throwing over pontoons to Fredericksburg
; also at a point nearly two miles below.
The Engineer corps had laid the upper pontoon two-thirds of the way, when daylight exposed them to the fire of the enemy's sharp-shooters, which drove them off; and the work was completed by the 7th Michigan, who had 5 killed and 16 wounded, including Lt.-Col. Baxter
Supported and followed by the 19th and 20th Massachusetts, they speedily finished the job, having dashed across the river in boats;2
taking 35 prisoners. We lost 300 in all in laying our pontoons and clearing the city of the enemy.
, on our left, encountered less resistance — the make of the land being there favorable to us — and laid his pontoons without loss.
Possession of both banks being thus secured, two other pontoons were laid at either point, and our army mainly pushed across during that and the following days.3
The next was that chosen for the assault on the Rebel
position; whose strength, though under-estimated by Burnside
, was known to be very considerable.
's army, fully 80,000 strong, was stretched along and behind the southern bluffs of the Rappahannock
from a point a mile or so above Fredericksburg
, to one four or five miles below.
At its right, the bluffs recede two miles or so: the Massaponax
here falling into the Rappahannock
; the ground being decidedly less favorable to the defensive.
It was organized in two grand corps, whereof that of Stonewall Jackson
held the right; that of Longstreet
A. P. Hill
commanded the left advance of Jackson
's corps; which was confronted by Franklin
's grand division, about 40,000 strong.
On our right, or in and before Fredericksburg
, were the grand divisions of Hooker
, numbering at least 60,000.
But, while 300 Rebel guns were advantageously posted on every eminence and raked every foot of ground by which they could be approached, our heavy guns were all posted on the north side of the river, where their fire could rarely reach the enemy; while they made some havoc among our own men until Burnside
The weather had been cold, and the ground was frozen ; but an Indian Summer
mildness had succeeded, which filled the valley of the Rappahannock
with a dense fog, covering for a time the formation of our columns of assault; while a portion of our guns were firing wildly and uselessly; but at length a bright sun dispelled the mist, and, at 11 A. M., Couch
's division, on our right, emerging from among the battered buildings, moved swiftly to the assault.
Braver men never smiled at death than those who climbed Marye's Hill that fatal day; their ranks plowed through and torn to pieces by Rebel batteries even in the process of formation ; and when at heavy cost they had reached the foot of the hill, they were confronted by a solid stone wall, four feet high, from behind which a Confederate brigade of infantry mowed them down like grass, exposing but their heads to our bullets, and these only while themselves firing.
Never did men fight better or die, alas!
more fruitlessly than did