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This line of heights curves in towards the river, some three miles below the city, where it is wooded. Here the right of Lee's army rested. At this point also, Franklin, commanding our left wing, was directed to cross with his corps, and, if possible, turn the enemy's flank, while the main army was to cross directly at the city, and move in one grand assault up the heights. For two days before the battle, the banks of the Rappahannock presented a stirring si'ectacle. The moving of masses of troops, the far-echoing notes of the bugle, the heavy tramp of the marching columns, preparatory to the great “day of decision," the sullen tl under peals that rolled along the heights on either side of the river, dark with long rows of cannon-combined to make a scene at once grand and fearful. On Thursday, the place was bombarded, in order to drive out the sharpshooters who prevented the laying of the pontoons, and a hundred and seventy-nine guns opened at once on the town. At the commencement of this terrific cannonade, that shook the shores of the river like an earthquake, the city was enveloped in a dense fog—a spire here and there, piercing above the sleeping mass, alone revealing its locality. As the awful bombardment went on, dark columns of smoke, shooting fiercely through the white sea of mist, told where building after building was fired by the shells. About noon the, fog lifted, and, drifting gently away, revealed the city in flames. All day long, the deep reverberations shook the shore, and rolled heavily away over the trembling earth, and when the blood-red sun went down in the hazy sky, it shed a lurid light on field and river, and frowning heights, and miles of quiet tents. "As the air darkened, the red flashes of the guns gave a new effect to the scene—the roar of each report being preceded by a fierce dart of flame, while the explosion of each shell was announced by a gush of fire on the clouds. Towering between
A GALLANT DASH,
us and the western sky, which was still showing its faded scarlet lining, was the huge, somber pillar of grimy smoke that marked the burning of Fredericksburg. Ascending to a vast height, it borc away, northward, shaped like a plume bowed in the wind.”
The guns, however, could not be depressed enough to reach the houses on the bank of the river, in which the sharpshooters lay con. ealed. If these could be dislodged, the pontoons might lie la:d, for the river ran so deep between its banks, that Lee could not command it with his batteries.
To do this, the Seventh Michigan volunteered to cross over in boats, under the fire of the sharpshooters, and expel them with the bayonet In ten boats, holding twenty-five or thirty men each, thì regiinent pushed off with a ringing cheer, and, pulling straight into and through the pattering balls, reached the ol'posite shore. The - Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts followed, and the rebels, popping up like rats from behird walls, rifle pits and heaps of rubbish, scampered off through the streets of the city, when three pontoon bridges wer? quickly laid, and soon shook to the tread of the mighty lost.
By Saturday morning, the 13th, the army was across, including Franklin's Corrs down the river. The fog lay heavy and still along the river and plain, and shrouded the batteries in gloom; yet heavy explosions incessantly shook its mysterious bosomn, sounding the notes of preparation to the mighty columns, that, wrapped in its gray mantle, stood in battle array on the further side of the river. The battle, however, dia not really commence till nearly noon, when the order to advance was given, and Vouch's Corps moved forward into the fire. It is impossible to describe the din and carnage that followed. In three massive columns, our bráve troops mounted the ascent, but, when they reached the second terrace, the rebel batteries, with a rapid and concentrated fire,
rained shot and shell in a ceaseless, overwhelming storm on their uncovered ranks. Horses galloping furiously across the plain—-brigades streaming on the double-quick through the fiery sleet, that made great gaps in them as they passed — swaying columns bravely endeavoring to breast the stormthe ragged front of battle wildly undulating along the slope--the ceaseless crash of cannon-all combined to make a scene of tumult and carnage inconceivable, indescribable. Said Col. Stevens, in his report to the Governor of New Hampshire: "For three-fourths of an hour, I stood in front of my regiment on the brow of the hill, and watched the fire of the rebel batteries, as they poured slot and shell from sixteen different points upon our devoted men on the plains below. It was a sight magnificently terrible. Every discharge of the enemy's artillery, and every