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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. II
p443
Chapter XXXI

"It Is Well That War Is So Terrible . . ."

(FREDERICKSBURG)

 

By the dim light of a half-obscured moon at 2 o'clock on the morning of December 11, through a rising haze the Confederate pickets in Fredericksburg had observed the first preparations of the Federal engineers to throw their pontoons across the Rappahannock.1 Word had reached General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLaws about 4:30 that General William Barksdale, who commanded in the town, would open fire as soon as the pontoniers were within easy range. A few minutes later McLaws sent a courier to General Lee and ordered Captain J. W. Read's battery of reserve artillery to fire the signal guns.2

As Lee rode forward from his headquarters at Hamilton's Crossing, in answer to McLaws's summons, the haze lay thick in the valleys and reduced visibility to less than 100 yards,3 but he took pains to examine all the artillery positions he passed. Finding one battery badly placed, he asked its captain who put him there. "Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Chilton," the officer answered. The back of the General's neck grew red, a sure sign that he was angry, and he jerked his head higher, another familiar omen of an inward battle. "Colonel Chilton takes a lot upon himself," he said and touched his horse.4 To the sharp accompaniment of musketry from the river bank, he climbed an eminence about a mile and a half southwest of the lower end of the town, an eminence known from that day as Lee's Hill.5 There he learned p444 that the Federals were attempting to throw pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock at three points — the first at the foot of Hawk Street in the town, the second just below the railroad bridge, and the third near the mouth of Deep Run. The location of these bridges is shown with the numerals 1, 2, and 3 on the map on page 445.

The first and second bridges were within effective range of the artillery on the long ridge west of the town, but they could not be bombarded without danger to the houses and population of Fredericksburg. To delay the construction of these two crossings, therefore, Lee had to rely on infantry. The third bridge was within range of the better guns on that part of the line, but the ground in front of it on the right bank of the river was open and so dominated by the Federal artillery on the left bank that the Confederate infantry would be too exposed to offer effective resistance.6 Nevertheless, as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson's corps had not been brought up, the crossing had to be delayed as long as practicable at all three points. The following map shows the ranges from the ridge, which fell away in elevation and had a wider plain in its front south of the city.


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Artillery ranges from the Confederate positions in the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862.

Opposite the first and second bridges General McLaws had posted Barksdale's Mississippi brigade. The third bridge, near Deep Run, was in front of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood's lines. From the outset it was apparent that Hood could not prevent the laying of the bridge. The action and the outcome were largely in the hands of Barksdale's men, who were already engaged hotly when Lee rode to the front. As the haze hung long over the town, and was thickened by the smoke from Barksdale's rifles, little could be seen from Lee's Hill. The commanding general had to rely on reports that came regularly and told confidently of continued success in beating off the engineers. The determined Federals would rush to their farthest boat and would attempt to throw another into position — only to meet a sharp and accurate fire from the Mississippians. Down would drop the tools, back would run the Federals, and the same drama would be repeated in all its parts. By 9 o'clock the line of boats was almost complete to the p446 southern side of the river, opposite Deep Run, but the work on the upstream bridges had progressed scarcely at all since dawn.

A little later the fog began to lift, and the impatient Federals on the Stafford Heights could make out the houses from which the Mississippi volunteers were sharpshooting. At 10 A.M., the whole opposite shore line blazed with fire and a mighty roar echoed against the face of Lee's Hill.7 A hundred guns were soon in action, pouring their fire indiscriminately into the buildings occupied by the soldiers and into those where only trembling children and anxious mothers were. The cruelty of it aroused Lee's wrath. "These people," he said with emotion, "delight to destroy the weak and those who can make no defense; it just suits them!"8

From Lee's Hill there soon was disclosed a spectacle the magnificence of which made men catch their breath. Only the spires of the churches, rising in protest against such godless war, were visible above the mist that seemed, from the Confederate side, still to cling protectingly over the little town. Breaking over this blanket of haze and rising from it were the white spheres of exploding shell. Across the river the high ground was billowed in smoke, along which ran endless tongues of flame from battery to battery. Behind the active batteries could be glimpsed long waiting lines of blue infantry, parked wagon trains, and a multitude of guns with champing horses, ready at the bugle note to hurl new pieces into action or to bring limbers and caissons bouncing down the hillsides to the pontoons. The roar was continuous, and like the bed of some vast volcano, the haze seemed to bubble with the smoke of explosion. Ere long, darker clouds of smoke began to rise from houses set afire by the shell. In the still air these clouds mounted up and up, as if from rival altars kindled to the god of war. At a high elevation, a breeze caught them and spread them in a long streamer over the landscape. Riding untroubled over all were two great balloons, the eyes of the Federal army.9

Fifty rounds per gun, 5000 shell, the Union batteries fired, p447 while frightened women prayed in cellars and the riflemen of Barksdale's brigade found such shelter as they could behind shaking walls in smoke-stifled streets. Then the fire slackened until only the slow gunners were left, shame-faced, to count their final rounds. Soon the artillery ceased altogether, for the Confederates had not wasted their all-too‑scant ammunition in practice beyond their range. But the silence lasted only a few minutes. Out from their cover rushed the bridge builders once more. Selected batteries covered their renewed attempt to complete the crossings, and from the houses along the waterfront echoed again the defiant fire of the Mississippians. Under good leadership, they had suffered little during the bombardment, and now, at the first and second pontoon bridges, they were ready as ever to dispute with their rifles the passage of the river. Already they had gained half a day and seemed as fresh in their fire as they had been at dawn. Lee had listened to it all and had watched as much as was visible from his station. Busy artillerists had brought to the hilltop two new 30‑pounder Parrott guns from Richmond and numbers of lighter pieces.10 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart, and others of rank had come, observed, rejoiced, and departed as their several duties demanded. Reports from the town continued at short intervals. And each time that Barksdale proudly announced that a new attempt had been beaten off, Lee's countenance lighted up.11


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FEDERAL PONTOON BRIDGES BELOW FREDERICKSBURG, AS SEEN FROM THE RIGHT BANK OF THE RIVER,
WITH PART OF STAFFORD HEIGHTS IN THE BACKGROUND

This photograph was taken in June, 1863, but the bridges then in use were in every respect similar to those thrown across the river in December, 1862.

