Doc. 1. the Army of the Potomac.

Report of Major-General Burnside.

New York, November 13, 1865.
To the Adjutant-General U. S. A., Washington, D. C.:
sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Army of the Potomac during the time it was under my command:

On the seventh day of November, 1862, General Buckingham arrived at my headquarters at Orleans, Virginia, with the following order and letter:

war Department, Adjutant-General's office, Washington, November 5, 1862.
General Orders No. 182:
By direction of the President of the United States it is ordered that Major-General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and that Major-General Burnside take the command of that army.

By order of the Secretary of War.

E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General.

war Department, Washington City, November 5, 1862.
Major-General Burnside. Commanding, etc.:
General: Immediately on assuming command of the Army of the Potomac, you will report the position of your troops and what you purpose doing with them.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

After some consultation, it was decided that General Buckingham and myself should proceed to the headquarters of General McClellan, then at Rectortown, when the order relieving General McClellan was delivered to him, after which it was decided that the orders which had already been issued by General McClellan, directing the movements of the army for concentration near Warrenton, with a view to accumulating supplies, and for other purposes, should be carried out, and that he should remain in command of the army until we reached Warrenton.

It was understood that the army was then moving as near as possible under certain general instructions contained in a letter from the President to General McClellan, a copy of which was sent to me under cover of the following letter:

headquarters of the Army, Washington, November 11, 1862,
Major-General Burnside, Commanding, etc.:
General: Your despatch of the seventh was received last evening at nine o'clock. I telegraphed to you this morning to arrange a meeting for to-morrow. I hope to hear from you to-night.

I enclose you herewith a copy of a letter from the President to General McClellan, dated the thirteenth of last month. I wish you to carefully consider the President's views as contained in that letter, so that we may talk it over understandingly to-morrow.

General Meigs and General Haupt will accompany me.

Yours, truly,

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

On the ninth day of November, General McClellan issued an order relinquishing the command of the army; after which an order was issued from my headquarters assuming command.

The position of the different corps of the army was as follows:

First, Second, and Fifth corps, near Warrenton.

Sixth corps, at New Baltimore.

Ninth corps, with Stoneman's and Whipple's divisions, on both sides of the river, in the neighborhood of Waterloo.

Eleventh corps, at Gainsville, New Baltimore, and the Gap.

Pleasonton at Jefferson and Amissville, with advance on Hazel River.

Bayard at Rappahannock Station and neigh-borhood.

Slocum was still at Harper's Ferry and Fayetteville. [2]

There were no pontoons with the moving army at this time, and our supplies had run very low.

It will be observed that directions were given in the odder from General Halleck to me, dated November fifth, to report at once a plan for the future operations of the army; which was done. This plan had been fully matured and was at the time understood to be in accordance with the views of most of the prominent general officers in command. It had been written out and was sent to Washington, by Major E. M. Neill, on the tenth of November, and delivered to General E. W. Cullum, Chief of Staff, the following day; after which General Halleck telegraphed me that he thought he would meet me at Warrenton on the next day (the twelfth), which he did, accompanied by Generals Meigs and Haupt.

During that night and the next morning we had long consultations. General Halleck was strongly in favor of continuing the movements of the army in the direction of Culpepper and Gordonsville, and my own plan was as strongly adhered to by me. He declined to take the responsibility of issuing an order, but said that the whole matter would be left to the decision of the President; and if the President approved my plan I was to move the main army to Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, and there cross the Rappahannock on pontoon bridges, which were to be sent from Washington.

In my interview with General Halleck, I represented to him that soon after commencing the movement in the direction of Fredericksburg, my telegraphic communication with Washington would be broken, and that I relied upon him to see that such parts of my plan as required action in Washington would be carried out. He told me that everything required by me would receive his attention, and that he would at once order by telegraph the pontoon trains spoken of in my plan, and would, upon his return to Washington, see that they were promptly forwarded.

After his return, he sent me the following telegram:

Washington, November 14, 1862.
Major-General A. E. Burnside, Commanding Army of the Potomac:
The President has just assented to your plan. He thinks it will succeed if you move rapidly, otherwise not.

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

This despatch was received at my headquarters at Warrenton at eleven o'clock on the morning of the fourteenth instant, and I at once issued orders for the different commands to move in accordance with the above-mentioned plan.

The remark in this despatch, indicating the great necessity for the speedy movement of the troops, was entirely in accordance with my own views, as the season was so far advanced that I looked for but little time in which to move the army effectively.

General Sumner's grand division started at daylight on the morning of the fifteenth, and the grand divisions of Generals Franklin and Hooker, together with the cavalry, started on the sixteenth. General Sumner's advance reached Falmouth on the seventeenth.

