Blue and Gray Trail
Civil War Encyclopedia
Civil War in Georgia
On the Blue and Gray Trail
Civil War by state
Today in the Civil War
This year in the Civil War
Mine Run Campaign
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns
Mine Run Campaign
After a series of back and forth moves between the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers in September and October, 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac engaged in the Mine Run Campaign. It would be the last campaign before both sides settled into winter camp.
Union commander George Meade was under pressure from Washington to attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. With roughly 30,000 more fighting men than Lee's 50,000, Meade's advantage was offset by the relatively strong position Lee held south of the Rapidan. When Union scouts reported that the fords on Lee's right were lightly held, Meade decided to move rapidly to his left and cross the Rapidan.
From the outset, the Meade's plan had problems. He was delayed for 2 days by heavy rains, during which time Lee responded to the Union forces preliminary moves, reinforcing his right. When the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan on November 26th (the "official" start of the Campaign), Lee was moving 2 divisions into the area. Slowed by muddy roads and increased Rebel skirmishing, Meade's men failed to reach their first night's objective, the Orange Plank Road. Lee continued to reinforce his right as Meade's men crossed the river.
Heavy skirmishing broke out before noon in the vicinity of Robertson's Tavern. The Confederate divisions of Major Generals Jubal Early and Robert E. Rodes, moving to reinforce Lee's right, and Major General Gouverneur K. Warren's Union Second Corps, who crossed the Rapidan as part of the general advance, brushed against each other. A nearby cavalry engagement between Brigadier General David M. Gregg's Federals and Major General J.E.B. Stuart's Confederates added to the engagement. Major General Henry Heth [CS] ordered his division to occupy a low hill near the site of the cavalry engagement at New Hope Church. George Sykes [US] attacked Heth, easily driving him off the hill. Meade ordered Sykes to hold his position until the Union Army was ready to attack.
William French [US] tried to join Warren at Robertson's Tavern but started running into increased resistance from Rebel cavalry. He slowed at a crossroads near Payne Farm, trying to decide which route to take. About this time a division of Confederates came upon French's position. Edward Johnson [CS] unaware that French had more than 30,000 men in the vicinity, launched an attack against the Union force with slightly more than 5,000 men. The ferocity of Johnson's aggressive attack further confused French, who began laying a defensive perimeter. Johnson, too, began building earthworks.
As Johnson and French were building their earthworks, Meade ordered G. K. Warren to continue the swing around Lee's right. With the two divisions Lee had already repositioned running into heavier than expected fighting, the gray-haired Virginian decided to reinforce his right flank with A. P. Hill's Corps. Warren arrived at his ordered position late in the day on November 29th and decided to delay any attack until the following morning. During the night Powell Hill's men deployed along Lee's right. When Warren awoke the next morning, he realized that the Confederate position was too strong to turn.
Weather now played an important role in Union decision-making. The rain that had muddied the roads brought unusually cold air into Virginia around the Rapidan. Sub-zero temperatures forced Meade into withdrawing his men from their advance, ending the Mine Run Campaign and returning the Army of the Potomac to return to prepare winter camp.
DIRECTIONS TO THE BATTLEFIELD
To reach the Mine Run battlefield, drive west on Rt. 3 from Fredericksburg and proceed 3.5 miles beyond the traffic light at Wilderness Junction (Rt. 20). Just after passing Rt. 711 on your right, make a U-turn and travel back towards Fredericksburg in the eastbound lane. Go 0.1 mile and turn right on Rt. 601. After going 0.6 mile, turn right on Rt. 603, which eventually turns into a well-graded gravel road. Travel 1.5 miles to a stop sign. Turn right and continue on Rt. 603 (Indiantown Road) for 2.3 miles and stop at the junction of the Woodville Road.
Stop 1 - Road from Jacobs Ford. The Third and Sixth Union Corps crossed the Rapidan River at Jacobs Ford, approximately one mile to your right, and marched up the Woodville Road toward your present location. Today the road ends at a private residence several hundred yards from the ford.
Follow the Union advance by continuing on Rt. 603 for 0.6 mile to its intersection with Rt. 715 (Lewistown Road). Brigadier General Henry Prince's division, the leading element of French's Third Corps, reached this point before halting on the night of November 26th. Prince spent the night at "the apex of the angle of the forks." Drive 0.5 mile father and stop at the intersection with Rt. 685 (Russell Road).
