Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation


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

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.

Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station: The Problems of Command and Strategy After Gettysburg, from Brandy Station to the Buckland Races, August 1 to October 31, 1863

 Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station is an outstanding book that answers the question: what did Lee and Meade do when both armies were in Virginia after returning from Gettysburg? It will be remembered that Longstreet with two divisions was sent West to reinforce Bragg, leading to Chickamauga, and some may remember the Union countered by sending the XI and XII Corps to reinforce Rosecrans. This left two depleted armies facing each other in Northern Virginia. 

   Lee resolved to take advantage of the situation by trying to replicate the Second Manassas Campaign – and he was partially successful, driving Meade all the way back to Centerville. However, miscues by A. P. Hill and skill mixed with some luck on Meade’s part thwarted Lee’s designs, and by the end of October, 1863, the armies had returned to their previous locations. This book is the story of that campaign.

   The author has done a great job – excellent description with plenty of maps allow you to see exactly what both sides intended and how they executed those intentions. I highly recommend this book as an exposition of both the tactics employed and the campaign strategy (operational art to us Army guys). Great read!


Reviewed by John Scales

Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: From Falling Waters to Culpeper Court House, July 1863

If I have ever read a “Seinfeld” history, it is this history. I am not criticizing the author, but rather observing how very little occurred over those two weeks in 1863; at least from the point of view of the Lincoln administration.  This is a well-researched and written book about “nothing.”

Jeffrey William Hunt is the Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum located in Austin, TX. He is also an Adjunct Professor of History at Austin Community College, and the author of The Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch. Meade and Lee is the first volume of a projected three-volume set, covering the war in Central Virginia during the late summer and autumn of 1863. The other two volumes will cover the campaign of Bristoe Station and the abortive campaign of Mine Run.

This work provides a detailed account of the movements, skirmishes, and other small actions that occurred immediately after Lee’s Army had retreated across the Potomac into Virginia. Initially, General Lee rested The Army of Northern Virginia in the lower (northern) Shenandoah Valley, while General Meade’s Army crossed the Potomac into the Loudon Valley; east of the Shenandoah and separated from it by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jeff Hunt’s major theme of the entire series is the generalship of George Meade as an independent commander. President Lincoln expected General Meade to pursue and inflict serious damage, if not destruction, on the defeated Confederate army. Meade conformed to his orders to pursue Lee’s army, but he also conformed to earlier orders that the Federal army remain between Washington and the Confederate Army and defend against any Confederate offensive. Meade was a reluctant pursuer, very conscious of his weaknesses:  new and mediocre commanders in place of wounded Gettysburg leaders, few reinforcements and those of untried quality, no working railroad to supply his army. His caution increased when the Union cavalry was unable to penetrate the Confederate cavalry screen and identify enemy locations. Unable to learn much about Lee’s position west of the Blue Ridge, he fell prey to his wariness of Lee’s habitual audacity and the many conflicting rumors about Confederate intentions and plans. Meade spread his forces out to cover many contingencies and then shifted his men very deliberately to block the passes through the Blue Ridge, particularly Manassas Gap. When Meade finally began to concentrate his infantry Corps for a major thrust against the Gap, his lead commander was so wary of the Confederate defenders that a vastly outnumbered Confederate brigade easily parried the probe until reinforcements arrived to stalemate the situation.

Another theme of Hunt’s narrative is that the defeat at Gettysburg did not severely dispirit General Lee and his generals. They were still capable of quick decision and commendable initiative, and their rapid marches and spirited delaying actions showed the Federals that the Army of Northern Virginia remained a very formidable foe. General Lee grasped the tentative nature of Meade’s movements and then quickly moved his infantry to back-stop the cavalry and prevent Federal interference with his marching units and wagon trains.  With minimal interference and no significant delays, The Army of Northern Virginia was moved to the southern bank of the Rappahannock River, finally ending the Gettysburg Campaign not far from where it began in early June.

The author has done a fine job of analyzing these two weeks from the strategic as well as tactical perspectives. Excellent maps clearly illustrate the positions of both armies and are placed to be of real use to the reader. Contemporary sources are relied on and compared. I recommend this book to those already very well versed in Civil War history, or to readers seeking to complete one of the few remaining gaps in Gettysburg Campaign coverage.


Reviewed by David Lady

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