A double pontoon bridge near Deep Run was completed by 11 o'clock, though the infantry did not attempt to pass over.12 Still Barksdale's men hung on. Six, seven, eight, even nine times they drove back the detachment of engineer troops.13 Before noon, Barksdale was notified by Longstreet that the disposition of the defending force was complete, and that he could retire when he thought proper, but he continued to dispute the crossing.14 About 1 o'clock Federal infantry streamed down the heights and leaped into waiting batteaux, which immediately put out, with strong arms at the sweeps. If they could not build the bridge, with Barksdale's men to oppose them, the Federals evidently were determined p448 to cross the river, drive off the Mississippians, and establish a bridgehead. As the purpose of the enemy became plain, the riflemen quickened their fire. In every batteau bluecoats began to drop, but the stream was narrow, the oarsmen numerous, and soon the first contingent sprang ashore and deployed.15 Others followed quickly.

The game was up. Weary now from their long fight and too widely scattered to offer instant resistance, the Confederates slipped away from their posts, withdrew to streets farther from the shore, and rallied there. Nothing material was to be gained by prolonging the action in the town, but the fighting blood of the men was aroused and they contested the enemy's advance stubbornly and skillfully. It was 7 o'clock that evening before the last of them crossed the open ground between the town and the ridge and left Fredericksburg to its captors. By that time both the upper bridges had been completed.16

Meanwhile, of course, Jackson had been notified to prepare to bring up his troops,17 if it should develop that the enemy was not attempting to cross the river farther downstream. After nightfall Barksdale's brigade was relieved by T. R. R. Cobb's Georgians;18 the force on Marye's Heights was strengthened;19 and A. P. Hill was ordered up from Yerby's and Taliaferro from Guiney's, to move to the right of the line, so that Hood could draw in his extended flank.20

At the hour when these orders were dispatched to A. P. Hill, Jackson's corps was widely scattered, as the sketch shows.


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Distribution of the Second corps, Army of Northern Virginia, December 11, 1862.

There was much, in fact, to suggest the situation at Sharpsburg when Lee had faced McClellan with Jackson's entire command, McLaws, R. H. Anderson, and Walker detached; yet Lee did not hurry Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early from Buckner's Neck or Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.D. H. Hill from Port Royal. The reason was simple. He could hardly believe he was to have the good fortune of receiving Burnside's attack at Fredericksburg. It did not seem credible that the whole Federal army was to be hurled against the heights where Longstreet was waiting, with his ranges set and his infantry at ease. Commanding so vast p449 an army, Burnside had ample men to make a strong feint at Fredericksburg while undertaking a major turning operation down the river, say, in the vicinity of Skinker's Neck, where some signs of Federal activity had been observed. If Burnside assaulted at Fredericksburg, with only a part of his army, the arrival of Taliaferro and A. P. Hill would give Lee enough men to defeat him. In case the new Union commander planned simultaneously p450 to cross farther down stream, there must be a sufficient force in his front to delay him there until the rest of the army could be drawn back to the line of the North Anna. Pending the disclosure of the Federal plan, it was the course of wisdom to leave Early and D. H. Hill where they were. Concentration, one of the rules of war, could be neglected for a day in dealing with an adversary who seemed about to defy all the rules.

Haze again covered the river valley on the morning of the 12th and screened the movements of the enemy from the expectant army. The Federals ineffectively shelled the Confederate positions during the morning with their long-range guns across the Rappahannock;21 but little of the Southern artillery could reach the farther shore, and as Lee had no thought of changing his decision to refrain from firing on the town,22 it was a one-sided bombardment. The Confederate batteries answered only when the enemy showed himself on exposed ground.23

About noon, when the fog had lifted below Fredericksburg, Lee rode to the right, where he was joined by Jackson and, a little later, by Major von Borcke of Stuart's staff. Von Borcke bore a message from Stuart, reporting the rapid concentration of the Federals in front of the Confederate right, and he said he had been within a few hundred yards of the enemy's advanced units. At Lee's instance, he led him and Jackson to the vantage point. First they rode to a barn, where they dismounted. Then the three crept forward along a ditch that carried them to an eminence on which stood two old gateposts. They were now within 400 yards of the enemy, so close that when they used their glasses, they could distinguish the features of the men opposite them. As they carefully examined the enemy's line, everything indicated a general advance. Across one of the two pontoon bridges columns of bluecoats were marching, regiment on regiment, while over the other bridge, sheeted wagons and flawlessly equipped batteries were moving. Immediately in front, Federal picks were flying and stout arms were shovelling dirt for a line of rifle pits that swept along the riverside as far as eye could reach. At one point, thirty-two field guns were already in battery. Slowly and curiously Lee and Jackson scrutinized men and p451 weapons, while von Borcke bent his giant's shoulders in the ditch and asked himself what would happen to the Southern cause if sharpshooters should pick off the two observers or if a sudden rush of cavalry should take them prisoner. Finally Lee put up his glasses and crept back as he had gone, Jackson following him.24

Lee had seen enough to convince him that this was a major advance, and not a feint. The Federals evidently intended to make their main effort there, and not farther down the river. Moreover, the activity of the enemy indicated that an attack would probably come the next day. D. H. Hill and Early, therefore, must be recalled at once from Port Royal and Buckner's Neck and the army must be made ready for the morrow. Jackson left to draft orders for D. H. Hill and Early.25 Taliaferro and A. P. Hill were already coming up.26 As Lee rode back to the centre of the line he was more than satisfied at the outlook, even though all the signs indicated that the Federals were massing to attack at his weakest point, his right flank. It was better to have them there than farther down the Rappahannock. "I shall try to do them all the damage in our power when they move forward," he said simply.27

Night brought a cold and biting wind,28 and on the picket line, where no fires were allowed, the men suffered cruelly. As the bitter night wore on the wind died like a sullen Fury, and in its place the freezing fog rose from the ground where the unthawed snow remained in spots the feeble December sun of the previous week had not reached. One soldier died of exposure,29 and when the late dawn came at last, men rejoiced at the prospect of a battle whose horrors could not be worse than those of the night.

