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June 21, 1863: Fighting continues west of U.S. capital

Jun. 21, 2013 - 11:37AM   |  
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UPPERVILLE, VA. — Federal artillery opened fire this morning on Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry positioned on the high ground near this town Upperville, kicking off another day of fighting about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C., involving some 10,000 troops.

Casualties are said to be high on both sides as skirmishing continued through the day, with Stuart giving ground and counter-attacking in a series of delaying actions along the main road leading to the gap through the Blue Ridge mountains.

“As we ride through the high road, it is mournful to see the heaps of dead blue and gray,” said Federal Col. William Doster as his men moved to new positions.

Union Army of the Potomac commander Lt. Gen. “Fighting Joe” Hooker has been trying to get a fix on the 75,000-strong Confederate Army of Northern Virginia that has been moving north through the Shenandoah Valley under cover of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Top aides say he is trying to gauge whether the rebels intend a full-scale invasion of the north, potentially threatening Washington itself, or shift west to reinforce the beleaguered Mississippi River.

Those hopes have so far been dashed, however, by Stuart’s screening cavalry, who have clouded Hooker’s ability to read the Confederate plans like the cigar smoke of a stony-faced poker player.

Indeed, at press time, control of the mountain gap that might have offered a glimpse at Lee’s army remained in Confederate hands .

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