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depot as fast as they arrived. It should be remembered that this was on the fifteenth; one pontoon train, which would have been sufficient for our purposes, having arrived in Washington on the evening of the fourteenth. The second train arrived the day after the interview. Later on this day (the fifteenth) or the day after, General Woodbury directed Colonel Spaulding to make up two trains in rafts to go by water, and to organize the necessary transportation for forty pontoons by land.
Due diligence was, no doubt, made by Colonel Spaulding in prosecuting his work, but he was not impressed with the importance of speed; neither was he empowered with any special authority that would hasten the issuing of the necessary transportation.
force at the fords above Falmouth. This letter appears in his (General Hooker's) report.
I determined to make preparations to cross the river at Snicker's Neck, about fourteen miles below Fredericksburg, and if the movements of the enemy favored the crossing at that point, to avail myself of such preparations; otherwise, to adopt such a course as his movements rendered necessary.
The ground of this movement was favorable for crossing, but our preparations attracted the attention of the enemy, after which he made formidable arrangements to meet us at this place.
The necessary orders, both written and verbal, had been given for the troops to be in readiness to move, with the requisite amount of ammunition and supplies. Before issuing final orders, I concluded that the enemy would be more surprised by a crossing at or near Fredericksburg, where we were making no preparations, than by a crossing at "Snicker's Neck," and I determined to make the attempt at the former place.
The pontoons which started for Belle Plain on raft, arrived there on the eighteenth, but no wagons for their transportation from that place were sent with them, nor was any intimation given to Colonel Spaulding that any would be needed; neither, to his knowledge, had any information of that kind been given to General Woodbury. Had this information been given It was decided to throw four or five pontoon to Colonel Spaulding, the necessary wagons bridges across the river. Two at a point near could have been placed on the rafts and floated the "Lacey House," opposite the upper part of to Belle Plain, from which point the pontoons the town; one near the steamboat landing at could have been hauled to Falmouth by teams the lower part of the town, and one about a from the army before the enemy had accumula-mile below, and if there were pontoons suffited sufficient force to resist the crossing. This was not, however, the method by which it was expected the pontoons would arrive in time to cross the river before the enemy could concentrate to prevent it.
After arranging for these trains to go by water, Colonel Spaulding proceeded at once to make up the overland train, but was not enabled to start with it until the afternoon of the nineteenth. On this day it commenced raining, in consequence of which the roads became very bad. Great exertions were made by Colonel S. to push his train forward, but, before his arrival at the Occoquan, he decided to raft his boats when he reached that river and have them towed to Belle Plain, for which purpose he sent an officer back for a steamer to meet him at the mouth of the river. The animals were sent overland. He arrived at Belle Plain with his pontoons on the twenty-fourth, and by the night of the twenty-fifth he was encamped near general headquarters.
By this time the enemy had concentrated a large force on the opposite side of the river, so that it became necessary to make arrangements to cross in the face of a vigilant and formidable force. These arrangements were not completed until about the tenth of December. In the meantime the troops were stationed with a view to accumulating supplies and getting in readiness for the movement.
I omitted to say that on the nineteenth instant I received through Colonel Richmond, my Assistant Adjutant-General, a communication from General Hooker, suggesting the crossing of a
cient, two at the latter point.
Final orders were now given to the commanders of the three grand divisions to concentrate their troops near the places for the proposed bridges; to the Chief Engineer to make arrangements to throw the bridges; to the Chief Quartermaster to have the trains of the army in such positions as not to impede the movements of the troops, and at the same time to be in readiness, in case of success, to foliow their separate commands with supplies of subsistence stores, forage, and ammunition; to the Chief of Artitlery to post his batteries so as to cover the working parties, while they were constructing the bridges, and the army while crossing.
In speaking of the movements of the troops, I shall as nearly as possible confine myself to the movements of the grand divisions, and must refer to the reports of the Commanders for more detailed statements.
The right grand division (General Sumner) was directed to concentrate near the upper and middle bridges; the left grand division (General Franklin) near the bridges below the town; the centre grand division (General Hooker) near to and in rear of General Sumner.
