The vanguard of Lee’s army—Ewell’s corps—crossed the Blue Ridge mountains into the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester and skirmished with Union forces at Newtown, Cedarville, and Middletown, Virginia on Friday, June 12, 1863.
The following day, Saturday the 13th of June, Ewell’s forces occupied Berryville, Virginia. On the same day, Joseph Hooker with his Union Army of the Potomac finally started to move northward toward the Potomac River, leaving his headquarters at Falmouth on the Rappahannock River where he had been for nearly seven months.
Hooker had received Lincoln’s letter which advocated attacking Lee in the field rather than moving southward toward Richmond. But the relevant question was ‘could Hooker’s forces, so late in responding to Lee’s movements, catch up and effectively engage the allegedly invincible Confederate general?’