- Nov 10, 2006
Johnston moved back to the Rappahanock/Rapidan line and had eight divisions available to defend it.
Fredericksburg was under Holmes' command and then Longstreet's when Holmes was reassigned, They had the following around Fredericksburg:
Whiting's division of 3 bdes (Whiting, Hood and Hampton)
Holmes' division of 4 bdes (French, Walker*, Field and SR Anderson)
and were fortifying the heights behind Fredericksburg that cost Burnside so dear.
The other major corps was occupying the area around the O&ARR bridge across the Rapidan (having burned it and the one over the Rappahannock ISTR) and covering the fords with:
GW Smith's division (GT Anderson, Wilcox* and Toombs)
Longstreet's division of 3 bdes (AP Hill, DR Jones and Pickett, with DR Jones being senior and commanding the division in lieu of Longstreet's assuming a "corps")
Ewell's division (Elzey, Trimble and Taylor)
Early's division of 3 bdes (Early, Rodes and Kershaw)
DH Hill's new division assembled from two slack brigades (Griffith and GB Anderson)
On the flank is Jackson with his division.
Historically Jeff Davis was going nuts over Burnside and was pulling brigades from other stations to form an army to oppose him. He asked Joe Johnston for Longstreet and his division, but Johnston objected to losing his best division commander. Davis then had Walker and Wilcox pulled from Johnston, Cobb from Magruder and Gregg from SC to add to the NC forces.
Very quickly when McClellan started moving in April Cobb and Wilcox were ordered to Magruder and Gregg, Branch and JR Anderson from the NC force were sent to Northern Virginia where they formed "The Army of the North" with Field's brigade at Fredericksburg and nominally with Ewell's division.
If McClellan inclines to an attack on the Rappahannock/Rapidan line one suspects, Wilcox and Walker would be recalled, and Cobb, Gregg, Branch and JR Anderson's brigades would rapidly be sent north, along with Colston's and Pryor's from Norfolk. This would give Johnston 10 divisions to defend a secure river line.
Urbanna was nixed not by Lincoln etc. directly, but by the Corps Commanders. They thought landing at Urbanna was too dangerous and exposed with Johnston behind the Rappahannock. It was them who insisted on Fort Monroe and the Peninsula, which McClellan considered the weakest option. Indeed back in January he'd asked James Shields about Yorktown, and Shields had said it would take six weeks to reduce it and move on.
Because of this I don't see there being any support for a landing on the lower Rappahannock, and it's a grind down the railroads.
ISTM that if the Union is making a major effort like this, there is no threat down along the Peninsula and the Confederates will not be detaching troops to Magruder and Huger.
They were detaching them against an expected inland move by Burnside.
15th May? It's unlikely McClellan could even supply a large force at Culpeper. The Railroad needs three months work.
Then Johnston is holding a strong river line and has had time to entrench the fords. McClellan meanwhile has to detach a significant force to protect his right, because one rebel cavalryman with a match can sever the armies lifeline. He also has to picket the entire river line for the same reason.
The Rapidan (because they did not historically make the line of defense there at the Rappahannock) at the rail brigade is a defenders paradise. Nature has created a perfect kill zone for the rebels to occupy, with a natural crossfire, and the bluffs south of the river dominating the north:
View attachment 157819
Frankly, one division with artillery and enough ammunition could probably repel the whole Federal army. This is exactly what Johnston wanted. ; he entrenched 5 divisions there waiting for McClellan to hopefully put his men in the slaughter pit.
There are really 4 options for crossing the Rapidan/Rappahannock line:
1. Get there first. In November '62 McClellan managed this and held a debouch across the Rapidan with 9th Corps. Longstreet a few days after McClellan was relieved set out to try and push the Federals back across the river, but arrived to find they'd pulled back - Burnside had abandoned the O&A route.
2. Bull across the Rapidan bridge area. No general even tried it was so patently foolish.
3. Bull through Fredericksburg and over Marye's Heights. Burnside tried in Dec '62 and was slaughtered.
4. Cross at Germanna Mills and try and bull through the Wilderness before the rebels crush you like bookends. Hooker tried and failed. Grant tried and had to retreat east to connect with the Federal held Fredericksburg.
None of these is a good option in summer '62. Unlike November '62 Johnston is well entrenched on the Rapidan. The Rapidan Bridge and Marye's Height are horrific killing areas. The best option is like Germanna Ford and doing the Wilderness, and that's a terrible idea unless you have Fredericksburg to siddle over too.
Actually, these troops were being gathered as a reserve because the Confederates
Actually, these troops were being gathered as a reserve because the Confederates had detected the movement of large forces by water to the area of Fort Monroe. Davis was unsure where they were headed, but the obvious choices were up the Peninsula and down into North Carolina. By the time they started moving, it was more obvious that the Peninsula was the likely target and that is why some troops were sent to Magruder and some troops were actually sent up to reinforce Johnston.
My post was in regard to these detachments to Magruder you were bringing up. This thread has been discussing a major move by McClellan from the north. In that case, Davis and Johnston would not have been discussing a major movement of troops down the Potomac and the detachments would never have been made.
Which is why they were sent to Goldsboro?