I first intended to examine Raccoon Ford, but on arriving at General Buford's headquarters, I found it impossible to get near the ford. The general reported the enemy to have eleven guns it position, with rifle-pits covering the ford.
I next went to Morton's Ford, 2 miles below. Here the enemy was said to have had the previous evening two guns near a house on the hill just back of the ford. These must have been taken away before I got there, for I saw nothing of them. The only intrenchment to be seen was a small rifle-pit on the top of the bank, and a little below the ford. The smoke from camp fires in the woods a short distance to the rear indicate the presence of a regiment or more of men. The ground on this side is higher than that on the other, and intervening between the river and the base of the ridge is a flat some 300 yards wide. Just below the ford is a small island, 100 yards long. It is thickly timbered, the ground on the opposite side rising gradually.
Germanna Ford, 8 miles below, was guarded by a small force of cavalry, say 10 men. There were no indications of infantry or artillery. The ridge on this side commands the opposite side, and artillery suitably placed on the left of the plank road will give us complete possession of the ford. The ford is 3 1/2 to 4 feet deep, and sufficiently wide for cavalry to march by fours. I think that a pontoon bridge can be thrown either at this place or at Morton's with great ease.
G. L. GILLESPIE,
First Lieutenant of Engineers.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
September 18, 1863-3 p. m. (Received 6. 30 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
GENERAL: I have reached such a position that I do not feel justified in making a farther advance without some more positive authority than was contained in your last letter inclosing one from the President. If I apprehend rightly the views of the President and yourself, it was to the effect that I might advance on Lee and threaten him with an attack, and not permit him to cross the Rapidan with out giving him battle. After accomplishing this, my feint might be converted into a real attack, if the development of the movement and subsequent information justified the same. It is precisely this question which now embarrasses me, and which I desire to be advised upon.
The situation is simply this: Lee, in command of Ewell's and Hill's corps, estimated at not less than 40,000 infantry, occupies the south bank of the Rapidan, with every available point crowned with artillery, and prepared to dispute the passage. The character of the south bank and its command forbid any attempt being made till Morton's Ford is reached, which is some 10 miles below the railroad. At this place the command is on this side, and I think a passage can be forced, but it would, undoubtedly, result in a considerable sacrifice, and would also, most certainly, involve a general engagement immediately on crossing.
Presuming, for the discussion, that the crossing was effected, and