8e. Fairfield Day 5

It is sometimes odd how history runs in parallel. On July 5th, a brief battle took place that was sometime a mirror image of July 1st but inverted. It was really only a skirmish compared to the carnage of the three prior days but it was significant in its own way. 

As the last of the ANV departed from the Gettysburg-Cashtown area under the cover of darkness, rain and smoke, MG Early’s Division was the rear guard. He had held his cavalry and horse artillery to perform this mission. They were trailing the massive wagon train and marching infantry that reached well into the Cumberland Valley, some 35+ miles long. The darkness and rain made for slow going and the long column was stopping and starting in accordion fashion as wagons broke or bogged down in the roadway. It got so bad that much on the infantry abandoned the road altogether and were marching parallel to it with sappers out in front removing fences and other obstacles. Fortunately, there were few bridges to form bottlenecks.

Early that morning, Meade sent scouts over Seminary Ridge and determined that Lee had indeed broken contact and departed. He then dispatched Sedgwick’s Sixth Union Corps that he had held mainly in a reserve capacity to follow and find the ANV. They caught up with them just north of Fairfield.

Sedgwick’s cavalry was in the lead scouting for the ANV. Having been alerted to their presence, Early unlimbered some cannons to warn them off. Union artillery answered in kind. What followed was a brief and ineffectual cavalry clash. A stand-off ensued but without an actual infantry clash. All told, Early – out numbered as Buford had been – held off Sedgwick’s Corps all the while the ANV moved farther south.

During this fairly brief clash, Early and some of his senior staff and commanders had gathered on a hilltop to watch. History failed to record his name, but a young soldier became an unsung hero of the Confederacy as he spotted a fused long-range shell arcing towards them. His warning allowed them to dive for cover. Otherwise a significant blow may have been dealt the ANV.

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