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Flat Run in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Germanna Ford
Into the Wilderness

— Lee Vs. Grant - The 1864 Campaign —
 
Germanna Ford - Into the Wilderness Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, November 10, 2007
1. Germanna Ford - Into the Wilderness
 
Inscription. When the 1864 Overland Campaign started, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia held the upper fords of the Rapidan River, blocking the Union army's route to Richmond. Rather than attack Lee head on, Grant chose to cross here at Germanna Ford, several miles beyond Lee’s right flank, and maneuver his adversary out of position.

Grant seized Germanna Ford on May 4. At dawn, soldiers of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry splashed across the river, scattering a few Confederate pickets who stood guard here. Union engineers then threw down two pontoon bridges and the army began pouring across. A Connecticut soldier, awed by the seemingly endless procession of men, wagons and artillery, concluded that such an army might “overcome the world.” Theodore Lyman, an officer on Meade’s staff, had a more sobering thought. “How strange it would look,” he mused, “if every soldier destined to fall in the coming campaign wore a large badge!”

The Fifth and Sixth Corps crossed the Rapidan here on May 4, going into camp between here and Wilderness Tavern. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps crossed farther downstream, at Ely’s Ford, followed by the army’s huge wagon train. As the Union columns crossed the river, they entered the Wilderness, a densely wooded area marked by thick woods and unusually
 
Close Up of the Map Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, November 10, 2007
2. Close Up of the Map
 
heavy undergrowth. In the heart of this forbidding forest, the first battle of the campaign would be fought.

When a reporter asked Grant how long he thought it would take to get to Richmond, he replied, four days. “That is, if General Lee becomes a party to the agreement,” he added with a smile, “but if he objects, the trip will undoubtedly be prolonged.”

(sidebar) On May 4, the Army of the Potomac broke camp near Culpeper and marched southeast, crossing the Rapidan River at Germanna and Ely's Fords. Burnside’s independent Ninth Corps, starting north of the Rappahannock River, did not cross at Germanna Ford until May 5. As soon as Lee learned of the Union crossing, he moved eastward with Ewell’s and Hill’s Corps to intercept Grant in the Wilderness. Longstreet’s Corps, camped near Gordonsville, headed for the battlefield via Brock’s Bridge.
 
Erected by Civil War Trails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 38° 22.632′ N, 77° 46.91′ W. Marker is in Flat Run, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker is on Germanna Highway (Virginia Route 3) north of the Germanna Community College Entrance (Virginia Route 375), on the right
 
Germanna Ford Civil War Trails markers Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, November 10, 2007
3. Germanna Ford Civil War Trails markers
 
when traveling south. Click for map. Just north of Route 760. Marker is in this post office area: Locust Grove VA 22508, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Germanna Ford (here, next to this marker); Germanna (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Germanna Ford (about 500 feet away); Culpeper County / Orange County (approx. 0.2 miles away); The "Enchanted Castle" at Germanna, circa 1720-1750 (approx. 0.3 miles away); Gordon's Flank Attack (approx. 3 miles away); Captain John Spotswood (approx. 3 miles away); Orange Grove 1728 - 1864 (approx. 3 miles away).
 
More about this marker. The upper center of the marker displays a photograph of Union artillery crossing Germanna Ford on May 6. The lower right of the marker has a map showing the operations described in the marker's text.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Wilderness Campaign. National Park Service summary detailing the campaign to include the crossing at Germanna Ford starting on May 4, 1864. (Submitted on January 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

2. Civil War Trails – Lee vs. Grant: The 1864 Overland Campaign Tour. (Submitted on March 6, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
 
Germanna Ford Crossing Site from a Civil War Photo Photo, Click for full size
Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress
4. Germanna Ford Crossing Site from a Civil War Photo
Copy of the photo reproduced on the marker, showing Federal artillery crossing at Germanna Ford. Extrapolating the bends in the river and the bank topography, the pontoon bridges should have been just to the upstream side of the modern highway bridge. (Civil War photographs, 1861-1865 / compiled by Hirst D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge, Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1977. No. 0286)
 
 
The Ford Site Today Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, January 5, 2008
5. The Ford Site Today
Taken from the Germanna Highway (Virginia Route 3) bridge, looking down stream. Notice the gully on the far bank to the left of the photo, which may correspond to the approach seen on the Civil War photo.
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on November 17, 2007, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,110 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on November 17, 2007, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.   2. submitted on November 17, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   3. submitted on November 17, 2007, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.   4, 5. submitted on January 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.
 
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