0830 hours, May 31st 1862. Hill's Division HQ, Hampstead.
Major General Daniel H. Hill OC of Hill's Division CSA had called an urgent meeting with his senior commanders based in and around Hampstead. Brigadier General Samuel Garland and all his battalion commanders were now present. The men all stood in semi-circle facing a map of the Choke Peninsular tacked to the wall. Major General Hill stood beside the map.
'At about 0400 this morning, the telegraph lines north out of the peninsular were cut. Initially the telegraphist thought it was just a fault on the eastern line, so tried to route his message via Paytonville. The telegraph office there was unable to transmit north along the western line.' General Hill paused and then smiled. 'The enemy now considers us cut off from the rest of Virginia, however they don't know about the Arrowhead Express, so we can still contact the mainland if somewhat slower.'
The so called Arrowhead Express was a small cutter based at the tiny port of Easington, located in the south west corner of the peninsular. It was a quick journey of six or seven miles to the Virginia mainland, across the Arrowhead Sound to the port of Wickham.
General Hill turned to face the map, 6th Alabama are currently watching and reporting the southward movement of the enemy along the East Road. The latest message from Bourne is that the enemy brigade consists of two regiments of cavalry, and three battalions of infantry.' He stopped and turned to face the other men, 'I doubt that is all we will have to face, so far no mention of any artillery, and if this is not just a reconnaissance in force, then I believe it to be an invasion.'
The gathered officers nodded in agreement.
'What of the 6th Alabama sir?' asked Brigadier General Sam Garland.
'We have not had any word since the initial report some thirty minutes ago. However they hold a strong position at the top of the heights, a difficult assault for the enemy to make, even if only part of the battalion is in a position on the eastern side to face them. At worst, they can pull back westward and then try to make for Paytonville, assuming the enemy is not at this moment marching down the West Road as well, though the report did mention that no enemy had been sighted there.'
A knock on the door and a young lieutenant hurried into the room clutching a telegraph flimsy. 'Another report from 6th Alabama sir'
'Read it aloud if you please lieutenant.'
The lieutenant cleared his throat.
'From Colonel Harper OC 6th Alabama
To Major General Hill
Information all military units on the Choke Peninsular
I can now confirm that two brigades of the enemy are moving south on the East Road, they are currently only four miles north of Bourne. Myself and Major Gustas have observed two cavalry regiments, one artillery battery and six battalions of infantry plus supply wagons. However, they are still coming so as yet cannot give you a full strength report on the enemy, but it seems a division is on the march.
I have two thirds of my regiment in a good defensive position on the east and south side of Choke Heights. The enemy have deployed a single battalion of infantry in skirmish order who have climbed the lower slopes, but so far have not come within musket range. The rest of the enemy force has not stopped.
Still no enemy movement on the West Road.
Will continue to observe and report, though it will be via the office in Paytonville, as I have ordered the telegraphist to destroy his equipment and evacuate on completion of sending this message, as I believe the enemy will be in that town within two hours.
Colonel A. Harper, 6th Alabama, Hill's Division CSA.'
'Thank you lieutenant,' said General Hill. 'What do you make of it Sam?'
Brigadier General Garland stared at the map and was silent for a moment. 'It would seem a full enemy division is indeed on the East Road, they appear unconcerned with the fact that 6th Alabama are on top of Choke Heights and are making no attempt to storm the position, merely hold them in position. The remainder of the force has not lost a step and seems hell bent on reaching Bourne.' Sam Garland moved closer to the map before continuing.
'No enemy troops on the West Road, just a single strike into the peninsular and we still don't know the exact strength of that force.'
Major General Hill knew it had been a good idea to ask Sam what he thought, and wondered if he would come to the same conclusion as himself. 'What do you suggest I should do Sam? Order all our forces to move toward north east to halt the enemy?
Sam knew Daniel Hill well and respected him. He also knew what his divisional commander was up to in this meeting with all the battalion commanders present, it was no less than a demonstration of how to lead and make decisions. He smiled at the general. 'No sir, I don't believe we should do that for a number of reasons.'
Now it was time for Dan Hill to smile. 'Please enlighten us brigadier.'
'Sam pointed to Bourne on the map, the town is already lost, little we can do about that.' His finger traced down the road to the Crow River and the bridge that crossed it. 'Without a long and difficult detour, the enemy must cross this bridge. 12th Mississippi are covering that bridge, but have no artillery support. I would suggest that Brigadier General Rodes along with 5th Alabama and the 4th Virginia battery move quickly from Stockton to that bridge. They have enough time to reach it before the enemy.' His finger moved along the Paytonville to Stockton Road, 'I would also order Wise's Legion Cavalry to support them too. I believe that force would be enough to make the enemy pause for thought.'
'Excellent Sam, said Dan Hill. 'You would not rush everything we have to the Crow River, you will of course explain why.'
Sam looked at the confused faces of his battalion commanders before answering. 'Certainly sir. I believe the enemy will indeed make an assault down the West Road, maybe later today, tomorrow or sometime after that, but it will come.'
'Reasons Sam?' Dan Hill was enjoying this.
'Firstly the enemy is simply containing 6th Alabama, not trying to remove them from the heights. They are quite happy for us to know the strength and make up of their attack force. They know full well that messengers will be sent to telegraph regular reports. Why? It is my belief that they want exactly that. To draw our forces to that location in the north east. Then when we are out of position and possibly engaged with the enemy, another enemy force will move unopposed down the West Road. This force is simply a decoy, a damn large decoy, but that is exactly what I believe it to be. which is why they are hiding nothing, they want us to take the bait.'...
The map with the Crow River now named and estimated road distances between towns/crossroads etc.
Brigadier General Robert Rodes, OC Rodes' Brigade and 5th Alabama moving to support the 12th Mississippi and 4th Virginia Battery defending the Crow Bridge. I forgot to add Wise's Legion Cavalry to the map, they are also making for Crow Bridge.
The Flying Cavalry Brigade has been ordered to move north along the West Road to give assistance to 6th Alabama if required and also to maintain a watch on the road.
Anderson's Brigade remains at Clanfield in an excellent position to move as and where required.
Finally, Garland's Brigade also remains at its camp(s) at Hampstead. It too can quickly move to cover the bridges over the Owl and Charles Rivers.