These arrangements were made with a view to throwing the bridges on the morning of the eleventh of December. The enemy held possession of the City of Fredericksburg, and the crest or ridge running from a point on the river just above Falmouth to the Massaponax, some four miles below. This ridge was in rear of the city, forming an angle with the Rappahan
nock. Between the ridge and the river there is a plain, narrow at the point where Freder icksburg stands, but widening out as it approaches the Massaponax. On the north side of the river the high bluffs gave us good opportunities for placing the batteries which were to command the town and the plains upon which our troops were to move.
Had it been determined to cross at "Snicker's Neck" I should have endeavored, in case of success, to have moved in the direction of Guinness Station with a view of interrupting the enemy's communications, and forcing him to fight outside his intrenchments. When this intention was abandoned, in consequence of the heavy concentration of the enemy at or near Snicker's Neck, and it had been decided to cross at or near the town, I hoped to be able to seize some point on the enemy's line near the Massaponax, and thereby separate his forces on the river below, from those occupying the crest or ridge in rear of the town.
In speaking of this crest or ridge I shall speak of it as occupied by the enemy; and shall call the point near the Massaponax the right of the crest; and that on the river, and in rear of and above the town, the left; and in speaking of our forces, it will be remembered that General Sumner's command was our extreme right, and General Franklin's command was on the extreme left.
During the night of the tenth the bridge material was taken to the proper points on the river, and soon after three o'clock in the morning of the eleventh, the working parties commenced throwing the bridges, protected by infantry placed under cover of the banks, and by artillery on the bluffs above. One of the lower bridges for General Franklin's command was completed by 10:30 A. M., without serious trouble, and afterwards a second bridge was constructed at the same point. The upper bridge near the Lacey House and the middle bridge near the steamboat landing were about two-thirds built at six A. M., when the enemy opened upon the working parties with musketry, with such severity as to cause them to leave the work. Our artillery was unable to silence this fire, the fog being so dense as to make accurate firing impossible. Frequent attempts were made to continue the work, but to no purpose.
About noon the fog cleared away, and we were able with our artillery to check the fire of the enemy. After consultation with Generals Hunt and Woodbury, I decided to resume the work on the bridges, and gave directions in accordance with a suggestion of General Hunt to send men over in pontoons to the other shore as rapidly as possible to drive the enemy from his position on the opposte bank. This work was most gallantly performed by Colonel Hill brigade, the Seventh Michigan, Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, at the upper bridges, and by the Eighty-ninth New York at the middle bridges, and the enemy were soon driven from their positions. The throwing of the
bridges was resumed, and they were soon afterwards finished.
No more difficult feat has been performed during the war, than the throwing of the bridges in the face of the enemy, by these brave men, and I take pleasure in referring to the reports of General Woodbury and Lieutenant Comstock for a more detailed account of this gallant work.
It was now near nightfall; one brigade of Franklin's division crossed over the south side, drove the enemy's pickets from the houses near the bridge-head, and Howard's division, together with a brigade from the Ninth corps, both of General Sumner's command, crossed over on the upper and middle bridges, and, after some sharp skirmishing, occupied the town before daylight on the morning of the twelfth.
During this day (the twelfth) Sumner's and Franklin's commands crossed over and took position on the south bank, and General Hooker's grand division was held in readiness to support either the right or left, or to press the enemy in case the other commands succeeded in moving him.
The line as now established was as follows: Second corps held the centre and right of the town; Ninth corps was on the left of the Second corps, and connected with General Franklin's right at Deep Run, the whole of this force being nearly parallel to the river. The Sixth corps was formed on the left of the Ninth corps, nearly parallel with the Old Richmond road, and the First corps on the left of the Sixth, nearly at right angles with it, its left resting on the river. The plain below the town is interrupted by hedges and ditches to a considerable extent, which gives good covering to an enemy, making it difficult to manœuvre upon.
The Old Richmond road spoken of above, runs from the town in a line nearly parallel with the river, to a point near the Massaponax, where it turns to the south and passes near the right of the crest or ridge which runs in rear of the town, and was then occupied by the enemy in force. In order to pass down this road, it was necessary to occupy the extreme right of this crest, which was designated on the map then in use by the army as Hamilton's."