General Franklin concentrated his command at Stafford Court-House, and General Hooker his in the vicinity of Hartwood. The cavalry was ill the rear and covering the fords of the Rappahannock. The plan submitted by me on the ninth of November will explain fully the reasons for these movements. It contemplated, however, the prompt starting of pontoons from Washington. I supposed this would be attended to; but, feeling anxious to know something definite in regard to them before telegraphic communication with Washington should be interrupted, I directed Lieutenant Comstock, my Chief-Engineer, on the morning of the fourteenth, to ask General Woodbury, by telegraph, if the pontoons were ready to move. Not receiving an immediate reply, I directed him to telegraph to General Woodbury a second time, urging him to forward the trains promptly. To this second despatch he received the following answer on the morning of the fifteenth:

Washington, November 14, 1862.
Lieutenant Comstock: I have received your two telegrams to-day. Captain Spaulding has arrived, and thirty-six pontoons have arrived. Forty men are expected in the morning. Captain Spaulding received Captain Duane's order of the sixth on the afternoon of the twelfth. Our pontoon train can be got ready to start on Sunday or Monday morning (November sixteenth or seventeenth), depending some-what upon the Quartermaster's Department. General Halleck is not inclined to send another train by land, but will allow it, probably, if General Burnside insists. A second train can be sent by water to Aquia Creek, and from thence transported by the teams which carry the first.

D. P. Woodbury, Brigadier-General.

This was my first information of delay; but the statement that thirty-six pontoons had arrived and forty more were expected next morning, connected with the statement that the first train (which would have been ample for our purposes) would start on the sixteenth or seventeenth, was deemed sufficient to authorize me in continuing the movements of the troops, as the pontoons would have arrived in very good time had they started as promised, although not so soon as I had expected.

After the telegraphic communication between my headquarters and Washington was broken, General Woodbury sent in the following despatches, which reached me by orderlies after my arrival at Falmouth : [3]

headquarters Eng. Brig., Washington, D. C., November 17, 1862--7 P. M.
Lieutenant Comstock, Engineer, General Burnside's Headquarters, A. of P.:
Major Spaulding has not been able to get off to-day. He expects to start at ten A. M. to-morrow. I will telegraph when he leaves.

H. Bowers, A. A, General.

headquarters Eng. Brig., Washington, D. C. November 18, 1862.
Lieutenant Comstock, or in his absence, Chief of General Burnside's Staff:
Major Spaulding has been delayed in obtaining harness, teamsters, etc., for two hundred and seventy new horses. He expects to start tonight.

D. P. Woodbury, Brigadier-General, Volunteers.

On the nineteenth General Hooker's grand division was at Hartwood, and a portion of the cavalry occupied positions above him, opposite the fords, where they could cross upon the receipt of the necessary orders.

It was my intention, and I so informed General Halleck, to cross some of the cavalry, and, possibly, a small force of light infantry and artillery, over the fords of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, with a view to moving rapidly upon Fredericksburg and holding the south bank of the river while bridges were being laid; but the above telegrams, announcing still further delay in the arrival of means to cross the main army, decided me in the already half formed determination not to risk sending a portion of the command on the opposite side of the river until I had the means for crossing the main body. Subsequent events proved the wisdom of this course, by showing that none of these fords are reliable for the passage of large bodies of troops without the use of temporary bridges ; and the pontoons did not arrive until the twenty-fifth.

It is possible that the cavalry with some light infantry could have crossed both rivers and moved down to Fredericksburg, on the south side, but before the pontoons arrived, enabling the entire army to cross; this force would have been called on to resist an attack from the greater portion of General Lee's army.

General Sumner, on arriving at Falmouth on the seventeenth, suggested crossing a portion of his force over the fords at that place with a view to taking Fredericksburg; but from information in my possession as to the condition of the ford, I decided that it was impracticable to cross large bodies of troops at that place. It was afterward ascertained that they could not have crossed.

On my arrival at Falmouth on the seventeenth, I despatched to General Halleck's Chief of Staff a report which explained the movements of troops up to that date, and who stated the fact of the non-arrival of the pontoon trains. These pontoon trains and supplies, which were expected to meet us on our arrival at Falmouth, could have been readily moved overland in time for our purposes in perfect safety, as they would all the time have been between our army and the Potomac River, and had they started from Washington at the promised time they would have certainly reached Stafford Court House as soon as the advance of General Franklin's grand division, and from that point they could have been forwarded by his teams to Falmouth, if the teams from Washington had needed rest.

On the twenty-second not hearing from these trains, I sent a report to General Halleck. It appeared afterward that no supplies had been started overland as suggested in my plan of operations; and the pontoon train did not leave Washington until the afternoon of the nine-teenth--two days after the arrival of the advance of the army at Falmouth, and five days after the arrival of the pontoons in Washington from the Upper Potomac.

