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[370] their divisions, in great disorder, to beyond the railroad, capturing their field artillery. The Sixth Federal corps, in reserve, made noisy demonstrations with its artillery, but rendered no other assistance to its discomfited comrades.

Near the middle of the afternoon, as Lee beheld the flight of Franklin's men from their assault on Jackson, he saw Sturgis' division, of the Ninth corps, move from the cover of Fredericksburg for a fourth assault upon Marye's heights. These met the same fate as did their predecessors, and a thousand of them were soon added to the dead and the dying already covering the narrow field between Fredericksburg and the sunken road; while the driven-back living remnants of the division crouched behind the embankments of the canal and any cover that the broken field presented. With the entire battlefield in his telescopic view, and doubtless satisfied, from the failure of his fourth assault, of the folly and uselessness of again attacking Lee's left, Burnside now ordered Franklin to renew the battle on his left. But that leader, sufficiently punished by his two previous assaults on Jackson, and losing confidence in his men, who hesitated to close in another conflict with that intrepid fighter, flatly disobeyed the commands of his superior, and so the contest on the Federal left was practically ended.

Stung almost to madness by the impending total defeat of his first essay in combat of the army of the Potomac with that of Northern Virginia, Burnside, against the advice of Hooker, ordered the Fifth corps to undertake the task in which the Second, in four heroic assaults, had so signally failed. Anticipating that another effort would be made by fresh troops in this direction, Lee had placed two fresh regiments in the sunken road and two on the crest of the heights, all in command of Ransom, and Alexander's guns were substituted for those of the Washington artillery. Humphreys' division, of the Second Federal corps, advanced to the ordered assault, with a spirit worthy of its intrepid leader (who had, in the old army, been one of General Lee's younger favorites) with fixed bayonets, across the field covered with the ghastly wreckage of the Second corps. A fiery sheet of shot and shell and musketry met them as they approached the sunken road, and one after another of Humphreys' brigades fled from the fearful slaughter, broken and disorganized.

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