In late November 1863 in Virginia Union General George Meade, as he did earlier in the month, crossed the Rapidan River, attempting to turn Lee’s right flank as he had been repeatedly urged to do by the Union War Department. Without Longstreet’s corps, Lee’s force of approximately 48,500 men could not realistically confront Meade’s nearly 85,000 troops.
Skirmishing occurred along the Rapidan, as Confederate sentries carried the word of Meade’s advance to Lee. What Meade desired was to turn Lee’s flank, forcing him to fall back toward Richmond.
On Friday, November 27, Union troops took a wrong road near Mine Run and clashed prematurely with Confederate defenders, effectively ending Meade’s maneuvering. Most observers acknowledged that bad luck and delay had doomed Meade’s efforts, even before they could be effectively begun.