The following is from a draft of my long-planned and maybe never to be completed (??) book on Abner Doubleday. The text alternates between remarks from an obscure Doubleday journal and those of his adjutant George F. Noyes (who published a book in 1863 entitled “The Bivouac and the Battlefield”). After having his command stuck in Fredericksburg for many months, Doubleday’s men were now on the move at this time 150 years ago – taking them through Virginia to fight ultimately at Brawner’s Farm, Bull Run, South Mountain, and Antietam.
Jackson’s grand flanking movement was begun on the 25th of August with Stuart’s cavalry leading the advance. Jackson’s troops proved their value and mobility once again, as his 23,000 men covered a distance of 25 miles in 14 hours. This was seen by Union scouts, but wrongly interpreted by Pope as Lee simply moving to the Shenandoah Valley away from his stalled front along the Rappahannock. The next day (the 26th), Jackson descended east through Thoroughfare Gap and on to Bristoe Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (Pope’s supply line from Washington). His command easily captured this lightly guarded location, and with little more difficulty also captured the huge depot of supplies at Manassas Junction, just miles to the north. What they could not consume, they burned—several million dollars worth!
As Jackson’s command was accomplishing this maneuver and enjoying the spoils at Manassas Junction, Doubleday was part of Pope’s forces opposite Longstreet along the Rappahannock. The Confederates continued active artillery shelling, and successfully crossed a body of troops at Sulphur Springs. Doubleday’s Brigade, as part of King’s Division, was sent to recapture that place on the 26th. This was done largely through artillery fire, with Doubleday’s brigade in support of the batteries. Also crossing the river at this time was “a flag of truce [Doubleday recorded in his diary] sent over by the enemy to return to us a German woman who had been captured in male attire while fighting as a soldier.” Additionally, the 76th New York was detached to successfully deal with sharpshooters across the river. In evaluation of this entire activity, Doubleday wrote that “all these movements on the part of the enemy, however, were merely to detain Pope while Jackson gained our rear . . . as soon as darkness set in, Longstreet started to join Jackson by the same route the latter had taken.”
When Pope realized that Jackson had severed his communication with Washington and was in the rear of his position, temptingly separated from Lee and Longstreet, he determined to interpose between them. However, Pope did not know precisely where the illusive Jackson was to be found. Doubleday’s Brigade would quite accidentally and inadvertently be a major player in answering that question.