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 only ended for the purpose of entering upon a desperate enterprise. The night was clear and cold, and the artillery rolled lightly along the frozen roads. Franklin, with his grand division, was to throw across three ponton bridges on the left—two a little above the mouth of Deep Run, and the last lower down, opposite Smithfield. Sumner was ordered to cross over by two other bridges in front of Fredericksburg, Hooker to remain on the right bank ready to cross the river in order to support either. The reserve artillery, under the immediate command of General Hunt, took position on the summit of Stafford Heights, so as to protect the operation. The boats, being speedily unloaded, were thrown upon the water, and the process of constructing the bridges commenced. The most profound silence prevailed on both sides of the Rappahannock. In the eyes of the Confederate sentinels, who were watching the northern horizon, the heights on the left bank, which were only visible through the reflection of lights which their adversaries were striving to hide, seemed to wear the pale crown of an aurora borealis. In front of the Federals were deployed in a vast semicircle the bivouac fires of Longstreet's corps, the bright flames of which presented in relief the formidable positions that were to be attacked. Soon, however, the sound of the pontoniers' hammers attracted the attention of the advanced posts of Barksdale's Mississippi brigade, which occupied Fredericksburg; they gave signal of the danger by a few musket-shots, and shortly after, toward five o'clock in the morning, two cannon-shots, fired from one of the batteries of Marye's Hill, aroused the whole Confederate army. Before daylight a thin fog spread like a curtain between the two belligerents, but it was not dense enough to completely intercept the view from one side of the river to the other, and prevent Barksdale's soldiers from firing upon the Federal pontoniers, who were bringing their boats into position one by one and adjusting the planks of the flooring. The firing presently became so brisk that, despite their coolness, the latter were obliged to suspend their work. Several Union regiments hastened down to the shore to protect them; but being more exposed than the enemy, who lay concealed in the houses and cellars adjoining the river, they sustained
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