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[598] greater confidence than it possessed before the battle. Fresh troops had everywhere taken the place of those who had been engaged on the 13th; new entrenchments had been erected during the night along the whole line occupied by Jackson and Hood; consequently, when daylight came, Lee was ardently wishing that his opponent would renew the fight. In the battle of the 13th his part as general-in-chief had not been of great importance, for the troops, once placed in line, had only to remain steady in the advantageous positions they occupied. But he too easily believed what he desired, and only made preparations for repelling a new assault. Indeed, he was not aware that his victory had been so complete and decisive as it really was, and all his generals were laboring under the same mistake. He has frequently been blamed for not having taken the offensive on the morning of the 14th to attack the Federal army, shut up as it was between the river and the positions it had been unable to carry. But this censure, in our opinion, is unjust. It does not follow because, with an army of eighty thousand men, he had held the Federals in check in the woods or behind earthworks, that he would necessarily have conquered them if he had come, in his turn, to measure strength with them in an open plain, where their excellent and numerous artillery would have recovered all its advantages. The army of Northern Virginia was the only bulwark of the Confederacy, and the latter was too poor in men to replace it. Lee had no right to sacrifice a portion of it in so hazardous an undertaking, however brilliant might be its results. By maintaining himself in his positions he rendered an offensive campaign against Richmond impossible, thereby fulfilling his true mission. But without hurling his infantry against the Federal battalions, the most experienced of which had rallied and re-formed during the night, he could have done them much harm by the fire of his artillery, which commanded the whole plain, and especially the town of Fredericksburg. Everything was ready for a bombardment; even the cannon-balls had been heated for the purpose. But Lee wanted to save his ammunition for the attack he was still expecting; and the day of the 14th passed away without being disturbed except by the fire of skirmishers, who were in close proximity to each other along the whole line.

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