By mid-August 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee knew that Union General George B. McClellan was redeploying his army from the Peninsula to unite with General Pope’s Army of Virginia on the Rapidan River. Lee sent General James Longstreet and his Corps to reinforce General “Stonewall” Jackson near Gordonsville, Virginia. General Lee later arrived on August 15 to assume overall command. Pope then withdrew to the Rappahannock River on August 20-21.
On August 22, 1862, the 61st OVI crossed the Rappahannock River and engaged a Confederate force on the southside of the river consisting of Brigadier General Issac Trimble’s Brigade, later reinforced by Brigades under John Bell Hood and Evander M. Law. The 61st was forced back across the Rappahannock River.
In addition to being the first fight of the 61st, the battle was significant in that immediately following the battle Lieutenant Colonel Stephen J. McGroarty was appointed to command the 61st, succeeding Colonel Newton Schleich. Colonel Schleich, according to official reports, was nowhere to be found during the battle, the implication being that he was either intoxicated, a coward, or both. On September 20, Colonel Schleich tendered his resignation. The resignation was quickly endorsed by officers in the chain of command and approved by General McClellan three days later. Colonel Schleich received an honorable discharge and was out of the army, never to reappear.
Colonel McGroarty remained in command of the 61st for the duration of the war, only being absent on furlough or when recovering from the loss of his left arm at Peachtree Creek two years later.
While we don’t know what Robert Patterson thought of the change of command, it is likely he was very happy with the change. As noted in several of his Sperryville letters, he was very unhappy with the way Colonel Schleich had been leading the 61st and was a supporter of Colonel McGroarty.
Source of information, Dr. Robert G. Carroon’s History of the 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and “Ohio in the War.”