Amateur historians of the regiment appreciated that the terrain in both counties now resembles what it was in February 1864. With the exception of the various crops and the lack of battle smoke, they saw what their ancestors had made 157 years earlier.
This became clear when the soldiers reached the river, after descending a farm road from Struan. At Rapidan, they climbed an island of sand and gravel that people named the crossing for in colonial times: Island Ford.
There on the Culpeper shore, historians laid a red-white-blue wreath, prayed and fired three rounds over the river in honor of the brave men of 14th Connecticut.
Then, one by one, historians crossed the river to crotch depth below the 12-foot-high shore on the other side. With difficulty, they scaled the slippery, muddy shore using the same deep road the Yankees had done long before.
After many hikes through the woods, the reenactors arrived at the edge of a vast field topped by two groves of trees, which mark a family cemetery and the site of Dr. George Morton’s house, including the ford of the river. Rapidan was appointed.
The field was the scene of heavy fighting around Morton’s house, as seen in a sketch by war correspondent Alfred R. Waud and published in Harper’s Weekly.
The pitch is the same today, which greatly impressed Kierran Broatch, a reenactor from Milford, Connecticut. His great-great-grandfather, John C. Broatch of Middletown, Connecticut, was injured in the fighting on that very ground. Bullets hit the officer’s finger and damaged his sword, which his family now cherishes.