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Chapter 21:

While recuperating his army in the lower valley of the Shenandoah, General Lee, a few days after the battle of Sharpsburg, urged the Confederate authorities to send General Loring, with the army of the Kanawha, northward, through Morgantown, into western Pennsylvania, to break the Federal lines of communication between the east and the west and to disconcert any plans that McClellan might be forming for a new campaign into Virginia, as he desired not only to gain time for collecting together the fragments of his army, but for the people of Virginia, especially those of the fertile valley of the Shenandoah, to gather the harvest of Indian corn which was now ripe and ready for cutting and shocking. On the 25th of September he suggested to President Davis that the best move his army could make would be to advance upon Hagerstown and fall upon McClellan from that direction, saying: ‘I would not hesitate to make it, even with our diminished numbers, did the army show its former temper and disposition.’ He had every reason to believe that in a very short time his veteran army had recovered that ‘temper and disposition.’

Lee had hoped that McClellan would cross the Potomac and offer battle in the lower Shenandoah valley; but that over-cautious commander was in no haste to try a third issue with the bold Confederate leader. To engage Mc-Clellan's attention and gather a supply of fresh horses from the farmers of Pennsylvania, Lee, on the 10th of October, dispatched the raid-loving Stuart, with 1,800 horsemen, across the Potomac at Williamsport, and thence along the western side of the Cumberland valley, to Chambersburg, where he halted on the morning of the 11th. Thence sweeping to the eastward, across the South mountain, he returned through the Piedmont region, and by noon of the 12th again crossed the Potomac into Virginia, after a rapid and extensive ride, not only with a fresh supply of much-needed horses, but with full information as to what was going on in and around McClellan's [361] army, of which he had made a complete circuit. This bold and memorable ride so irritated the Federal government that it peremptorily ordered McClellan to choose a line of attack and move against Lee in Virginia.

The experiences of the Federal army in the Great valley, both in Virginia and in Maryland, did not give them confidence in undertaking a new campaign, in that already famous region where ‘the strength of the hills’ had hitherto proven an efficient ally of the Confederates; so McClellan determined to draw Lee from the valley, by crossing to the east of the Blue ridge and then following along its eastern foot, and see what military results could be secured in the Piedmont region, which had hitherto only been tried at Cedar run. Crossing the Potomac October 23d, he successively occupied, with detachments, the gaps of the Blue ridge, making demonstrations across the same toward the Shenandoah, thus guarding his flanks as his army marched southward.

Lee was not slow to comprehend the plans of his opponent, which involved a new ‘on to Richmond.’ He immediately sent Longstreet to place his newlyconsti-tuted First corps athwart the front of McClellan's advance. Crossing the Blue ridge at Chester gap, he placed his command in the vicinity of Culpeper Court House, where he arrived November 6th, the very day that McClellan's advance arrived at Warrenton, in the vicinity of the road by which Longstreet's corps had passed just before. Jackson, with the Second corps of the army of Northern Virginia (also recently organized, but not announced as such until he crossed the Blue ridge, a few days later, and his army ceased to be, officially, that of the Valley district), was left in the Shenandoah valley, to remain, as long as he could prudently do so, as a protection to that great Confederate granary, and as a menace to McClellan's right, as he would hesitate to push far into Virginia so long as that ever-ready fighter and unconquerable leader remained in the lower valley, to him the land of victory, to McClellan that of defeat and disaster.

With his usual boldness, Lee did not hesitate to post the two wings of his army 60 miles apart, as the crow flies, well satisfied that with Longstreet's ability as a stubborn fighter when once in position, he could resist a front attack from McClellan and trust to Jackson to descend [362] the mountains in ample time to fall on the enemy's flank and join in the fray, knowing also that the Federal authorities would hesitate to push forward the army of the Potomac and leave Jackson so near the gateway to the Federal capital. Could Lee have followed his own desires, he would have ordered Jackson to descend upon McClellan's flank while he moved to attack his front with Longstreet; but reasons of state required him to guard the approaches to the Confederate capital, and compelled him to stand upon the defensive.

