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[385] the opposite plain, which afforded no shelter for troops, and was, moreover, enfiladed from above Falmouth, while the narrow and deep bed of the river effectually concealed the positions of the pontoon bridges from the Confederate artillery on the southern hills. The Confederates, therefore, were compelled simply to await the advance of the enemy after he had crossed, and to resist this, their position was generally good. It was, however, only in the approaching battle that both armies seemed to learn the full value of infantry epaulements, however slight, and none had been provided at the two weakest points of the line, viz: at Marye's Hill — a low and unflanked salient bluff, extending from the telegraph road to Stansbury's house — or at Hamilton's crossing, where the right flank rested in the air. Other parts of the line of battle were, more or less, defended with breast heights, according to the ideas of the different officers, and the more or less definite appreciation of where the stand would be made. The line held by General McLaws, was particularly well laid off and fortified; and though it was not attacked, its strength allowed two brigades to be drawn from it to meet the assault on Marye's Hill.

General Burnside's preparations being at last complete, on the night of the 10th of December he devoted himself to his task,

With a hundred thousand men
     For the Rebel slaughter pen,
And the blessed Union Flag a flying o'er him.

During the night one hundred and forty-seven guns, many of them twenty and thirty-pounder rifles, crowned the hills and filled the earth-works, while the banks were lined with troops, and the pontoon boats were deposited on the brink of the river. Five bridges were to be constructed. Three opposite to the town, for the passage of Sumner's and Hooker's grand divisions, and two for Franklin's grand division, at points about two miles below. Meanwhile General Lee was by no means taken by surprise. It was reported in the army that a good Virginia lady, whose house was in the Federal lines, came to the river on the 10th and called across to a cavalry picket that a very large issue of rations had just been made, and that the men had been ordered to cook them immediately, which was at once reported to General Lee. However this may be, about noon, on the 10th, orders were received to push to completion immediately all unfinished batteries, and at dark came further orders to be under arms at dawn. The town was occupied at the time, by the brigade of General Barksdale, of McLaws's division, who picketed the river from a point opposite Lacy's house as

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