The crossing of these divisions (which should have been made during the previous night, had an attack in force been contemplated) occupied at least three hours. While this was going on, one of General Smith's divisions was also ordered to report to General Reynolds. Of these several movements General Burnside was kept informed, by reports made by General Hardie to him at intervals during the day; and between 7.40 A. M. and 3.40 P. M. it was reported to him, by an officer of his own staff, that out of the eight divisions composing my entire command, including the two divisions that had been ordered across the river, six divisions had been employed in making the effort to seize Hamilton's hill, keeping the attacking force supported, and in checking the advance of the enemy, while but two divisions were left to protect the bridges, the right and the centre, and to keep the line of retreat open, and which two divisions were actually attacked during the day. After my testimony had been taken by the committee, and they had declined to call General Hardie as a witness, I asked permission to hand them copies of the report's made by him to General Burnside during the day. This request was granted; and although it is impossible to overstate the value of the testimony contained in these despatches, fourteen in number, sent from the field of battle by an officer of the staff of General Burnside, who could have had no motive at the time to state anything but the exact truth, as the events were transpiring under his own eyes, yet no mention of, or reference to, these despatches is made by the committee in their report. As they present a statement of the transactions of the day upon the left, as seen by a competent and impartial witness, I present them in full, in the order in which they were sent. It will be noticed that the first despatch is dated at 7.40 A. M. This despatch is as follows, viz.:
The telegraph station connecting with General Burnside's headquarters was about one third of a mile from my headquarters, so that by eight o'clock of that morning General Burnside was informed by his Assistant Inspector-General of the fact that I had sent General Meade's division to make the movement directed by him. I submit, with entire confidence, that had General Burnside, upon the receipt of General Hardie's first despatch, discovered that I had either misapprehended his order, or was sending too small a force to its execution, he would at the moment have corrected my misapprehension. So far from that, General Burnside did not communicate with me in any manner from that time until 2.25 P. M. of that day, when he sent me an order in writing, in which it was stated that my instructions of this morning were so far modified as to require an advance upon the heights immediately in my front. General Hardie's despatch upon the receipt of this order is as follows:General Meade's division is to make the movement from our left; but it is reported that the enemy's skirmishers are advancing, indicating an attack upon our position on the left.James A. Hardie, Brigadier-General Vols., Assistant Inspector General.
Later in the day, and after three o'clock, when every regiment that I could spare was engaged in various parts of the field (as will appear by referring to Hardie's reports, and General Burnside's own testimony hereafter given) with an enemy that greatly outnumbered us, and when all my energies were directed to save the wing from being overpowered, and its line of retreat cut off, I received a verbal message from General Burnside, by one of his staff, that General Sumner's troops were being hard pressed, with a request to make a diversion in his favor if I could. To this I also responded that I would do my best. For the details of what was done by me during the day, I leave General Hardie's despatches to speak for themselves. He was at my side from shortly after sunrise until sunset. He not only knew of every order and movement made by me, or under my direction, but was a perfectly competent judge of their wisdom and sufficiency. In the performance of an act of common justice he has placed these despatches at my disposal.1 The following are copies of all those sent by him on the thirteenth of December, the day of the battle:headquarters left Grand division, December 13, 2.25 P. M.Despatch received. Franklin will do his best. New troops gone in; will report soon again.
General Burnside:James A. Hardie, Brigadier-General Volunteers.
General Meade's division is to make the movement from our left; but it is just reported that the enemy's skirmishers are advancing, indicating an attack upon our position on the left.9 o'clock A. M.General Meade just moved out. Doubleday supports him. Meade's skirmishers engaged, however, at once with enemy's skirmishers. Battery opening, on Meade probably, from position on Old Richmond road.11 o'clock A. M.Meade advanced half a mile, and holds on. Infantry of enemy in woods in front of extreme left, also in front of Howe. No loss so far of great importance. General Vinton badly but not dangerously wounded. Later--Reynolds has been forced to develop his whole line. An attack of some force of enemy's troops on our left seems probable, as far as can now be judged. Stoneman has been directed to cross one division to support our left. Report of cavalry pickets from the other side of the river, that enemy's troops were moving down the river