The fog at daybreak was so thick that nothing was visible beyond fifty or sixty yards,30 but by the time Lee reached his observation post the camps were astir. Crouching over their fires, the men ate their rough rations, wiped the moisture from their rifles, and looked at one another with the forced gaiety that p452 soldiers always show when in their hearts they ask themselves which of them will gather again at the next mess and which will be lying in convulsed death on the battlefield. Quickly they were in position along the heights, shivering and excited. The invisible enemy was astir, too, for up the hillside drifted the echo of phantom voices, the roll of drums, snatches of bugle calls and, ere long, the music of bands in well-remembered tunes.31

General officers began ere long to ride up with reports and reassurance. Early had arrived on the right. D. H. Hill's long march from Port Royal had put him in position. The entire army was concentrated to the last regiment. Longstreet's front spread from the high ridge opposite Beck's Island32 to a point beyond Deep Run; Jackson's corps extended thence to the vicinity of Hamilton's Crossing. On Longstreet's left, R. H. Anderson defended the high ground almost to Marye's Heights, where Ransom was in reserve. McLaws covered the foot of Marye's Heights in a sunken road that was from that dread day to be forever renowned. From the southern end of this sunken road33 McLaws's line wound past Howison's mill, across Hazel Run and over Lee's Hill to a point beyond the home of the historian Howison. There Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pickett took up the line and followed the curve of the ridge nearly at right angles until he reached the vicinity of Doctor Rennolds's34 house. From that point Hood's line stood on the ridge. His right joined the left of A. P. Hill, who held the front almost to Hamilton's Crossing. Between Hill and the river was the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. In his rear were Early and Taliaferro in a second line. D. H. Hill was behind them. Stuart was at hand and was hovering beyond the right flank. Every rifle that the Army of Northern Virginia could muster was at Lee's instant command. Three hundred and six guns were in position.35 Seventy-eight thousand men were ready for the worst that Burnside's 125,000 could do.36 Here was Lee's line:

p453

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Position of the major units of the Army of Northern Virginia
at the opening of the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862.

p454 Presently came Jackson, apparelled in unwonted splendor — a new uniform coat, a hat adorned with shining braid — mounted on a well-caparisoned and magnificent horse. Even though they knew that the swelling fire of the skirmishers would soon break into battle, the comrades of the grim "Stonewall" could not repress questioning as to the source of so much splendor, and when Jackson confessed in his low voice that he believed it was some of his friend Stuart's doing, badinage overwhelmed him.37 Stuart was as proud and as pleased as if he had coaxed one of Jackson's blue-stocking clerical aides to join in the most riotous rondel of his banjo-player Sweeny.

Jackson was for business, despite his dress-parade attire. There must be no defensive, said he, but instant attack under cover of the fog, which would keep the Federals from employing their artillery across the river. Stuart seconded him. But Lee said no. He would meet the Federals where he stood, wear them down, let them break their fine divisions in hopeless assaults on his position, while he held back and conserved his strength. Then, when their losses had reduced their numbers nearer to parity, then he would strike, but not sooner.38

Longstreet's spirit, as always, was aroused at the prospect of battle, and his graceless humor found its usual butt in the grave Jackson. "General," he said, "do not all these multitudes of Federals frighten you?"

"We shall see very soon whether I shall not frighten them," Jackson retorted calmly.39

Jackson now started to rejoin his command, but Longstreet pursued his jest, "Jackson, what are you going to do with all those people over there?"

"Sir," answered Jackson, as he mounted, "we will give them the bayonet."40

Longstreet had reported early that the orders of command which he had heard through the fog confirmed the general belief that the attack would be on the right.41 Jackson was of the same p455 mind.42 As soon, therefore, as he could dispose of details that awaited his decision, Lee rode in that direction. Attended by Jackson and Stuart he covered the whole of the long flank. Everywhere he was received with cheers, but there was great hilarity and some misgiving over the appearance of the much bedizened "Stonewall." Said the soldiers as he went along, "Old Jack will be afraid of his clothes and will not get down to work."43

Leaving Jackson in his glory and confusion, Lee crossed with Stuart to a field on the flank of the Federals, and there he tried to ascertain if the enemy was moving. He could hear the vague hum of many voices but he could see nothing distinctly. The fog, however, was beginning to fade, for soon sharpshooters' bullets began to hum about the little group and a few shadowy forms could be glimpsed, as if the Federal outpost had seen the party and was deploying to capture it. Lee took his time, regardless of the Federal riflemen, and did not retire until it was apparent that further reconnaissance in the fog would yield no result.44

Back to his post of observation he galloped in a whirlwind of cheers. Had his mind been less occupied with the task before him, he might have recalled his old study of Napoleon and might well have compared his position with that of Archduke Charles in May, 1809, when the emperor had crossed the Danube and had challenged the Austrians. Aspern had been Napoleon's Hamilton's Crossing and Essling his Fredericksburg. Two days' hard fighting had made the battle of Aspern-Essling the first defeat for the invading Corsican — adsit omen!

Imperceptibly the baffling fog began to dissipate after Lee resumed his lookout. By 10 o'clock it was manifest that the Confederate positions on the ridge could now be made out by the unseen enemy in the valley, for the impatient captains of a few enterprising Union batteries opened a desultory fire on the right.

