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[602] army of Northern Virginia, on the contrary, the year 1863 opened under the best auspices. Thanks to the despotic energy of the Richmond government, the absence of all political discussion in the interior of the Confederacy, and, above all, to the superior talent of Lee and his two principal lieutenants, this army had then no equal either in the North or South for discipline and cohesion. It was not entirely free from desertions into the interior, which, as we have before stated, were very considerable. But these desertions, which met with no encouragement among the people, did not prevent its ranks from being better filled than they had been for the last six months.

It did not, however, attempt any aggressive movement, being satisfied with holding the enemy's army in check. Lee merely sent off some parties of cavalry at the latter end of December, which proceeded as far as Fairfax Court-house, but were driven back by Stahel's brigade.

We shall only encroach, by a few days, upon the year 1863, in order to finish with this chapter the period of Burnside's command. This general had soon discovered the authors of the reports which had determined Mr. Lincoln to put so sudden an end to his movements on December 30th. He did not otherwise deceive himself as to the disposition of all his lieutenants toward him. Before resuming his aggressive plans, about the middle of January, he asked the President either to accept his resignation or to approve of his plan for a new campaign on the other side of the Rappahannock, of which he alone assumed the responsibility. He was authorized to carry out this plan, and he set himself immediately to work. He proposed to cross the Rappahannock above Fredericksburg, while Siegel's corps, which had recently joined him, should guard his communications with Falmouth, and that of Couch draw the attention of the enemy toward the lower part of the river. New roads were cut through the forest in order to facilitate the movements of the army; and, reconnaissances having shown that the point called Banks' Ford, ten kilometres above Fredericksburg, was not occupied in force by the enemy, the grand divisions of Franklin and Hooker bivouacked on the 20th within reach of this point. Banks' Ford is a ford in summer, but at that season of the year it was not passable, and it

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