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Doc. 12.-General Halleck's report of operations in 1863.

Headquarters of the army, Washington, D. C., November 15, 1863.
Sir: In compliance with your orders, I submit the following summary of military operations since my last annual report:

Department of West-Virginia and army of the Potomac.

When General Burnside relieved General McClellan from his command on the seventh of November of last year, the army of the Potomac was on the south side of the Potomac, under instructions to pursue Lee by a flank march on the interior line to Richmond, hugging closely to the Blue Ridge, so as to observe its passes and to give battle to the enemy whenever an opportunity occurred.

On reaching Warrenton, however, General Burnside proposed to give up this pursuit of Lee's army toward Richmond, and to move down the north side of the Rappahannock to Falmouth, and establish a new base of supplies at Acquia Creek or Belle Plain. This proposed change of base was not approved by me, and in a personal interview at Warrenton I strongly urged him to retain his present base, and to continue his march toward Richmond in a manner pointed out in the President's letter of October thirteenth, 1862, to General McClellan.

General Burnside did not fully concur in the President's view, but finally consented to so modify his plan as to cross his army by the fords of the upper Rappahannock, and then move down and seize the heights south of Fredericksburgh, while a small force was to be sent north of the river to enable General Haupt to reopen the railroad and to rebuild the bridges, the materials for which were nearly ready in Alexandria. I, however, refused to give any official approval of this deviation from the President's instructions until his assent was obtained. On my return to Washington, on the thirteenth, I submitted to him this proposed change in the plan of campaign, and, on its receiving his assent rather than approval, I telegraphed, on the fourteenth, authority to General Burnside to adopt it. I here refer not to General Burnside's written plan to go to Falmouth, but to that of crossing the Rappahannock above its junction with the Rapidan.

It has been inferred, from the testimony of General Burnside before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, that his plan of marching his whole army on the north of the Rappahannock from Warrenton to Falmouth, had been approved by the authorities in Washington, and that he expected, on his arrival there, to find supplies and pontoons, with gunboats to cover his crossing. In the first place, that plan was never approved, nor was he ever authorized to adopt it. In the second place, he could not possibly have expected supplies and pontoons to be landed at points then occupied in force by the [169] enemy. Again, he was repeatedly informed that gunboats could not at that time ascend the Rappahannock to Fredericksburgh.

General Burnside did not commence his movement from Warrenton till the fifteenth, and then, instead of crossing the Rappahannock by the fords, as he was expected to do, he marched his whole army down on the north bank of the river, his advance reaching Falmouth on the twentieth. Lee's army, in the mean time, moved down the south side of the river, but had not occupied Fredericksburgh on the twenty-first. The river was at this time fordable a few miles above the town, and General Sumner asked permission to cross and occupy the heights, but it was refused, and no attempt was made to effect the passage till the eleventh of December, by which time Lee's army had been concentrated and strongly entrenched. This passage, however, was effected without serious opposition, with the right wing and centre, under Sumner and Hooker, at Fredericksburgh, and the left wing, under Franklin, on the bridges established some miles below. It was intended that Franklin's grand division, consisting of the corps of Reynolds and Smith, should attack the enemy's right, and turn his position on the heights in the rear of Fredericksburgh, while Sumner and Hooker attacked him in front. But by some alleged misunderstanding of orders, Franklin's operations were limited to a mere reconnoissance, and the direct attacks of Sumner and Hooker were unsupported. The contest on the right wing, during the thirteenth, was continued till half-past 5 P. M., when our men were forced to fall back, after suffering terrible losses.

Both armies remained in position till the night of the sixteenth of October, when General Burnside withdrew his forces to the north side of the Rappahannock. General Burnside has been frequently requested to make an official report of these operations, but has furnished no information beyond that contained in his brief telegrams, sent from the battle-field, in one of which he uses the following language: “The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton to this line, rather against the opinion of the President, the Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you have left the whole movement in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me the more responsible.”

The loss of the rebels in this battle is not known. As they were sheltered by their fortifications, it was probably less than our, which, as officially reported, was one thousand one hundred and thirty-eight killed, nine hundred and fifteen wounded, and two thousand six hundred and seventy-eight missing. Most of the missing and many of the slightly wounded soon rejoined the regiments and reported for duty.

It was alleged at the time that the loss of this battle resulted from the neglect to order forward the pontoon train from Washington. This order was transmitted for Warrenton to Brigadier-General Woodbury, then in Washington, on the twelfth of November, and was promptly acted on by him. General Burnside had supposed that the pontoon train was then in Washington or Alexandria, while it was still on the Potomac, at Berlin and Harper's Ferry, General Burnside's order to send it to Washington not having been received by the officer left in charge there. General Burnside had only allowed time for transporting pontoons from Alexandria, when they had to be first transported to that place from Berlin. Delay was therefore entirely unavoidable, and, on investigation of the matter by General Burnside, General Woodbury was exonerated from all blame.

General Hooker relieved General Burnside from his command on the twenty-fifth of January, but no advance movement was attempted till near the end of April, when a large cavalry force, under General Stoneman, was sent across the upper Rappahannock, toward Richmond, to destroy the enemy's communications, while General Hooker, with his main army, crossed the Rappahannock and the Rapidan above their junction, and took position at Chancellorsville, at the same time General Sedgwick crossed near Fredericksburgh, and stormed and carried the heights.

A severe battle took place on the second and third of May, and on the fifth our army was again withdrawn to the north side of the river. For want of official data, I am unable to give any detailed accounts of these operations or of our losses.

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