Thursday, August 5, 2010

South of the Rappahannock

Today along the Rappahannock River: August 5, 1863

A portion of a letter from Sgt. William H. Shelton, Battery L, 1st New York Light Artillery, to his cousin.

"...We are in line of Battle; we are outside the outer line of breastwork... we are only nine miles from Culpeper where the enemy are believed to be in force. We are in the south side of the river thanks to the enterprise of our gallant cavalry & the support of a miniature pontoon of eight Rappahannock Station,.. were ordered to throw up breastworks in front of the pieces & obeyed ... our infantry failed to make its appearance. The sun blazed down...and we abandoned the works...
was particularly struck with the number of ladies in mourning. I am confident that two thirds of all the ladies I saw in W[arrenton] were in black. Any quantity of quiet elderly ladies and very pretty young ones appeared upon the veranda & in the yards. I suppose they consider us brutes..."

Many believe that the 'Dare Mark Line', otherwise known as the Rappahannock River, was the boundary between the contending armies in Northern Virginia in the summer of 1863. Not the case. The Federals were firmly placed south of the Rappahannock throughout August and September.

Sargent Sheldon comments on the weather, as the heat continued unabated for some period of time. It is also interesting that he notes the numbers of ladies in black in the town of Warrenton.

The war of course has taken a dreadful toll on the region. The economy is devastated by the armies constantly moving through and destroying farms and fences and killing livestock. But the emotional cost the families suffered must of been incredible. Long gone are those heady days in 1861 -- and the grim realities of war and occupation have settled into Northern Culpeper County and most of Fauquier County.

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