This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 was necessary to construct bridges over the swollen waters of the Rappahannock. Burnside carried with him the pontons which played so important a part in the operations of the army since he had taken command of it. The day of January 20th was occupied in making all the necessary preparations for crossing. Fortune seemed at last to be smiling upon McClellan's successor. The secret of his movements had been well kept. The demonstrations which had been made lower down had for a moment routed the enemy, who was not ready to defend the right bank of the river at the point really menaced. The roads were good and the weather magnificent. Officers and soldiers would, at the first success, have forgotten their grievances and mistrust of their chief. It is true that the latter was in a position dangerous for a general, and especially for his army, in which this first success was absolutely indispensable, and when everything had to be risked in order to encompass it. He was not, however, even allowed to run this risk. The elements, which seemed to take a cruel pleasure in favoring him at first and in disappointing him afterward, interfered to deprive him of the last chance he had to obtain his revenge. A fearful storm broke out during the night of the 20th and 21st. The rising sun was to have seen the bridges ready to be thrown across the river, but the rain interfered with the preparations. When daylight appeared, it was still falling in torrents, and the soil of the swampy forests which border the Rappahannock was converted into soft, sticky paste, in which wagons, horses and soldiers sank deeper and deeper at every step. A few guns had, however, been placed in position on the margin of the river, and fifteen pontons were floating on the waters, which were visibly rising; but it required twenty of them to construct a single bridge. The longer the rain fell, the more the road was rendered impassable for the rest of the equipages, and every hour lost gave Lee an additional chance to arrive in time to dispute the passage of the river. During the whole day, in the midst of an incesssant rain, men and horses worked without intermission to push forward the vehicles that were conveying the boats. Fruitless efforts! at every step they sank deeper and deeper in the mud. The Confederate sharpshooters, who were watching the vain labors of their adversaries from the other side of the
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.