McClellan now occupied Pope's former position, behind the Rappahannock, with fully 125,000 men; 80,000 held the defenses of Washington, and 22,000 watched the portals of the Shenandoah valley in the vicinity of Harper's Ferry. Lee had less than 72,000 in the two corps of the army of Northern Virginia and in his cavalry corps, under Stuart, to again meet this great army of the Potomac.

Not satisfied with the tardy movements of McClellan, Lincoln supplanted him in command, at Warrenton, with Burnside, who at once hastened to execute an ‘on to Richmond,’ by way of Fredericksburg, thinking that by taking advantage of a shorter line of movement he could reach his objective without being intercepted by Lee; but when, on the 15th, he pressed his advance toward Fredericksburg, the alert Stuart promptly reported his movement to Lee, and the latter, with equal promptness, foresaw his plan of campaign and hurried Longstreet forward from Culpeper and placed him at Fredericksburg, across Burnside's track, in a strong position on the south bank of the Rappahannock, before Burnside's pontoons arrived on the Stafford heights, on the northern bank of that river, thus frustrating the Federal plan of campaign.

Jackson, who had been busy in the valley breaking up the line of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad and keeping the Federal authorities uneasy as to his whereabouts, promptly obeyed Lee's order to follow after Longstreet, but by ways farther to the westward. By making demonstrations at Chester and Thornton gaps, of the Blue ridge, he mystified those watching his movements by marching up the valley to New Market, thence taking the great highway leading across the Massanutton, the south fork of the Shenandoah, the Blue ridge at Fisher's gap and by Madison Court House, to the vicinity of [363] Orange Court House, and thence by the road to Fredericksburg; taking but two days to reach Orange Court House. He arrived in the vicinity of Fredericksburg near the end of November, having successfully concealed his march, and went into camp between Fredericksburg and Guiney's station.

It is well known that both Lee and Jackson would have greatly preferred to meet the new Federal commander nearer to Richmond, probably on the south bank of the North Anna, where the topographic conditions are more favorable for a complete victory, and where he would be farther from his base of supplies and be compelled to detach large bodies of men to protect his lines of communication. But the Confederate authorities were wedded to a plan of defensive operations, and were unwilling to permit the Federal army to approach so near to Richmond and to overrun any more of Virginia's territory than could be prevented; therefore Lee, always obedient to superior authority, although exercised contrary to his judgment, prepared to dispute the further progress of the army of the Potomac, by selecting and hastily fortifying a strong line of defense along the wooded terraces that overlook the broad bottoms of the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg, and which, near that town, were the seats of numerous old-time Virginia mansions, up to where this Tidewater-bounding terrace is cut by the Rappahannock, at its falls, near Falmouth. Thousands of Lee's army were barefooted and destitute of clothing suitable for the rigors of the early winter, and many were even without muskets; and yet, Lee said, in a letter of that time, of this army of 72,000 veterans, that it ‘was never in better health or in better condition for battle than now.’

Interrupted in carrying out his intentions, Burnside took ample time to muster his 116,000 men and 350 pieces of artillery, many of them guns of long range, upon the commanding plateau north of the Rappahannock, known as Stafford heights, from which he looked down upon the heroic town of Fredericksburg—trembling in expectancy of destruction between the two great contending armies on either side of it. These heights commanded, by their elevation, not only the terraces behind Fredericksburg, but all the more-than-mile-wide bottom extending for several miles below that city. [364]

While awaiting the development of Burnside's local intentions and watching all the ways by which he might move toward Richmond, Lee sent D. H. Hill's division, of Jackson's corps, to watch the crossing of the Rappahannock, at Port Royal, below Fredericksburg, by which a highway led toward Richmond. Ewell's division, now commanded by Early, was encamped next above D. H. Hill, while the divisions of A. P. Hill and Taliaferro were placed near the railroad leading to Richmond, where they could readily move either to the aid of D. H. Hill or to that of Longstreet, as the exigencies of the occasion might demand. Jackson established himself in the vicinity of Guiney's station, near the divisions of A. P. Hill and Taliaferro, whence highways led to his divisions, those of Early and D. H. Hill, down the river, and to General Lee's headquarters, which were established on the old Telegraph road back from Fredericksburg. The mild weather that had prolonged the late autumn had given place to light snows, and the cold blasts from the North froze the ground and chilled Lee's veteran soldiery, who hovered around camp-fires in the dense forests, most of them without tents.

