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[562] point separates the Potomac from the Rappahannock, in one or two days; without this perfect coincidence, the presence of the pontons at Aquia Creek before the arrival of the army at Falmouth, or the arrival of the army before the pontons, would disclose Burnside's plan to the Confederates, and give them time to forestall him by occupying Fredericksburg.

General Halleck, perhaps for the first time approving a plan conceived by McClellan, was strongly in favor of the movement toward Culpepper, but returned to the capital without having been able to convince Burnside. He authorized the latter to make every preparation for marching upon Fredericksburg pending the decision of the President, and promised him so far as it lay in his power to see that his orders were not contravened at Washington. On the 14th of November he informed him by telegraph that the President, without approving his plan, accepted it, provided it should be promptly carried out.

Burnside set himself at once to work. On the 6th of November, McClellan had ordered his pontoniers at Berlin to pack up the bridges and take them back to Washington. This order was repeated on the 12th from Warrenton by Halleck himself, and Burnside naturally believed that the latter had also taken upon himself to superintend this part of the plan of campaign, which lay within the sphere of his authority. Consequently, he made all his arrangements in full expectation of finding his bridge equipage at Aquia Creek as soon as his heads of column should arrive at Falmouth. He was the more desirous to leave this responsibility with the Washington authorities because he was about to be deprived of all communication with the capital for several days, and would be unable, therefore, to direct the movements of his pontoniers even from a distance.

He would have felt less confident if he had remembered the disappointments experienced by McClellan and Pope under similar circumstances; in fact, the troops assembled at Washington being nominally all under the orders of the commander of the army of the Potomac, Halleck, once back at his office, gave himself no further trouble about the sending forward of the pontons. General Woodbury, who commanded the engineer brigade that had special charge of this equipage, received no positive instructions

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