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[160] thirty thousand men, to be sent in at daylight in the morning. At that time two divisions of General Hooker's command were on the north side of the river, near the bridges that I had crossed.

In order to make such an attack as I advised, I informed General Burnside that these two divisions must be crossed during the night. I reiterated my request that I should receive my orders as early as possible, that I might make the necessary dispositions of the troops before daylight. He stated at one time that I should have my orders in any event before midnight, and at another, that I should have them in two or three hours. He left my headquarters about six o'clock P. M., and I awaited his orders during the night. None reached me until half past 7 o'clock in the morning. At midnight I sent an aid to ask for them, and received the reply that they were being prepared, and would be sent forthwith. The order which I received was brought by General Hardie, of General Burnside's staff, well known in the service as an able and zealous officer. It reached my hands at 7h. 30m. on the morning of the thirteenth. My command was then in the same position as when General Burnside left my Headquarters the evening previous. The night had passed without orders, and General Hooker's two divisions were still on the other side of the river. With the light furnished by this state of facts, General Burnside's order, though incongruous and contradictory on its face, admitted of but one interpretation, viz., that he intended to make an armed observation from the left, to ascertain the strength of the enemy,--an interpretation also given to it by both of my corps commanders. The order is as follows:

headquarters army of Potomac, December 13, 5.55 A. M.
Major-General Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division, Army of Potomac:
General Hardie will carry this despatch to you and remain with you during the day. The General commanding directs that you keep your whole command in position for a rapid movement down the Old Richmond road; and you will send out at once a division at least, to pass below Smithfield, to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, on this side of the Massaponax, taking care to keep it well supported, and its line of retreat open. He has ordered another column, of a division or more, to be moved from General Sumner's command up the Plank-road to its intersection with the Telegraph road, where they will divide, with a view to seizing the heights on both those roads. Holding these heights, with the heights near Captain Hamilton's, will, he hopes, compel the enemy to evacuate the whole ridge between these points.

He makes these moves by columns distant from each other, with the view of avoiding the possibility of a collision of our own forces, which might occur in a general movement during the fog. Two of General Hooker's divisions are in your rear, at the bridges, and will remain there as supports. Copies of instructions given to Generals Sumner and Hooker will be forwarded to you by an orderly very soon. You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once as soon as the fog lifts. The watchword, which, if possible, should be given to every company, will be “ Scott.”

I have the honor to be, General,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John G. Parke, Chief of Staff.

Thus it will be seen that after ordering me to keep my whole command in readiness for a rapid movement down the Old Richmond road, I was directed to send out at once a division at least to seize the hill at Hamilton's. After referring to the order to General Sumner, he reiterates the direction to keep my whole command in readiness for the Richmond road movement.

For three hours before the order reached me I was satisfied that General Burnside had given up the idea (if he ever entertained it) of making an attack in force from the left, for the delay in sending the orders made such an attack impossible with any reasonable chance of success. And in this connection it is not improper in me to state that a map, made by the rebel General Jackson's topographical engineer, has fallen into the hands of our officers since General Hooker has been in command, from which it is apparent that the enemy's position could not have been carried by any force less than that recommended by me on the afternoon of the twelfth.

General Burnside knew the strength in numbers and position, as well as the desperate determination of the rebel army. Had he intended a movement in force, his orders both to myself and General Sumner would have been commensurate with such a purpose. Had he expected me to make such an attack upon an enemy whom I had met too often to be guilty of the folly of underrating, he would have given me the night in which to make a disposition of my troops for the conflict of the morrow, instead of leaving me to pass it in sleepless anxiety in my tent.

General Burnside ought to have known, and doubtless did know, that to make his “main attack,” and thereby bring on a general engagement on my front, under an order of this description, sent after daylight in the morning, was to send his troops to a useless and unavailable slaughter; and, therefore, he could not have intended it. I acted upon the order at once, as nearly according to its literal directions as was in my power. The attack was ordered to be led by General Meade, one of the ablest officers in our service, supported by General Gibbon on his right, and General Doubleday in reserve. These three divisions formed one of the two corps (General Reynolds's) under my command on the south side of the river. Shortly after Meade advanced, the enemy's cavalry appeared on the left, accompanied by artillery, and Doubleday was ordered to drive them away. Soon after these troops were advanced, finding that the enemy was in force on all sides, I sent to General Stoneman to cross with one of his divisions, and before that had entirely crossed his second division was also ordered over.

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