Then the white steeples of Fredericksburg's churches were visible above the gray mist. The blurred outlines of the Stafford Heights could be vaguely seen. Vision widened. Drab daylight began to soften into gold under the rays of a mounting sun. A p456 few minutes later the ready war god rang up the curtain on the scene set for slaughter, and against the vast back-drop of the gun-studded hills of Stafford, the whole stage was disclosed from the upper fringe of Fredericksburg streets to the distant gray meadows in front of Hamilton's Crossing. Then as now, distances must have been deceptive. It must have seemed incredible that a mile and more, a distance too great to be covered by the short-ranged guns in the Southern batteries, separated the observing audience on the crest of the ridge from the massed multitudes of actors on the far-sweeping plain below.45 Fifty-five thousand Jackson reckoned in his front, with guns past counting. Hidden in the streets of Fredericksburg must be other thousands. Never had the might of the potent North been so fully deployed before the eyes of the ragged soldiery of the South.

"Test the ranges on the left," Lee ordered at 10:30, and soon a quick blaze of fire swept from Marye's Heights northward.46 The enemy seemed to take it for a challenge. Almost at once, Lee saw long, heavy blue lines begin an advance against the lower part of the ridge on the right, where waited the veterans of A. P. Hill, who had saved the day at Sharpsburg. Scarcely had the Federals started forward than white smoke-puffs could be seen on the enemy's left. They were from two of Pelham's horse artillery, only two, set boldly out in the field. Soon it was apparent that their fire was enfilading the approaching column. The lines halted. The men sought such cover as the undulation of the open ground offered.47 Busy batteries could be seen hurrying to silence Pelham. Four of them opened quickly on him. It seemed certain that he would be destroyed. One gun was disabled, but through the gathering smoke, a few minutes later, he shifted his other rifle and put the enemy off his range. Again and again he moved, one piece against sixteen, but he was not silenced. The Federal attacking column remained where it was. The whole army waited, as if to watch the single combat of the paladin gunner. Lee's judgment told him that Stuart had opened too soon,48 but his admiration for Pelham's fine fighting p457 rose with each round. "It is glorious to see such courage in one so young," he exclaimed.49 Stuart had thrice to recall Pelham before the young artillerist abandoned the unequal fight.

When at last he withdrew, the Federal artillery began to plaster the front of A. P. Hill's division spitefully. Not a gun answered them. "Old Jack" was unwilling to show his hand for the small stakes his hidden batteries might claim. Soon Lee saw the Federals marching undisturbed down the Richmond stage road to extend their left flank. Presently they halted and faced about. It was a splendid deployment, worthy of Lee's brother-engineer, George Gordon Meade, who had stood with him on the deck of the tiny Petrita, fifteen years before, when Scott had made his hazardous reconnaissance of the sea-front at Vera Cruz.

No sooner were the Federals in position than they surged forward in a long line for their first attack. Steadily they came on, their well-dressed lines plainly visible from Lee's lookout. Still the ridge in their front sent no challenge. For all the opposition they encountered, they might have been recruits in some training manoeuvre, far from the field of action. They had narrowed their distance to 1000 yards, to 900, and were only 800 yards away when, in a single crash, Hill's artillery swept their lines. The startled troops halted, wavered at the second salvo and then in confusion fell back as they had come.50 A first repulse: the enemy must try again!

Longstreet on the left had opened his batteries at 11 o'clock to create a diversion, in the belief that the attack on the Confederate right was a major assault. His fire swept across Fredericksburg and played on the bridges. The 30‑pounder Parrott and the smaller guns on Lee's Hill added their metal. The explosions shook the ridge and filled the air around the commander's lookout with the intoxicating smoke of battle. The artillery had a commanding field of fire. Lee's Hill reaches an elevation of 210 feet. Marye's Heights rise to 130. Between them flows Hazel Run. On a line from north to south, Lee's Hill is about four-tenths p458 of a mile farther westward from Marye's Heights, which stood out like a promontory. So wide and so open was the zone of fire in front of Lee's Hill that no troops could hope to endure shelling long enough to reach the sides of the hill from the plain below. Marye's Heights were closer to the enemy and seemed to be easier. The town gave cover for massing the assaulting columns. In front of the heights, diagonally from left to right, ran a deep ditch that offered good shelter at a distance varying from 330 to 900 yards. Between this ditch and the heights the ground rose gradually, with one "dip" about midway that was not under direct fire. But from this "dip" the incline was steady and open, though not very steep, to the Telegraph road. This road turns sharply from the west at the southeast corner of Marye's Heights and runs thence northward. It had been cut from the lower part of the ridge to a width of about twenty-five feet and had stone retaining walls on either side. The road itself was sunken, scarcely visible from the town side. The outer retaining wall was four feet high and constituted a perfect parapet for infantry. Above the sunken road were the guns.51 The general position is shown on the map printed on page 453. The sketch of the front of attack, on the opposite page, shows it in more detail with contour intervals of ten feet.


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Field of Federal advance in attack on Marye's Heights, December, 1862.º

Behind the stone wall in the sunken road stood a North Carolina regiment of Cooke's brigade52 and a Georgia brigade, commanded by General T. R. R. Cobb, a publicist of distinction who had been very critical of Lee during the early part of the campaign of 1862 but had been completely won by Lee's kindness. The batteries behind them were the well-equipped Washington Artillery, with Ransom's division of two North Carolina brigades in support.

