There were no pontoons with the moving army at this time, and our supplies had run very low. It will be observed that directions were given in the odder from General Halleck to me, dated November fifth, to report at once a plan for the future operations of the army; which was done. This plan had been fully matured and was at the time understood to be in accordance with the views of most of the prominent general officers in command. It had been written out and was sent to Washington, by Major E. M. Neill, on the tenth of November, and delivered to General E. W. Cullum, Chief of Staff, the following day; after which General Halleck telegraphed me that he thought he would meet me at Warrenton on the next day (the twelfth), which he did, accompanied by Generals Meigs and Haupt. During that night and the next morning we had long consultations. General Halleck was strongly in favor of continuing the movements of the army in the direction of Culpepper and Gordonsville, and my own plan was as strongly adhered to by me. He declined to take the responsibility of issuing an order, but said that the whole matter would be left to the decision of the President; and if the President approved my plan I was to move the main army to Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, and there cross the Rappahannock on pontoon bridges, which were to be sent from Washington. In my interview with General Halleck, I represented to him that soon after commencing the movement in the direction of Fredericksburg, my telegraphic communication with Washington would be broken, and that I relied upon him to see that such parts of my plan as required action in Washington would be carried out. He told me that everything required by me would receive his attention, and that he would at once order by telegraph the pontoon trains spoken of in my plan, and would, upon his return to Washington, see that they were promptly forwarded. After his return, he sent me the following telegram:
This despatch was received at my headquarters at Warrenton at eleven o'clock on the morning of the fourteenth instant, and I at once issued orders for the different commands to move in accordance with the above-mentioned plan. The remark in this despatch, indicating the great necessity for the speedy movement of the troops, was entirely in accordance with my own views, as the season was so far advanced that I looked for but little time in which to move the army effectively. General Sumner's grand division started at daylight on the morning of the fifteenth, and the grand divisions of Generals Franklin and Hooker, together with the cavalry, started on the sixteenth. General Sumner's advance reached Falmouth on the seventeenth. General Franklin concentrated his command at Stafford Court-House, and General Hooker his in the vicinity of Hartwood. The cavalry was ill the rear and covering the fords of the Rappahannock. The plan submitted by me on the ninth of November will explain fully the reasons for these movements. It contemplated, however, the prompt starting of pontoons from Washington. I supposed this would be attended to; but, feeling anxious to know something definite in regard to them before telegraphic communication with Washington should be interrupted, I directed Lieutenant Comstock, my Chief-Engineer, on the morning of the fourteenth, to ask General Woodbury, by telegraph, if the pontoons were ready to move. Not receiving an immediate reply, I directed him to telegraph to General Woodbury a second time, urging him to forward the trains promptly. To this second despatch he received the following answer on the morning of the fifteenth:H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.
This was my first information of delay; but the statement that thirty-six pontoons had arrived and forty more were expected next morning, connected with the statement that the first train (which would have been ample for our purposes) would start on the sixteenth or seventeenth, was deemed sufficient to authorize me in continuing the movements of the troops, as the pontoons would have arrived in very good time had they started as promised, although not so soon as I had expected. After the telegraphic communication between my headquarters and Washington was broken, General Woodbury sent in the following despatches, which reached me by orderlies after my arrival at Falmouth :Washington, November 14, 1862.Lieutenant Comstock: I have received your two telegrams to-day. Captain Spaulding has arrived, and thirty-six pontoons have arrived. Forty men are expected in the morning. Captain Spaulding received Captain Duane's order of the sixth on the afternoon of the twelfth. Our pontoon train can be got ready to start on Sunday or Monday morning (November sixteenth or seventeenth), depending some-what upon the Quartermaster's Department. General Halleck is not inclined to send another train by land, but will allow it, probably, if General Burnside insists. A second train can be sent by water to Aquia Creek, and from thence transported by the teams which carry the first.D. P. Woodbury, Brigadier-General.