attributed his defeat to the fact that the ‘enemy's fire was too hot.’
had expected Burnside
to renew the battle on the 14th, had every reason to believe that he would do so, and had made every necessary preparation to meet it. When that renewal was not made, he greatly desired to deliver a counterstroke, but the Federal
army was so covered by the numerous batteries on the Stafford heights
, which could not be reached by flank movement, that prudence forbade any attack on the Federal
received permission to attack the Federal
left, and just at the close of day of the 14th, he and Stuart
opened a fierce artillery fire on Franklin
along the line of the Richmond
road, but Franklin
's hundred field cannon and the heavy guns on Stafford heights
compelled an abandonment of the movement.
Not satisfied with this, Jackson
desired to make an assault with the bayonet, after nightfall; thinking that the Federal
batteries would not open on such an attack when they could not discriminate between friend and foe. Lee
deemed this too hazardous, as his army was too small for such an offensive movement.
He was not only receiving no reinforcements, but was constantly being called on to send away portions of his already small army to defend points in different States.
On the 16th of December, after the retreat of Burnside
to the Stafford heights
, General Lee
wrote to President Davis
I had supposed they were just preparing for battle, and was saving our men for the conflict.
Their hosts crowned the hill and plain beyond the river, and their numbers to me are unknown.
Still, I felt a confidence that we could stand the shock and was anxious for the blow that is to fall on some point, and was prepared to meet it here.
Yesterday evening I had my suspicions that they might return [to the Stafford heights] during the night, but could not believe that they would relinquish their hopes after all their boasting and preparation; and when I say that the latter is equal to the former, you will have some idea of the magnitude.
This morning they were all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock.
They went as they came—in the night.
They suffered heavily as far as their battle went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me.
In a letter to his wife, written on Christmas day, after the battle, he said, after recounting the mercies of God's providence to his people during the past year:
Our army was never in such good health and condition since I have been attached to it. I believe they share with me my disappointment that the enemy did not renew the combat on the 13th.