From the report of Colonel Spaulding, who had charge of the pontoons, and from other sources of information. I learned that the order of the sixth of November, from Captain Duane, of the Staff of General McClellan, to move from Berlin to Washington with his train, was not received by Colonel Spaulding until the twelfth instant; that he then at once gave the necessary directions for carrying out the order, after which he proceeded to Washington, arriving there at half-past 10 P. M., on the thirteenth, and reported to General Woodbury, at his residence in the city, the same night, and was requested to call at the General's office the next morning, the fourteenth. Colonel Spaulding called upon General Woodbury at the hour appointed on the morning of the fourteenth, and was requested by the General to wait until he called upon General Halleck. In about one hour General Woodbury returned and directed Colonel Spaulding to put his pontoon material in depot at the brigade shops on the Anacosti River, near Washington, as fast as it arrived from Berlin, and go into camp there with his men. The Colonel considered this as countermanding his order to make up the overland pontoon train, and knowing that General McClellan had been relieved after the order had been issued, inferred that the plan for the campaign had been changed with the change of commanders, and that the land train was not required.

He visited General Woodbury's office again on the morning of the fifteenth; did not find him in, but was informed that he had gone to see General Halleck; but while waiting for his return was told that a despatch had been received from Lieutenant Comstock, my Chief Engineer, wishing to know if he (Colonel Spaulding), with his pontoon train, had been heard from. After some time General Woodbury came in, and in the course of conversation repeated the order to put the pontoon trains in [4] depot as fast as they arrived. It should be remembered that this was on the fifteenth; one pontoon train, which would have been sufficient for our purposes, having arrived in Washington on the evening of the fourteenth. The second train arrived the day after the interview. Later on this day (the fifteenth) or the day after, General Woodbury directed Colonel Spaulding to make up two trains in rafts to go by water, and to organize the necessary transportation for forty pontoons by land.

Due diligence was, no doubt, made by Colonel Spaulding in prosecuting his work, but he was not impressed with the importance of speed; neither was he empowered with any special authority that would hasten the issuing of the necessary transportation.

The pontoons which started for Belle Plain on raft, arrived there on the eighteenth, but no wagons for their transportation from that place were sent with them, nor was any intimation given to Colonel Spaulding that any would be needed ; neither, to his knowledge, had any information of that kind been given to General Woodbury. Had this information been given to Colonel Spaulding, the necessary wagons could have been placed on the rafts and floated to Belle Plain, from which point the pontoons could have been hauled to Falmouth by teams from the army before the enemy had accumulated sufficient force to resist the crossing. This was not, however, the method by which it was expected the pontoons would arrive in time to cross the river before the enemy could concentrate to prevent it.

After arranging for these trains to go by water, Colonel Spaulding proceeded at once to make up the overland train, but was not enabled to start with it until the afternoon of the nineteenth. On this day it commenced raining, in consequence of which the roads became very bad. Great exertions were made by Colonel S. to push his train forward, but, before his arrival at the Occoquan, he decided to raft his boats when he reached that river and have them towed to Belle Plain, for which purpose he sent an officer back for a steamer to meet him at the mouth of the river. The animals were sent overland. He arrived at Belle Plain with his pontoons on the twenty-fourth, and by the night of the twenty-fifth he was encamped near general headquarters.

By this time the enemy had concentrated a large force on the opposite side of the river, so that it became necessary to make arrangements to cross in the face of a vigilant and formidable force. These arrangements were not completed until about the tenth of December. In the meantime the troops were stationed with a view to accumulating supplies and getting in readiness for the movement.

I omitted to say that on the nineteenth instant I received through Colonel Richmond, my Assistant Adjutant-General, a communication from General Hooker, suggesting the crossing of a force at the fords above Falmouth. This letter appears in his (General Hooker's) report.

I determined to make preparations to cross the river at Snicker's Neck, about fourteen miles below Fredericksburg, and if the movements of the enemy favored the crossing at that point, to avail myself of such preparations; otherwise, to adopt such a course as his movements rendered necessary.

The ground of this movement was favorable for crossing, but our preparations attracted the attention of the enemy, after which he made formidable arrangements to meet us at this place.

The necessary orders, both written and verbal, had been given for the troops to be in readiness to move, with the requisite amount of ammunition and supplies. Before issuing final orders, I concluded that the enemy would be more surprised by a crossing at or near Fredericksburg, where we were making no preparations, than by a crossing at “Snicker's Neck,” and I determined to make the attempt at the former place.

It was decided to throw four or five pontoon bridges across the river. Two at a point near the “Lacey House,” opposite the upper part of the town; one near the steamboat landing at the lower part of the town, and one about a mile below, and if there were pontoons sufficient, two at the latter point.

Final orders were now given to the corn manders of the three grand divisions to concentrate their troops near the places for the proposed bridges; to the Chief Engineer to make arrangements to throw the bridges; to the Chief Quartermaster to have the trains of the army in such positions as not to impede the movements of the troops, and at the same time to be in readiness, in case of success, to follow their separate commands with supplies of subsistence stores, forage, and ammunition; to the Chief of Artitlery to post his batteries so as to cover the working parties, while they were constructing the bridges, and the army while crossing.

In speaking of the movements of the troops, I shall as nearly as possible confine myself to the movements of the grand divisions, and must refer to the reports of the Commanders for more detailed statements.

The right grand division (General Sumner) was directed to concentrate near the upper and middle bridges; the left grand division (General Franklin) near the bridges below the town; the centre grand division (General Hooker) near to and in rear of General Sumner.

