On the nineteenth General Hooker's grand division was at Hartwood, and a portion of the cavalry occupied positions above him, opposite the fords, where they could cross upon the receipt of the necessary orders. It was my intention, and I so informed General Halleck, to cross some of the cavalry, and, possibly, a small force of light infantry and artillery, over the fords of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, with a view to moving rapidly upon Fredericksburg and holding the south bank of the river while bridges were being laid; but the above telegrams, announcing still further delay in the arrival of means to cross the main army, decided me in the already half formed determination not to risk sending a portion of the command on the opposite side of the river until I had the means for crossing the main body. Subsequent events proved the wisdom of this course, by showing that none of these fords are reliable for the passage of large bodies of troops without the use of temporary bridges ; and the pontoons did not arrive until the twenty-fifth. It is possible that the cavalry with some light infantry could have crossed both rivers and moved down to Fredericksburg, on the south side, but before the pontoons arrived, enabling the entire army to cross; this force would have been called on to resist an attack from the greater portion of General Lee's army. General Sumner, on arriving at Falmouth on the seventeenth, suggested crossing a portion of his force over the fords at that place with a view to taking Fredericksburg; but from information in my possession as to the condition of the ford, I decided that it was impracticable to cross large bodies of troops at that place. It was afterward ascertained that they could not have crossed. On my arrival at Falmouth on the seventeenth, I despatched to General Halleck's Chief of Staff a report which explained the movements of troops up to that date, and who stated the fact of the non-arrival of the pontoon trains. These pontoon trains and supplies, which were expected to meet us on our arrival at Falmouth, could have been readily moved overland in time for our purposes in perfect safety, as they would all the time have been between our army and the Potomac River, and had they started from Washington at the promised time they would have certainly reached Stafford Court House as soon as the advance of General Franklin's grand division, and from that point they could have been forwarded by his teams to Falmouth, if the teams from Washington had needed rest. On the twenty-second not hearing from these trains, I sent a report to General Halleck. It appeared afterward that no supplies had been started overland as suggested in my plan of operations; and the pontoon train did not leave Washington until the afternoon of the nine-teenth--two days after the arrival of the advance of the army at Falmouth, and five days after the arrival of the pontoons in Washington from the Upper Potomac. From the report of Colonel Spaulding, who had charge of the pontoons, and from other sources of information. I learned that the order of the sixth of November, from Captain Duane, of the Staff of General McClellan, to move from Berlin to Washington with his train, was not received by Colonel Spaulding until the twelfth instant; that he then at once gave the necessary directions for carrying out the order, after which he proceeded to Washington, arriving there at half-past 10 P. M., on the thirteenth, and reported to General Woodbury, at his residence in the city, the same night, and was requested to call at the General's office the next morning, the fourteenth. Colonel Spaulding called upon General Woodbury at the hour appointed on the morning of the fourteenth, and was requested by the General to wait until he called upon General Halleck. In about one hour General Woodbury returned and directed Colonel Spaulding to put his pontoon material in depot at the brigade shops on the Anacosti River, near Washington, as fast as it arrived from Berlin, and go into camp there with his men. The Colonel considered this as countermanding his order to make up the overland pontoon train, and knowing that General McClellan had been relieved after the order had been issued, inferred that the plan for the campaign had been changed with the change of commanders, and that the land train was not required. He visited General Woodbury's office again on the morning of the fifteenth; did not find him in, but was informed that he had gone to see General Halleck; but while waiting for his return was told that a despatch had been received from Lieutenant Comstock, my Chief Engineer, wishing to know if he (Colonel Spaulding), with his pontoon train, had been heard from. After some time General Woodbury came in, and in the course of conversation repeated the order to put the pontoon trains inheadquarters Eng. Brig., Washington, D. C., November 17, 1862--7 P. M.Major Spaulding has not been able to get off to-day. He expects to start at ten A. M. to-morrow. I will telegraph when he leaves.
Lieutenant Comstock, Engineer, General Burnside's Headquarters, A. of P.:H. Bowers, A. A, General.
headquarters Eng. Brig., Washington, D. C. November 18, 1862.Major Spaulding has been delayed in obtaining harness, teamsters, etc., for two hundred and seventy new horses. He expects to start tonight.
Lieutenant Comstock, or in his absence, Chief of General Burnside's Staff:D. P. Woodbury, Brigadier-General, Volunteers.