Burnside issued twelve-days' rations to his army, confidently expecting to make the next issue at Richmond, and on the morning of December 11th, in a dense fog that concealed his movements, his pontoon builders hastened to the bank of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg, to throw a bridge for the passage of Sumner's corps, and another, a short distance below, for the crossing of Franklin's corps, while 143 of his big guns, along a line more than three miles in length, gave fearful warning against any opposing movement from the side of the Confederates. Lee's two signal guns gave notice to his army of this Federal advance, and the men were hurried forward from their bivouacs to the rudely intrenched positions that had been chosen for them. Jackson's men were sent for, and A. P. Hill and Taliaferro were put in position, on Longstreet's right, on the morning of the 12th; but D. H. Hill. and Early remained near Port Royal until Burnside should more fully uncover his intentions.

Barksdale's brigade of Mississippians had been charged with the duty of defending the crossings of the Rappahannock in front of Fredericksburg, where that river is [365] but a few hundred yards wide. These fearless fighters, under the protection of the heavy walls of old colonial warehouses, shops and dwellings of brick and stone that fringed the south bank of the river, shot down repeated advances of the Federal pontoon builders, and frustrated nine successive attempts to lay the bridges, until the Federal commander, exasperated by the delay, turned loose his batteries upon the devoted town, and, amid flame and smoke and the fierce contention of sharpshooters, succeeded in crossing a body of infantry, which forced back Barksdale's men from the river and enabled him to lay his pontoons and commence the crossing of his army, but not until darkness had come. Barksdale's brave riflemen, by their tenacious contention, had snatched a day from the victory-anticipating Burnside.

Under cover of the darkness of the night of the 11th and of the dense winter fog of the next morning,45,500 infantrymen and 16 guns, under Franklin, crossed the pontoon bridges at Deep run, below Fredericksburg, and spread themselves a few miles along the line of the railway to Richmond running through the broad bottom lands south of the Rappahannock; while Sumner led 31,000 into Fredericksburg by the upper pontoon. As the day of December 12th advanced and the fog lifted, and Lee looked out from the high hill in the center of his position, which he had chosen for his headquarters, and saw this great host stretching for miles in his front, and to his right, in brave battle array, he knew at once that Burnside had adopted the perilous plan of a direct attack, which he had already made preparations to meet by the construction of a military road and the throwing up of protecting intrenchments for his artillery as well as his infantry. He promptly directed Jackson to concentrate his men on the right of the army and take command of the right wing. Capt. J. P. Smith, of Jackson's staff, rode, late in the day, 18 miles, to D. H. Hill's headquarters, down the river, and by marching over the same 18 miles that night, that capable commander brought his men into position, on Jackson's right, by dawn of the 13th; and by so doing before Burnside was ready to begin his assault, Lee was ready to receive it.

Not aware of the fleet-footedness of Jackson's men, and supposing from the information he had gathered by aerial reconnoissances, with balloons, that a large portion of [366] Lee's army was still down the Rappahannock, Burnside thought to turn Lee's right, secure the highway to Richmond, and defeat him by a flank and rear attack. A large and heavy forest concealed the Confederate right, and the Federal commander was quite surprised, when he began the execution of his flanking movement with Franklin's corps, to find Jackson in position at Hamilton's crossing, with A. P. Hill's 10,000 veterans drawn up in a double line, more than a mile in length, on the high ground just within the northern edge of the forest, with fourteen field pieces on his right and thirty-three on his left; while Early's and Taliaferro's divisions were in order of battle in A. P. Hill's rear, and D. H. Hill's division was in reserve, just to the rear of the right, ready to move against any attempt to turn that flank of Lee's army.

