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The two armies stood facing each other throughout the 14th and 15th: Lee strengthening his defenses and awaiting a renewal of the attack; Burnside at length deciding to withdraw all but Hooker's corps across the river, and continue to hold Fredericksburg; but this he finally gave up, on Hooker's representation that he should be unable to hold the town; and decided to recross his entire army during the night of the 15th ; which was quietly effected without serious loss. A few of our desperately wounded, a few pickets, and considerable ammunition, were left by us in Fredericksburg; but Franklin did not lose a man; and not one gun was abandoned as a trophy of this ill-starred advance on Richmond. Our pontoons were all taken up and brought off; the Rebels next day reoccupying Fredericksburg and their side of the river; and thenceforth pickets and sharp-shooters fired across the stream, whenever any temptation to a shot was afforded, with as business-like an air as though the Rappahannock had always been the boundary of two hostile empires, over which no armed force had ever ventured.

Lee has been blamed for not following up his advantage; and it is just possible that he might have made something by a tremendous bombardment of the town while still crowded with our decimated, disheartened troops — possibly by a sudden, determined assault upon it, or upon Franklin's wing, with the great body of his army. But how could he know at once how severely we had suffered? And, even if he did know, would it have been wise to rush his men upon our batteries, as ours had been rushed upon his? Jackson had decided against this, when in the flush of his success; and he decided wisely. To push forward their men till under the fire of our heavy guns, commandingly posted on our side of the Rappahannock, would lave been to imitate Burnside's blunder; and they had not 15,000 men to spare.1

General Burnside's errors in this movement were errors of judgment only; and these were nobly redeemed by his subsequent conduct and bearing. Though he had accepted the chief command with unfeigned reluctance and self-distrust, and keenly felt that he had not been fairly treated in the matter of the pontoons, and that Franklin had not done his best in the hour of trial, he excused others and took all the blame on himself. In his report to Gen. Halleck,2 he says:

But for the fog, and tile unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy 24 hours to concentrate his forces in his strong position. we should almost certainly have succeeded ; in which case, the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than it we had crossed at the places first selected. As it was, we came very near success. Failing in accomplishing the mail object, we remained in order of battle two days--long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his stronghold to fight me with his infantry — after which, we recrossed to this side of the river unmolested, without the loss of men or property.

1 Lee's “ General Order No. 38,” dated Dec. 21, congratulating his army on their success in this encounter, says:

The immense army of the enemy completed its preparations for the attack without interruption, and gave battle in its own time, and on ground of its own selection.

It was encountered by less than twenty thousand of this brave army; and its columns, crushed and broken, hurled back at every point, with such fearful slaughter, that escape from entire destruction became the boast of those who had advanced in full confidence of victory.

This is so unfair as to be essentially false, and quite unworthy of a great soldier.

2 Dec. 19.

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