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[567] easy, but the circumstances which had already detained Sumner at Falmouth rendered it very dangerous at a time when Lee was already approaching Fredericksburg, and a copious rain, submerging all the fords, interposed a formidable barrier before the Federal army. Burnside, having massed his entire force along the hills on the right bank, whence he could see the plains into which he was unable to descend, and also the heights yet unoccupied by the enemy, was obliged to wait for the arrival of the equipages upon which he had so imprudently relied. The army of the Potomac was not only unable to take a single step in advance, but even found the greatest difficulty to subsist in its positions. The provisions it had brought along were exhausted, the Aquia Creek Railroad and the landing-piers were not yet reconstructed, and the wagons that had been sent to this point to transport articles of food were very slow in bringing them over. In the mean time, the forty-eight boats were waiting, unknown to the general-in-chief, in the small bay of Belle Plaine for the vehicles and the remainder of the equipages, which still lay embedded in the bogs of the Occoquan.

Lee's entire army, on the contrary, was advancing by forced marches. Thoroughly informed as to what the enemy was doing, owing to the sympathies of the inhabitants of the country, he had been aware of the movement of the Federals along the left bank of the Rappahannock since the 15th, a few hours after Sumner had started. This intelligence had been confirmed on the 17th, and he had at the same time learned of the arrival of several transports at Aquia Creek. This was sufficient to enable him to form an idea of Burnside's project. A few feeble demonstrations against Culpepper could not deceive him, and he at once made his dispositions to be present at the rendezvous proposed by his new adversary before Fredericksburg.

The divisions of McLaws and Ransom, with artillery and a brigade of cavalry, were immediately sent to occupy this important point. On the same day, the 18th of November, Stuart, facing the passage of the Upper Rappahannock at Warrenton Springs, ascertained that the whole Federal army had left its positions and was proceeding toward Falmouth. Being now convinced that this movement was not a feint, Lee ordered the whole of Longstreet's

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