After a hard day of marching [June 4], the weary Tar Heel troops went into camp for the night just beyond Spotsylvania Court House along the Po River. They resumed the advance about five o'clock in the morning on June 5. [...] According to Surgeon Marston, Iverson and his men began their trip that day just before dawn in order to avoid the worst of the heat. Even so, the intense temperatures and long hours on the road continued to plague the troops as they proceeded north along the back roads toward Culpeper Court House. The conditions [heat, dust, lack of water] became so bad that many of the soldiers found it impossible to keep up. Blacknall described it as "a most disagreeable march, the heat & dust insuportable." He reported seeing "many of our men falling and some dieing in the road."Emphasis added. The distance covered in this day's march is given as "nearly" 20 miles. (Previous post here.)
By late afternoon, dozens of men who had passed out from the excessive heat and lack of water littered the division's entire line of march. "I saw one poor fellow lying on the side of the road sucking his thumb & foaming at the mouth," wrote an officer from Daniel's Brigade in a letter to his wife. "He perished to death for water. The men are not allowed to stop to get water when they are suffering for it. I understand some three or four more died the same way this man did." He added that "when men have to march until they fall dead it looks hard."
At least one soldier from O'Neal's Brigade blamed these problems on the officers leading the advance to Culpeper Court House. "Gens. Early and Rodes seemed to be ambitious to see who could reach the Court House first, and the consequence was a foot race, which resulted in laming about one third of the men and dropping a good many by the roadside who otherwise would have been able to keep up," he declared in a letter to his hometown newspaper. He insisted that "such conduct on the part of general officers is not only cruel, but detrimental to the service."
In praise of slow marching (cont.)
In June, 1863, the North Carolina regiments in Alfred Iverson's brigade began a forced march from near Fredericksburg to the Valley. From The Rashness of That Hour: