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Doc. 25.-battle of Fredericksburgh, Va.

General Burnside's reports.

headquarters of the army of the Potomac, Falmouth, December 19.
Major-General H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief, United States Army, Washington:
General: I have the honor to offer the following reasons for moving the army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock, sooner than was anticipated by the President, Secretary of War, or yourself, and for crossing at a point different from the one indicated to you at our last meeting at the President's.

During my preparations for crossing at the place I had first selected, I discovered that the enemy had thrown a large portion of his force down the river and elsewhere, thus weakening his defences in front, and also thought I discovered that he did not anticipate the crossing of our whole force at Fredericksburgh, and I hoped by rapidly throwing the whole command over at that place to separate, by a vigorous attack, the forces of the enemy on the river below from the forces behind and on the crest in the rear of the town, in which case we could fight him with great advantage in our favor.

To do this we had to gain a height on the extreme right of the crest, which height commanded a new road lately made by the enemy for purposes of more rapid communication along his lines, which point gained, his position along the crest would have been scarcely tenable, and he could have been driven from them easily by an attack on his front in connection with a movement in the rear of the crest.

How near we came to accomplishing our object future reports will show. But for the fog and unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy twenty-four hours more to concentrate his forces in his strong positions, we would almost certainly have succeeded In which case the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than if we had crossed at the places first selected. As it was, we came very near success.

Failing in accomplishing the main object, we remained in order of battle two days--long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his strongholds to fight us with in. fantry — after which we recrossed to this side of the river unmolested, without the loss of men or property.

As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade — not the least demoralization or disorganization existed.

To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of thus recrossing the river in the face of the enemy, I owe everything.

For the failure in the attack I am responsible, the extreme gallantry, courage, and endurance shown by them was never exceeded, and would have carried the points had it been possible.

To the families and friends of the dead I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies, but for the wounded I can offer my earnest prayers for their comfortable and final recovery.

The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you left the whole movement in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me the only one responsible.

I will write you very soon, and give you more definite information, and finally will send you my detailed report, in which a special acknowledgment will be made of the services of the different grand division corps, and my general and staff department of the army of the Potomac, to whom I am so much indebted for their support and hearty cooperation.

I will add here that the movement was made earlier than you expected, and after the President, Secretary, and yourself requested me not to be in haste, for the reason that we were supplied much sooner by the different staff departments than was anticipated when I last saw you.

Our killed amounts to one thousand one hundred and fifty-two, our wounded to about nine thousand, and our prisoners to about seven hundred, which last have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us.

The wounded were all removed to this side of the river, and are being well cared for, and the dead were all buried under a flag of truce.

The surgeons report a much larger proportion of slight wounds than usual, one thousand six hundred and thirty-two only being treated in hospitals.

I am glad to represent the army at the present time in good condition. [80]

Thanking the Government for that entire support and confidence which I have always received from them,

I remain, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. E. Burnside, Major-General Commanding Army of the Potomac.

headquarters of the army of the Potomac, Falmouth, December 23, 1862.
Major-General H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief, Washington:
In my report to you of the nineteenth instant, the number of our wounded was stated at about nine thousand, and the number receiving hospital treatment at one thousand six hundred and thirty. Both of these amounts are wrong. On the authority of Dr. Letterman, our medical director, the whole number of wounded is between six and seven thousand. About one half of these are receiving treatment in the hospitals.

A. E. Burnside, Major-General Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Proclamation of President Lincoln.

Executive mansion, Washington, December 23, 1862.
To the Army of the Potomac:
I have just read your Commanding General's preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburgh. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than accident. The courage with which you on an open field maintained the contest against an intrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-crossed the river in the face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government.

Condoling with the mourners of the dead, and sympathizing with the wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparatively small.

I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.

Report of Brigadier-General Meagher.

quarters Irish brigade, Hancock's division, Couch's corps, army of the Potomac, in camp before Fredericksburgch, Va., Wednesday, December 17, 1862.
To the Assistant Adjutant-General of the Division:
I have the honor to report, through you, to the Brigadier-General commanding the division, the part taken by my brigade in the action of Saturday, the thirteenth inst.

On the Thursday morning previous, December eleven, at seven o'clock precisely, the brigade left the camp from which this report is dated, and proceeded in the direction of the pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock, which it was arranged the division had to cross.

The brigade never was in finer spirits and condition. The arms and accoutrements were in perfect order. The required amount of ammunition was on hand. Both officers and men were comfortably clad, and it would be difficult to say whether those who were to lead or those who were to follow were the better prepared, or the more eager to discharge their duty.

Arriving within a few hundred paces of the headquarters of Major-Gen. Sumner, commanding the right grand division of the army, we were halted by Brig.-Gen. Hancock in a well-sheltered valley, where we stacked arms and bivouacked until half-past 4 P. M. The whole day the fire of our batteries and those of the enemy, incessant as it was, taught every man to prepare himself equably and sternly for the desperate conflict that was close at hand.

