previous next

“ [166] at least,” to seize the heights near Captain Hamilton's, and that is headed in the tract in the same conspicuous manner, “Franklin responsible for the defeat.”

The committee's statement on this subject occupies but a few lines, and admits the sending out by me, under this order, of four divisions, numbering sixteen thousand five hundred men, as stated by them, without giving the number of Doubleday's division, which was nearly seven thousand more. The committee name only Meade's, Gibbon's, Doubleday's, and Birney's divisions, as those by which the attack was made and supported. They had it in proof, and in General Hardie's reports, that Newton's and Sickles's divisions also aided in that movement, while the divisions of Howe and Brooks also engaged the enemy during the day. However easy of explanation it may be that the employment of Newton's division was not referred to in the report, it is difficult to understand why Sickles's division should be omitted, when the only evidonce they have published on this subject discloses the fact that Sickles's division was also engaged.

The committee further say, “that the attack was in reality made by one of the smallest divisions in my command, the division of General Meade, numbering about four thousand five hundred men.” They have omitted to state in that connection what was in evidence before them, that Meade's division was posted on the extreme left of my line, and the order being to attack at once, was consequently best posted for the attack. The Army of the Potomac had no braver soldier or better officer than General Meade, to lead his division to the attack.

The committee next say, that “General Burnside, upon hearing of the small force ordered to attack the enemy, sent an order to General Franklin to make a vigorous attack with his whole force.” The committee do not state when General Burnside sent to me any order after that received at 7.30 A. M.; but if the ordinary construction is to be put upon their language, they intend to be understood that a second order was sent to me immediately after the receipt of General Hardie's first despatch to General Burnside, dated at 7.40 A. M., in which he was informed of what I proposed to do under the order. As before observed, this despatch must have been received by General Burnside by eight o'clock A. M. So that, according to the report, General Burnside sent me a second order to make a “vigorous attack with my whole force,” shortly after eight o'clock A. M. By referring to General Hardie's reports, it will be seen that the first despatch from General Burnside, after that brought by him, is dated 2.25 P. M. in which he states,--

December 13, 2.25 P. M.
Despatch received. Franklin will do his best. New troops gone in. Will report soon again.

This order, so far from being an order to make a “vigorous attack with my whole force,” directed me as follows:

“Your instructions of this morning are so far modified as to require an advance upon the heights immediately in your front.”

The response made to this modification of the order is shown by General Hardie's despatch to his chief just given.

The committee then proceed: “Several of the witnesses testified, that had the attack then been renewed with all the available force under General Franklin's command, it would have been successful.” Who these witnesses are is not stated, nor is a word of their testimony given. If any one upon whose opinion the public would place any reliance has been found to express such an opinion, it has been given in ignorance of the orders under which I was acting during the day, or upon the assumption that such an order as the committee state I did receive, was issued to me in the early part of the day. I have shown that no such order was issued, and that the second order that was issued was received at 2.25 P. M. In connection with this modified order. it is necessary to state, that immediately in front of one of my divisions was a narrow valley, held on both sides by the enemy, and protected by abatis, and troops entering it were necessarily subjected to a fire from both sides. It is patent from an examination of this last order, that so far from being an order to renew the attack upon the hill at Captain Hamilton's, it was a virtual abandonment of that attempt. I was not allowed the opportunity to examine those witnesses, nor to produce those I named to the committee, who ware with me during the day, aid who alone were sufficiently acquainted with all the facts to form a respectable opinion on the subject.

But whatever opinions may have been expressed before the committee by witnesses, whose names they have not given, the same committee submitted a report to the Senate on the twenty-third day of December last, containing the evidence taken by them on the nineteenth of that month, in which the testimony of General Burnside, taken immediately after the battle, is given. This has been printed by order of the Senate. From this document I make the following extract, (referring to the battle of Fredericksburg:)

Q. By Committee.--“What causes do you assign for the failure of your attack here?”

A. “It was found impossible to get the men up to the works; the enemy's fire was too hot for them; the whole command fought most gallantly; the enemy themselves say they never saw our men fight so hard as on that day.”

Q. “Were the enemy's works very strong?”

A. “Their works are not strong works, but they occupy very strong positions. It is possible that the points of attack were wrongly ordered; if such is the case I can only say I did to the best of my ability.”

* * * * *

Q. “Do I understand you to say that you expected General Franklin to carry the point at the extreme left of the ridge in the rear of the town, and thereby enable our troops to storm and carry their fortifications?”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. E. Burnside (7)
W. B. Franklin (5)
George G. Meade (4)
James A. Hardie (4)
Sickles (3)
John Newton (2)
D. H. Hamilton (2)
Doubleday (2)
Frank E. Howe (1)
Gibbon (1)
J. M. Brooks (1)
Birney (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 23rd (1)
December 13th (1)
19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: