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Rebel reports and Narratives.

General Lee's official report.

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, 14 December, 1862.
The Hon. Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
sir: On the night of the tenth instant, the enemy commenced to throw three bridges over the Rappahannock--two at Fredericksburgh, and the third about a mile and a quarter below, near the mouth of the Deep Run.

The plan on which Fredericksburgh stands is so completely commanded by the hills of Stafford, in possession of the enemy, that no effectual opposition could be offered to the construction of the bridges or the passage of the river, without exposing our troops to the destructive fire of his numerous batteries. Positions were, therefore, selected to oppose his advance after crossing. The narrowness of the Rappahannock, its winding course and deep bed, afforded opportunity for the construction of bridges at points beyond the reach of our artillery, and the banks had to be watched by skirmishers. The latter, sheltering themselves behind the houses, drove back the working parties of the enemy at the bridges opposite the city; but at the lowest point of crossing, where no shelter could be had, our sharpshooters were themselves driven off, and the completion of the bridge was effected about noon on the eleventh.

In the afternoon of that day the enemy's batteries opened upon the city, and by dark had so demolished the houses on the river-bank as to deprive our skirmishers of shelter — and, under cover of his guns, he effected a lodgment in the town.

The troops which had so gallantly held their position in the city, under the severe cannonade, during the day, resisting the advance of the enemy at every step, were withdrawn during the night, as were also those who, with equal tenacity, had maintained their post at the lowest bridge. Under cover of darkness and of a dense fog, on the twelfth, a large force passed the river and took position on the right bank, protected by their heavy guns on the left.

The morning of the thirteenth, his arrangements for attack being completed, about nine o'clock--the movement veiled by a fog — he advanced boldly in large force against our right wing. General Jackson's corps occupied the right of our line, which rested on the railroad; Gen. Longstreet's the left, extending along the heights to the Rappahannock above Fredericksburgh. Gen. Stuart, with two brigades of cavalry, was posted in the extensive plain on our extreme right.

As soon as the advance of the enemy was discovered through the fog, Gen. Stuart, with his accustomed promptness, moved up a section of his horse-artillery, which opened with effect upon [104] his flank, and drew upon the gallant Pelham a heavy fire, which he sustained unflinchingly for about two hours. In the mean time the enemy was fiercely encountered by General A. P. Hill's division, forming Gen. Jackson's right, and, after an obstinate combat, repulsed. During this attack, which was protracted and hotly contested, two of Gen. Hill's brigades were driven back upon our second line.

Gen. Early, with part of his division, being ordered to his support, drove the enemy back from the point of woods he had seized, and pursued him into the plain, until arrested by his artillery. The right of the enemy's column extending beyond Hill's front, encountered the right of Gen. Hood, of Longstreet's corps. The enemy took possession of a small copse in front of Hood, but were quickly dispossessed and repulsed with loss.

During the attack on our right the enemy was crossing troops over his bridges at Fredericksburgh, and massing them in front of Longstreet's line. Soon after his repulse on our right, he commenced a series of attacks on our left, with a view of obtaining possession of the heights immediately overlooking the town. These repeated attacks were repulsed in gallant style by the Washington artillery, under Colonel Walton, and a portion of McLaw's division, which occupied these heights.

The last assault was made after dark, when Col. Alexander's battalion had relieved the Washington artillery, (whose ammunition had been exhausted,) and ended the contest for the day. The enemy was supported in his attacks by the fire of strong batteries of artillery on the right bank of the river, as well as by his numerous heavy batteries on the Stafford heights.

Our loss during the operations, since the movements of the enemy began, amounts to about eighteen hundred killed and wounded. Among the former I regret to report the death of the patriotic soldier and statesman, Brigadier-General Thomas R. R. Cobb, who fell upon our left; and among the latter that brave soldier and accomplished gentlemen, Brig.-General Maxcy Gregg, who was very seriously, and, it is feared, mortally wounded during the attack on our right.

The enemy to-day has been apparently engaged in caring for his wounded and burying his dead. His troops are visible in their first position in line of battle, but, with the exception of some desultory cannonading and firing between skirmishers, he has not attempted to renew the attack. About five hundred and fifty prisoners were taken during the engagement, but the full extent of his loss is unknown.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General. Chas. Marshall, Major and A. D. C.

Richmond Enquirer account

battle-field, December 18, 1862.
This morning the sun struggled up through the obscuring mists which overhung the landscape, but his rays were for an hour or two intercepted by some ashen clouds slowly drifting overhead. Every thing was still as on a mild December morning. Scarcely a breath of air wafted the falling leaves or stirred the fringes of the pine. The fog and smoke thoroughly mingled through the night and shrouded hill and plain in a grayish dim cloud.

As this began to rise, about eight o'clock, the roar of the enemy's artillery woke the stillness of the scene, and signaled the coming great battle. Hastening to the front, I obtained a bird's-eye view of the battle-field.