The heights and the sunken road, in a word, constituted a death trap; were the Federals foolish enough to venture into it? The Confederates speculated and doubted until, at 11:30 o'clock the incredible answer came. Out from the streets poured the Federal infantry, headed straight for Marye's Heights, precisely as Lee had hoped, yet scarcely had dared hope. General Burnside most obligingly was preparing to waste in costly assault the great p459 odds his country had given him. Not only so, but he was deploying in the most injudicious manner, "right in front," instead of "double columns in the centre."53 The Unionists did not even choose the weakest part of Marye's Heights for their assault. Instead of attacking farther to the northward, where the Confederate artillery was less numerous and less advantageously placed,54 they made their advance against the steepest part of the heights and directly against the sunken road. "It was magnificent, p460 but it was not war." On they came, plainly visible to Lee, completing their deployment as they advanced. They planted three standards defiantly, but in the very act received the full blast of the artillery almost in their faces. So intense was the fire and so perfectly laid that the ranks thinned at the very first round and soon were melting back to the ditch in blue and blood. The Confederate infantry had scarcely anything to do in repulsing this first advance. Shellfire sufficed.55

First blood for Longstreet as for Jackson — but every indication that heavier assaults against both positions were to be delivered speedily! On the right, as 1 o'clock approached, Lee could see the stout columns slowly massing. Almost on the hour, the Stafford Heights broke into flames, as if the door of a furnace had been thrown wide, and with a shout the Federal left wing swept forward against Jackson. It was a major assault this time, and manifestly it was to be delivered in a gigantic effort to take the ridges and turn the right of Lee's line. Quickly the Confederate batteries opened in reply. Gaps were cut in the charging columns. Windrows of dead were left behind. In a long volley the Confederate infantry opened, claiming grievous toll in every regiment. A minute more and the fire was so heavy as almost to drown the nearer batteries on Marye's Heights, against which the Federals were beginning to form for another assault.

The advance was slower now on the right but it seemed resistless. Gradually it concentrated on a neck of woodland that extended from the Confederate front across the railroad. Soon the roar centred there. More and more of the enemy were drawn into the woods, as into a vortex. Presently the fire was closer to the ridge, and whenever the sound of the enemy's cheers could be heard in the din, they were pitched to a note of triumph. Something had gone amiss. The Federals had found an opening. They might be breaking the line. From Lee's Hill it was impossible to tell. Ere long, keen eyes with good field glasses could distinguish figures making their way to the rear in garb of a different color from the blue dots on the plain. Prisoners! Some disaster had overtaken Hill.

The enemy was farther into the woods now — was Jackson being p461 whipped? Advanced batteries had been withdrawn. The guns on Prospect Hill which had broken up the first Federal advance could not bear on the woods where the Federals entered.56 There was fury and confusion, and, on Lee's Hill, wonder and misgiving. More prisoners, wounded streaming back; but no withdrawal. If the Union troops were not advancing they were at least holding their ground. In front of Marye's Heights they had formed again by this time, were advancing and were being hurled back over their own dead and wounded — but there on the right, what was happening? South of the neck of woods, they were beaten back, and from the line of the railroad were firing uselessly in their front; still they struggled through the woods and on toward the ridge.57 On the left of the thicket, also, an advance to the railroad was under way.

The Federals with their overmastering artillery were plastering the whole front. A shell buried itself close to Lee under the parapet but did not explode.58 Through the smoke, Lee found himself looking across the Valley of the Rappahannock to see if he could locate in the yard at Chatham the old tree under which he had wooed Mary Custis.59 As his thought and vision ranged, officers came and went, reports were received and orders sent to the strange music of the 30‑pounder Parrott in the redoubt. Round after round it roared on in excellent practice until after the gunners had rammed home their thirty-ninth charge. Then there was a discordant explosion, a rending sound, and the breech of the gun split into a dozen fragments that fell to the ground. Lee was nearby, as were Longstreet and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pendleton, but none of these and not one of the artillerists was touched.60

Suspense was now at the highest. Reports from the right told only that the enemy had made his way between the brigades of Lane and Archer and was fighting savagely. Another column had crept up the ravine of Deep Run and had engaged the left of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pender's brigade. At last, above the deep roar of the artillery, p462 there came the echo of the high, quavering rebel yell, an "unearthly, fiendish yell, such as no other troops or civilized beings ever uttered," as a Federal chaplain reported.61 It must be a Confederate countercharge. A few minutes later, as anxious eyes and ears were strained, the Federals began to run out of the wood they had entered. The very trees seemed to discharge them, limping, crawling, retreating in the confusion or stubbornly and slowly falling back, firing as they went. Louder swelled the rebel yell, faster rolled the fire, until, with a gasp of excited joy, the observers on Lee's Hill saw the familiar ragged men in butternut burst from the wood and down Deep Run in all the passion of pursuit. On they went, close after the Federals, valiantly forming line, only to lose it again as the fleet of foot sought to overtake the laggard Federals.

Lee's eyes flashed as he saw them, and the blood of "Light-Horse Harry" fought in his veins with the calmer strain of the peace-loving Carters. Turning to Longstreet he revealed the whole man in a single brief sentence: "It is well that war is so terrible — we should grow too fond of it!"62 As he uttered the words, he seemed in the eyes of a British correspondent who stood by to have about him an "antique heroism."63

Out into the plain the Confederates pursued, heedless of their officers' commands. Soon they were under fire and began to drop fast. At length those who had come from the neck of woods turned back in good order, but those who had repulsed the attack at Deep Run rushed on until their officers in desperation had almost to beat down their muskets. Finally, after they had sustained needless losses, they too retired. But not in content of mind. They were Carolinians and they felt humiliated that they had been denied the honor of charging their foe to the very banks of the river. Some were weeping in their vexation, and some were swearing at General Hood as they stumbled back over Federal corpses to their own line. "It's because he had no confidence in Carolinians," they protested. "If we had been some of his Texans, he would have let us go on!"64

Whatever had happened on the right — and Lee did not know p463 — it had been rectified, the front had been restored and the enemy had been driven back. It was not yet 3 o'clock, and the enemy might renew his assaults in that quarter, but there was scarcely time for speculation on this, because the enemy was again madly hurling his brigades against Marye's Heights in a third attack. General Cobb had been mortally wounded by an enfilading fire from some buildings on the left,65 and as the cartridges of his gallant brigade ran low, Kershaw's men and two more regiments of Cooke's North Carolinians had been sent down to the sunken road.66 Kershaw had assumed command there just as this third attack was taking form and he had his troops in line four to six deep, practically filling the road;67 but they were so composed in the confidence of victory, that each line fired in turn, or else those in front passed their empty rifles to the men behind them and took their loaded pieces.68 Not one was injured by the fire of those in the rear ranks.69

The third attack was repulsed, but it had been pushed so far and with so much vigor that Lee began to wonder if the troops were numerous enough to hold the ground. "General," said he to Longstreet, "they are massing very heavily and will break your line, I am afraid."

