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[285] the seventeenth, it was ascertained that Sumner's corps had marched from Catlett's Station, in the direction of Falmouth, and information was also received that, on the fifteenth, some Federal gunboats and transports had entered Acquia Creek. This looked as if Fredericksburgh was again to be occupied, and McLaws's and Ransom's divisions, accompanied by W. H. F. Lee's brigade of cavalry and Lane's battery, were ordered to proceed to that city. To ascertain more fully the movements of the enemy, General Stuart was directed to cross the Rappahannock. On the morning of the eighteenth he forced a passage at Warrenton Springs, in the face of a regiment of cavalry and three pieces of artillery, guarding the ford, and reached Warrenton soon after the last of the enemy's column had left. The information he obtained confirmed the previous reports, and it was clear that the whole Federal army, under Major-General Burnside, was moving toward Fredericksburgh. On the morning of the nineteenth, therefore, the remainder of Longstreet's corps was put in motion for that point. The advance of General Sumner reached Falmouth on the afternoon of the seventeenth, and Attempted to cross the Rappahannock, but was driven back by Colonel Ball, with the Fifteenth Virginia cavalry, four companies of Mississippi infantry, and Lewis's light battery.

On the twenty-first it became apparent that General Burnside was concentrating his whole army on the north side of the Rappahannock. On the same day, General Sumner summoned the corporate authorities of Fredericksburgh to surrender the place by five P. M., and threatened, in case of refusal, to bombard the city at nine o'clock, next morning. The weather had been tempestuous for two days, and a storm was raging at the time of the summons. It was impossible to prevent the execution of the threat to shell the city, as it was completely exposed to the batteries on the Stafford hills, which were beyond our reach. The city authorities were informed that while our forces would not use the place for military purposes, its occupation by the enemy would be resisted, and directions were given for the removal of the women and children as rapidly as possible. The threatened bombardment did not take place; but in view of the imminence of a collision between the two armies the inhabitants were advised to leave the city, and almost the entire population, without a murmur, abandoned their homes. History presents no instance of a people exhibiting a purer and more unselfish patriotism, or a higher spirit of fortitude and courage, than was evinced by the citizens of Fredericksburgh. They cheerfully incurred great hardships and privations, and surrendered their homes and property to destruction rather than yield them into the hands of the enemies of their country. General Burnside now commenced his preparations to force the passage of the Rappahannock and advance upon Richmond. When his army first began to move toward Fredericksburgh, General Jackson, in pursuance of instructions, crossed the Blue Ridge, and placed his corps in the vicinity of Orange Court-House, to enable him more promptly to cooperate with Longstreet. About the twenty-sixth November he was directed to advance toward Fredericksburgh, and, as some Federal gunboats had appeared in the river, at Port Royal, and it was possible that an attempt might be made to cross in that vicinity, D. H. Hill's division was stationed near that place, and the rest of Jackson's corps so disposed, as to support Hill or Longstreet, as occasion might require. The fords of the Rappahannock above Fredericksburgh were closely guarded by our cavalry, and the brigade of General W. H. F. Lee was stationed near Port Royal to watch the river above and below. On the twenty-eighth, General Hampton, guarding the upper Rappahannock, crossed to make a reconnoissance on the enemy's right, and, proceeding as far as Dumfries and Occoquan, encountered and dispersed his cavalry, capturing two squadrons and a number of wagons. About the same time, some dismounted men of Beale's regiment, Lee's brigade, crossed in boats below Port Royal to observe the enemy's left, and took a number of prisoners. On the fifth December General D. H. Hill, with some of his field-guns, assisted by Major Pelham, of Stuart's horse artillery, attacked the gunboats at Port Royal, and caused them to retire. With these exceptions, no important movement took place, but it became evident that the advance of the enemy would not be long delayed. The interval was employed in strengthening our lines, extending from the river about a mile and a half above Fredericksburgh along the range of hills in the rear of the city to the Richmond Railroad. As these hills were commanded by the opposite heights, in possession of the enemy, earthworks were constructed upon their crest, at the most eligible positions for artillery. These positions were judiciously chosen and fortified under the direction of Brigadier-General Pendleton, Chief of Artillery, Colonel Cabell of McLaws's division, Colonel E. P. Alexander and Captain S. R. Johnson of the engineers. To prevent gunboats from ascending the river a battery, protected by intrenchments, was placed on the bank, about four miles below the city, in an excellent position, selected by my aid-de-camp, Major Talcott. The plain of Fredericksburgh is so completely commanded by the Stafford heights that no effectual opposition could be made to the construction of bridges or the passage of the river, without exposing our troops to the destructive fire of the numerous batteries of the enemy. At the same time, the narrowness of the Rappahannock, its winding course and deep bed, prevented opportunities for laying down bridges at points secure from the fire of our artillery. Our position was, therefore, selected with a view to resist the enemy's advance after crossing, and the river was guarded only by a force sufficient to impede his movements until the army could be concentrated.

Before dawn, on the eleventh December, our signal guns announced that the enemy was in

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