Stuart's cavalry hovered on the plain in advance of Jackson's right, across the Massaponax, whence his long range guns played enfilading havoc on the Federal lines as they advanced, and even paid their respects to Burnside's headquarters, at the Phillips house, nearly five miles away, on the Stafford heights. Jackson's line extended, in an east and west direction, from Hamilton's crossing to Deep run, along the front of a wooded upland promontory. At Deep run it was joined by Longstreet's line, which extended northeast, along the face of another upland promontory, to Hazel run, whence it deflected to the west of north, along Marye's heights, immediately west of Fredericksburg to the bluffy bank of the Rappahannock above Falmouth. General Lee's point of observation was on ‘Lee's hill,’ where the old Telegraph road, leading from Fredericksburg to Richmond, mounts to the summit of the promontory south of Hazel run. The divisions of Hood and Pickett, of the. First corps, were placed along the front between Deep and Hazel runs. Marye's heights were crowned with batteries, while under them, in front, protected by a thick stone fence on the east side of a highway, were the divisions of Ransom and McLaws. R. H. Anderson's division occupied the left, from the Marye's heights to the Rappahannock. Marye's hill was like a bastioned fortress overlooking Fredericksburg and commanding the valley of Deep run, toward its mouth, where the corps of Sumner had crossed the river. The general features of the position were somewhat like those at the [367] Second Manassas, where Lee's two wings opened like great jaws of death to meet an advancing foe; but Marye's heights, on the left, were more formidable than those of Sudley, which Jackson had held, and that indomitable fighter was now on the right, in the weaker, and therefore the more responsible position.

Franklin was ordered to begin the battle by attacking the Confederate right. Under cover of the dense fog he deployed his 55,000 men on the wide plain in Jackson's front, and when the fog lifted, in the mid-forenoon of that chill December day, the Federal lines, infantry and artillery, were revealed, ‘in battle's magnificently stern array,’ along the embanked line of the railway, but a few hundred yards in front of the Confederate position. In anticipation of the coming fray, Lee joined Jackson to witness the opening. Meade's division led Franklin's advance, with near 5,000 men, forcing back Jackson's skirmishers, who had, up to that time, held the line of the railway. Eagerly watching Meade's forward movement, Stuart could not resist the temptation to give it a raking enfilade, with solid shot, from the gallant Pelham's guns, placed on a swell south of the Massaponax, in advance of Jackson's right. This fire checked Meade's advance, but brought into action five Federal batteries, the weight of which forced Pelham to retire; but the rousing of this line of combat, hitherto concealed in the way, induced Franklin to turn Doubleday's division facing to the south, where it guarded his flank during the entire day. Recovering from Pelham's blow, shortly before midday, Meade again advanced, only to have his left shattered by Jackson's batteries, under Lindsey Walker, and his entire advance driven back before the Confederate infantry could fire a gun.

Well satisfied with the condition of things on his right, after seeing the result of this first encounter Lee returned to his left. Sumner had begun his attack on Longstreet at II o'clock, at about the same time that Franklin began his on Jackson, opening it with rapid and continuous discharge of shot and shell, from the 400 big guns on Stafford heights, upon the Confederate batteries on Marye's heights. For an hour and a half this steady roar of artillery continued, the Confederates promptly answering the challenge. While thus attempting to intimidate Lee with the noise of artillery, Burnside was hastening [368] Hooker, with his two grand divisions, down the river plain to reinforce Franklin for the great assault that he proposed to make on Jackson at 1 of the afternoon. At the same time he was ordering Sumner's troops, hesitating under the withering fire from the crest and from the foot of Marye's hill, to advance from the cover of the streets of Fredericksburg, of the embankments of the railway, and of the water-power canal, in a vain attempt to capture the batteries of the Washington artillery and of Alexander, then steadily belching destruction from the Marye hill. The broken plain between Fredericksburg and the sunken Telegraph road, with its stone fence in front and its battery-crowned ridge above, was swept by a cross-fire of heavy guns from front and from right and left.

