in that vicinity near the Rappahannock. The pontoon bridge seen so distinctly by the last reconnoitering party was nothing but some working parties repairing the railroad bridge which crosses the river there. They had some working parties on a boat or float working at the railroad bridge, and that was taken for a pontoon bridge. I am sorry to see exaggerations semtimes even by those officers whom I consider among the best. Our men fired at the pickets ont he other side of the river, who, as soon as they saw our troops approaching, entered their rifle-pits and opened a sharp fire. The party returned, scouting the whole length of the Rappahannock without finding any sign of the enemy.
General, I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS CENTER GRAND DIVISION,
February 4, 1863.
SIR: The major-general commanding directs that you proceed with your command of two regiments of cavalry and a battery of artillery to Rappahannock Station, and there destroy the railroad bridge, and completely destroy the railroad for a mile or more from the river, the ties to be burned, and such complete destruction as it may be in your power to make.
There will be stationed a division of infantry and a regiment of cavalry from Hartwood Church to a point 2 1/2 miles beyond Deep Run, whose commander is directed to watch all the fords below you, and to be prepared to support you in case you are compelled to fall back, and to warn you of any attempt to cross the river by the enemy to cut you off, and to assist in resisting any such attempt.
Inclosed are reports of reconnaissances recently made by General Sigel's cavalry,* and it is not improbable you may encounter some of his troops. You will, therefore, be careful in meeting troops on this side of the river not to fall into any error.
You will go as lightly equipped as possible, taking with you two days' rations for the men and one for your animals. On completing the duty assigned you, you will return to camp, notifying the commander of the infantry forces that you have finished.
You will see by General Sigel's reports that the only forces he has heard of are cavalry brigades at United States Ford and Rappahannock Station, each supposed to be 2,400 strong. You will accordingly make your plans for approaching Rappahannock Station with the certainty of this force being opposite, and the possible of a part of it being on this side, as the recent reconnaissance of General Sigel may have produced this effect.
If you are allowed to take possession of the left bank without opposition, by planting your battery on it, it is believed with your battery and lining the banks with skirmishers, you can hold the enemy in check, and prevent their crossing sufficiently lot to enable your working parties to complete the destruction desired. The division of infantry will be commanded by Brigadier General J. B. Carr, to whom, at Hartwood Church, I
*See Stahel to Sigel, February 3, 1863, Part I, p. 6.