previous next

[4] depot as fast as they arrived. It should be remembered that this was on the fifteenth; one pontoon train, which would have been sufficient for our purposes, having arrived in Washington on the evening of the fourteenth. The second train arrived the day after the interview. Later on this day (the fifteenth) or the day after, General Woodbury directed Colonel Spaulding to make up two trains in rafts to go by water, and to organize the necessary transportation for forty pontoons by land.

Due diligence was, no doubt, made by Colonel Spaulding in prosecuting his work, but he was not impressed with the importance of speed; neither was he empowered with any special authority that would hasten the issuing of the necessary transportation.

The pontoons which started for Belle Plain on raft, arrived there on the eighteenth, but no wagons for their transportation from that place were sent with them, nor was any intimation given to Colonel Spaulding that any would be needed ; neither, to his knowledge, had any information of that kind been given to General Woodbury. Had this information been given to Colonel Spaulding, the necessary wagons could have been placed on the rafts and floated to Belle Plain, from which point the pontoons could have been hauled to Falmouth by teams from the army before the enemy had accumulated sufficient force to resist the crossing. This was not, however, the method by which it was expected the pontoons would arrive in time to cross the river before the enemy could concentrate to prevent it.

After arranging for these trains to go by water, Colonel Spaulding proceeded at once to make up the overland train, but was not enabled to start with it until the afternoon of the nineteenth. On this day it commenced raining, in consequence of which the roads became very bad. Great exertions were made by Colonel S. to push his train forward, but, before his arrival at the Occoquan, he decided to raft his boats when he reached that river and have them towed to Belle Plain, for which purpose he sent an officer back for a steamer to meet him at the mouth of the river. The animals were sent overland. He arrived at Belle Plain with his pontoons on the twenty-fourth, and by the night of the twenty-fifth he was encamped near general headquarters.

By this time the enemy had concentrated a large force on the opposite side of the river, so that it became necessary to make arrangements to cross in the face of a vigilant and formidable force. These arrangements were not completed until about the tenth of December. In the meantime the troops were stationed with a view to accumulating supplies and getting in readiness for the movement.

I omitted to say that on the nineteenth instant I received through Colonel Richmond, my Assistant Adjutant-General, a communication from General Hooker, suggesting the crossing of a force at the fords above Falmouth. This letter appears in his (General Hooker's) report.

I determined to make preparations to cross the river at Snicker's Neck, about fourteen miles below Fredericksburg, and if the movements of the enemy favored the crossing at that point, to avail myself of such preparations; otherwise, to adopt such a course as his movements rendered necessary.

The ground of this movement was favorable for crossing, but our preparations attracted the attention of the enemy, after which he made formidable arrangements to meet us at this place.

The necessary orders, both written and verbal, had been given for the troops to be in readiness to move, with the requisite amount of ammunition and supplies. Before issuing final orders, I concluded that the enemy would be more surprised by a crossing at or near Fredericksburg, where we were making no preparations, than by a crossing at “Snicker's Neck,” and I determined to make the attempt at the former place.

It was decided to throw four or five pontoon bridges across the river. Two at a point near the “Lacey House,” opposite the upper part of the town; one near the steamboat landing at the lower part of the town, and one about a mile below, and if there were pontoons sufficient, two at the latter point.

Final orders were now given to the corn manders of the three grand divisions to concentrate their troops near the places for the proposed bridges; to the Chief Engineer to make arrangements to throw the bridges; to the Chief Quartermaster to have the trains of the army in such positions as not to impede the movements of the troops, and at the same time to be in readiness, in case of success, to follow their separate commands with supplies of subsistence stores, forage, and ammunition; to the Chief of Artitlery to post his batteries so as to cover the working parties, while they were constructing the bridges, and the army while crossing.

In speaking of the movements of the troops, I shall as nearly as possible confine myself to the movements of the grand divisions, and must refer to the reports of the Commanders for more detailed statements.

The right grand division (General Sumner) was directed to concentrate near the upper and middle bridges; the left grand division (General Franklin) near the bridges below the town; the centre grand division (General Hooker) near to and in rear of General Sumner.

These arrangements were made with a view to throwing the bridges on the morning of the eleventh of December. The enemy held possession of the City of Fredericksburg, and the crest or ridge running from a point on the river just above Falmouth to the Massaponax, some four miles below. This ridge was in rear of the city, forming an angle with the Rappahannock.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
S. R. Spaulding (5)
Joseph Hooker (3)
D. P. Woodbury (2)
E. V. Sumner (2)
Richmond (1)
John Franklin (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 11th (1)
December 10th (1)
24th (1)
19th (1)
18th (1)
15th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: