MORTON'S FORD, FEBRUARY 6, 1864
Early in February occurred the first break in the long winter rest of the troops. It had been arranged at Washington that General Butler, commanding the army of the James, should move rapidly upon Richmond from the south, and seek to capture that city by surprise, while the Army of the Potomac should so far co-operate as to move down to the Rapidan and by a show of intention to assume the aggressive, detain Lee's army on the line of that river.
In pursuance of this plan, the Second Corps broke camp early in the morning of the 6th of February, and moved to Morton's Ford, under the command of General Caldwell, General Warren, being at the time of starting, disabled from service, although he came up in the afternoon. Upon arriving at Morton's Ford, the enemy's skirmishers were found at the crossing, which was commanded by the high ground on our own side. Further back the enemy's works were seen upon hills which ran around in a semicircle resting at either end upon the river. A body of skirmishers from the Third Division, conducted by Captain Robert S. Seabury the gallant and accomplished assistant adjutant-general of General Owen, was thrown forward, and advancing with caution until the situation could be clearly discerned, dashed with great resolution through the ford, capturing the enemy's picket entire.
The artillery on either side opened promptly, while Hays division was thrown down to the river and crossed with comparatively little loss. A strong skirmish line was now thrown out under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W.H Baird, One Hundred and Twenty sixth New York, and the enemy's skirmishers, though reinforced and resisting stiffly, were driven step by step backward into their works. The field was an amphitheatre, and from the high ground on the other side where a brilliant staff consisting of Generals Meade, Humphreys, Warren, and two score of officers were assembled, a perfect view of the affair could be obtained. Colonel Baird's gallantry was all the more to be remarked, because he was one of those officers who had been dismissed for misconduct at Harper's Ferry in 1862, and had, but a few weeks before, been restored to his regiment. Certainly no man resolved to wipe out the stains of the past ever had a fairer opportunity, or improved it better.
No thought was entertained of actively assaulting the works, but the semblance of it was kept up with vigor, General Hays taking part in the frequent demonstrations with that reckless exposure of himself which always characterized him in battle. After dark the Third Division was relieved, on the farther bank by Webb's Second Division, and preparations were made to hold the ground and keep up the show of force through the next day, if required. During the night, however, General Meade decided that the demonstration had been protracted sufficiently, and Webb was withdrawn, a strong skirmish line, supported by artillery fire, being left on the other side. During the 7th the corps remained in position on the north bank until six o clock when it returned to camp.
It is needless to say that General Butler's movement on Richmond from the South amounted to nothing. The only report which the writer ever saw of his operations acknowledged the loss of six forage-caps by the men of his command. The losses of the Second Corps, in the demonstration intended to open the way for him were two hundred and sixty-one 1 killed, wounded and missing. Among the officers wounded were Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyer, Eighth Ohio; Lieutenant Colonel Lock wood, Seventh West Virginia; Lieutenant-Colonel Pierce, One Hundred and Eighth New York Major; Coit, Fourteenth Connecticut. From the last-named regiment six officers were wounded.
-History of the Second Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac, Volume 2, Part 4
Francis Amasa Walker
C. Scribner's Sons, 1891
A good overview of Morton's Ford at TOCWOC