2nd Battle of Rappahannock Station

2nd Battle of Rappahannock Station

Date:    November 7, 1863
Result:    Union Victory
Troops Engaged:    2,000 US; 2,000 CS
Casualties:    419 US; 1,674 CS

On November 7, Meade ordered an assault against Lee’s Confederate infantry along the Rappahannock River. Dividing his forces, Meade ordered General John Sedgwick to attack Rappahannock Station while General William H. French moved five miles downstream to Kelly’s Ford. In response, Lee shifted some of his force to Kelly’s Ford, hoping to defeat French soundly, and left only a small number of men under General Jubal Early at Rappahannock Station.

Sedgwick’s sharpshooters drove in the Rebel skirmishers and seized a range of high ground near the river. Sedgwick’s guns and Confederate batteries maintained an active fire until dark. According to Lee’s report: “It was not known whether this demonstration was intended as a serious attack or only to cover the movement of the force that had crossed at Kelly’s Ford, but the lateness of the hour induced the belief that nothing would be attempted until morning.” He was mistaken. Sedgwick’s infantry rushed the works and engaged Early’s men in hand to hand combat. No information of the attack was received on the south side of the river until too late for the artillery stationed there to aid in repelling it, and fear of injury to their own captured men further prevented that action. Many Confederates tried to escape across the river, but Federal fire and freezing water stopped most. In total, more than 1,670 Confederates were killed, wounded, or captured in this engagement. This disastrous Confederate defeat forced Lee to retreat further south for the winter than originally planned.

Rappahannock Station (today’s Remington) was the site of two separate battles, both involving the railroad and the Rappahannock River. The second of these engagements involved a rare night-time attack and brutal hand-to-hand combat. A pontoon bridge (which replaced the burned railroad bridge) was defended by a tete-de-pont constructed on the north bank by Lee’s engineers. Portions of the pontoon bridge were recovered by the Union forces. The pontoon bridge was located in the river bend just upstream from the Bus. Route 15/29 Highway bridge.

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