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As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade — note the least demoralization or disorganization existed.

To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of thus recrossing in the face of the enemy, I owe every thing. For tile failure in the attack, I am responsible; as the extreme gallantry, courage, and endurance shown by them were never exceeded, and would have carried the points had it been possible.

To the families and friends of the dead, I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies; but for the wounded, I can offer my earnest prayer for their comfort and final recovery.

The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you have left the whole movement in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me the more responsible.

But General Burnside's usefulness as commander of the Army of the Potomac was at an end. Officers and soldiers alike felt that he had sadly misjudged in ordering an assault on the bristling heights south of Fredericksburg — still more,in seeking to repeat that assault after the bloody, calamitous experience of the 13th--and the popularity of McClellan was immensely strengthened and widened by that disastrous repulse. Whatever his faults, “Little Mac” had ever been careful of the lives of his men; and this fact was now remembered to his credit. Had the army been polled for the choice of a commander at any time during the month following our withdrawal from Fredericksburg, it is probable that McClellan would have had a decisive majority, and morally certain that Burnside's supporters would have proved a still more indubitable minority.

The latter, however, had no idea of sitting down under his defeat. While the Rebel chiefs were congratulating each other that the Army of the Potomac had been paralyzed, at least for the Winter, he was planning a fresh and determined advance on Richmond. Within a fortnight after his bloody repulse, he ordered1 rations cooked, wagons packed, and every thing made ready for a general movement; intending to make a feint above Fredericksburg, but to cross at the Sedden House, six or seven miles below; while 2,500 cavalry, with 4 guns, crossing at Kelly's ford, were to raid across the Virginia Central, the Lynchburg and the Weldon Railroads, blowing up the locks on the James River Canal; crossing the Nottoway, and reporting to Gen. Peck, in command at Suffolk; while several other flying expeditions were to distract the enemy's attention and deceive him as to the significance of the general movement. He had just given 2 the initial impulse to this combined movement, when a telegram from the President arrested it; and, repairing at once to Washington, Gen. B. learned that representations had been made at headquarters by certain of his subordinates, prompted and sustained by others, that, if he were permitted to proceed, in the existing temper of the army, he would inevitably incur disasters so grave as to signally belittle, if not wholly efface, those of the recent failure. In deference to these representations, the President had telegraphed as he did; and the Secretary of War and the General-in-chief, though now for the first time apprised of the clandestine communications of army officers to Mr. Lincoln, failed even to attempt a removal of the impression

1 Dec. 26.

2 Dec. 30.

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