French's division, of Sumner's corps, led the Federal advance toward Marye's heights along two of the streets of Fredericksburg. The head of these columns came into the Confederate view at about 11 o'clock. They marched across the canal bridges, then wheeled into line of battle, and with brigade front, at intervals of 200 yards, moved forward, under cover of the fire of long range guns from Stafford heights. The cannon from Marye's hill, at point-blank range, gashed them in front; those from Stanbury's hill, on the extreme Confederate left, raked them on their right; while those on Lee's hill, near the Confederate center, raked them on their left. Closing up from the death-dealing, long-range missiles, the brave Federal soldiery pressed forward toward the foot of Marye's heights, only to be met by a withering blaze of musketry from the 2,000 riflemen of Georgia and North Carolina that Gen. T. R. R. Cobb held in command, in the sunken road behind the stone fence at the foot of the heights, and by a like fierce fire from muskets behind earthworks along the face of the hill above them. In this rash assault 1,200 of these brave men fell, dead and wounded, and the living were forced to give way. Hancock's division then followed to assault, in like gallant style, which Ransom, who had succeeded Cobb, who fell in meeting the first Federal onset, met by adding another regiment to those already in position. Hancock's fierce attack, in three courageous lines of battle, was met by a Confederate yell, and by a sheeted infantry fire that was reserved until his front was but a few hundred yards [369] away and then swept down 2,000 of Hancock's men and forced the remainder to seek the shelter of the houses and embankments in their rear.

At 1 o'clock, Howard's division essayed a third assault. Kershaw, now in command in the sunken road, added two regiments of South Carolinians and one of North Carolinians to the ranks of the well-nigh exhausted Confederates still holding the bloody front. Thus reinforced and ready, Howard's advance was met, as had been those of French and Hancock, and under a fire even fiercer than the preceding ones, nearly 700 of Howard's men went down and the survivors fled, in dismay, to cover. Sumner's corps of veteran soldiers had dared and done all that brave men could do, and there was no longer any spirit left in them for another grapple with Lee's doubly-mailed left hand. Nine Confederate regiments in the sunken road, and seven in reserve supporting the artillery on the crest, had not only unflinchingly held their positions, but had piled the very front of it with heaps of Federal dead.

At this same hour of 1 in the afternoon, Burnside, from his headquarters on the bluff behind the Rappahannock, had ordered a grand assault, by 60,000 men, against the half of that number under Jackson on Lee's right; thus seeking, by simultaneous right-hand and left-hand blows, to break either Lee's right or left, and gain one or the other of the two highways that led toward Richmond. Meade and Gibbon, two brave and capable commanders, supported by fifty-one guns, led the attack. A skillful reconnoissance by the Federal engineers had discovered that a tongue of forest, extending from the front of that highland well out into the plain, and near A. P. Hill's left, had been left unguarded, on the supposition that its swampy character would prevent its use as an approach. Through this weak and concealing point, the Federal advance came, to turn Jackson's left, and broke A. P. Hill's first line of battle. Gen. Maxcy Gregg gave up his life in attempting to stem, with the second line, the oncoming Federal tide of attack. Jackson, promptly informed of this assault, rode headlong from his right, and hurling Early and Taliaferro, that he had wisely placed in line along A. P. Hill's rear, upon the now disorganized and forward-rushing Federals, drove back [370] their divisions, in great disorder, to beyond the railroad, capturing their field artillery. The Sixth Federal corps, in reserve, made noisy demonstrations with its artillery, but rendered no other assistance to its discomfited comrades.