Stop 2 - Widow Morris Farm. Generals French and Prince wasted several hours at this road junction debating which road to take. During the fighting at Payne's farm, French used the Widow Morris house as his headquarters. A modern structure now stands on the site of the Morris house, at the southeast corner of the junction.
Continue to follow the Third Corps advance by driving on Rt. 603 1.2 miles farther to Rt. 611. Turn left and continue 0.2 mile to New Zoar Church.
Stop 3 - Payne's Farm. Marching down the Raccoon Ford Road (Rt. 611), Edward Johnson's Confederate division collided with French's corps in the woods and fields in this vicinity. To orient yourself to the direction of Johnson's attack, stand with your back to the church and face the road. The Stonewall Brigade, on Johnson's left, marched past the site of the modern church, crossed the road, and passed through the woods on the opposite side into the open fields of the Payne farm. About a hundred yards to your right is a dirt road that leads to the Payne house. Stafford's and Jones' brigades, on Johnson's right, crossed the Raccoon Ford Road, wheeled to the left, and formed along this dirt road, facing northwest across the field. Return to your car and continue south on Rt. 611 a distance of 1.2 miles to the junction of Rt. 602. Johnson's division used this road when it pulled back across Mine Run on the right of the 27th. Proceed on Rt. 611 1.2 miles farther to Rt. 20. Carefully cross this busy highway and park your car on the other side.
Stop 4 - Robertson's Tavern. Meade originally intended to concentrate his army at this intersection then continue west to flank Lee's army, but poor weather, muddy roads, and a quick Confederate reaction foiled his plan. Skirmishing occurred here on the 27th between Early's Confederate division and Brigadier General Alexander Hays' Union division. When this brochure was written in the mid 1990's, the ante-bellum tavern still stood at the northeast corner of the intersection where a convenience store now exists. The tavern was relocated a short distance north on Rt. 611 that you passed on the way here from Payne's farm.
Turn left (west) on Rt. 20 and drive 1.2 miles to the junction of Rt. 729.
Stop 5 - Federal position. On November 28th, the Federal army entrenched along this ridge facing west, the direction you are now traveling. General Meade made his headquarters near here, in a field north of the road. 0.9 mile ahead is Mine Run, the creek that gave the battle its name. In order to attack the Confederate line, Meade's men would have to cross the creek and charge 1,000 yards up a cleared slope under a murderous artillery fire. Meade ultimately determined the attempt would be too hazardous and withdrew his army back across the Rapidan River.
Continue west on Rt. 20 for approximately 2.0 miles and pull to the right at the power station.
Stop 6 - Confederate Position. The Confederate line intersected the road in this vicinity. General Meade reported that the western bank of Mine Run was "crowned with infantry parapets, abatis, and epaulment for batteries."
Drive 0.3 mile and turn left on Rt. 692. As you drive south on this road, you will be traveling behind and roughly parallel to the Confederate line. Continue 2.0 miles and turn left on Rt. 621, the Orange Plank Road, now known as the Mine Run Road. 0.6 mile down the road you will once again cross Mine Run. When you reach the run, General Warren's position on the night of the 29th will be on your right. Continue 2.9 miles past Mine Run and stop at New Hope Church.
Stop 7 - New Hope Church. This modern structure stands on the same site as a church that was here during the war. After an initial cavalry clash in this vicinity on the 27th, Heth's Confederate division arrived and occupied the important hill just west of the church. Sykes' Union Fifth Corps then took the high ground from Heth and cautiously sought the advantage while the army consolidated. During the battle, Federal cavalry commander David Gregg used the church as his headquarters.
To return to Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, or I-95, continue east on Rt. 621 to Rt.3 and turn right. The battlefields of Kelly's Ford, Rappahannock Station, Brandy Station, Bristoe Station and Cedar Mountain are nearby. Written guides are available for these and other nearby battlefields.
Links appearing on this page:
Mine Run Campaign was last changed on - October 30, 2006
Battles | Places | Events by year | Events by date | Feature Stories |
Bookstore | Links | Who We Are |