General George Stoneman
Stoneman's Raid was a cavalry operation that preceded the start of the Battle of Chancellorsville in the American Civil War. In April, Major General Joseph Hooker put his army in motion to force Lee out of his Fredericksburg positions. He sent General George Stoneman's 10,000 strong cavalry to move between Lee and the Confederacy capitol, Richmond. Hooker expected Stoneman to sever Lee's line of supply by destroying the strategically vital Orange and Alexandria Railroad at the town of Gordanville. This would, Hooker hoped, compel Lee to withdraw from Fredericksburg while cutting him off from supplies and transportation. Hooker also saw to it that John Buford was given an active field command and rode to battle in April 1863 with the Reserve Brigade, an organisation that contained the majority of the Regular Army cavalry units serving in the east.
On April 12, Hooker wrote to Stoneman of the impending operation -
"Let your watchword be fight, and let all your orders be fight, fight, fight."
At 8 a.m. on April 13, 1863, Buford's Brigade, composed of the First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth U.S. Cavalry, left camp at Falmouth, Virginia, to embark on the ambitious and daring raid. As soon as the next day, they were engaged with the enemy at Kelly's Ford; the Rebel's firing upon the brigade with two 10-pounder Parrotts - 13 shots in total. Lieutenant Elder's four gun battery replied, firing 12 shots, and drove the rebel guns out of sight. According to Buford's official report, by the 15th, the brigade was at Rappahannock Bridge, ready to cross but were ordered to await further instructions. However, nature had not dealt a kind hand to the Union cavalry as torrential rain turned the roads to quagmires and the streams into raging torrents. It was not until April 29 that the Reserve Brigade was able to cross at Kelly's Ford.
Over those intervening two weeks, Buford detailed the conditions facing the cavalry;