The 23rd’s Long march from Fredericksburg Virginia to Gettysburg PA
After the battles of 2nd Fredericksburg, Mayres Heights, Salem Heights, Banks Ford and Depp Run Ravine, the 23rd started on the long march back across the Rappahannock River and towards Leesburg Virginia. During their march, the 23rd was engaged with performing picket duty during the long marches. The extreme heat and humidity, in which Virginia is famous, took a toll on the battle weary 23rd. Of note was an 18 mile march on June 16th in which 22 men suffered from sunstroke of which 6 died.
Just outside the town of Leesburg, where the Battle of Balls Bluff had been fought a little over two years before, a large pontoon bridge was placed at an intersection of the Goose Creek and Potomac River at a location called Edward’s Ferry. Leesburg to date had been a focal point for Rebel and Union forces as it was a major crossroads between Virginia and Maryland and just a short distance from Washington D.C., Brunswick Maryland and Harpers Ferry. A long line of Rebel entrenchments ran along the line from Edward’s Ferry to Fort Evans, one of three large forts designed to protect the town. Mosby’s Raiders were also very active in this area constantly skirmishing with Union forces and disrupting supply lines.
It is not known exactly the route taken from Fredericksburg to Leesburg, but it is surmised that they basically would have come up a road that is now basically Rt 15 from Warrrenton Virginia. However, they eventually would have come up along the Goose Creek near Aldie Virginia, which is a slow moving but clean and easily crossed stream in various locations abundant with fish and wildlife.
Prior to the 23rd’s arrival, 3 Union soldiers were executed in the town of Leesburg for desertion on June 19th. Once the 23rd reached the outskirts of town, they bivouacked on the farm of the Rebel commander, Colonel White, near White’s Ford, where a year before Company B was captured. Because Colonel White had taken such good care of his prisoners from the 23rd, the White farm was left untouched and the family was even given extra supplies to support Colonel White’s family while he was off fighting with General Lee. This Farm is still owned today by the descendants of Colonel White and the White’s Ferry (a boat called the Jubal Early, owned and operated by descendants of General Early) takes commuters daily across the river. At the intersection of Rt 15 and the access road to the ferry, there is a historical maker that describes General Stonewall Jackson’s movement through this same area during the Sharpsburg/Antietam campaign.
Soon after, the 23rd was ordered to cross the pontoon bridge at Edwards Ferry. Today this is the tee box for the 9th hole at the River Creek Country Club. There are no markers what so ever to show that over 100,000 soldiers on both sides crossed this area and even bivouacked all over the surrounding farm land all through the war. Even Union soldiers swam across the river in this area while being shot at trying to escape from the disastrous Battle of Balls Bluff in October 1861.
Once they crossed the river they marched to Poolesville Maryland and finally reaching Westminster on June 30th,. By the time the 23rd reached Gettysburg, they had marched over 130 miles in 2 weeks.