Devens states that his pickets were kept out a proper distance, and that he had constant scouting-parties moving beyond them. In his report he recapitulates the various attacks made during the day. Shortly after noon, cavalry attacked his skirmishers, but drew off. This was Stuart protecting Jackson’s flank, and feeling for our lines. Then two men, sent out from Schimmelpfennig’s front, came in through his, and were despatched to Hooker with their report that the enemy was in great force on our flank. Later, Lieut. Davis, of Devens’s staff, with a cavalry scout, was fired upon by Confederate horse. Then von Gilsa’s skirmishers were attacked by infantry,—again Stuart seeking to ascertain our position: after which the pickets were pushed farther out. Cavalry was afterwards sent out, and returned with information that some Confederate troopers, and part of a battery, were in the woods on our right.
But all this seems to have been explained as a retreat. “The unvarying report was, that the enemy is crossing the plank road, and moving towards Culpeper.”
The ground about Dowdall’s is a clearing of undulating fields, closed on three sides, and open to the west. As you stand east of the fork of the roads, you can see a considerable distance down the plank road, leading to Orange Court House. The pike bears off to the right, and runs up hill for half a mile, to the eminence at Talley’s.
The dispositions recited were substantially the same as those made when the corps arrived here on Thursday. They were, early Saturday morning, inspected by Hooker in person, and pronounced satisfactory. As he rode along the line with Howard, and with each division commander in succession, he was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm. His exclamation to Howard, several times repeated, as he examined the position,—his mind full of the idea of a front attack, but failing to seize the danger of the two roads from the west,—was: “How strong! How strong!”
An hour or two later, having ascertained the Confederate movement across our front, he had sent his circular to Howard and Slocum. Later still, as if certain that the enemy was on the retreat, he depleted Howard’s line by the withdrawal of Barlow, and made dispositions which created the gap of nigh two miles on Howard’s left.
Howard, during the day, frequently inspected the line, and all dispositions were approved by him.
And, when Barlow was ordered out to the front, both Howard and Steinwehr accompanied him. They returned to Dowdall’s Tavern just as Jackson launched his columns upon the Eleventh Corps.
The situation at six o’clock.