A few minutes after four o'clock P. M., word was conveyed to me that a gallant body of volunteers had crossed the river in boats and taken possession of the city of Fredericksburgh. The State of Michigan fairly reserves to herself the largest measure of pride justified by this achievement.

Immediately on the receipt of this news, an order reached me from Brig.-Gen. Hancock to move forward the brigade and take up a position closer to the river. In this new position we remained all night.

At seven o'clock the following morning we were under arms, and in less than two hours the head of the brigade presented itself on the opposite bank of the river. The order of march observed by the division in crossing was follows: Col. Zooks, commanding French's old brigade, led the way. The Irish brigade came next. Brig.-Gen. Caldwell brought up the rear.

Passing along the edge of the river to the lower bridge, the brigade halted, countermarched, stacked arms, and in this position, ankle-deep in mud, and with little or nothing to contribute to their comfort, in complete subordination and good heart, awaited further orders. An order promulgated by Major-General Couch, commanding the corps, prohibited fires after nightfall. This order was uncomplainingly and manfully obeyed by the brigade. Officers and men laid down and slept that night in the mud and frost, and, without a murmur, with heroic hearts, composed themselves as best they could for the eventualities of the coming day.

It is with hesitation I introduce into an official paper, where facts alone should be set forth, any expression of personal feeling ; but I should be doing an injustice to the brigade if, in furnishing this report, I did not confess that the fortitude and noble equanimity with which the hardships of that night were borne were such as to affect me deeply.

I shall also digress from the strict line of an official statement to affirm, as I am truly proud to do, that during the occupation of Fredericksburgh — previous to as well as after the advance of our forces on the enemy's works — the Irish brigade scrupulously abstained from every act of depredation.

A little before eight o'clock A. M., Saturday, the thirteenth inst., we received orders to fall in and prepare instantly to take the field. The brigade being in line, I addressed, separately, to each regiment a few word:, reminding it of its [81] duty and exhorting it to acquit itself of that duty bravely and nobly to the last. Immediately after, the column swept up the street toward the scene of action, headed by Col. Robert Nugent, of the Sixty-ninth, and his veteran regiment — every officer and man of the brigade wearing a sprig of evergreen in his hat, in memory of the land of his birth.

The advance was firmly and brilliantly made through this street under a continuous discharge of shot and shell, several men falling from the effects of both. Even whilst I was addressing the Sixty-ninth, which was on the right of the brigade, three men of the Sixty-third were knocked over, and before I had spoken my last words of encouragement the mangled remains of the poor fellows — mere masses of torn flesh and rags — were borne along the line to the hospital of French's division.

Emerging from the street — having nothing whatever to protect it — the brigade encountered the full force and fury of the enemy's fire, and, unable to resist or reply to it, had to push on to the mill-race, which may be described as the first of the hostile defences. Crossing this mill-race by means of a single bridge, the brigade, diverging to the right, had to deploy into line of battle. This movement necessarily took some time to execute. The Sixty-ninth, under Col. Nugent, being on the right, had to stand its ground until the rest of the brigade came up and formed. I myself, accompanied by Lieut. Emmet, of my staff, crossed the mill-race on foot from the head of the street through which the column had debouched. Trudging up the ploughed field as well as my lameness would permit me, to the muddy crest along which the brigade was to form in line of battle, I reached the fence on which the right of the Sixty-ninth rested.

Here I remained in conversation for a few minutes with Col. Nugent. Lieut. Miller, of Brig.-Gen. Hancock's staff, dashing up on horseback during the conversation, and furnishing me with additional instructions, in obedience to which I directed Col. Nugent to throw out two companies of his regiment as skirmishers on the right flank. This order was being carried out, when the other regiments of the brigade, coming up with a brisk step, and deploying in line of battle, drew down upon themselves a terrific fire. Nevertheless the line was beautifully and rapidly formed, and boldly advanced, Colonel Nugent leading on the right, Col. Patrick Kelly, commanding the Eighty-eighth, being next in line, both displaying a courageous soldiership which I have no words, even with all my partiality for them, adequately to describe.

Major Joseph O'Neill, commanding the Sixty-third, was as true that day as he has ever been. His command took position on the left of the centre of the line. The centre was assigned to the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts volunteers, commanded by Col. Byrne, this regiment having in its possession the only green flag under which the Irish brigade had the privilege that day to advance against the enemy.

On the left appeared the One Hundred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania volunteers. A new regiment, it had but very recently joined the brigade; but in its conduct, from Bolivar Heights, where it was first associated with the brigade, to the present moment, when its gallantry is placed on record, it has proved itself worthy of the cause into which it threw itself with so much enthusiasm.

Thus formed, under the unabating tempest and deluge of shot and shell, the Irish brigade advanced against the rifle-pits, the breastworks, and batteries of the enemy. I myself ordered the advance, encouraged the line and urged it on. Owing, however, to an ulcer in the knee-joint, which I had concealed and borne up against for days, I was compelled, with a view of being of any further service to the brigade that day, to return over the muddy slope and ploughed field to get to my horse, which had been left in charge of an orderly, along with the other horses of the brigade,

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