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[345] most of Hancock's corps, especially Meagher's Irish brigade, composed of the 63d, 69th, and 88th New York, the 28th Massachusetts, and the 116th Pennsylvania, which dashed itself repeatedly against those impregnable heights, until two-thirds1 of its number strewed the ground; when the remnant fell back to a position of comparative safety, and were succeeded as they had been supported, by other brigades and division,; each to be exposed in its turn to like pitiless, useless, hopeless slaughter. Thus Hancock's and French's corps were successively sent up against those slippery heights, girdled with batteries, rising, tier above tier, to its crest, all carefully trained upon the approaches from Fredericksburg; while that fatal stone wall — so strong that even artillery could make no impression on it — completely sheltered Barksdale's brigade, which, so soon as our charging columns came within rifle-shot, poured into their faces the deadliest storm of musketry. Howard's division supported the two in advance; while one division of Wilcox's (9th, late Burnside's) corps was detached to maintain communication with Franklin on our left.

Hooker's grand division was divided, and in good part sent to reenforce Franklin; while Hooker himself, believing the attack hopeless, required repeated and imperative orders from Burnside to induce him to order an advance; but Humphreys's division was at length thrown out from Fredericksburg, and bore its full part in the front attack, losing heavily. And thus the fight was maintained till after dark — assault after assault being delivered by divisions advancing against twice their numbers, on ground where treble tile force was required for the attack that sufficed for the defense; while a hundred Rebel cannon, posted on heights which our few guns on that side of the river could scarcely reach, and could not effectually batter, swept our men down from the moment that they began to advance, and while they could do nothing but charge, and fall, and die. And when night at length mercifully arrested this fruitless massacre, though the terraces and slopes leading up to the Rebel works were piled with our dead and our disabled, there was no pretense that the Rebel front had been advanced one foot from the ground held by it in the morning. We had reason enough for sorrow, but none for shame.

Franklin, on our left, beside his

1 Gen. Meagher, in his official report, says:

Of the 1.200 I led into action, only 280 appeared on parade next morning.

Among his officers who fell, he mentions Col. Heenan, Lt.-Col. Mulholland, and Maj. Bardwell, 116th Pa.; Maj. Wm. Horgan and Adj. J. R. Young, 88th N. Y.; Maj. James Cavanagh, 69th N. Y.; and Maj. Carraher, 28th Mass.

The London Times's correspondent, watching the battle from the heights, and writing front Lee's headquarters, says:

To the Irish division, commanded by Gen. Meager, was principally committed the desperate task of bursting out of the town of Fredericksburg, and farming, under the withering fire of the Confederate batteries, to attack Marye's Heights, towering immediately in their front-Never at Fontenoy, Albuera, nor at Waterloo, was more undoubted courage displayed by the sons of Erin than during those six frantic dashes which they directed against the almost impregnable position of their foe.

That any mortal men could have carried the position before which they were wantonly sacrificed, defended as it was, it seems to me idle for a moment to believe. But the bodies which he in dense masses within 40 yards of the muzzles of Col. Walton's guns are the best evidence what manner of men they were who pressed on to death with the dauntlessness of a race which has gained glory on a thousand battle-fields, and never more richly deserved it than at the foot of Marye's Heights on the 13th day of December, 1862.

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December 13th, 1862 AD (1)
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