade moved off into a field, where they were issued rations and bivouacked for the night.

If Lincoln was angry that Meade had failed to crush Lee when presented with the opportunity, so too were the rank and file. Coming on the heels of a great victory at Gettysburg, every man sensed that the Army of Northern Virginia had been badly mauled. Now they grumbled among themselves, denigrating Meade as yet another in a long line of overcautious commanders. Had it been their decision they would have shown not only to Meade, but the Northern people, the stuff they were made of and administered the coupe de grace.

The C & O Canal:

The Potomac:


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