The observer, who ascends on the heights that rise abruptly from the suburbs on the western side of Fredericksburgh and casts his eye to the south-west, sees stretching before him a level plain to where the Rappahannock, making a broad curve with the rising hills on the north bank, forms the horizon. The plain is about six miles long, with a mean breadth of two and a half miles. On the right the plain is scalloped by spurs of hills, gradually sloping down into the bottom land, at intervals of about a mile, clothed with (lark pines and leafless oaks. On the left, where the Rappahannock sweeps along, hid by its high banks, a succession of hills rise much more abruptly than on the right, the face of the hills bare or clothed with straggling pines, and summits crowned with dense timber. These hill-sides are white with the enemy's tents and trains, and from the crests his batteries bristle in countless profusion as far as the eye can reach.

Now let us cast our eye again down the broad stretch of bottom-land, and note what a bird's-eye view affords. First is the town of Fredericksburgh, some of the ruins still sending up wreaths of pale blue smoke; but the town is not so much demolished as some excited imaginations may have supposed, and hardly enough to attract the attention of the casual observer. Then the plain is seen, seemingly lowest in the middle, but actually nearly level. A few long narrow groves of leafless oaks break the monotony, and here and there some clumps of cedar are seen. The fields, containing on an average a hundred trees, are separated by wood, stones, and ditches, the latter indicated by lines of low hedge. The enemy's line occupies the left of this plain, and in some places their columns, which the casual observer from this point would take to be dark clumps of cedar, spot far out into the fields. In the centre of their line, near the river, on rising ground, is posted a battery of twenty-one heavy guns — there may be more — but these only are distinguishable by the eye.

Just in the rear of these, so far as one is able to judge by the long line of ambulances which disappear on the opposite bank of the river and emerge near by, a pontoon-bridge spans the river, a single bridge I am told. This battery forms a prominent part of the picture, especially when it fires regularly by sections, sending its shells across the plains and into the rising hills on the right. A short distance above this battery — that is, next to the observer — a narrow grove of oaks extend diagonally into the plain, half a mile perhaps, [105] terminating in low, marshy ground. A deep gully extends the length of this grove, and is spanned in the middle by a railroad bridge, the line of the railroad indicated here and there by patches of red earth, which mark its length down the left side of the valley. In this grove the enemy find concealment for a brigade, which keeps up a random fire on our troops until dislodged by a regiment sent from Hood's division.

Nothing but pale clouds of smoke struggling up through the undergrowth and forests on the right indicate the presence of our forces.

Now the fog has lifted, revealing the dark and heavy columns of the enemy moving down the opposite bank of the river. Far down, near the lower part of the valley, they are seen debouching. Whole fields are gleaming with bayonets. They continue to pour out upon the plain in a stream which seems to come from an inexhaustible fountain. The meadows are black with them, tens of thousands in solid columns. We can only vaguely conjecture at this distance the number. Old soldiers think there are sixty thousand, Where are our men? A solitary battery of four guns, commanded by Capt. Carter Braxton, is to seen on the plain. The fire from the enemy's battery of twenty-two guns open upon it, but it makes no reply. Other batteries direct their shots toward it; but it has evidently made up its mind not to be hurried.

The enemy, now formed in three heavy columns, advanced to attack our right; on they go at double-quick toward the woods, making the earth shake under their tread, with colors flying and arms glistening in the sunlight. Where are our men? A long sheet of flame from the skirt of woods at the foot of the hills, a cloud of smoke, a roar and rattle of musketry, tell their whereabouts. The column halts and delivers a hasty fire. A continuous stream of fugitives from the front scour across the fields rearward some are halted and formed in squads, but can never be forced again to go to the front, except at the point of the bayonet. The smoke now mostly shuts the combatants from the view of the distant spectator. There is breaking of ranks among the enemy, rallying and re-rallying, but of no avail. They cannot stand the murderous fire. They give it up as a bad job. Meanwhile the battery in the field (Braxton's) has opened after long endurances, and at the right moment makes its mark. The coolness and precision with which it is handled wins the admiration of all observers. The manner of its action will be noticed hereafter in complimentary terms, in official reports. Other batteries did their work nobly, but they, with other particulars of the engagement on the right, must be noticed where each can have justice done in an extended account.

The Yankees commenced the storming of the hill at half-past 11 o'clock A. M. with six brigades, and were repulsed four times with immense slaughter. They were mowed down by hundreds. Two hundred and fifty bodies were counted on a space occupied by only one regiment. The firing was kept up incessantly until three o'clock. Colonel Walton's battery held the heights, pouring a murderous fire into the advancing columns. The batteries on the various hills nobly assisted the battery on the heights, keeping up a continual stream of fire, each volley thinning the ranks of the enemy in a terrible manner.

The battery of Capt. Miles C. Mason, of Richmond, covered itself with glory. The fire was opened on the storming regiments by this battery. The railroad gap at one time was filled with Yankees, when a well-directed shot from the battery exploded in their midst, killing about fifty of the hirelings. Captain Macon's battery was hotly engaged on the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth, and won the admiration of all the commanding officers by the coolness and precision exhibited by the men in handling their guns. Astonishing to say, not a man of this company was killed or wounded.

