Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station, The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863, By Jeffrey Wm Hunt, Savas Beatie, 283 pages, 2021. A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table Review by Arley McCormick.
There were many more battles to fight in the Eastern Theater (1863) after Gettysburg and there were distractions in the Western Theater and Trans-Mississippi Theater. This title is the third of a four-volume series devoted to the war in Virginia after Gettysburg and focuses on the Army of the Potomac (AoP) and the Army of Northern Virginia (AoNV) meeting at Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford. The commanders are General George Gordon Mead, commander of the AoP, and General Robert E. Lee, commanding the AoNV.
The author, Jeffrey William Hunt, illustrates the characters that play key roles in these contests and frame their action with strategic considerations offered from General Halleck and President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, adding well documented operations analysis considered by both Commanders and some of their subordinates. The drama eventually played out on the battlefield is antagonized by the national press and Washington bureaucrats judging General Meade’s inaction and comparing him to the previous AoP Commander, General McClelland, suggesting General Lee’s superiority.
Jeffrey William Hunt is Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum and an adjunct professor of History at Austin Community College, where he has taught since 1988. His experience is clearly evident as he transitions easily from the a discussion on operational art to unit movements such as Longstreet’s departure to the Western Theater with his 19,000 First Corps troops reducing General Lee’s troop strength facing the AoP. He addresses General Mead’s consideration of moving behind the repair of the O&A railroad, posting formations along the way to protect supply lines from Confederate raiders, and the personal overt criticism of allowing Lee to get away from Gettysburg and not aggressively pursuing him until November.
Mr. Hunt’s description of each tactical scene is accompanied with antidotes of soldiers that experienced the contest as documented in diaries, letters, and other recorded formats of the era including the official records. He, in dramatic fashion, illustrate both the courage and the sacrifice soldiers in blue and gray willingly contributed to win the day.
This is an exceptionally well written and documented publication and the challenge of troops on the ground and the maps depicting the assorted positions of the Armies are sufficient to illustrate troop movement and contact.