Doc. 5.-crossing the Rappahannock.
June 5, 1863.
headquarters army of the Potomac, Saturday, June 6, 1863.for the third time in six months, the Rappahannock has been successfully crossed by our brave men, with slight loss. Yesterday morning the Engineer brigade was ordered to proceed to the river, with a pontoon train sufficient for two bridges. Howe's splendid fighting division of the Sixth corps was selected for the work of crossing, and the point for laying the bridges was just below the mouth of Deep Run, at the identical spot where we have crossed twice before. Our infantry and artillery, as well as the engineers, began to debouch on the open plain opposite the crossing soon after noon, but, for some reason, active operations were not commenced until about five o'clock. During the afternoon the pickets of the enemy lounged on the opposite bank, apparently filled with astonishment at the preparations of this “demoralized and weakened” army, which were going on right under their noses. Save this picket of the enemy, no other force was visible, and the impression was strong that the enemy had left. About five o'clock the engineers drove their teams down to the river-bank, and commenced unloading. The rebels at once betook themselves to the rifle-pits, and commenced firing. Their rifle-pit here is a very strong one, and our men were within very close range. Quite a number of the engineers were soon wounded, and it was evident that the old and successful method of pushing men across in boats would have to be adopted. General Howe at once ordered the Twenty-sixth New-Jersey, Colonel Morrison, of the Vermont brigade, to man the boats, push over and storm the rifle-pits. Six of the batteries of the Sixth corps, namely, Williston's, Butler's, Haines's, McCartney's, Cowan's, and McCartby's, were placed in position on the plain, and for nearly two hours shelled the rifle-pits, and the flanks of our position very vigorously. Their practice was excellent, the rifle-pits being almost demolished, yet the casualties among the enemy by shells were few. The rebels stuck to their position until the gallant Jerseymen set foot on the south side of the river, at about half-past 6 o'clock, when, notwithstanding the shower of canister sent after them, they fled before the rapid charge of our men. Indeed, they could not well leave before, for our guns completely swept the plain, and the rifle-pit was by far the safest place for them. The Twenty-sixth  New-Jersey was soon followed by the Vermont regiments, and that whole brigade crossed in the boats. Skirmishers were immediately deployed, and we at once advanced in the direction of the Bowling Green road, covering Deep Run on our right, and a point below Mansfield on our left. Some sixty or seventy prisoners were soon brought in, being the main part of the force which had occupied the rifle-pit. They belonged chiefly to the Second Florida regiment. By dark our skirmishers had advanced nearly to the edge of the timber beyond the Bowling Green road, without having met the enemy in force. Pickets, skirmishers, and scouts were plenty, however, and in the direction of Fredericksburgh the rifle-pits seemed to be full of men. The enemy used no artillery against us, and none was seen. A few wagons hastily moved down the Telegraph road, and a few tents were seen south of Fredericksburgh. At eight o'clock last night, when I left the spot, these were all the indications that had been discovered. The prisoners give but little information relative to the enemy. Enough was learned, however, to convince us that a large portion of the enemy's force is still in the neighborhood of Salem Church and Chancellorsville, apparently on the watch for our movements, rather than on any offensive demonstration of their own. The charge of the New-Jersey regiment (Twenty-sixth) is deserving of especial praise. Almost any other regiment would have done the same, doubtless, but they are nine months men and their time is out in three days. They thus go home crowned with the glory of this additional achievement, and thus add to the lustre of the arms of that State already won on many a battle-field. The conduct of all our men was most admirable. The Fifteenth and Fiftieth New-York, and the regular battalion behaved manfully, and withstood a murderous fire at close range. Our casualties are five or six killed, and thirty-five to forty wounded. Among the former we have to lament Captain Charles E. Cross of the regular Engineers, shot through the brain, while at the river-bank, in charge of the bridge details. He was a gallant and accomplished officer, and his loss is deeply regretted. He had rendered valuable services at every former crossing, and was promptly at his post again, when he was struck by the fatal bullet.
headquarters army of the Potomac, Saturday, June 6, 1863.An order was issued to the army yesterday to be in readiness to march at a moment's notice with three days rations, while all baggage, stores, etc., were ordered to the rear. At eight o'clock the pontoon train moved down toward Franklin Crossing, halting behind the ridge near the river, where they remained till late in the afternoon. Howe's division of the Sixth corps was ordered to take the advance, when it moved forward, and halted a short distance from the river, where the men lay on their arms for several hours. At half-past 5 P. M. our batteries were brought into position near the bank of the river on the flats, and opened a brisk fire on the rifle-pits opposite. The guns were handled with skill, many of the shells bursting directly over the heads of the rebels. A company of the Second Florida was stationed in these pits, and they kept up a brisk fire, endeavoring to pick off our gunners, but they were not very successful. After an hour's cannonading, the pontoons having been laid in the mean time, our troops were ordered to cross the river, and take the rifle-pits. This was done with alacrity, the Fifth Vermont taking the lead. As our men approached the rebels almost ceased firing, the majority throwing down their arms and surrendering themselves, while a few retreated into an open field in the rear, when our troops followed, keeping up a running fire, which in connection with some shells thrown by our batteries beyond, compelled them to turn and give themselves up rather than run the gauntlet of both fires. Not more than a dozen got away. Several regiments having crossed by this time, they formed in line of battle and advanced about a mile, skirmishers being thrown out in front. On the Richmond road to the left of the field, a line of pickets were stationed, who opened fire on our forces, but were soon silenced. Our men then advanced toward a piece of woods directly opposite the crossing, but the enemy seemed to have left, no firing coming from that place. Another force advanced toward Fredericksburgh, the rebel pickets firing and retreating under cover of trees and houses. Numbers were seen leaving for the woods in rear of the town. It was now getting dark, and the action ceased for the night. Captain Cross of the Fiftieth New-York was killed, with three or four others, and some ten or twelve wounded. The loss of the enemy was not ascertained. We took fifty-five prisoners--all of the Second Florida regiment. Some of them say that Lee has fallen back, while others report that he only fell back behind the hills, and is waiting for our advance. Twenty mules loaded with baggage were also captured and brought over just before dark. This morning at six A. M. our skirmishers advanced past the Richmond road, and soon drew the rebel fire. Both lines are still engaged (ten A. M.) with little damage on either side, each line maintaining its position. About a division of the enemy were seen at seven A. M. crossing the ridge toward St. Mary's Heights from the left, and shortly after one regiment returned on the same route. Our thirty-two-pounders opened and our shell was thrown into their line, which made them scatter in short order. These guns are very valuable, throwing shells a distance of about three miles with great precision. The rebels say they are the only ones they are afraid of.