By night of the twelfth the troops were all in position, and I visited the different cominands, with a view to determining as to future movements. The delay in laying the bridges had rendered some change in the plan of attack necessary, and the orders already issued were to be superseded by new ones. It was after midnight when I returned from visiting the different commands, and before daylight of the thirteenth I prepared the following orders:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
MAC, } Major-General Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division, Army of the Potomac: General Hardie will carry this despatch to you, and remain with you during the day. The
General commanding directs that you keep your command in position for a rapid movement down the old Richmond road, and you will send out at once a division at least, to pass below Smithfield, to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, on this side of the Massaponax, taking care to keep it well supported and its line of retreat open. He has ordered another column, of a division or more, to be moved from General Sumner's command up the plank road to its intersection with the telegraph road, where they will divide, with a view to seizing the heights on both of those roads. Holding those two heights, with the heights near Captain Hamilton's, will, he hopes, compel the enemy to evacuate the whole ridge between these points. I make these moves by columns, distant from each other, with a view of avoiding the possibility of a collision of our own forces, which might occur in a general movement during the fog. Two of General Hancock's divisions are in your rear, at the bridges, and will remain there as supports.
Copies of instructions given to Generals Sumner and Hooker will be forwarded to you by an orderly, very soon.
You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once, as soon as the fog lifts. The watchword, which, if possible, should be given to every company, will be "Scott." have the honor to be, General,
Your obedient servant,
Chief of Staff.
HEADQUARTES, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Major-General E. V. Sumner, commanding
Major-General Joseph Hooker, commanding
General Sumner had about twenty-seven thou sand men, comprising his own grand division, except Burns' division of the Ninth corps.
General Hooker's command was about twenty six thousand strong, two of General Stoneman' divisions having reported to General Franklin.
Positive information had reached me that the
enemy had built a new road in rear of the bridge
The General commanding directs that you
I have the honor to be,
Chief of Staff.
It was my intention, in case this point had been gained, to push Generals Sumner and Hooker against the left of the crest, and prevent at least the removal of the artillery of the enemy, in case they attempted a retreat. The above orders were prepared in accordance with these views.
It will be seen that General Franklin was directed to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, and to send at once a column of attack for that purpose, composed of
a division at least, in the lead, well supported, and to keep his whole command in readiness to move down the Old Richmond road: The object of this order is clear.
It was necessary to sieze the heights in order to enable the remainder of his force to move down the Old Richmond road, with a view of getting in rear of the enemy's line on the crest. He was ordered to sieze these heights, if possible, and to do it at once. I sent him a copy of the order to General Sumner, in which it will be seen that I direct General Sumner's column not to move until he received orders from me; while he (General Franklin) was ordered to move at once. The movements were not intended to be simultaneous. In fact, I did not intend to move General Sumner until I learned that Franklin was about to gain the heights near Hamilton's, which I then supposed he was entirely able to do. I sent the order to General Franklin by General James A. Hardie, a member of my staff. It reached him at 7:30 A. M. I cannot possibly give a more intelligent account of the movements of General Franklin's command that day, than by copying into this report the despatches of General Hardie, which are as follows:
Reynolds has been forced to develop his whole line-an attack of some force of enemy's troops on our left seems probable, as far as can now be judged. Stoneman has been directed to cross one division to support our left. Report of cavalry pickets from the other side of the river, that the enemy's troops were moving down the river on this side during the latter part of the night. Howe's pickets reported movements in their front, same direction. Still they have a strong force well posted with batteries here.
Reynolds seems to be holding his own. Things look better somewhat. 3:40, P. M.
Gibbon's and Meade's divisions are badly used up, and I fear another advance on the enemy on our left cannot be made this afternoon. Doubleday's division will replace Meade's as soon as it can be collected, and, if it be done in time, of course another attack will be made. The enemy are in force in the woods, on our left towards Hamilton's, and are threatening the safety of that portion of our line. They seem to have de
tached a portion of their force to our front, where Howe and Brooks are now engaged. Brooks has some prisoners, and is down to the railroad. Just as soon as the left is safe our forces here will be prepared for a front attack. But it may be too late this afternoon. Indeed, we are engaged in front anyhow. Notwith standing the unpleasant items I relate, the morale of the troops generally is good.
4:30 P. M.
The enemy is still in force on our left and front, an attack on our batteries in front has been repulsed; a new attack has been opened on our left, but the left is safe, though it is too late to advance either to the left or front.
division as it was retreating, and, by their gal lant fighting, aided materially in its safe withdrawal.
An unsuccessful effort was made to re-form the division, after which it was marched to the rear and held in reserve. General Meade and his troops deserve great credit for the skill and heroism displayed on this occasion; their brave efforts deserved better success, which doubtless would have attended them had he been "well supported."
No further attempt was made to carry this point in the west. Stoneman's two divisions (Birney's and Sickles') were conspicuous in their successful resistance of the enemy when he endeavored to take advantage of the disorganization attending the retreat from our extreme advance of Meade's division. I beg to refer to the report of General Stoneman for a correct understanding of the movement of these two divisions. General Doubleday's division performed good service in resisting the attack of the enemy on our extreme left. The accompanying report of General Reynolds will give more in detail the work of General Meade's, Doubleday's, and Gibbon's troops.
From these despatches it will be seen that one of the smallest divisions of the command, General Meade's, led the attack; at nine o'clock it moved with Doubleday's division in support; at eleven o'clock it had been moved a half mile, and halted without serious loss. One of Stoneman's divisions ordered across (at twelve o'clock this division was getting into position) at 12:05 P. M. General Meade's line was advancing in the direction I prescribed in my first order to General Franklin. At one o'clock P. M. the enemy opened a battery, enfilading Meade; at 1:15 infantry was heavily engaged, and Meade assault-eral ed the hill; at 1:25 he carried the woods in his front, and seemed able to hold his ground, and Gibbon would support, if necessary; at 1:40 our men drove the enemy, and Gibbon advanced to Meade's right; at 2:15 both Gibbon and Meade were driven back from the wood; at 2:25 Franklin did his best; at three P. M. things looked better, and at 3:40 Gibbon's and Meade's divisions were badly used up, and unimportant fighting was going on in front of Howe's and Brooks' divisions.
From General Meade's report, it seems that he had great difficulty in getting his command into position to assault the hill. The time occupied for that purpose was from nine A. M. till 1:15 P. M. In consequence of the smallness of his division, and the absence of immediate and available supports, he was forced to make frequent halts for the purpose of protecting his flanks and silencing the enemy's artillery; but once in position, his division moved forward with the utmost gallantry.
The Sixth corps, the strongest and one of the most reliable in the army, commanded by GenW. F. Smith, was not seriously engaged in any attack during the day, as is stated in his report. Neither was the division of General Bemis, of the Ninth corps, which was under the command of General Franklin at that time.
The report of General Franklin will give the movements of the left grand division more in detail, including the cavalry division of Brigadier-General Bayard.
It may be well to state that at 10:30 A. M. I sent Captain P. M. Lydig, of my staff, to General Franklin, to ascertain the condition of affairs in his front, as I was anxiously expecting to hear that the hill near Hamilton's had been carried. Captain Lydig's written statement is as follows:
I joined General Franklin in a grove of trees in the centre of his command. I was informed by him that Meade was very hotly engaged, and that his men were by that time pretty generally engaged. He also added, I think, that Birney had orders to support them. I then inquired if any of General Smith's corps were engaged, and was told that they were not. I returned to headquarters, passing Captain Cutts, who arrived as I left General Franklin, and reported the information to General Burnside, who seem
at the time annoyed at the smallness of the force engaged, and expressed his surprise that none of General Smith's troops had been put into the fight. It was about 12:30 o'clock when I arrived with my report at headquarters. P. M. LYDIG,
He broke the enemy's line, captured many prisoners and colors, crossed the road that ran in rear of the crest, and established himself at the desired point on the crest; and had he beened able to hold it, our forces would have had free passage to the rear of the enemy's line along the crest. The supports which the orders contemplated were not with him, and he found himself across the enemy's line with flanks unprotected. He despatched staff officers to Generals Gibbon and Birney, urging them to advance to his right and left in support of his flanks; but, before the arrival of these divisions, he was forced to withdraw from his advanced position with his line broken. These two divisions met his
Captain, and A. D. C.
I next sent Captain Cutts with an order to General Franklin to advance his right and front. Captain Cutts states in his note book that he carried the order to General Franklin, and the