explosion of his shells, was distinetly visible in the dusky twilight of that smoke-crowned hill. His direct and enfilading batteries, with the vividness, intensity, and almost the rapidity of lightning, hurled the messengers of death into the midst of our brave ranks, vainly struggling through the murderous fire to gain the hills and guns of the enemy." The dead and wounded yere borne back in an incessant stream to the city; not a step in advance was gained; and still the troops were pressed to the devastating fire, and Death held high carnival in front of the rebel works. “Forwarıl, men--steady-crose up!” fell from firm-set lips that the next moment were sealed in death; and deeds of personal daring, and heroic sacrifices were made by regiments and brigades, that will ever render them immortal. But it was vain valor and vain sacrifice. Meagher's Irish brigade, of heroic renown, was almost annihilated. Below, down the river, the thunder of Franklin's guns could be heard, rolling up the banks, but, after liis first advance, the heavy explosions came from the same spot, showing that he was making no progress towards accomplishing the task
assigned him. Said the correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial: “It was with a deep sense of relief, that I saw the sun go down, and felt that in a little while, darkness would put an end to the unequal combat. But, for a time, the fury of the fire on both sides redoubled, as the discovery was made by the combatants that their day's work was about done. For a half an hour the din was awful, and the smoke drifted through the streets as sometimes in a city, when there is a high wind and a great dust.
Franklin's and throbbed heavily a few times on the left ; and all was still on the north side of the river, save the rumbling of army wagons."
At length, silence rested along the crimson heights, and the battle was over. Not a battery had been taken; not a breastwork carried ; not even the threshold of the enemy's works reached. Like men led out to execution, the brave battalions had been marched forth, only to be shot down. It was literally a “field of slaughter.”
Burnside, instead of carrying the heights of Fredericksburg, by a splendid coup-de-main, had walked boldly, unsuspectingly, into a frightful trap, which closed on him with a swift, fatal spring. Though no impression whatever had been made on the enemy's works-showing that our frightful loss was a dead loss—that every life had been thrown away-yet Burnside wished, the next morning, to renew the attack, but was prevented by the remonstrance of some of his Generals.
He reported his loss at less than ten thousand, but it afterwards turned out to be double that number.
Lee reported his entire loss to be only eighteen hundred.
The Sanitary Commission was pris a ús mulia, again proved to the country me as admirable institution 126
Sunday dawned warm and balmy as October, and the
THE RIVER REORO SB ED. birds sang along the banks of the Rappahannoek, as merrily. as though no scenes of death and carnage had made them as memorable as the shores of Trasymenús.
Some skirmishing and cannonading followed, but on-Mon-? day night, the wearied and bleeding army was secretly, silently transported across the river, the pontoons taken upand the great campaign was ended.
The country was fearfully excited by this catastrophe, coming so quickly on the heels of McClellan's removal, and abuse was poured on the Government from every quarter, until Burnside publicly took the responsibility of the whole movement on himself.
Great complaint was made that the pontoons were not sent forward from Washington, in time to meet Burnside when he moved from Warrenton, so that he could have crossed at once, and taken possession of the heights, before the enemy had time to occupy them." Hooker, too, thought, if he could have had his own way, he might have seized and held them in advance. "There are always supposed events after a defeat, which, had they'occurred, would have made it a victory. But Lee was too good a General to allow his retreat to Richmond to be cut off by a sudden dash. He
: showed afterwards, when attacked by Hooker, and still later, when pressed by Grant with double his own force, that neither dash, great ability, nor overwhelming numbers, could accomplish this desired object. Still, deeply as the country was mortified at the defeat, but little condemnation of Burnside openly was heard. His unwillingness to take chief command, his modest appreciation of his own abilities, his known moral worth and true patriotism, ' warded off the blows, that afterwards fell fierce and fast on Hooker, who suffered a similar defeat near the same place.
Burnside soon after planned another advance movement, designed to retrieve his disasters, and had actually commenced