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[5] Between the ridge and the river there is a plain, narrow at the point where Fredericksburg stands, but widening out as it approaches the Massaponax. On the north side of the river the high bluffs gave us good opportumties for placing the batteries which were to command the town and the plains upon which our troops were to move.

Had it been determined to cross at “Snicker's Neck” I should have endeavored, in case of success, to have moved in the direction of Guinness Station with a view of interrupting the enemy's communications, and forcing him to fight outside his intrenchments. When this intention was abandoned, in consequence of the heavy concentration of the enemy at or near Snicker's Neck, and it had been decided to cross at or near the town, I hoped to be able to seize some point on the enemy's line near the Massaponax, and thereby separate his forces on the river below, from those occupying the crest or ridge in rear of the town.

In speaking of this crest or ridge I shall speak of it as occupied by the enemy; and shall call the point near the Massaponax the right of the crest; and that on the river, and in rear of and above the town, the left; and in speaking of our forces, it will be remembered that General Sumner's command was our extreme right, and General Franklin's command was on the extreme left.

During the night of the tenth the bridge material was taken to the proper points on the river, and soon after three o'clock in the morning of the eleventh, the working parties commenced throwing the bridges, protected by infantry placed under cover of the banks, and by artillery on the bluffs above. One of the lower bridges for General Franklin's command was completed by 10:30 A. M., without serious trouble, and afterwards a second bridge was constructed at the same point. The upper bridge near the Lacey House and the middle bridge near the steamboat landing were about two-thirds built at six A. M., when the enemy opened upon the working parties with musketry, with such severity as to cause them to leave the work. Our artillery was unable to.silence this fire, the fog being so dense as to make accurate firing impossible. Frequent attempts were made to continue the work, but to no purpose.

About noon the fog cleared away, and we were able with our artillery to check the fire of the enemy. After consultation with Generals Hunt and Woodbury, I decided to resume the work on the bridges, and gave directions in accordance with a suggestion of General Hunt to send men over in pontoons to the other shore as rapidly as possible to drive the enemy from his position on the opposte bank. This work was most gallantly performed by Colonel Hill brigade, the Seventh Michigan, Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, at the upper bridges, and by the Eighty-ninth New York at the middle bridges, and the enemy were soon driven from their positions. The throwing of the bridges was resumed, and they were soon afterwards finished.

No more difficult feat has been performed during the war, than the throwing of the bridges in the face of the enemy, by these brave men, and I take pleasure in referring to the reports of General Woodbury and Lieutenant Comstock for a more detailed account of this gallant work.

It was now near nightfall; one brigade of Franklin's division crossed over the south side, drove the enemy's pickets from the houses near the bridge-head, and Howard's division, together with a brigade from the Ninth corps, both of General Sumner's command, crossed over on the upper and middle bridges, and, after some sharp skirmishing, occupied the town before daylight on the morning of the twelfth.

During this day (the twelfth) Sumner's and Franklin's commands crossed over and took position on the south bank, and General Hooker's grand division was held in readiness to support either the right or left, or to press the enemy in case the other commands succeeded in moving him.

The line as now established was as follows: Second corps held the centre and right of the town; Ninth corps was on the left of the Second corps, and connected with General Franklin's right at Deep Run, the whole of this force being nearly parallel to the river. The Sixth corps was formed on the left of the Ninth corps, nearly parallel with the Old Richmond road, and the First corps on the left of the Sixth, nearly at right angles with it, its left resting on the river. The plain below the town is interrupted by hedges and ditches to a considerable extent, which gives good covering to an enemy, making it difficult to manoeuvre upon.

The Old Richmond road spoken of above, runs from the town in a line nearly parallel with the river, to a point near the Massaponax, where it turns to the south and passes near the right of the crest or ridge which runs in rear of the town, and was then occupied by the enemy in force. In order to pass down this road, it was necessary to occupy the extreme right of this crest, which wag designated on the map then in use by the army as “Hamilton's.”

By night of the twelfth the troops were all in position, and I visited the different commands, with a view to determining as to future movements. The delay in laying the bridges had rendered some change in the plan of attack necessary, and the orders already issued were to be superseded by new ones. It was after midnight when I returned from visiting the different commands, and before daylight of the thirteenth I prepared the following orders:

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, December 13--5:55 A. M.
Major-General Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division, Army of the Potomac:
General Hardie will carry this despatch to you, and remain with you during the day. The

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