Longstreet answered proudly, "General, if you put every man now on the other side of the Potomac in that field to approach me over the same line, and give me plenty of ammunition, I will kill them all before they reach my line. Look to your right; you are in some danger there, but not on my line."70

It was not an empty boast on the part of "Old Pete." Again, and with fresh troops, the Federals came forward, and again they were hurled back before a single man could reach the stone wall. Attack followed attack until the soldiers in the sunken road lost count of their number. Their ammunition was exhausted as they poured volleys into the advancing enemy at intervals of only a few seconds, so they took the cartridge boxes from the dead and from the wounded. They had no medical relief closer than the field hospital behind the hill, and the only house into which even the nearest could be removed was that of Mrs. Stevens, facing the p464 road. Mrs. Stevens herself was there, having refused to abandon the place, and in a ceaseless hail of bullets she bound the wounds of such soldiers as could reach her shelter. Her very petticoats she tore up for bandages, while the Federals seemed to make her house a target. When Lee heard of what had happened there, his wrath rose, as it always did when non-combatants suffered. "I wish those people would let Mrs. Stevens alone!" he exclaimed hotly.71

About 3:30 there came a lull in front of Marye's Heights, while new brigades were prepared for the slaughter. On the right, as on the left, though the artillery continued to roar, there were no infantry charges. The enemy had enough of Jackson's fire. His battle was over, with his lines completely restored. Taking advantage of the pause in the infantry assaults, Colonel Walton on Marye's Heights asked that his Washington Artillery, the caissons of which were almost empty, be relieved by other batteries. Word was quickly sent to Alexander to bring up fresh guns. His shortest road to the Heights was across the front and up a ravine. Without hesitating he hurried his pieces forward in the very face of the enemy. "Down the Telegraph road," wrote one of the men who stood behind the stone wall, "the battery came, their horses rearing and plunging, drivers burying the points of their spurs deep into the flanks of the foaming steeds; riders in front bending low upon the saddle bows to escape the shells that now filled the air, or plowed up the earth beneath the horses' hoofs." One gun was overturned and the column was delayed, but the piece was quickly righted and the wild rush began again, "the men on the caissons clinging with a death-like grip to retain their seats, the heavy wheels spinning around like mad and bounding high in the air." Officers shouted and urged the men on; the batteries turned up the grade, exposed to the full fury of the fire, reached the crest, swung to the right, and unlimbered.72 Then, and not till then, did Walton's exhausted men drag their scorching, smoke-covered guns to the rear. The Federals saw the withdrawal and, noting the cessation of fire, assumed that a retreat was beginning. p465 With a shout, they sprang forward again.73 But Alexander's guns opened instantly, the infantry in the sunken road were well warmed to their bloody work, and the combined fire repulsed the enemy once more, his casualties added to the writhing army on which the attacking columns trampled as they passed forward and as they retreated.

The day was nearly done, but the bewildered Burnside stubbornly pushed in fresh troops in a mad determination to achieve the impossible by the weight of his numbers and the immensity of his sacrifices. To meet him, Lee ordered Jenkins's brigade from the right to support McLaws and directed Kemper to reinforce Ransom.74 Two regiments of Kemper's brigade were sent down into the sunken road to relieve the 24th North Carolina, which had been there two days.75 On the enemy came, with strong supports. If one brigade faltered and lay down, another pressed over it; when one fell back, a second dashed forward. The whole field seemed alive with a blue that by this time was beginning to blend into the twilight on the chill ground. Each time the folly of the blind assault seemed more criminal. One man, presumably an officer, made his way unscathed to within thirty yards of the sunken road and there fell dead. Behind him a few scattered bodies lay at intervals, but few got closer than one hundred yards. Beyond that distance, the bleeding forms were piled man on man in ghastly barricades. Still the gallant columns pressed on toward the stone wall. It was nearly 7 o'clock when the final assault withered in the face of artillery that now was firing by the flashes of the Federal small arms.76

On the centre, between Lee's Hill and the left of A. P. Hill's line, there had been no infantry assaults.77 Late in the afternoon, on the right, Jackson thought he observed preparations for a renewal of the attack, and when this did not materialize he deployed for the offensive, only to find that his advance came under such a heavy fire of artillery that nothing but slaughter could be expected.78 Out of this brief and abortive deployment p466 developed the myth that Jackson planned a night attack, which Lee vetoed.79 Before the final attack on Marye's Heights had been repulsed, any general counterattack would have been dangerous; after that time it was impossible, even if Jackson's experience had not proved that the commanding Federal artillery would have swept the Southern lines precisely as the Confederate batteries had mowed down the Federals in their front. As far as is known, Lee did not consider such a thrust. No one who studies the ground can justly criticise him for failing to do so.80

When the artillery at last died away in black night, the very skies seemed to reflect the blood that had been spilled to no purpose in front of the sunken road. First there was a dim, ghostly light beyond the horizon that grew in brightness until it covered a wide arc of the horizon; then it broke into the mysterious shafts of such an aurora borealis as the soldiers from the far South had never seen.81 It was, in their eyes, a warning of what the morrow would bring forth, for nearly every one expected Burnside to renew the attack.82 Despite his losses, the Federal commander assuredly would try his strength again in a more intelligent manoeuvre against the Confederate position.

At headquarters, whither Lee rode under the glow of the aurora, his generals were all but unanimous in expressing this view. Only Hood insisted that Burnside would not resume the battle. Lee himself was of opinion that Burnside would make his major attack the next morning. In the highest spirits he predicted that further Federal assaults would be repelled and that the Army of Northern Virginia would then resume the offensive.83 He voiced the expectation of a renewal of the battle in the first telegraphic report of the day's action, sent the Secretary of War at 9 P.M.84 He believed that his opponent would not throw away his troops again in attacks against Marye's Heights, but would manoeuvre for a turning movement. Nothing more was to be gained by luring the enemy to unfortified hills. Consequently he ordered the entire line strengthened, so p467 that he could hold it with part of his force and have the rest of the army free to manoeuvre. Before midnight his judgment seemed to be confirmed by the capture of a messenger bearing a memorandum of Burnside's plan for the next day's fight — the last fight of the Army of the Potomac, as many of the Confederates confidently believed.85

There was much to hear and much to do as the night wore on. In particular, Jackson was reminded tactfully to replenish his ammunition,86 and new reports of a threatened movement against James River were carefully sifted.87 Lee learned, also, in some detail, of what had happened on the right at 1 P.M., when he had seen the enemy mysteriously enter the neck of woods that extended across the railroad, opposite A. P. Hill's front. It developed that this was a bit of marshy ground, which Hill had thought impassable88 and had not protected, though von Borcke had suggested that the timber be felled89 and General Lane had specifically pointed out the danger the position presented.90 Archer's brigade had been on the right of this gap and Lane on the left, with Gregg in the second line, behind the gap.91 Finding the weak spot, the Federals had poured in. Two regiments on Archer's left and the whole of Lane's brigade had given ground, but Archer had changed front on his right and had stubbornly resisted.92 When the Federals had penetrated the woods, they had surprised one regiment of Gregg's brigade, and Gregg himself had mistaken the enemy for a retiring Confederate force. In the mêlée, Gregg had fallen and some of his men had been roughly handled, but Lawton's brigade under Colonel E. N. Atkinson, Trimble's under Colonel R. F. Hoke, and Early's under Colonel J. A. Walker had come up quickly from the second line and had pushed the enemy back. As Hoke's men had rushed forward in pursuit, Gregg had pulled himself up by a sapling and, though dying and unable to speak, had cheered the men onward by waving his hat.93 The troops who had charged the enemy on the railroad and had then pursued p468 them into the plain had been Atkinson's and Hoke's. Thomas's men and two regiments of Lane's had restored the front that Lane had held.94 The only other point where the enemy had reached the railroad had been on the left of Pender, along Deep Run, and there he had been driven back by a countercharge of a part of Law's brigade.95 This action at Deep Run and on Hill's front had cost Lee 3054 casualties,96 and, though it had ended without disaster, it had not been altogether satisfactory. Longstreet had felt that Hood should have attacked more heavily while the fighting was under way near his position.97

A brief and troubled night broke in heavy fog on the morning of December 14.98 Riding early to the front, Lee was pleased to find that the fatigue parties had done their work well in fortifying the heights. "My army," he said, "is as much stronger for these new entrenchments as if I had received reinforcements of 20,000 men."99 He kept the diggers at their work, and hour by hour he saw the parapets rise higher.100 Confident of his ability to throw Burnside back a second day, Lee had only one concern: his ammunition was low, and his chief ordnance officer reported that a railway train then on its way contained all the reserve supply from Richmond. Lee could only hope for thrifty gunnery that day, while he urged the War Department to speed the manufacture of more shell.101

As the weather was clear, the sun quickly scattered the fog and gave to the expected new battle the setting of a perfect winter's day.102 When the field became visible, the enemy was seen holding the ditch in front of Marye's Heights, but the men were flat on the ground and showed no disposition to stir.103 The ends of the streets facing the Confederate positions were barricaded, and the walls of many of the houses were loop-holed for infantry.104 Manifestly, Burnside did not intend to resume the attack on Marye's Heights, and as no reports came of any activity farther to the left, Lee concluded that the offensive would p469 not be renewed on that wing. Sending fresh long-range artillery to Jackson,105 Lee rode to the right and, with "Stonewall" and Hood, went to Prospect Hill, the eminence from which Lindsay Gordon's artillery had broken up the first demonstration on the morning of the 13th. "We had a magnificent view of the Federal lines on their left, some seven in number, and each, seemingly, a mile in length," Hood wrote. "General Jackson here turned to me, and asked my estimate of the strength of the enemy then in sight and in our immediate front. I answered fifty thousand, and he remarked that he had estimated their numbers at fifty-five thousand. Strange to say, amid that immense assemblage of Federal troops, not a standard was to be seen; the colors were all lowered. . . ."106

What did all this mean? Was it a trick, or could it be possible that the enemy had abandoned the offensive? With the question puzzling him, Lee returned to his own post of observation and examined the ground again. The Union troops were burying the dead within their lines and were carrying off such of the wounded as they could reach. Now and again the skirmishers engaged in angry exchanges, and the Federal batteries fired a few half-hearted rounds. That was all.107 Noon and afternoon brought no change. The waiting Confederates were surprised, then disappointed, then depressed. Lee's amazement grew. "General," he said to Longstreet, "I am losing faith in your friend General Burnside," and he put down the captured memorandum, outlining operations for the 14th, as a ruse de guerre.108 Evening came, and not a man had been engaged at close range. Still, it did not seem credible that so great an army was ready to abandon so elaborate a manoeuvre after only one day's partial engagement of his forces. When Lee sat down at night to write his preliminary report of the battle, he could only describe the situation. He did not attempt to forecast its development.109

On the morning of the 15th, with his own line still further p470 strengthened, Lee observed that the enemy had dug rifle pits and had thrown up fortifications on the outskirts of the town, as if to repel attacks.110 He saw a ghastly sight besides: The Federal dead that still remained between the lines had changed color. They no longer were blue, but naked and discolored. During the night, they had been stripped by shivering Confederates, many of whom now boasted overcoats, boots, and jackets for which the people of the North had paid. It was ghoulish business, reprobated by the enemy but excused by the beneficiaries, who asked whether it was better for them to freeze or to take clothing the former owners would not miss.111

Jackson came during the morning for a conference,112 but so far as is known there was no discussion of a counterstroke. How could there be one, when the Federal lines were now well fortified, and the superior artillery was still in position on the plain and across the river to blast the Confederate lines? Lee's spirits sank. If the Federals did not intend to renew the attack, the victory would be barren, save for the losses inflicted. It was a heavy price to pay for having to defend the line of the Rappahannock in order to procure supplies from the lower valley of the river. The strategy of the commissary might be unescapable but it was disheartening.

