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[363] Orange Court House, and thence by the road to Fredericksburg; taking but two days to reach Orange Court House. He arrived in the vicinity of Fredericksburg near the end of November, having successfully concealed his march, and went into camp between Fredericksburg and Guiney's station.

It is well known that both Lee and Jackson would have greatly preferred to meet the new Federal commander nearer to Richmond, probably on the south bank of the North Anna, where the topographic conditions are more favorable for a complete victory, and where he would be farther from his base of supplies and be compelled to detach large bodies of men to protect his lines of communication. But the Confederate authorities were wedded to a plan of defensive operations, and were unwilling to permit the Federal army to approach so near to Richmond and to overrun any more of Virginia's territory than could be prevented; therefore Lee, always obedient to superior authority, although exercised contrary to his judgment, prepared to dispute the further progress of the army of the Potomac, by selecting and hastily fortifying a strong line of defense along the wooded terraces that overlook the broad bottoms of the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg, and which, near that town, were the seats of numerous old-time Virginia mansions, up to where this Tidewater-bounding terrace is cut by the Rappahannock, at its falls, near Falmouth. Thousands of Lee's army were barefooted and destitute of clothing suitable for the rigors of the early winter, and many were even without muskets; and yet, Lee said, in a letter of that time, of this army of 72,000 veterans, that it ‘was never in better health or in better condition for battle than now.’

Interrupted in carrying out his intentions, Burnside took ample time to muster his 116,000 men and 350 pieces of artillery, many of them guns of long range, upon the commanding plateau north of the Rappahannock, known as Stafford heights, from which he looked down upon the heroic town of Fredericksburg—trembling in expectancy of destruction between the two great contending armies on either side of it. These heights commanded, by their elevation, not only the terraces behind Fredericksburg, but all the more-than-mile-wide bottom extending for several miles below that city.

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