would be raised at Burnside's expense in that case. But I think a private soldier came nearer the mark than any one else. He said, with the usual expletives: “They want us to get in. Getting out won't be quite so smart and easy. You'll see if it will.” An hour or two after noon, as there was no prospect for the day of such an engagement as would be best visible from the heights this side of the river, and least comfortable on the other side, I proposed to go over to take note of the effects of the bombardment. On nearing the upper bridge, (we had three pontoon-bridges across the stream immediately in front of the city,) I found Whipple's division passing over; and, waiting until they were out of the way, could not help observing that the town opposite was full of masses of our men who did not seem to be in very good order, but rather scattered, and bustling about with a carelessness I could not comprehend, as many of them certainly knew that they were under the enemy's guns, and liable at any moment to have opened upon them a direct, plunging, and enfilading fire of shot and shell. If this happened was there no danger of a stampede? However, some hours had elapsed without the report of a cannon or a volley of musketry. But it looked and felt like the calm before the storm. As I was looking upon Whipple's men filing along, the temptation of the beautiful mark they presented was too much for a rebel gunner on our right. There was a jet of smoke from a clump of cedars on a hill, and with the sound of the gun came the shell, a little but wicked one, with a zip, rip! and a small puffy cloud was revealed a good deal nearer than seemed good to a spectator who didn't wear Uncle Sam's blue jacket. In about a quarter of a minute another shell came along and struck in the midst of the troops, going off as it did so, killing and wounding eight men. Our batteries opened from hill to hill — the “live thunder” leaped forth, and “every mountain found a tongue,” as in Byron's Thunder-storm on the Alps. It may not be improper to mention that I did not cross into the city just at that time, but slightly changed my base of operations. I was impressed that the cannon-shots then heard were the “opening of the ball,” and that the rebels would try the experiment of bombarding the town while it swarmed with our troops. This, however, was a mistake, as the firing soon subsided, and night came on, the day having been spent in the passage of the river by our troops, and, doubtless, the massing of the enemy to meet them. At night I crossed into the town to make a call upon General Burns, who commands a division of fifteen regiments in the army of the Potomac. The narrow and seemingly frail boat-bridges were crowded with wagons going over with subsistence for the troops. We found General Burns, as he is said to be usually found in such cases, well toward the front. His pickets were placed about two hundred and fifty yards beyond his headquarters. He occupied the large and recently showy residence of the Mayor of Fredericksburgh. It had been riddled during our bombardment of the place, and the enemy had put a shell into it that afternoon. Every room was perforated by shot, and had been shattered by shells. The plastering, pulverized by the shock of the explosions, was thick upon the floors, which, in turn, were ripped as if ploughshares had been driven through them. The mantle-pieces were knocked from the walls. The partitions mere rags of lath. In the midst of the ruins the General and his aids enjoyed their coffee, mutton-chops, lard bread, and their pipes, and wrote letters to their wives, giving them the pleasing intelligence that they were to march upon the enemy in the morning. The house occupied by General Burns was a fair sample of the rest. Many of them were pierced by twenty shells each, and some of those near the river, in which the sharp-shooters hid themselves, were literally knocked in pieces. The furniture and movable property of whatever kind which the bombs had spared, the soldiers speedily “possessed.” Some of them took intense satisfaction in lugging mattresses before their bivouac-fires to sleep upon, and showed their taste for handsomely bound books, and articles of ladies' wearing apparel. The streets were full of soldiers lounging and smoking about their fires, or wrapped in their blankets and sleeping, their muskets stacked, in numbers that indicated the immense mass of troops that occupied the place. The sky was clear, and thickly as the stars sparkled over-head the camp-fires blazed along the Rappahannock, lighting up the front of the shattered city, and gleaming far and wide to the north. Behind the dark and gloomy hills compassing the town on the enemy's side, there was a wide glare of many fires, like an aurora borealis, marking the presence of the rebel army of Virginia. Returning to the north side of the river, the roads were choked with batteries of field-artillery, and ammunition and supply-trains, rumbling and creaking forward. Saturday morning was foggy. We had understood that the attack was to be made at daylight, and to consist of a movement by Franklin's grand division on our left. Franklin had thrown three bridges across the river, and passed it in force, three or four miles below (east of) Fredericksburgh. He was to turn the enemy's right. The attack in the centre, as it was called, or from Fredericksburgh, was to consist, first, of an advance upon the flanks to feel the enemy, and if they were found strong there, for a dash to be made, in heavy force, from the eastern portion of the town, or the left of our centre. Gen. Burns's division was deployed further to the left, to support Franklin's right. The main column of attack on the centre, was formed of Couch's corps. Immediately at Fredericksburgh the Rappahannock valley proper is narrow. The ground rises on either side in terraces, or as we would say out West, in successive “bottoms.” There are three terraces or steps before the crest is reached, these on the southern side being from a quarter to half a mile wide. The first is that upon which the town is situated, and has a steep slope to the river. The second formed the principal
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Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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