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[340] it was undoubtedly designed at Washington as a coup daetat, with reference to the fall elections of 1862, and influenced by the argument that a time when the Administration party was incurring defeat in the elections, it was dangerous to allow a political opponent to possess the confidence and to hold the chief command of the main army.

Gen. Burnside found at his command a splendid army. It was now divided into three grand divisions, each consisting of two corps, and commanded by Gens. Sumner, Hooker, and Franklin. It was at once proposed by Burnside to move from Warrenton to a new line of operations, and to make a campaign on the Lower Rappahannock. His plan was to march rapidly down the left bank of that river, to cross by means of pontoons at Fredericksburg, and to advance on Richmond by Hanover Court House. For this plan of operations against the Confederate capital, the advantages were claimed that it would avoid the necessity of the long lines of communication which would have to be held in case of a movement against Richmond by Gordonsville; that, in fact, the Federal army, after arriving at Fredericksburg, would be at a point nearer to Richmond than it would be even if it should take Gordonsville; and that it would all the time be as near Washington as would be the Confederates, thus covering that city and defeating the objection to the adoption of the line of the Peninsular campaign.

On the 15th November, it was known by Gen. Lee that the enemy was in motion towards the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and one regiment of infantry, with a battery of light artillery, was sent to reinforce the garrison at Fredericksburg. On the 17th, it was ascertained that Sumner's corps had marched from Catlett's Station, in the direction of Falmouth, and information was also received that, on the 15th, some Federal gunboats and transports had entered Acquia Creek. This looked as if Fredericksburg was again to be occupied, and McLaws' and Ransom's divisions, accompanied by W. H. Lee's brigade of cavalry and Lane's battery, were ordered to proceed to that city. To ascertain more fully the movements of the enemy, Gen. Stuart was directed to cross the Rappahannock. On the morning of the 18th, he forced a passage at Warrenton Springs, in the face of a regiment of cavalry and three pieces of artillery, guarding the ford, and reached Warrenton soon after the last of the enemy's column had left. The information he obtained confirmed the impression that the whole Federal army, under Burnside, was moving towards Fredericksburg. On the morning of the 19th, therefore, the remainder of Longstreet's corps was put in motion for that point.

It arrived there before any large body of the enemy had appeared. It is true that the Stafford Heights on the north bank of the river, were held by a Federal detachment many days ere the approach of the Confederate forces, but they had never attempted to cross over into the town. Picket

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