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CULPEPPER, VA. — Gen. Robert E. Lee conducted a “grand review” today of his Confederate cavalry squadrons, led by their flamboyant commander Maj. Gen. James “Jeb” Stuart.
This was the second massive formation of Stuart’s 10,000-strong brigade in recent days near Brandy Station along the Rappahannock River.
On June 5, his troops performed a full day of parades and combat demonstrations. Lee, however, was unable to attend and so a second review was ordered today at Inlet Station, just two miles southwest of Brandy Station, outside of Culpepper along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad line.
Reports of Confederate troops massing in Culpepper have left many in the north worried about a rebel invasion that could threaten Baltimore, Philadelphia and even Washington, D.C.
A top Union intelligence officer says his units have been picking up chatter that Lee is preparing for a long slog ahead.
“The Confederate army is under marching orders, and an order from General Lee was very lately read to the troops, announcing a campaign of long marches and hard fighting,” says Col. George H. Sharpe, Chief of Intelligence for the Union’s Army of the Potomac.
As many as two of Lee’s three Corps are now believed to be positioned in Culpepper, with Stuart’s cavalry masking their exact positions.
Union Army of the Potomac commander Gen. Joe Hooker is said to be considering a raid with his own cavalry across to the Rebel side of the Rappahanock River to help figure out exactly where Lee’s forces are and what they’re up to.
Meanwhile, Confederate Gen. William Pendleton said Stuart and his troops “had a ride of it, some six miles at full run for our horses, down the line and up again, and then had to sit our horses in the dust half the day for the squadrons to march in display backward and forward near us.”
Not all were impressed, however. Brig. Gen. William E. “Grumble” Jones complained it the demonstration was a waste of time and resources.
“No doubt, the Yankees, who have two divisions of cavalry on the other side of the river, have witnessed from their signal stations this show in which Stuart has exposed to view his strength and aroused their curiosity,” Jones could be overheard saying. “They will want to know what is going on and if I am not mistaken, will be over early in the morning to investigate.”