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Ransom's division at Fredericksburg.

by Robert Ransom, Rrigadier-General, C. S. A.
In “The century” magazine for August, 1886, General James Longstreet published what he “saw of the battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 13th, 1862.” [See p. 70.]

The omissions in that article were so glaring, and did such injustice, that I wrote to him and requested him to correct what would produce false impressions. His answer was unsatisfactory, but promised that, “I [Longstreet] expect in the near future to make accounts of all battles and put them in shape, in a form not limited by words, but with full details, when there will be opportunity to elaborate upon all points of interest.”

General Lee, in his report of the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, 1862, writes as follows:

. . . Longstreet's corps constituted our left, with Anderson's division resting upon the river, and those of McLaws, Pickett, and Hood extending to the right in the order named. Ransom's division supported the batteries on Marye's and Willis's hills, at the foot of which Cobb's brigade of McLaws's division and the 24th North Carolina of Ransom's brigade were stationed, protected by a stone-wall. The immediate care of this point was committed to General Ransom.

The italics in this paper are all mine. The positions are stated by General Lee exactly as the troops were posted. Lee's report continues farther on:

. . . About 11 A. M., having massed his [the enemy's] troops under cover of the houses of Fredericksburg, he moved forward in strong columns to seize Marye's and Willis's hills. General Ransom advanced Cooke's brigade to the top of the hill, and placed his own, with the exception of the 24th North Carolina, a short distance in rear. “. . .” In the third assault, “his report continues,” the brave and lamented Brigadier-General Thomas R. R. Cobb fell at the head of his gallant troops, and almost at the same moment Brigadier-General Cooke was borne from the field severely wounded. Fearing that Cobb's brigade might exhaust its ammunition, General Longstreet had directed General Kershaw to take two regiments to its support. Arriving after the fall of Cobb, he assumed command, his troops taking position on the crest and at the foot of the hill, to which point General Ransom also advanced three other regiments.

General Kershaw took command of Cobb's brigade, which I had had supplied with ammunition from my wagons, and I repeated the supply during the day.

General Longstreet, in his official report, says:

. . . General Ransom on Marye's Hill was charged with the immediate care of the point attacked, with orders to send forward additional reenforcements if it should become necessary, and to use Featherston's brigade of Anderson's division if he should require it. “And continuing,” I directed Major-General Pickett to send me two of his brigades: one, Kemper's, was sent to General Ransom to be placed in some secure position to be ready in case it should be wanted. “And again,” I would also mention, as particularly distinguished in the engagement of the 13th, Brigadier-Generals Ransom, Kershaw, and Cooke (severely wounded).

General McLaws was not upon the part of the field in the vicinity of Marye's and Willis's hills during the battle, but his aide, Captain King, was killed on the front slope of the hill near Marye's house.

My own permanent command was a small division of two brigades of infantry,--my own, containing the 24th, 25th, 35th, and 49th; and Cooke's, the 15th, 27th, 46th, and 48th regiments,--all from North Carolina; and attached to my brigade was Branch's battery, and to Cooke's brigade the battery of Cooper.

At the time the fog began to lift from the field, I was with Generals Lee and Longstreet on what has since been known as Lee's Hill. Starting to join my command as the Federals began to emerge from the town, General Longstreet said to me: “Remember, General, I place that salient in your keeping. Do what is needed; and call on Anderson if you want help.”

I brought up Cooke before the first assault to the crest of the hill, and before that assault [95] ended Cooke took the 27th and the 46th and part of the 15th North Carolina into the sunken road in front. The 48th North Carolina fought on top of the hill all day.

At the third assault I brought up the 25th North Carolina just in time to deliver a few deadly volleys, and then it “took position shoulder to shoulder with Cobb's and Cooke's men in the road.”

During this third attack General Cobb was mortally hit, and almost at the same instant, and within two paces of him, General Cooke was severely wounded and borne from the field, Colonel E. D. Hall, 46th North Carolina, assuming command of Cooke's brigade.

At this juncture I sent my adjutant-general, Captain Thomas Rowland, to the sunken road to learn the condition of affairs. “His report was most gratifying, representing the troops in fine spirits and an abundance of ammunition. I had ordered Cobb's brigade supplied from my wagons.”

After this third attack I was bringing up the 35th and 49th North Carolina of my brigade,when General Kershaw, by a new road leading from the mill below, came up on horseback with his staff at the head of one regiment, which he took in just at Marye's house. He was followed by a second regiment, which halted behind a brick-walled graveyard upon Willis's Hill. [See below.]

About sundown Brigadier-General Kemper was brought up, and relieved the 24th North Carolina with two of his regiments and held the others in closer supporting distance. On the 20th of December, 1862, he sent me a list of his casualties, with this note:

headquarters, Kemper's Brigade, December 20th, 1862.
General: I inclose herewith the statement of the losses of my brigade on the 13th and 14th inst. while acting as part of your command. While a report of my losses has been called for by my permanent division commander, and rendered to him, it has occurred to me that a similar one rendered to y ourself would be proper and acceptable. Permit me to add, General, that our brief service with you was deeply gratifying to myself and to my entire command. I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. Kemper, Brigadier-General. Brig.-Gen. Ransom, Commanding Division.

As stated in my letter to General Longstreet dated August 14th, 1886, when I brought to his attention his extraordinary omissions, it gave me unfeigned pleasure to mention properly in my official report the meritorious conduct of those who were a part of my permanent command and those others who that day fell under my direction by reason of my “immediate care of the point attacked.” My official report exhibits no self-seeking nor partial discriminations.

Upon a letter from me (of the 17th of December, 1862) to General R. H. Chilton, assistant adjutant-general Army of Northern Virginia, wherein I protest against the ignoring of my command in some telegraphic dispatches to the War Department at Richmond relative to the battle of the 13th, General Longstreet indorses these words: “General Ransom's division was engaged throughout the battle and was quite as distinguished as any troops upon the field” ; and the same day, the 19th of December, I received from both him and General Chilton notes expressing the regret felt by General Lee at the injustice of which I complained. Those original letters are now among the “Official Records” in Washington.

I may be pardoned for remembering with pride that among the Confederate troops engaged on the whole battle-field of Fredericksburg, Va., December 13th, 1862, none were more honorably distinguished than the sons of North Carolina, and those of them who, with brother soldiers from other States, held the lines at Marye's Hill against almost ten times their number of as brave and determined foes as ever did battle, can well trust their fame to history when written from truthful official records.1

1 Where credit is not given for quotations, they are from my official report of the battle.--R. R.

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