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[578] great losses without being able to silence the guns. Day broke and the morning advanced without any progress having been made by the Federals in their work; their operations had been resumed three or four times, but the precision of the enemy's fire had always stopped them. The unfinished bridge was covered with blood; it was time, therefore, to bring matters to a crisis. Intelligence had been brought that on the left Franklin had not met with any serious obstacle; this would have been the time for Burnside to take a new departure, and mass all his troops in that direction, confining himself to some simple demonstrations before Fredericksburg to occupy the enemy. But the hills of Marye's Heights, which the mist screened from view, were the object of all his preoccupation, and the difficulties of the crossing disturbed him without deterring him from his purpose. The town-clock of Fredericksburg, which had also been enveloped in the thickening fog, had just struck eleven. The position of the town was well known; and notwithstanding this fog, Burnside ordered it to be bombarded, in the hope of dislodging the Mississippians, who had hitherto so gallantly held him in check.

When Sumner had arrived at Falmouth three weeks before, he had warned the mayor of Fredericksburg of the danger the population of that town would incur, which population before the war numbered about five thousand souls. That portion of the inhabitants who were in easy circumstances had abandoned the place; but the others had either remained, or returned to their homes after a few days' absence, and were living between two powerful armies, whose first encounter must necessarily take place in their streets, without seeming to care for either. It required Barksdale's brisk, sharp musketry to make them quit their dwellings and seek refuge in the rear of Longstreet's lines. When the bombardment commenced, the town was deserted. The sound of one hundred and fifty cannon, opening fire at once, was repeated in the distance by the echoes of the Rappahannock, and conveyed to the Confederate generals confirmation of the notice given in the morning by the alarm signal.

Toward one o'clock the appearance of flames, seen through the mist, announced that Fredericksburg was on fire; and shortly after, a light breeze sprang up as if by magic, tearing asunder the humid

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