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It is hard to imagine what induced the enemy to select this portion of the line as his point of attack. The distance to be traversed under fire was not so great as would have been necessary elsewhere, but the fire was much more intense. Some slight protection was offered by the intervening houses and fences, but it is very questionable whether the confusion incident to the passage of such obstacles, under a heavy fire, and the great propensity of the men to halt and fire from the cover afforded by them, do not more than compensate for the advantage gained. Four hundred yards north of the Telegraph road the opportunity afforded the enemy at this time was far greater. The guns on this part of the line were in pits, in the plain, not upon the crest, and consequently did not command the approaches. Only Parker's two howitzers at Stansbury's house could have fired upon a line within two hundred yards of the canal, and the infantry defence would have been made without any advantage of ground in its favor, and on a plain well swept by an enfilading fire from above, and a direct fire from below Falmouth. Moreover, even if the crest south of Marye's had been carried, any further advance would have received an enfilade fire from Lee's hill and a severe direct fire from the high hills between the Plank-road and Hazel run, where Rhett's rifle battery was already in position and fortified, while a successful attack a few hundred yards north of this road could have been pushed with very little fire in the flank against wooded hills which gave no positions for artillery, and requiring much more time to be reached by reinforcements.1 I am very far from wishing to imply that even such an attack, or indeed any other, could have succeeded against the Confederate army in its splendid temper at that time, or to underrate the positive difficulties the enemy would have met even at this point, but simply to criticise very briefly what should perhaps be called his choice of evils.

The topography of the situation was well known to him, for a large Federal force had occupied Fredericksburg for many weeks in the summer previous, and his balloons now enabled him to discover every disposition for defence.

The attack was preceded by an increase of the artillery fire which had been directed upon the Confederate position during the whole

1 For an account of the attacks made on this same position by General Sedgwick in May, 1863, which, however, had been better fortified meanwhile, but was defended by scarcely more than a strong skirmish line, the reader is referred to the account of the battle of Chancellorsville. It will be seen that all attacks in front and on the right flank also failed then, and it was at last carried by an assaulting column moving north of the Plank-road.

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Sedgwick (1)
Claudine Rhett (1)
Durant A. Parker (1)
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