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[269] to cross the river before the arrival of the Confederates, and doubtless could have done so under cover of his 200 cannon when he first reached the scene, because the river was low and fordable, but from prudential reasons, or otherwise, he did not attempt it.

About December 8th the river rose, and he decided to bridge it. During the delay, our forces were actively engaged building earthworks and rifle pits, which crowned the heights and surrounding country by the 10th of the month. Burnside, however, made strong demonstrations above and below the city, which necessarily called to each point a part of General Lee's force. Burnside evidently expected to surprise General Lee at Fredericksburg and defeat us before A. P. Hill and Jackson could return, but the obstructions in his pathway were sufficient to delay his passage until they were there.

Fredericksburg is not a strategic point. On both sides of the Rappahannock there are hills which run parallel with the river. On the south side there is a valley from 600 to 1,500 yards wide before the hills are reached, while in the north shore the ridges are near the river. Stafford heights on the north side command the city, and also the river, for two miles in each direction It will, therefore, be understood that the Confederates could not prevent the crossing of Burnside's army, but what they could do and did do, after he had crossed, constitutes a bright page in the world's history. As before stated, Barksdale's Brigade occupied the city and built rifle pits along the front. Lieutenant-Colonel John C. Fiser, of the 17th Mississippi, with his own regiment, four companies of the 18th and three or four from the 21st Regiment, occupied the immediate river front as a picket line, where he also dug rifle pits. It was the evident purpose of General Burnside to make his main attack on the city. Major-General Lafayatte McLaws, with his division, was assigned to that important position, and Barksdale was given the post of honor for the division.

During the night of December 10th, the enemy began to lay his pontoons. We could distinctly hear the noise of launching the boats and laying down the planks. The work was prosecuted with wonderful skill and energy, and by 3 o'clock A. M. of the 11th we could hear them talking in undertones. General Barksdale directed us to remain quiet, and offer no resistance until the bridge approached our shore. About 4 o'clock a battery posted on the ridge back of the town fired a few shots at the bridge, then the Mississippians poured a concentrated fire on it. The bridge was doubtless

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