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Civil War Trust

Mt. Carmel Church

May 23, 1864
Mike Miller

Convinced that Gen. Robert E. Lee's army was truly beaten after the last two weeks, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the Army of the Potomac to march directly on the North Anna River. The crossroads at Mt. Carmel Church was the meeting point for the lead Union infantry corps on May 23 - Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps marched from Milford Station and Maj. Gen. Gouverneur Warren's Fifth Corps moved down the Telegraph Road from Nancy Wright's corner. At Mt. Carmel Church, Hancock was to turn onto the Telegraph Road and ford the North Anna, while Warren was to turn west to cross the river at Jericho Mills. Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's Ninth Corps and Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright's Sixth Corps would follow behind, ready to exploit the forward movement. 

Mt Carmel Church
The Union army reunited at the crossroads at Mt. Carmel Church on May 23, 1864. (Douglas Ullman, Jr.)

However, Federal maps of the area were unreliable at best. Few Union soldiers had advanced this far into Virginia. The maps in use labeled the Jericho Mills crossing as a bridge and identified the Telegraph Road crossing as a ford. When Warren and Hancock arrived here on May 23, they found the opposite was true: a bridge existed on the Telegraph Road, while only a ford crossed at Jericho Mills. Both columns halted to determine their course of action, and the confusion multiplied at Mt. Carmel Church. "The map is so erroneous that it is difficult to tell which way to go, by anything named on it," Warren wrote to Hancock at 11:30am. "I have followed the Telegraph road, which runs nearly south, 20 degress east (I have mapped it), and found myself much nearer the railroad than I expect. I doubt existence of the road between it and the railroad."

North Anna problematic map
This 1861 map shows two critical inaccuracies - "Jericho Bridge" and "Ford Chesterfield" - that led to Union confusion at Mt. Carmel Church. (Baylor University)

Grant and Gen. George Meade arrived and tried to create order out of the disarray. Luckily, local escaped slaves soon brought solutions to the map problems. Hancock advanced down the Telegraph Road to the Chesterfield Bridge over the North Anna, while Warren moved west to the ford at Jericho Mills. Except for the Confederate cavalry, which fell back easily before the Union advance, Lee's army was strangely silent. 

 

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