One rifle piece of Capt. Ewbank's battery, near the centre, has been engaged. On Saturday afternoon it played upon the Yankee brigade driven by Hill's men from the woods in front of Bernard's. This portion of the battery has been under a heavy fire for three days past, but has fortunately suffered no loss. The remainder of Capt. Ewbank's guns are so disposed that they will perform efficient service when called upon, in which event we expect to chronicle a brilliant achievement on the part of this gallant command.

Late in the afternoon comes the magnificent charge of a regiment of Hood's division across the plain, routing a brigade from the line of the railroad, and while under the concentrated fire of a battalion of artillery, driving the enemy from the skirt of woods before mentioned, capturing forty-one prisoners, representing six regiments, and on the whole covering themselves with ineffaceable glory.

At half-past 8 A. M. Gen. Lee, attended by his staff, rode slowly along the front of our lines, from west to east, and halted in the valley a mile to the east of Hamilton's crossing, and half a mile in the rear of our batteries on the extreme right. At nine o'clock a column of our troops, which proved to be Ewell's division, General Early commanding, advanced up the valley from the direction of Port Royal, and defiled into the woods to the left of Hamilton's crossing. The men were marching at a very leisurely pace, with a careless, swinging gait; but there was that in the quiet dignity of their demeanor which told that each though undaunted, was conscious that the next hour might be one of stern battle and death. Scarcely had the rear of this division disappeared in the woods, when directly in their front the artillery of the old Stonewall brigade--Woodis, Braxton's, and three other batteries — opened a brisk fire on the enemy's batteries north of the railroad. At this time, owing to the fog, few of the enemy's infantry were visible. After-events proved that they were lying close to the south bank of the river. The cannonading soon became general along the front of both armies. In ten [106] minutes from the time of firing their first gun, the Danville battery, Capt. Woodis, had lost fifteen men killed and wounded, a number of horses, and had two guns disabled.

The enemy's battery, eight hundred yards distant, had the exact range from the first fire. In the beginning of the action the loss of the other batteries of Taliaferro's division, were also quite heavy. Our men fired with great precision, their shells bursting in front or directly above his opposing batteries. In the course of an hour the artillery fight had become so general that it was almost impossible for an observer to distinguish what particular battery of the enemy was engaging the attention of any given battery of ours, and vice versa. Scarcely a battery that had been unmasked on either side but was exposed to a direct and enfilading fire. The roar of cannon along a line of six miles was tremendous. The air was resonant with the savage music of shells and solid shot. The white smoke-wreaths of exploding shells were everywhere visible among the trees of the forest, which hid our forces in the valley and away beyond the river in Stafford. Lines of ambulances could be seen bearing off the wounded of both armies, but there was nothing by which to judge that the advantage rested with either side.

At noon the fog had cleared away, but there was a thick haze in the atmosphere. About this time the enemy's infantry moved forward from the river towards our batteries on the hills. As they pressed forward across the valley, Stuart's horse-artillery from our extreme right opened upon them a destructive enfilading fire of round-shot. This fire, which annoyed them sorely, was kept up in spite of six batteries which were directed against the horse-artillery as soon as it was unmasked. By one o'clock the Yankee columns had crossed the valley and entered the woods south of the railroad. The batteries on both sides slackened their fire, and musketry, at first scattering, but quickly increasing to a crash and roar, sounded through the woods. Dense volumes of smoke rose above the trees, and volley succeeded volley, sometimes so rapidly as to blend into a prolonged and continuous roar. A. P. Hill's division sustained the first shock of battle. The rest of Jackson's corps were in different lines of reserves. D. II. Hill's division was drawn up in J. L. Marye's field, under a long hill, in rear of our line of battle. Here they remained during most of the day, being moved from time to time to the right or left, as the exigencies of the battle dictated.

Shortly after the infantry fight began, a brigade of this division was moved at the double-quick a mile and a half to the right, and posted in a dense clump of pines, in supporting distance of Stuart's horse-artillery. In ten minutes they were brought back to their original position. The celerity of this movement would be incredible to any one who had not witnessed it. To an observer the sight was singular and exciting. A long black line shoots from the position of the reserves, crosses the railroad at Hamilton's Station, skims across the valley, and in a few moments is lost in the pines nearly two miles away. After scarcely a breathing-spell, the same line emerges from the pines, retraces its steps into its original position. As this brigade resumed its position in reserve, the fire of musketry directly in its front slackened. A few crackling shots were heard to our left, along Longstreet's division, and then a succession of volleys, which were kept up at intervals during the remainder of the evening. The musketry-fire on our right was soon renewed, and the battle raged with increased fury. Our batteries along our whole front again reopened, and Col. Walker's artillery regiment, composed of Latham's, Letcher's, Braxton's, Pegram's, Crenshaw's, Johnson's, and McIntosh's batteries, stationed in the open low grounds to the east of the railroad at Hamilton's Station, moved forward several hundred yards in the direction of Fredericksburgh.

Hill's and Early's troops had driven the enemy from the woods and across the railroad in the direction of their pontoon-bridges, near Deep Run. Our men pursued them a mile and a half across the bottom-land, and fell back only when they had gotten under the shelter of their batteries. Our troops then retired to the south side of the railroad. Again the enemy rallied, and returned to renew the contest, but were again, about five o'clock P. M., driven back. All the batteries of Jackson's corps were at this time in fill play, and in the approaching twilight the blaze of the guns and tile quick flashes of the shells were more distinctly visible. The scene along the valley was at once splendid and terrific.

The result of the fight on our right wing may be summed up briefly. We drove the enemy back, killing three to one, and at night held the ground occupied by the enemy's batteries in the morning. The enemy had twenty thousand men engaged on this wing, while altogether, from first to last, we had not more than ten thousand in the line of fire.

battle-field near Hamilton's crossing, December 14, 1862.
The fighting yesterday at Fredericksburgh and near Stansbury Hill, just above the town, was of the most desperate character, and was of signal advantage to our cause, resulting as it did, in decided successes to our arms in the repulses of the lines of tile enemy at all points. These repulses were achieved with but slight loss to our side in numbers, though with the death of the gallant General T. R. R. Cobb, of Georgia, who fell near the spot where his mother was married. The fight on our side was conducted with judgment, discretion, and signal success. Our men were arranged behind the stone fence running along the roadside leading from Howison's Mill to the point where the telegraph and turnpike fork. The enemy were formed in the field just opposite and on the Fair grounds. The enemy advanced steadily and boldly twenty-one times, and was as often repulsed with dreadful slaughter and carnage. The Yankee dead and wounded [107] literally line the ground as far as the eye can reach. We had the advantage of an elevated position and the “stone wall.” The enemy was therefore compelled to advance in the face of a raking fire up this inclined plain, only to meet the death-dealing fire which our men so surely and steadily poured upon them. The enemy fought well. Our forces did better, and the result is, the Yankees, foiled in their “on to Richmond” scheme, lay upon their oars all day to-day without an effort to bury their dead or alleviate the sufferings of the wounded.

Howison's farm, one and A half miles from Fredericksburgh, December 16-10 P. M.
The work of “evacuation,” “skedaddling,” or “change of base,” whichever it may be called, was commenced last night about sundown, and was concluded about daylight this morning, at which time they took up the last of their pontoons, and once again achieved a great victory by “falling backwards.”

Their departure gives unmistakable evidences of panic and haste. About the town are found large numbers of guns, knapsacks, haversacks, crackers, salt pork, and at least one hundred thousand rounds of good cartridges. They also left behind them, in and about the town, at the very least, six hundred of their dead. There are one hundred and three of these dead on a space of less than an acre of ground. The town was largely used for hospital purposes by the Yankees, and, in the haste of departure, some twenty of their wounded were left behind.

The Yankees had essayed a task which no army ever marshaled, or that ever will be organized, could have accomplished. To have driven our men from their position and to have taken it, was a work compared with which the storming of Gibraltar would be as child's play. To appreciate the strength of our position it must be seen. Suffice it to say, that we had “Stonewalls” at both ends of the line — Jackson on the right and the stone fence on the left, at Fredericksburgh. No other man than Burnside would have attempted so difficult or so foolhardy an adventure.

Truly may it be said, the Yankees slain in battle have been “butchered to make a Lincoln holiday.” They have failed here most signally. They may try the Port Royal route; if they do, they will find the same character of obstacles there as here; the same advantages to our side, of brave spirits to oppose them, and choice positions in which our men can arrange to dispute their march.

The wanton destruction of property in town can neither be imagined nor described. Had so many demons from perdition been unchained and commissioned to wreak vengeance, the ill-fated city could not have fared worse. All that was edible has been devoured by the hungry Yankees, whilst clothing has been stolen from every house, the furniture recklessly destroyed or thrown into the streets, beds ripped open, pictures disfigured and destroyed, pianos ruthlessly robbed of the keys. Indeed, every conceivable injury that devilish malice or thieving lust could invent, was freely resorted to during the memorable four days of the last occupation, a time which will never be effaced from the memories of the gallant few who stuck it out. The Baptist church has been nearly riddled by shells, while all the pews have been torn out to make room for the sick, who were spread upon the pew-cushions. The same condition of things was visible in the basement of the Episcopal church; our informant did not visit the main body of the edifice. The Orphan Asylum, Dr. Scott's, F. Slaughter's, and S. S. Howison's houses were used as hospitals. In all, some twenty houses have been destroyed, and the loss of property of one kind and another cannot fall much short of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Brompton, the elegant mansion of John L. Marye, was well-nigh destroyed. There are some fifty cannon-ball holes through the parlor alone.

the losses.

I have been at some pains to ascertain our loss, and as the result of my effort, have obtained from Dr. J. C. Herndon, the polite surgeon on General Lee's staff, the following statement, which may be relied upon as correct:

M'law's division.
Barksdale's and Cobb's brigades,111
Semmes's brigade,1
Kershaw's brigade,250
Straggling cases,6
Anderson's division.
Wilcox's brigade,9
Mahone's brigade,5
Ransom's division.
Cook's brigade,295
A. P. Hill's division, about600
Early's and Taliaferro's commands, about300
D. H. Hill's command,10
Washington artillery,23
Picket's division,40
Hood's division,100

The most moderate estimate of the Yankee loss is five thousand, and some put it at eight thousand.

London times narrative.

Headquarters of General Lee, near Fredericksburgh, December 12, 1862.
Those who are unacquainted with the delays which invariably attend the movements of very large armies, especially when an attack upon a strong and elaborately chosen position of the enemy is contemplated, confidently looked for the momentous collision between the confederate and the Federal armies this morning at daybreak; but, as was anticipated by more experienced heads, the day wore away without developing a Federal onslaught upon the Southern lines. The [108] preceding night was employed busily in throwing dense masses of Northern troops across the pontoons at Fredericksburgh and Deep Run, and one or two other bridges thrown across at other points. So numerous were these bridges alleged to be, that busy rumor, hardly less imaginative and suggestive among the confederates than among their opponents, estimated them variously at from fifteen to thirty. I believe that in reality they did not exceed three or four. But as the bright and warm sun broke cheerfully from the heavens, and dispelled the thick mist which for many hours brooded over the plain and intercepted the view of objects distant not more than three or four hundred yards, it became more and more obvious, even to the least experienced eye, what a magnificent position was occupied by the confederate army, and how wisely and sagaciously the ground had been chosen by Gen. Lee. It must have been a moment of proud gratification to Gen. Lee, and those captains who under him have gained ever increasing distinction, when they realized beyond all question that the enemy was about to force an attack under circumstances which would have insured defeat had the onslaught been made by the bravest disciplined troops of Europe, and which reduced the rout of the disheartened and loosely coupled troops of General Burnside to an absolute certainty. As the observer stood on the range of hills which impend over Fredericksburgh on the south, and glanced his eye down upon the town, and, right and left, along the low swelling ridges which extend from the river on his left, and, forming the arc of a semi-circle, strike the river again about six miles below on his right, he might have challenged the most deeply read student of military history to produce any precedent in which battle has ever been delivered under circumstances more unfavorable to the assailing party, or upon ground from which any great master of the art of war would more naturally have recoiled, had the initiative remained within his own option.

The Rappahannock, in its course from west to east, is skirted, just at the point where Fredericksburgh stands on its southern bank, by low crests of hills, which on the northern bank run parallel and close to the river, and on the southern bank trend backward from the stream, and leave a semi-circular plain six miles in length and two or three in depth, inclosed within their circumference before they again approach the river in the neighborhood of Massaponax Creek. Immediately above the town, and on the left of the confederate position, the bluffs are bold and bare of trees; but as the hills in their eastward course recede from the river, they become lower and are densely wooded, while low spurs, covered with copsewood, run down at right angles to the range of hills into the plain, behind and between which spurs, the centre and right of the confederate army was posted, stretching for a distance of six miles from the extreme left, and ending in the immediate neighborhood of Massaponax Creek, which joins the Rappahannock some five miles below Fredericksburgh. It will be apparent to the reader, that the left of the confederate army, a portion of it stationed not more than four hundred yards from Fredericksburgh, occupied a much stronger position than the centre and right. There was not sufficient room for the Federal troops destined for the attack of the nearest confederate batteries to deploy and form, except under a deadly confederate fire ; whereas the Federal troops who attacked the confederate centre and right had a large plain on which to deploy, and had much fewer disadvantages of ground to contend with, inasmuch as they advanced against lower hills and had the long spurs of copse to assist them as points of attack, calculated to protect and serve as points d'appui to the Federal troops if they could once have succeeded in carrying and holding them. But even in its weakest points the confederate line possessed great advantages of position ; and it is no wonder that every Southerner, from time commander-in-chief down to the youngest drummer-boy, understood and appreciated the strength of the ground, and contemplated the coming shock of battle with serene confidence and composure. In describing the round upon which the battle subsequently took place, I should not omit to add that the railroad track from Fredericksburgh to Richmond runs diagonally through the semi-circular plain described above, and crosses the confederate line of battle three and a half miles from Fredericksburgh, at a point called Hamilton's crossing. This point was strongly held by a part of the confederate right, and it is manifest that against this point and along the railroad-track it would have been wise if the weight of the Federal attack had been directed. It will be understood, in conclusion, that the heights on the northern or Stafford side of the Rappahannock, which for miles touch and impend over the stream, were surmounted by a long line of heavy Federal rifled cannon. Similarly, along the whole confederate line of battle, nearly three hundred pieces of artillery were in position or in reserve. There is no recorded battle of history in which any thing like so many pieces of artillery took part, (of course in this assertion I do not include sieges,) and the reader will at once realize how inadequate language is to describe the thunder of so vast a number of cannon, or the deadly pelting hail of such an aggregate of the projectiles which modern ingenuity has succeeded in devising.

It remains briefly to notice the disposition of troops along the confederate line. It may be mentioned summarily that the confederates are divided into two large corps d'armee, and that on this occasion General Longstreet's corps was on the left, and General “StonewallJackson's on the right. But as the hottest work of the battle fell upon particular divisions and brigades, it should be further stated (although the position of each brigade cannot, for want of time be given) that the confederate divisions, starting from the left of the line and proceeding toward the right, were posted as follows: On the extreme left, the division of Gen. Anderson; next to it, the division of Gen. Ransom; next to it, that of Gen. [109] McLaws; next to it, that of Gen. Pickett; and next to it, the division of Gen. Hood. Proceeding now to Gen. Jackson's corps, the ground between Gen. Hood's right and the railroad at Hamilton's crossing was mostly held by the large division commanded by that excellent officer, Gen. A. P. Hill. Behind the line of Gen. A. P. Hill, the division of Gen. D. H. Hill was held in reserve. To the right of Gen. A. P. Hill, the division once commanded by Gen. Ewell, who lost his leg (if I mistake not) at the second battle of Manassas, but now commanded by Gen. Early, held the woods right up to and across the railroad at Hamilton's crossing. In front of Gen. Early the powerful artillery of Col. Walker was thrown forward, to fire, as was expected, into the enemy's flank. Across, or to the east of, the railroad, on the extreme confederate right, General J. E. B. Stuart, with his cavalry and horse-artillery, covered the flank of the confederate line, his rear almost resting upon Massaponax Creek.

As regards the disposition of the Federal troops, nothing more is known than that the three great bodies of troops were commanded, that on the Federal right by Gen. Sumner, that on the Federal centre by Gen. Hooker, and that on the Federal left by Gen. Franklin. It is estimated that not less than forty thousand troops were engaged in the attack directed by Gen. Sumner, and that fifty thousand were employed upon the Federal centre and left.

Friday, the twelfth of December, was employed by the Federal generals in arranging and massing their troops for the next day's attack. Active skirmishing was kept up by the pickets on both sides for several hours; and in the afternoon, with a view to feeling the confederate position, the heavy Federal guns thundered across the river, and were only feebly replied to by the batteries on the confederate left. The solemnity of the immediately approaching battle cast its shadows over the scene, and that earnestness and tranquillity of demeanor which, on the eve of momentous events, overtake even the most garrulous and thoughtless, reigned unmistakably upon every countenance. At night, as the pickets of the two armies were stationed within a hundred yards of each other, the confederates could hear the earnest and impassioned speeches of Federal orators rousing the spirit of their troops, and making vehement appeals to the sanctity of the “old flag.” “The old flag is played out!” shouted the confederates in reply. “Somehow,” remarked one of the confederates to me, “there must be a want of grit among the Yankees, otherwise they wouldn't want all this talking to.” It is impossible not to contrast the spirit of the two armies — the confederates, so calm, so resolute, so satisfied with their generals, so suffering, yet rejoicing to suffer, as long as hardship is the price of liberty; the Federals, lashed into the field by the thong of golden bounties, and in the field lashed against the enemy by the invective and appeals of able spokesmen, so distrustful of their generals and each other, so pampered, and yet so dissatisfied. The aurora borealis, which overspread the heavens, and darted blood-red tongues of flame swiftly from the meridian down to the horizon, was accepted by the confederates as the cross outlined on the sky was accepted by Constantine — an earnest of assured victory.

December 13, 1862.
The morning of the thirteenth of December--a memorable day to the historian of the Decline and Fall of the American Republic — broke still and warm, while, as on the preceding day, a thick haze enveloped the town of Fredericksburgh and the circumjacent valley, and delayed the opening of fire by the antagonistic batteries until the sun had been up some three or four hours. It was strange to contrast Saturday, the thirteenth of September, with Saturday, the sixth, and to compare the intense cold of the earlier Saturday with the spring-like warmth and calmness of the later. The day which I am describing was one of those outbursts of that Indian summer which lingers long and fondly in beautiful Virginia ; the morning haze, which shrouded heath and plain and forest, was the ordinary prelude to the warmth and glow of the sun at noonday. As the fog lifted, about ten in the morning, and the sun burst through the clouds, the long lines of the Federal army, which had passed the whole preceding day in deploying and preparing for the attack, were distinctly visible in the plain, and gave awful indications of the amount of the Federal host which had crossed the river. The confederate army, wholly undaunted by the extravagant stories about the strength of their foe, waited calmly, drawn up for tile most part within the fringe of the woods, confident in their position and in the valor which has never failed them.

And here it may be as well finally to dispel those illusions under which it is the custom of the Northern press to veil the disgrace of defeat, when the fact itself admits of no denial. The whole number of confederates in the field this day did not exceed from eighty thousand to ninety thousand men. Of these, some twenty-five thousand men, taking tile very highest estimate, took part in the fight. By the urgent entreaty of several of the leading confederate generals, it has long been sought rather to keep down than to swell the numbers of the Southern army. It is well known to the sagacious generals of the Confederacy that such an army as obeyed General Lee's command this day, if well handled, and imbued with a fine spirit, is more than a match for any number that can be led against them. The statements of the Federal Secretary of War, to the effect that he has eight hundred thousand men at this moment in his pay, carry comfort rather than dismay to the hearts of the confederates. So cumbrous and unwieldy a machine as the Federal army cannot but break down by its own weight, and by the vast amount of transport which its pampered soldiery requires; and, in addition to many other testimonies to its immobility, the statement of the Prince de Joinville, that one railroad is not sufficient to supply such [110] an army as General McClellan led against Richmond, will carry conviction to the European public.

It is impossible for me to describe the positions of each of the numerous confederate batteries which stretched along the length of their six-mile line of battle. It will suffice, if I indicate the batteries which were most hotly engaged, and bore the brunt of the action. By far the most important position was occupied by the Washington artillery, commanded by Col. Walton, of New-Orleans, and posted on the heights in the immediate neighborhood of Fredericksburgh, not more than four hundred yards from the town. These heights, which are precisely of that altitude which is most favorable for the play of artillery, are surmounted by a brick house — now riddled by round-shot — belonging to Mr. Marye, and are commonly called Marye's Heights. At their base a road winds, protected on one side by the hills, and on the other by a solid stone wall, about four feet in height, over which a brigade of confederates, themselves perfectly sheltered, poured the deadliest and most effective of fires. A little further back, to the south-east of Marye's Heights, stands another and higher hill, from which the most commanding view of the entire field is obtainable, and which, as it is the usual station of the commander-in-chief, is now known as General Lee's hill. From this hill, during a large portion of Saturday, a thirty-pounder Parrott gun, cast at the Tredegar Works in Richmond, poured a destructive fire into the Federals. Suddenly, about three o'clock in the afternoon, on its thirty-seventh discharge, this gun burst with a dreadful explosion, but happily did no injury to any of the bystanders. At the moment of its explosion, Captain Phillips, of the Grenadier Guard, (favorably remarked this day for his behavior under fire,) Major Venables, of General Lee's staff, and Major Haskell, were conversing within a few feet of the gun. Their escape without injury was little less than miraculous. As the confederate line trends away to the right, the batteries of Gen. Hood's division were actively engaged against the advancing columns of Pennsylvanians; but next to the batteries on Marye's Heights and General Lee's hill, I should say that the artillery commanded by Col. Walker took the most effective part in the action, as it poured a flanking fire into the enemy's left. One other battery deserves favorable mention, which it obtained in the short and modest report of the battle which emanates from the pen of Gen. Lee. On the extreme right of the confederates, in front of the position occupied by Gen. Stuart's cavalry, a few batteries of Stuart's horse-artillery were thrown forward to flank the Federals, between Walker's artillery and the river. General Stuart ordered Major John Pelham, his chief of artillery, to advance one gun considerably toward the enemy, and to open upon him. Major Pelham obeyed, and opened the fire of a twelve-pounder Napoleon gun with great precision and deadly effect into the Federal flank. The galling discharges of this gun quickly drew upon it the fire of three Federal field-batteries, while from across the river two other heavy batteries joined in the strife, and made Major Pelham and his gun their target. For hours, not less than thirty Federal cannon strove to silence Major Pelham's popgun, and strove in vain. The unyielding and undemonstrative courage of Major Pelham, his composure under the deadliest fire, have long made him conspicuous, but never were his noble qualities the subject of more glowing eulogy than upon this occasion. General Lee exclaimed : “It is inspiriting to see such glorious courage in one so young.” (Major Pelham is not more than twenty-two.) Gen. Jackson remarked: “With a Pelham upon either flank, I could vanquish the world.”

At half-past 8 A. M. Gen. Lee, accompanied by his full staff, rode slowly along the front of the confederate lines from left to right, and took up his station for a time beyond Hamilton's crossing, and in rear of the batteries on the extreme confederate right. It would be presumptuous in me to say one word in commendation of the serenity, or, if I may so express it, the unconscious dignity of Gen. Lee's courage, when he is under fire. No one who sees and knows his demeanor in ordinary life would expect any thing else from one so calm, so undemonstrative and unassuming. But the description applied after the battle of Alma to Lord Raglan, by Marshal St. Arnaud, and in which, noticing Lord Raglan's unconsciousness under fire, he speaks of his “antique heroism,” seems to me so applicable to Gen. Lee, that I cannot forbear recalling it here. At a subsequent period of the day Gen. Lee assumed his station on the hill which takes its name from him, and thence, in company with Geen. Longstreet, calmly watched the repulse of the repeated Federal efforts against the heights on which he stood. Occasionally Gen. Jackson rode up to the spot and mingled in conversation with the other two leading generals. Once General Longstreet exclaimed too him, “Are you not scared by that file of Yankees you have before you down there?” to which Gen. Jackson replied: “Wait till they come a little nearer, and they shall either scare me or I'll scare them.”

The battle opened when the sun had let in enough light through the mist to disclose the near proximity of the Federal lines and field-batteries. The first shot was fired shortly before ten A. M. from the batteries in the Federal centre, and was directed against Gen. Hood's division. The Pennsylvania reserves advanced boldly under a heavy fire against the confederates who occupied one of the copsewood spurs, and were for a time permitted to hold it; but presently the confederate batteries opened on them, and a determined charge of the Texans drove the Yankees out of the wood in a confusion from which nothing could subsequently rally them. Simultaneously a heavy fire issued from the batteries of General A. P. Hill's and General Early's divisions, which was vigorously replied to by the Federal field-batteries. The only advantage momentarily gained by the Federals in this quarter, and which is [111] noticed in Gen. Lee's report, was on the occasion of the collapse of a regiment of North-Carolina conscripts, who broke and ran, but whose place was rapidly taken by more intrepid successors. The cannonading now became general along the entire line. Such a scene, at once terrific and sublime, mortal eye never rested on before, unless the bombardment of Sebastopol by the combined batteries of France and England revealed a more fearful manifestation of the hate and fury of man. The thundering, bellowing roar of hundreds of pieces of artillery, the bright jets of issuing flame, the screaming, hissing, whistling, shrieking projectiles, the wreaths of smoke as shell after shell burst into the still air, the savage crash of round-shot among the trees of the shattered forest, formed a scene likely to sink forever into the memory of all who witnessed it, but utterly defying verbal delineation. A direct and enfilading fire swept each battery upon either side as it was unmasked ; volley replied to volley, crash succeeded crash, until the eye lost all power of distinguishing the lines of combatants, and the plain seemed a lake of fire, a seething lake of molten lava, coursed over by incarnate fiends drunk with fury and revenge.

Twice the Federals, gallantly led and handled by their officers, dashed against the forces of Gen. A. P. Hill and Gen. Early, and twice they recoiled, broken and discomfited, and incapable of being again rallied to the fray. The confederates drove them with horrid carnage across the plain, and only desisted from their work when they came under the fire of the Federal batteries across the river. Upon the extreme confederate right General Stuart's horse-artillery drove hotly upon the fugitives, and kept up the pursuit, subsequently understood to have been effective, until after dark. Upon the confederate right, where the antagonists fought upon more equal terms, the loss sustained by the confederates was greater than on the confederate left; the Federal loss in officers and men far outbalanced that of their opponents. General Bayard, the best cavalry officer in the Federal service, and almost on the eve of the day which would have witnessed his nuptials, was killed, and Gen. Jackson, of Pennsylvania, shared his fate. Many other general officers were carried to the Federal rear, grievously wounded; whereas of the confederates only one officer of rank (General Gregg) fell upon the right, and only one (General Cobb) upon the left.

Meanwhile the battle, which had dashed furiously against the lines of Gens. Hood, A. P. Hill, and Early, was little more than child's play, as compared with the onslaught directed by the Federals in the immediate neighborhood of Fredericksburgh. The impression that the confederate batteries would not fire heavily upon the Federals advancing in this quarter, for fear of injuring the town of Fredericksburgh, is believed to have prevailed among the Northern generals. How bitterly they deceived themselves subsequent events served to show. To the Irish division, commanded by Gen. Meagher, was principally committed the desperate task of bursting out of the town of Fredericksburgh, and forming, under the withering fire of the confederate batteries, to attack Marye's Heights, towering immediately in their front. Never at Fontenoy, Albuera, or at Waterloo was more undoubted courage displayed by the sons of Erin than during those six frantic dashes which they directed against the almost impregnable position of their foe. There are stories that General Meagher harangued his troops in impassioned language on the morning of the thirteenth, and plied them extensively with the whisky found in the cellars of Fredericksburgh. After witnessing the gallantry and devotion exhibited by his troops, and viewing the hill-sides for acres strewn with their corpses thick as autumnal leaves, the spectator can remember nothing but their desperate courage, and regret that it was not exhibited in a holier cause. That any mortal men could have carried the position before which they were wantonly sacrificed, defended as it was, it seems to me idle for a moment to believe. But the bodies which lie in dense masses within forty yards of the muzzles of Col. Walton's guns are the best evidence what manner of men they were who pressed on to death with the dauntlessness of a race which has gained glory on a thousand battlefields, and never more richly deserved it than at the foot of Marye's Heights on the thirteenth day of December, 1862.

An opportunity of sending this letter, with an encouraging prospect of its reaching England, compels me to defer a further account of the gallant defence on the confederate left of the town of Fredericksburgh and of the battle-field until a subsequent letter. But it is important to add that, even at this early date, there are abundant evidences that the confederates, themselves sustaining a loss of about one thousand eight hundred killed and wounded, have inflicted upon their enemy a defeat from which it will take him months and months to recover. Such was the demoralization this evening of the Federal troops as they ran through the streets and cowered in the cellars of Fredericksburgh, that hundreds of soldiers exclaimed, “You may shoot us down, may hang us, or do what you like, but back there,” pointing at Marye's Heights, “we will never go again.” I forbear to state the estimates of the Federal loss, which place it at an appalling figure, and yet are believed not to be far from the truth. It is not likely that the full details of this battle will be generally known in the North for weeks and weeks; but if, after the failure of this last and feeblest of all the Federal attempts to reach Richmond, with the Northern army unnerved, demoralized, and starting asunder like a broken bow, the Irish and Germans are again tempted to embark in so hopeless a venture, then is the conclusion irresistible that, in addition to all the shackles of despotism which they are alleged to have left behind them in Europe, they have left also that most valuable attribute of humanity, which is called common-sense.

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