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[225] across the valley and took position near Guest's house where they were out of reach.

Seeing the enemy's wagons moving off from the town and not hearing Barksdale's rifles, I sent a staff officer to repeat the orders, and received a reply that he was preparing to send forward his skirmishers; a second messenger sent to him returned with the information that his skirmishers reported a heavy force holding the town, entrenched within rifle pits. The enemy's wagon trains had thus made their escape, and I sent orders to Barksdale to desist from the attack on the town and to dispose of his brigade so as to resist any advance from that direction. It turned out that the town was held by Gibbon's division which had been left behind.

I had listened anxiously to hear the sound of McLaws' guns or some indication of his being engaged, but heard nothing. The enemy had not expected us in this direction, and he was therefore evidently taken by surprise, but Gordon's advance, which was so handsomely made, being sooner than I had intended, had given the enemy time to form his troops in line, to meet any further advance I could make after my arrival; and as the character of the ground was such that considerable bodies of troops could be concealed from my view from any point that was accessible to me, I could not tell what force I would have to encounter on ascending the hills above.

I could see that all the little works on the heights were occupied by infantry, making a line extending across from Taylor's Hill to the brow of the hill beyond and above the Alum Spring Mill. Gordon's and Smith's brigades had taken position in the trenches along the crests from the Plank road towards Taylor's Hill, facing towards the enemy above and with their backs towards Fredericksburg. The enemy did not open then with artillery, and as they were very much exposed, I thought possibly he did not have any on that flank, and I therefore determined to feel him and make him develop what he had.

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