riving there with his advance on the night of the 17th. General Franklin, with his two corps, took the road to Stafford Court-House, arriving there last night and General Hooker, with his two corps, and Stoneman's and Whipple's divisions, brought up the rear on all the roads, and arrived at this designated place, within 6 miles of here, opposite the United States Ford, to-day. Pleasonton's and Bayard's cavalry are just beyond Hooker, at Deep Run, picketing all the fords of the Rappahannock, and Averell is at Spotted Tavern, picketing the roads in the direction of Catlett's, Brentsville, and Dumfries. I shall make different arrangements for the cavalry to-morrow, which will be reported to you, as so strong a force is not needed in that direction.
On the approach of General Sumner to Falmouth, a battery on the opposite side of the town opened upon him, doing but little damage, and was soon silence by Captain Pettit's battery of 10-pounder Parrott guns. General Sumner's two corps now occupy all the commanding positions opposite Fredericksburg, with a battery commanding the railroad for 2 miles after leaving the city, which has the effect to stop the trains that were carrying off the grain and flour from this place.
The pontoon trains have not yet arrived, and an examination of the ford here to-day demonstrated that the infantry and artillery cannot pass. Be keeping the horses well separated, the cavalry can cross over. I have ordered a reconnaissance to-morrow morning at daylight of the United States Ford, when I hope to be able to cross some cavalry and infantry, with some light pieces of artillery. As soon as the pontoon trains arrive, the bridge will be built and the command moved over.
The enemy do not seem to be in force on the opposite side, but their pickets extend down to the river. I learn that supplies are being landed with considerable rapidity at Belle Plain and Aquia Crek, and I have directed the different commands to commence supplying themselves at once.
The work on the railroad bridges and wharf, I understand, is progressing rapidly. I trust the new horses and mules will be hurried along, as we have suffered very much by losses within the last few days. Many of the animals have been without forage for two or three days, as it has been impossible to procure it, the whole country through which we have passed having been completely devastated. I hope to receive an abundant supply at Belle Plain, and when we cross the river it is probable that corn can be found more abundant in that section.
In addition to the directions given to the main body of the command, I directed the different railroad stations this side of Manassas Junction to be vacated and their guards to fall back on General Sickles, at Manassas Junction; and he was directed, after the removal of public property from that place, to fall back over Bull Run, keeping himself prepared to join this command at an hour's notice, by way of Wolf Run Shoals and Dumfries. I sent him a small regiment of cavalry (the Sixth New York) to picket his front.
General Sigel was directed to move the main body of his force to Centreville, leaving small outposts at Gainesville, Thoroughfare Gap, and Aldie, keeping his cavalry well out. I will report to you from time to time our progress. The delay in the arrival of the pontoon bridge, with the necessary time it will take to get our supplies, will enable the General-in-Chief to visit this place for a day, which I should like very much, as I am very anxious to have a more full consultation than we had at Warrenton.
I omitted to mention in the body of the dispatch that General Pleasonton had some skirmishing in the rear, but his loss was trifling-2