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[251] the point French had reached, and like those that went before them, were forced back after little more than fifteen immortal minutes. Of the five thousand men Hancock led into action, more than two thousand fell in that charge; and it was found that the bravest of these had thrown up their hands and lay dead within five-and-twenty paces of the stone wall.1 To relieve Hancock's and French's hard-pressed battalions, Howard's division now came up, and Sturgis' and Getty's divisions of the Ninth Corps advanced on Couch's left, and made several attacks in support of the brave troops of the Second Corps, who could not advance and would not retire; but all these could do was to hold a line well advanced on the plain under a continual murderous fire of artillery.

It is hardly to be supposed that General Burnside had contemplated the bloody sequence to which he was committing himself when first he ordered a division to assail the heights of Fredericksburg; but having failed in the first assault, and then in the second and third, there grew up in his mind something which those around him saw to be akin to desperation. Riding down from his headquarters2 to the bank of the Rappahannock, he walked restlessly up and down, and gazing over at the heights across the river, exclaimed vehemently, ‘That crest must be carried to-night.’3 Already, however, every thing had been thrown in, saving Hooker, and he was now ordered over the river.

Crossing with three of his divisions, Hooker went forward, reconnoitred the ground, consulted with those who had preceded

1 Hancock took five thousand and six men into action, and his loss.numbered two thousand and thirteen men, of whom one hundred and fifty-six were commissioned officers. The losses in some of the regiments were of a severity seldom seen in any battle, no matter how prolonged. ‘These were veteran regiments,’ says Hancock, ‘led by able and tried commanders.’—Report of Fredericksburg.

2 At the ‘Phillips House,’ a mile or so back from the river.

3 These statements are made from the personal knowledge of the writer, in whose presence what is related occurred.

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Winfield Scott Hancock (4)
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