Near the middle of the afternoon, as Lee beheld the flight of Franklin's men from their assault on Jackson, he saw Sturgis' division, of the Ninth corps, move from the cover of Fredericksburg for a fourth assault upon Marye's heights. These met the same fate as did their predecessors, and a thousand of them were soon added to the dead and the dying already covering the narrow field between Fredericksburg and the sunken road; while the driven-back living remnants of the division crouched behind the embankments of the canal and any cover that the broken field presented. With the entire battlefield in his telescopic view, and doubtless satisfied, from the failure of his fourth assault, of the folly and uselessness of again attacking Lee's left, Burnside now ordered Franklin to renew the battle on his left. But that leader, sufficiently punished by his two previous assaults on Jackson, and losing confidence in his men, who hesitated to close in another conflict with that intrepid fighter, flatly disobeyed the commands of his superior, and so the contest on the Federal left was practically ended.

Stung almost to madness by the impending total defeat of his first essay in combat of the army of the Potomac with that of Northern Virginia, Burnside, against the advice of Hooker, ordered the Fifth corps to undertake the task in which the Second, in four heroic assaults, had so signally failed. Anticipating that another effort would be made by fresh troops in this direction, Lee had placed two fresh regiments in the sunken road and two on the crest of the heights, all in command of Ransom, and Alexander's guns were substituted for those of the Washington artillery. Humphreys' division, of the Second Federal corps, advanced to the ordered assault, with a spirit worthy of its intrepid leader (who had, in the old army, been one of General Lee's younger favorites) with fixed bayonets, across the field covered with the ghastly wreckage of the Second corps. A fiery sheet of shot and shell and musketry met them as they approached the sunken road, and one after another of Humphreys' brigades fled from the fearful slaughter, broken and disorganized. [371] The task imposed upon them, as upon their predecessors, was beyond the reach of human accomplishment. A thousand of Humphreys' men fell beneath the steady fire of the men of Kershaw, Ransom and Alexander, and added to the horrid harvest of death that already covered all the plain.

Hooker held Sykes' division to cover Humphreys' retreat, while he sent Griffin's division, reinforced by two brigades, up the valley of Hazel run to attempt to turn the right flank, or southern end of the sunken road and its bordering stone wall, and a fierce conflict raged for an hour, at the close of the day, all along the lines of Federal assault. Night ended the bloody conflicts of that raw winter day, which had brought only dire disaster to Burnside's right, where more than 30,000 men; from three different army corps, had been hurled against Longstreet's position, from which 7,000 Georgians and Carolinians had successively beaten them back, strewing their front with nearly 9,000 dead and wounded, while not a Federal soldier had touched the stone wall, fronting the sunken road, that they held in brave defense. When the day ended, the Confederates still held all of their positions, notwithstanding the bold and numerous assaults of the great Federal army of the Potomac. Both armies spent the cold and cheerless winter night where they had formed their lines of battle in the morning.

On the 15th, Burnside intended to renew his attacks upon Lee's positions, especially on his left; but he found all his subordinates bitterly opposed to further assaults, which must inevitably result as had the previous ones. So he abandoned all thought of further conflict and awaited a favorable opportunity for recrossing the Rappahannock, which he found during the storm of that night, leaving behind him 12,653 dead and wounded men, in attestation of their courageous fighting in obedience to his orders.

Lee's loss in this first battle of Fredericksburg was 5,309, mainly on his right, where Jackson had fought outside his slight breastworks. Fifty thousand Federals had been actively engaged in opposition to some 20,000 Confederates. Burnside's flanking movement on Lee's right had been discomfited by Jackson and Stuart, while the assaults on Lee's left, intended to relieve the pressure on Franklin's movement, had only resulted in a fearful loss of life to the Federals, with but a small one to Longstreet's [372] Confederates. Burnside attributed his defeat to the fact that the ‘enemy's fire was too hot.’ Lee had expected Burnside to renew the battle on the 14th, had every reason to believe that he would do so, and had made every necessary preparation to meet it. When that renewal was not made, he greatly desired to deliver a counterstroke, but the Federal army was so covered by the numerous batteries on the Stafford heights, which could not be reached by flank movement, that prudence forbade any attack on the Federal right. Jackson received permission to attack the Federal left, and just at the close of day of the 14th, he and Stuart opened a fierce artillery fire on Franklin along the line of the Richmond road, but Franklin's hundred field cannon and the heavy guns on Stafford heights compelled an abandonment of the movement. Not satisfied with this, Jackson desired to make an assault with the bayonet, after nightfall; thinking that the Federal batteries would not open on such an attack when they could not discriminate between friend and foe. Lee deemed this too hazardous, as his army was too small for such an offensive movement. He was not only receiving no reinforcements, but was constantly being called on to send away portions of his already small army to defend points in different States.

On the 16th of December, after the retreat of Burnside to the Stafford heights, General Lee wrote to President Davis:

I had supposed they were just preparing for battle, and was saving our men for the conflict. Their hosts crowned the hill and plain beyond the river, and their numbers to me are unknown. Still, I felt a confidence that we could stand the shock and was anxious for the blow that is to fall on some point, and was prepared to meet it here. Yesterday evening I had my suspicions that they might return [to the Stafford heights] during the night, but could not believe that they would relinquish their hopes after all their boasting and preparation; and when I say that the latter is equal to the former, you will have some idea of the magnitude. This morning they were all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock. They went as they came—in the night. They suffered heavily as far as their battle went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me.

In a letter to his wife, written on Christmas day, after the battle, he said, after recounting the mercies of God's providence to his people during the past year:

Our army was never in such good health and condition since I have been attached to it. I believe they share with me my disappointment that the enemy did not renew the combat on the 13th. I was [373] holding back all that day and husbanding our strength and ammunition for the great struggle for which I thought I was preparing. Had I divined what was to have been his only effort, he would have had more of it. My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.

A Federal demonstration was made, opposite Port Royal, on the morning of the 16th, as if an attempt would be made to cross the Rappahannock at that point, far to Lee's right, and there resume the attempt to move on Richmond. This was promptly reported, and Stuart, followed by Jackson, marched to meet it. It was soon learned that this was only a feint, and so the Second corps went into winter quarters, in Caroline county, in the forests just back from the front of the wooded bluffs of the Rappahannock, and Jackson established his headquarters at Moss Neck, near Fredericksburg, while Longstreet's corps occupied the left from the rear of Fredericksburg up the Rappahannock to the vicinity of Banks' ford, above Fredericksburg.

Later in December, Stuart made a cavalry reconnoissance around Burnside's right and rear, to within a few mile of Washington and Fairfax and Occoquan. The larger portion of Longstreet's corps was sent south of the James, with its advance in the vicinity of Suffolk, to winter where subsistence was plentiful. The Federal army went into winter quarters along the line of the railway from Fredericksburg to Aquia creek, with its base of supplies at that Potomac landing, which was easily accessible by ship and steamer. Thus these two great armies, with their camp-fires in sight of each other, disposed themselves in winter quarters in the extensive forests behind the big plantations that bordered both banks of the Rappahannock, and each addressed itself to the work of preparation for another trial of arms during the coming year; the one fairly rioting in the abundance of its supplies of men and material, of all kinds, gathered from nearly the whole world, which was at its command, while the other could only strengthen its great poverty of men and resources by husbanding the scantiest of fare and of military stores, by strengthening its patriotic courage and devotion, and by increasing its trust in Divine Providence by constant religious observances and supplications and prayers from nearly every member of its army, from its humblest private to the noble Christian soldier that led and, by example, encouraged them. [374]

Smarting under his failure to move on Richmond by way of Fredericksburg, Burnside was tempted, by a spell of mild weather, to try a movement toward Richmond around Lee's left, which he began by marching up the north bank of the Rappahannock, in January, 1863. But a storm set in, just after his movement began, which soon rendered the roads impassable and forced him to retire to his camps. He found the Confederates ready to dispute his crossing the Rappahannock at every point that he reached, and making fun of his attempts by erecting great signboards within their lines, visible to the Federal army, inscribed, ‘This way to Richmond.’ This movement is known in history as ‘Burnside's Mud Campaign.’ [375]

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Caroline (Virginia, United States) (1)
Aquia Creek (Virginia, United States) (1)

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