base hills, or by flank along the Telegraph
and Plank roads, and then they would have been so much scattered by the artillery from the north bank, which would then have had a more effective range than even on the plains, that it would not have required the reserves, posted behind the houses and defences in the town, to complete the repulse and disaster.
As to a night attack, that is a very easy thing to talk about but a most hazardous experiment to try, especially on dark nights such as we then had. Such attacks cannot be ventured on with safety unless with the most thoroughly trained troops, and then not in large bodies, for fear of confusion and firing into each other, the very dread of which often paralyzes very brave troops.
It has been said that General Lee
might have inflicted tremendous damage upon the enemy by forcing hot shot and shell into Fredericksburg
while the enemy's troops were massed there.
The heroic and patriotic people of that town, when it was threatened with a bombardment by Sumner
, had not appealed to the commander of their country's army to cause the danger to be removed from them by not resisting its occupation by the enemy, but had exhibited most commendable unselfishness by, in most cases, abandoning their homes without a murmur, while there were some too poor to move elsewhere, and others who chose to remain and share all the dangers of the approaching struggle; it was not in the heart of the noble commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to doom, by his own act, the remaining few of that devoted people and the homes of the absent to destruction, for the sake of killing and wounding a few thousand of the enemy, and causing dismay among the remainder.
Is this forbearance one to be criticised with severity as a grievous military blunder?
It is probable that if General Lee
had known that the enemy was evacuating the town, his artillery might have inflicted considerable damage, but the enemy had