General said to him that it was impossible to advance; upon which he returned to me to show why General Franklin thought it was impossible to advance. When he communicated the reply to me, he says that my reply was, “But he (General Franklin) must advance.” I then sent Captain Goddard to General Franklin with an order, which the following statement will explain:
I had before this sent to General Franklin an order by telegraph, directing him to make an attack upon the heights immediately in his front. General Sumner's corps was held in position until after eleven o'clock, in the hope that Franklin would make such an impression upon the enemy as would enable him (Sumner) to carry the enemy's line near the telegraph and plank roads. Feeling the importance of haste, I now directed General Sumner to commence his attack. He had already issued his orders, but had, in accordance with my instructions, directed his troops to be held in readiness for the attack, but not to move without further orders from him. The enemy was strongly posted along the crest in his front, covered by rifle-pits and batteries, which gave him a commanding sweep of the ground over which our troops had to pass. I supposed, when I ordered General Sumner to attack, that General Franklin's attack on the left would have been made before General Sumner's men would be engaged, and would have caused the enemy to weaken his forces in front of General Sumner, and I therefore hoped to break through their lines at this point. It subsequently appeared that this attack had not been made at the time General Sumner moved, and, when it was finally made, proved to be in such small force as to have had no permanent effect upon the enemy's line. General Sumner's order directed the troops of General Combs' corps to commence the attack: French's division led, supported by Hancock, and finally by Howard. Two divisions of Wilcox's corps (Sturgis' and Getty's) participated in the attack. Never did men fight more persistently than this brave, grand division of General Sumner. The officers and men seemed to be inspired with the lofty courage and determined spirit of their noble commander; but the position was too strong for them. I beg to refer to the report of General Sumner for a more extended account of the working of his command, and the cavalry division under General Pleasonton. At 1:30 P. M. I ordered General Hooker to support General Sumner with his command; soon after receiving the order, he (General H.) sent an Aide-de-Camp to me with a statement that he did not think the attack would be successful. I directed him to make the assault. Some time afterward General Hooker came to me in person with the same statement. I reiterated my order, which he then proceeded to obey. The afternoon was now well advanced. General Franklin before this had been positively ordered to attack with his whole force, and I hoped before sundown to have broken through the enemy's line. This order was not carried out. At four P. M. General Humphreys was directed to attack, General Sykes' division moving in support of Humphreys' right. All these men fought with determined courage, but without success. General Humphreys was conspicuous for his gallantry throughout the action. Our forces had been repulsed at all points, and it was necessary to look upon the day's work as a failure. It is not pleasant to dwell upon these results even at this distance of time, and I have, therefore, been thus brief in my statement of them. From the night of the thirteenth until the night of the fifteenth, our men held their positions. Something was done in the way of intrenching, and some angry skirmishing and annoying artillery firing was indulged in in the meantime. I directed preparations to be made for another attack on the morning of the fourteenth, but, for reasons not necessary to mention here, I countermanded the order. On the night of the fifteenth I decided to remove the army to the north side of the river, and the work was accomplished without loss of men or material. The reports of the grand division commanders give the details of this movement. My Aide-de-Camp, Major William Cutting, remained on the south side until the last of the troops passed over, and reported to me at daylight that the bridges were being taken up. The grand divisions returned to their respective positions. On the seventeenth of December I made a report to General Halleck. I refer to this because it was understood by many that it was written at the suggestion of the President or Secretary of War. Such is not the fact. It was written at my headquarters, without consultation with anybody outside of my own personal staff, and is correct in all particulars. Immediately after the engagement on the thirteenth I sent Major William Goddard with despatches to Washington, and on the following morning forwarded others by Colonel Lloyd Aspinwall, requesting them both to give to the authorities at Washington verbal information of what had transpired. Preparations were at once commenced to refit the army, and I decided to make another movement against the enemy. On the twenty-sixth of December I ordered three days cookedI was sent on the day of the battle of Fredericksburg to General Franklin, on the left, with this order from General Burnside: “Tell General Franklin, with my compliments, that I wish him to make a vigorous attack with his whole force. Our right is hard pressed.” This order was given me about 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon, and I delivered it to General Franklin in the presence of General Hardie, before 2:30 o'clock.R. H. I. Goddard, Captain, and A. D. C.