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[126]

Over the ruined town: Federal battery before Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863 Here stand the Federal cannoneers at their posts on the last morning of the Chancellorsville struggle, ready to open fire with their 32-pounders against the fateful Marye's Heights across the river — where Sedgwick and his gallant Sixth Corps were to pluck the only shred of victory that remained to the beaten Army of the Potomac at the close of Hooker's futile and costly campaign. On the night of May 2d came the order to advance. The men of the Sixth Corps, already drawn up in battle, slept on their arms till dawn, ready to push forward and play their part in the conflict, the distant heavy booming of which had shaken the air as they had stood all day impatiently waiting. The troops of the Sixth Corps marched out across the plain from the river at four o'clock in the morning; and as they reached the eastern part of Fredericksburg the Confederate batteries opened upon them from above, while the skirmishers rose in swarms before them and poured volley after volley into their ranks, the conflict being hottest around a large mansion in the town, where both sides dodged behind the garden-fence of the outhouses and fought furiously. For a brief interval the Federals were held in check, but the rifled guns on Stafford Heights were already hurling their huge shells across the river and the wide valley, to burst in the Confederate works on the ridge before which Sedgwick's men waited for the order to charge. Field batteries were unlimbered and these added their iron hail to the hammering that was being inflicted on Marye's Heights, where so many brave Federals had lost their lives the previous December. At half-past 10 Sedgwick, seeing that the Heights could be taken only by direct assault, ordered General Newton to command the charge, and the two commanders anxiously watched for the outcome of another hurling of flesh and blood up the slope against the sunken road which held such bitter memories. The columns went forward as coolly as did Pickett's men at Gettysburg, closing up ranks as men fell, till they swept over the hilltop, and Marye's Heights was won.

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