These arrangements were made with a view to throwing the bridges on the morning of the eleventh of December. The enemy held possession of the City of Fredericksburg, and the crest or ridge running from a point on the river just above Falmouth to the Massaponax, some four miles below. This ridge was in rear of the city, forming an angle with the Rappahannock. [5] Between the ridge and the river there is a plain, narrow at the point where Fredericksburg stands, but widening out as it approaches the Massaponax. On the north side of the river the high bluffs gave us good opportumties for placing the batteries which were to command the town and the plains upon which our troops were to move.

Had it been determined to cross at “Snicker's Neck” I should have endeavored, in case of success, to have moved in the direction of Guinness Station with a view of interrupting the enemy's communications, and forcing him to fight outside his intrenchments. When this intention was abandoned, in consequence of the heavy concentration of the enemy at or near Snicker's Neck, and it had been decided to cross at or near the town, I hoped to be able to seize some point on the enemy's line near the Massaponax, and thereby separate his forces on the river below, from those occupying the crest or ridge in rear of the town.

In speaking of this crest or ridge I shall speak of it as occupied by the enemy; and shall call the point near the Massaponax the right of the crest; and that on the river, and in rear of and above the town, the left; and in speaking of our forces, it will be remembered that General Sumner's command was our extreme right, and General Franklin's command was on the extreme left.

During the night of the tenth the bridge material was taken to the proper points on the river, and soon after three o'clock in the morning of the eleventh, the working parties commenced throwing the bridges, protected by infantry placed under cover of the banks, and by artillery on the bluffs above. One of the lower bridges for General Franklin's command was completed by 10:30 A. M., without serious trouble, and afterwards a second bridge was constructed at the same point. The upper bridge near the Lacey House and the middle bridge near the steamboat landing were about two-thirds built at six A. M., when the enemy opened upon the working parties with musketry, with such severity as to cause them to leave the work. Our artillery was unable to.silence this fire, the fog being so dense as to make accurate firing impossible. Frequent attempts were made to continue the work, but to no purpose.

About noon the fog cleared away, and we were able with our artillery to check the fire of the enemy. After consultation with Generals Hunt and Woodbury, I decided to resume the work on the bridges, and gave directions in accordance with a suggestion of General Hunt to send men over in pontoons to the other shore as rapidly as possible to drive the enemy from his position on the opposte bank. This work was most gallantly performed by Colonel Hill brigade, the Seventh Michigan, Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, at the upper bridges, and by the Eighty-ninth New York at the middle bridges, and the enemy were soon driven from their positions. The throwing of the bridges was resumed, and they were soon afterwards finished.

No more difficult feat has been performed during the war, than the throwing of the bridges in the face of the enemy, by these brave men, and I take pleasure in referring to the reports of General Woodbury and Lieutenant Comstock for a more detailed account of this gallant work.

It was now near nightfall; one brigade of Franklin's division crossed over the south side, drove the enemy's pickets from the houses near the bridge-head, and Howard's division, together with a brigade from the Ninth corps, both of General Sumner's command, crossed over on the upper and middle bridges, and, after some sharp skirmishing, occupied the town before daylight on the morning of the twelfth.

During this day (the twelfth) Sumner's and Franklin's commands crossed over and took position on the south bank, and General Hooker's grand division was held in readiness to support either the right or left, or to press the enemy in case the other commands succeeded in moving him.

The line as now established was as follows: Second corps held the centre and right of the town; Ninth corps was on the left of the Second corps, and connected with General Franklin's right at Deep Run, the whole of this force being nearly parallel to the river. The Sixth corps was formed on the left of the Ninth corps, nearly parallel with the Old Richmond road, and the First corps on the left of the Sixth, nearly at right angles with it, its left resting on the river. The plain below the town is interrupted by hedges and ditches to a considerable extent, which gives good covering to an enemy, making it difficult to manoeuvre upon.

The Old Richmond road spoken of above, runs from the town in a line nearly parallel with the river, to a point near the Massaponax, where it turns to the south and passes near the right of the crest or ridge which runs in rear of the town, and was then occupied by the enemy in force. In order to pass down this road, it was necessary to occupy the extreme right of this crest, which wag designated on the map then in use by the army as “Hamilton's.”

By night of the twelfth the troops were all in position, and I visited the different commands, with a view to determining as to future movements. The delay in laying the bridges had rendered some change in the plan of attack necessary, and the orders already issued were to be superseded by new ones. It was after midnight when I returned from visiting the different commands, and before daylight of the thirteenth I prepared the following orders:

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, December 13--5:55 A. M.
Major-General Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division, Army of the Potomac:
General Hardie will carry this despatch to you, and remain with you during the day. The [6] General commanding directs that you keep your command in position for a rapid movement down the old Richmond road,and you will send out at once a division at least, to pass below Smithfield, to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, on this side of the Massaponax, taking care to keep it well supported and its. line of retreat open. He has ordered another column, of a division or more, to be moved from General Sumner's command up the plank road to its intersection with the telegraph road, where they will divide, with a view to seizing the heights on both of those roads. Holding those two heights, with the heights near Captain Hamilton's, will, he hopes, compel the enemy to evacuate the whole ridge between these points. I make these moves by columns, distant from each other, with a view of avoiding the possibility of a collision of our own forces, which might occur in a general movement during the fog. Two of General Hancock's divisions are in your rear, at the bridges, and will remain there as supports.

Copies of instructions given to Generals Sumner and Hooker will be forwarded to you by an orderly, very soon.

You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once, as soon as the fog lifts.

The watchword, which, if possible, should be given to every company, will be “Scott.” I have the honor to be, General,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Jno. G. Parke, Chief of Staff.

Headquartes, Army of the Potomac, December 13, 1862--6 A. M.
Major-General E. V. Sumner, commanding Right Grand Division, Army of the Potomac:
The General commanding directs that you extend the left of your command to Deep River, connecting with General Franklin, extending your right as far as your judgment may dictate. He also directs that you push a column of a division or more along the plank and telegraph roads, with a view to seizing the heights in the rear of the town. The latter movement should be well covered by skirmishers, and supported so as to keep its line of retreat open. Copy of instructions given to General Franklin will be sent to you very soon; you will please await them at your present headquarters, where he (the General commanding) will meet you. Great care should be taken to prevent a collision of our own forces during the fog. The watchword for the day will be “Scott.” The column for a movement up the telegraph and plank roads will be got in readiness to move, but will not move until the General commanding communicates with you.

I have the honor to be,

General, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

John G. Parke, Chief of Staff.

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, December 13, 1862--7 A. M.
Major-General Joseph Hooker, commanding Center Division, Army of the Potomac:
The General commanding directs that you place General Butterfield's corps and Whipple's division in position to cross at a moment's notice at the three upper bridges, in support of the other troops over the river; and the two remaining divisions of General Stoneman's corps in readiness to cross at the lower ford in support of General Franklin. The General commanding will meet you at headquarters (Phillip's House) very soon. Copies of instructions to General Sumner and General Franklin will be sent to you.

I have the honor to be,

General, very respectfully,

Your obedient Servant,

Jno. G. Parke, Chief of Staff.

It should be mentioned, that on the evening of the twelfth I ordered General Stoneman, with two divisions of his corps, to a point near the lower bridges, as supports for General Franklin.

The forces now under the command of General Franklin consisted of about sixty thousand men, as shown by the morning reports, and was composed as follows:

Sixth corps24,000 men.
First corps18,500 men.
Third corps--two divisions10,000 men.
Ninth corps--Burns' division4,000 men.
Bayard's cavalry3,500 men.

General Sumner had about twenty-seven thou sand men, comprising his own grand division except Burns' division of the Ninth corps.

General Hooker's command was about twenty six thousand strong, two of General Stoneman's divisions having reported to General Franklin.

Positive information had reached me that the enemy had built a new road in rear of the bridge or crest from near Hamilton's to the telegraph road, along which road they communicated from one part of their line to another. I decided, if possible, to seize a point on this road near Hamilton's which would not only divide the enemy's forces by breaking their line, but would place our forces in position to enable us to move in rear of the crest, and either force its evacuation or the capitulation of the forces occupying it.

It was my intention, in case this point had been gained, to push Generals Sumner and Hooker against the left of the crest, and prevent at least the removal of the artillery of the enemy, in case they attempted a retreat. The above orders were prepared in accordance with these views.

It will be seen that General Franklin was directed to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, and to send at once a column of attack for that purpose, composed of [7] a division at least, in the lead, well supported, and to keep his whole command in readiness to move down the Old Richmond road. The object of this order is clear.

It was necessary to sieze the heights in order to enable the remainder of his force to move down the Old Richmond road, with a view of getting in rear of the enemy's line on the crest. He was ordered to sieze these heights, if possible, and to do it at once. I sent him a copy of the order to General Sumner, in which it will be seen that I direct General Sumner's column not to move until he received orders from me; while he (General Franklin) was ordered to move at once. The movements were not intended to be simultaneous. In fact, I did not intend to move General Sumner until I learned that Franklin was about to gain the heights near Hamilton's, which I then supposed he was entirely able to do. I sent the order to General Franklin by General James A. Hardie, a member of my staff. It reached him at 7:30 A. M. I cannot possibly give a more intelligent account of the movements of General Franklin's command that day, than by copying into this report the despatches of General Hardie, which are as follows:

December 13, 7:40 A. M.
General Meade's division is to make the movement from our left, but it is just reported that the enemy's skirmishers are advancing, indicating an attack upon our position on the left.

9 A. M.
General Meade just moved out; Doubleday supports him; Meade's skirmishers, however, engaged at once with enemy's skirmishers. Battery opening on Meade, probably from position on Old Richmond road.

9:40 A. M.
Two batteries playing on Reynolds' advance, in rear of his first line, cause him to desist the advance. They are on the Bowlin Green road, near the river. They must be silenced before he can advance. Heavy firing in our front.

11 A. M.
Meade advanced half a mile, and holds on infantry of-enemy in woods in front of extreme left; also in front of Howe; no loss so far of great importance. General Vinton badly, but not dangerously wounded.

Reynolds has been forced to develop his whole line — an attack of some force of enemy's troops on our left seems probable, as far as can now be judged. Stoneman has been directed to cross one division to support our left. Report of cavalry pickets from the other side of the river, that the enemy's troops were moving down the river on this side during the latter part of the night. Howe's pickets reported movements in their front, same direction. Still they have a strong force well posted with batteries here.

12 M.
Birney's division is now getting into position. That done, Reynolds will order Meade to advance. Batteries over the river are to shell the enemy's position in the woods in front of Reynolds' left. He thinks the effect will be to promote Meade's advance. A column of the enemy's infantry is passing along the crest of the hills from right to left, as we look at it.

12:05 P. M.
General Meade's line is advancing in the direction you prescribed this morning.

1 P. M.
Enemy opened a battery on Reynolds, enfilading Meade. Reynolds has opened all his batteries on it. No report yet. Reynolds hotly engaged at this moment. Will report in a few moments again.

1:15 P. M.
Heavy engagement of infantry where battery is. Meade is assaulting the hill; will report again in a few moments.

1:25 P. M.
Meade is in the woods in his front; seems to be able to hold on. Reynolds will push Gibbon in, if necessary. The battery and woods referred to must be near Hamilton's house. The infantry firing is prolonged and quite heavy. Things look well enough: men in fine spirits.

1:40 P. M.
Meade having carried a portion of the enemy's position in the woods, we have three hundred prisoners. Enemy's batteries on extreme left retired. Tough work. Men fight well. Gibbon has advanced to Meade's right. Men fight well, driving the enemy. Meade has suffered severely. Doubleday to Meade's left — not engaged.

2:15 P. M.
Gibbon and Meade driven back from the wood. Newton gone forward. Jackson's corps of the enemy attacks on the left. General Gibbon slightly wounded. General Bayard mortally wounded by a shell. Things do not look so well on Reynolds' front; still we'll have new troops in soon.

2:25, P. M.
Despatch received. Franklin will do his best. New troops gone in. Will report soon again.

3 P. M.
Reynolds seems to be holding his own. Things look better somewhat.

3:40, P. M.
Gibbon's and Meade's divisions are badly used up, and I fear another advance on the enemy on our left cannot be made this afternoon. Doubleday's division will replace Meade's as soon as it can be collected, and, if it be done in time, of course another attack will be made. The enemy are in force in the woods, on our left towards Hamilton's, and are threatening the safety of that portion of our line. They seem to have detached [8] a portion of their force to our front, where Howe and Brooks are now engaged. Brooks has some prisoners, and is down to the railroad. Just as soon as the left is safe our forces here will be prepared for a front attack. But it may be too late this afternoon. Indeed, we are engaged in front anyhow. Notwithstanding the unpleasant items I relate, the morale of the troops generally is good.

4:30 P. M.
The enemy is still in force on our left and front, an attack on our batteries in front has been repulsed; a new attack has been opened on our left, but the left is safe, though it is too late to advance either to the left or front.

From these despatches it will be seen that one of the smallest divisions of the command, General Meade's, led the attack; at nine o'clock it moved with Doubleday's division in support; at eleven o'clock it had been moved a half mile, and halted without serious loss. One of Stoneman's divisions ordered across (at twelve o'clock this division was getting into position) at 12:05 P. M. General Meade's line was advancing in the direction I prescribed in my first order to General Franklin. At one o'clock P. M. the enemy opened a battery, enfilading Meade; at 1:15 infantry was heavily engaged, and Meade assaulted the hill; at 1:25 he carried the woods in his front, and seemed able to hold his ground, and Gibbon would support, if necessary; at 1:40 our men drove the enemy, and Gibbon advanced to Meade's right; at 2:15 both Gibbon and Meade were driven back from the wood; at 2:25 Franklin did his best; at three P. M. things looked better, and at 3:40 Gibbon's and Meade's divisions were badly used up, and unimportant fighting was going on in front of Howe's and Brooks' divisions.

From General Meade's report, it seems that he had great difficulty in getting his command into position to assault the hill. The time occupied for that purpose was from nine A. M. till 1:15 P. M. In consequence of the smallness of his division, and the absence of immediate and available supports, he was forced to make frequent halts for the purpose of protecting his flanks and silencing the enemy's artillery; but once in position, his division moved forward with the utmost gallantry.

He broke the enemy's line, captured many prisoners and colors, crossed the road that ran in rear of the crest, and established himself at the desired point on the crest; and had he been able to hold it, our forces would have had free passage to the rear of the enemy's line along the crest. The supports which the orders contemplated were not with him, and he found himself across the enemy's line with flanks unprotected. He despatched staff officers to Generals Gibbon and Birney, urging them to advance to his right and left in support of his flanks; but, before the arrival of these divisions, he was forced to withdraw from his advanced position with his line broken. These two divisions met his division as it was retreating, and, by their gallant fighting, aided materially in its safe withdrawal.

An unsuccessful effort was made to re-form the division, after which it was marched to the rear and held in reserve. General Meade and his troops deserve great credit for the skill and heroism displayed on this occasion; their brave efforts deserved better success, which doubtless would have attended them had he been “well supported.”

No further attempt was made to carry this point in the west. Stoneman's two divisions (Birney's and Sickles') were conspicuous in their successful resistance of the enemy when he endeavored to take advantage of the disorganization attending the retreat from our extreme advance of Meade's division. I beg to refer to the report of General Stoneman for a correct understanding of the movement of these two divisions. General Doubleday's division performed good service in resisting the attack of the enemy on our extreme left. The accompanying report of General Reynolds will give more in detail the work of General Meade's, Doubleday's, and Gibbon's troops.

The Sixth corps, the strongest and one of the most reliable in the army, commanded by General W. F. Smith, was not seriously engaged in any attack during the day, as is stated in his report. Neither was the division of General Bemis, of the Ninth corps, which was under the command of General Franklin at that time.

The report of General Franklin will give the movements of the left grand division more in detail, including the cavalry division of Brigadier-General Bayard.

It may be well to state that at 10:30 A. M. I sent Captain P. M. Lydig, of my staff, to General Franklin, to ascertain the condition of affairs in his front, as I was anxiously expecting to hear that the hill near Hamilton's had been carried. Captain Lydig's written statement is as follows:

I joined General Franklin in a grove of trees in the centre of his command. I was informed by him that Meade was very hotly engaged, and that his men were by that time pretty generally engaged. He also added. I think, that Birney had orders to support them. I then inquired if any of General Smith's corps were engaged, and was told that they were not. I returned to headquarters, passing Captain Cutts, who arrived as I left General Franklin, and reported the information to General Burnside, who seemed at the time annoyed at the smallness of the force engaged, and expressed his surprise that none of General Smith's troops had been put into the fight. It was about 12:30 o'clock when I arrived with my report at headquarters.

P. M. Lydig, Captain, and A. D. C.

I next sent Captain Cutts with an order to General Franklin to advance his right and front. Captain Cutts states in his note book that he carried the order to General Franklin, and the [9] General said to him that it was impossible to advance; upon which he returned to me to show why General Franklin thought it was impossible to advance. When he communicated the reply to me, he says that my reply was, “But he (General Franklin) must advance.” I then sent Captain Goddard to General Franklin with an order, which the following statement will explain:

I was sent on the day of the battle of Fredericksburg to General Franklin, on the left, with this order from General Burnside: “Tell General Franklin, with my compliments, that I wish him to make a vigorous attack with his whole force. Our right is hard pressed.” This order was given me about 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon, and I delivered it to General Franklin in the presence of General Hardie, before 2:30 o'clock.

R. H. I. Goddard, Captain, and A. D. C.

I had before this sent to General Franklin an order by telegraph, directing him to make an attack upon the heights immediately in his front.

General Sumner's corps was held in position until after eleven o'clock, in the hope that Franklin would make such an impression upon the enemy as would enable him (Sumner) to carry the enemy's line near the telegraph and plank roads. Feeling the importance of haste, I now directed General Sumner to commence his attack. He had already issued his orders, but had, in accordance with my instructions, directed his troops to be held in readiness for the attack, but not to move without further orders from him. The enemy was strongly posted along the crest in his front, covered by rifle-pits and batteries, which gave him a commanding sweep of the ground over which our troops had to pass. I supposed, when I ordered General Sumner to attack, that General Franklin's attack on the left would have been made before General Sumner's men would be engaged, and would have caused the enemy to weaken his forces in front of General Sumner, and I therefore hoped to break through their lines at this point. It subsequently appeared that this attack had not been made at the time General Sumner moved, and, when it was finally made, proved to be in such small force as to have had no permanent effect upon the enemy's line.

General Sumner's order directed the troops of General Combs' corps to commence the attack: French's division led, supported by Hancock, and finally by Howard. Two divisions of Wilcox's corps (Sturgis' and Getty's) participated in the attack. Never did men fight more persistently than this brave, grand division of General Sumner. The officers and men seemed to be inspired with the lofty courage and determined spirit of their noble commander; but the position was too strong for them. I beg to refer to the report of General Sumner for a more extended account of the working of his command, and the cavalry division under General Pleasonton.

At 1:30 P. M. I ordered General Hooker to support General Sumner with his command; soon after receiving the order, he (General H.) sent an Aide-de-Camp to me with a statement that he did not think the attack would be successful. I directed him to make the assault. Some time afterward General Hooker came to me in person with the same statement. I reiterated my order, which he then proceeded to obey.

The afternoon was now well advanced. General Franklin before this had been positively ordered to attack with his whole force, and I hoped before sundown to have broken through the enemy's line. This order was not carried out. At four P. M. General Humphreys was directed to attack, General Sykes' division moving in support of Humphreys' right. All these men fought with determined courage, but without success. General Humphreys was conspicuous for his gallantry throughout the action.

Our forces had been repulsed at all points, and it was necessary to look upon the day's work as a failure. It is not pleasant to dwell upon these results even at this distance of time, and I have, therefore, been thus brief in my statement of them.

From the night of the thirteenth until the night of the fifteenth, our men held their positions. Something was done in the way of intrenching, and some angry skirmishing and annoying artillery firing was indulged in in the meantime.

I directed preparations to be made for another attack on the morning of the fourteenth, but, for reasons not necessary to mention here, I countermanded the order.

On the night of the fifteenth I decided to remove the army to the north side of the river, and the work was accomplished without loss of men or material. The reports of the grand division commanders give the details of this movement. My Aide-de-Camp, Major William Cutting, remained on the south side until the last of the troops passed over, and reported to me at daylight that the bridges were being taken up. The grand divisions returned to their respective positions.

On the seventeenth of December I made a report to General Halleck. I refer to this because it was understood by many that it was written at the suggestion of the President or Secretary of War. Such is not the fact. It was written at my headquarters, without consultation with anybody outside of my own personal staff, and is correct in all particulars.

Immediately after the engagement on the thirteenth I sent Major William Goddard with despatches to Washington, and on the following morning forwarded others by Colonel Lloyd Aspinwall, requesting them both to give to the authorities at Washington verbal information of what had transpired.

Preparations were at once commenced to refit the army, and I decided to make another movement against the enemy. On the twenty-sixth of December I ordered three days cooked [10] rations, with ten days supply in the wagons, together with a supply of forage, beef cattle, ammunition, and other stores, and for the entire army to be ready to move at twelve hours notice. It is not worth while to give the details of this intended movement. It will be enough to say that the cavalry had already started upon it, and the necessary orders were prepared for all the forces, when I received from the President a despatch in the following words:

I have good reasons for saying that you must not make a general movement without first letting me know of it.

I at once countermanded the order and proceeded to Washington, and was told by the President that some General officers of my command had represented to him that the army was not in condition to move, and he was induced by their statement to telegraph me as he did.

Soon after this I made the fourth attempt, which was to cross at the fords above Falmouth, and moved the entire command for that purpose; but owing to a severe storm, which rendered the roads almost impassable, together with other obstacles, I was forced to return the army to its old position.

Many difficulties had presented themselves to me in the exercise of the command of this army. I was the first officer to take charge of it after its first commander had been relieved; I had not been identified with the Peninsular campaign, and was unacquainted with a large portion of its officers. The season was very far advanced, which rendered all military movements precarious. The army had not been paid for several months, which caused great dissatisfaction among the soldiers and their friends at home, and increased the number of desertions to a fearful extent, and, in short, there was much gloom and despondency throughout the entire command.

When to this is added the fact that there was a lack of confidence on the part of many of the officers in my ability to handle the army, it does not seem so strange that success did not attend my efforts. I made four distinct attempts between the ninth day of November, 1862, and the twenty-fifth day of January, 1863. The first failed for want of pontoons; the second was the battle of Fredericksburg; the third was stopped by the President; and the fourth was defeated by the elements and other causes.

After the last attempt to move, I was, on the twenty-fifth day of January, 1863, relieved of the command of the Army of the Potomac.

I am not disposed to complain of my lack of success in the exercise of the command, and in view of the glorious results which have since attended the movements of this gallant army, I am quite willing to believe that my removal was for the best.

The courage and heroism displayed by the army at the battle of Fredericksburg has not been excelled during the war, and the memories of the brave officers and men who fell on that field will ever be cherished and honored by a grateful country.

To the staff officers of my headquarters and to those gentlemen who so kindly volunteered their services for the day, I am indebted for their cheerful and hearty co-operation and assistance. The great numbers which necessarily composed the staff render it impossible to individualize, and for fear of doing injustice by making improper distinctions, I must content myself with simply thanking them in a body.

The list of casualties, as shown by the reports of the grand division commanders, were as given below. I would state that a large proportion of the wounds were slight, not requiring hospital attention, and many reported as missing proved to be stragglers, and returned to their respective commands:

 killed.wounded. missing.
right Grand division.   
Second Corps 390 2,903 540
Ninth Corps 101 1,030 197
Total 491 3,933 737
left Grand division.      
First Corps 323 2,368 588
Sixth Corps 50 329 65
Total 373 2,697 653
centre Grand division.      
Fifth Corps 192 1,684 564
Third Corps 124 714 191
Total 316 2,398 755
Right Grand Division 491 3,933 737
Left Grand Division 373 2,697 653
Centre Grand Division 316 2,398 755
Total 1,180 9,028 2,145

I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

A. E. Burnside, Late Major-General1

1 See Documents, pp. 79 and 396, volume 6, Rebellion Record.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: