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[459] little room to doubt that its failure would have been far more signal and bloody than any of the preceding.

A large column closed in mass passes such obstacles as encumbered the path of this column with difficulty at the best, and when such a mass is once thrown into confusion order can hardly be restored to such a mixture of commands. Moreover, if the fire the day before had been too hot to face when distributed over a brigade front, now that its whole force would have been concentrated upon a regimental front, the head of the column must have dissipated rapidly in the infantry fire, while its body could never have held together in the converging storm of shell and canister which would have torn through its whole length.

The Confederates had no intimation at the time of the desperate onset prepared for them, though expecting one somewhere, and prepared for it everywhere. The morning was again obscured by the smoky mist, and when it at length melted away General Burnside had abandoned all aggressive intentions and his heavy colum had been dispersed by his own command, while still concealed in the friendly fog.

During the night the enemy barricaded the principal streets of the city and established batteries in them, prepared rifle pits at various points and also loop-holed several houses for sharpshooters, from which he kept up an annoying fire during the whole day, as well as from his artillery on the opposite shore. A line of battle was sheltered behind the slope between the Telegraph road and the canal, and he evidently invited an attack. As General Lee's non-acceptance of this challenge has been loudly criticised, it may not be amiss to remark that sufficient reasons against his attacking can be discovered in any map of the battle-field. The operation would have been something like assaulting a superior force in the “Covered way,” of a permanent fort with a wet ditch. Moreover, if General Lee had a fault it certainly was not an indisposition to take the offensive when opportunity offered. On the afternoon of the 15th, General Jackson did plan and prepare an assault with his whole corps upon the Federal left, but his initial step developed such strength in the enemy's position that it was at once abandoned. The canal, the city and the raking batteries about Falmouth and below Fredericksburg rendered an advance by Longstreet even more difficult. The Sabbath was accordingly passed by each army in simply inviting an assault from its adversary. The Confederate artillery were ordered to reserve their ammunition entirely for the enemy's infantry, and consequently submitted quietly to the enemy's practice and only fired occasionally when a moving column would

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