During the afternoon of the 15th, Burnside sent out a flag of truce for the burial of the dead and for the relief of such of the wounded as had survived forty-eight hours on the ground without even the poor comfort of a canteen of water.113a Lee readily consented to a truce on that part of the front where the Federals had fallen.114 Soon the surgeons, the ambulance detachments, and the burial details mingled with the Confederates in the field. The horror of this scene was far greater at close range than it had appeared from the lines. In the space of an acre or so were 1100 dead Federals, some of them piled 7 or 8 deep,115 "swollen," as one horrified witness had observed, "to twice their natural size, black as Negroes in most cases, lying in every conceivable posture, some on their backs with gaping jaws, some p471 with eyes as large as walnuts, protruding with glassy stare, some doubled up like a contortionist, here one without a head, there one without legs, yonder a head and legs without a trunk, everywhere horrible expressions, fear, rage, agony, madness, torture, lying pools of blood, lying with heads half buried in mud, with fragments of shell sticking in oozing brain, with bullet holes all over the puffed limbs. . . ."116 A fifth of them had been killed by artillery; the minié balls from the heights and from the sunken road had accounted for the rest.117 There could be no reasonable computation of the gross casualties. Not until months afterward was it known that the Federals had lost 12,653, compared to 5309 on the Confederate side, many of the latter having trifling wounds.118 In front of Marye's Heights, where 9000 Federals had fallen, McLaws had lost only 858 — in Cobb's brigade but 235 — and Ransom's casualties had been 534.119 The toll on the entire Confederate left, from McLaws's division to the end of the line, including Kemper's and Jenkins's brigades, had not exceeded 1676.

Light as were the losses of the Confederates, contrasted with those of the Federals, the sight of so much human woe would have been intolerable had it not been relieved by episodes that made the burial details laugh even as they shuddered. One Confederate private, who had picked up a fine Belgian rifle that lay on the ground among the dead, was reprimanded by a Federal major. Nobody, the Union officer said, could salvage arms during a truce. The Confederate continued on his way, heedless of the officer, until his eye chanced to light on the Federal's fine boots. "Never mind," he said, "I'll shoot you tomorrow and git them boots."120

Another Confederate stopped on the field to take a pair of shoes from the feet of a Federal who lay prone and apparently dead. While he was removing one shoe, he was startled to see the man lift his head reproachfully. The Confederate carefully put the man's foot back on the ground. "Beg pardon, sir," he said, "I thought you had gone above."121

p472 By the time this polite ghoul and his comrades had come back into the lines, Lee was suspicious that Burnside was about to retire in order to undertake a new advance somewhere else on the Rappahannock, but still he could not convince himself that an adversary who had done so much boasting and had made so many preparations could afford to withdraw.122 Lee waited on the lines till a south wind sprang up and a rain began to fall during the evening. Then, in frank perplexity, he returned to his headquarters at Hamilton's Crossing.123

The rain was still falling and the morning was dark when he started to the front again on the 16th.124 As on the previous morning since Burnside had advanced across the Rappahannock, the haze was so thick that nothing of the enemy's whereabouts could be seen,125 not even when Lee rode to the right once again to reconnoitre from Jackson's front.

With "Stonewall," he went out to the eminence near the railroad whence he had observed the silent army resting on the morning of the 14th with not a single flag flying. D. H. Hill was on the ground, talking with Colonel Bryan Grimes. Hill met them with the announcement that the enemy had disappeared from his front.

"Who says they are gone?" Jackson demanded.

"Colonel Grimes," Hill said.

"How do you know?" Jackson asked the colonel.

"I have been down as far as their picket line of yesterday," Grimes answered, "and can see nothing of them."

"Move your skirmish line as far as the line," Jackson ordered, "and see where they are."

Lee said nothing, but Grimes observed how deep was the chagrin and humiliation with which he and Jackson received the news.126

The report was true. Under cover of the darkness, with the south wind shutting off all sound from the Southern lines, Burnside had retreated and had removed his bridges. It had been an easy task and Lee felt that it could not had been prevented.127 p473 "Had I divined that was to have been his only effort," he said of Burnside, "he would have had more of it."128 And again, in disappointment: "[the enemy] suffered heavily as far as the battle went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me. . . . The contest will have now to be renewed, but on what field I cannot say."129 He was deeply depressed that he had not been able to strike a decisive blow. "We had really accomplished nothing; we had not gained a foot of ground, and I knew the enemy could easily replace the men he had lost" — thus he reviewed the campaign months afterwards.130 The army and the country shared his chagrin.131

Although there were some signs that the Federals were moving for the Potomac,132 Lee's expectation was that Burnside would soon cross the river again, probably at Port Royal, in which case he planned to reconcentrate in the enemy's front and to give battle anew. If the Federals slipped over the line of the Rappahannock unopposed — and that would not be difficult on so long a line — then Lee intended to withdraw to the North Anna and meet him there.133

That was all. There was no pride in the quick discovery of Burnside's plan to move from Warrenton to Fredericksburg, no boasting that an army of 78,000 had blocked the advance of 125,000 Federals on the Confederate capital, and had captured 11,000 stands of arms,134 no rejoicing that the great preparations of the enemy had been set at naught with casualties nearly two and a half times those the Army of Northern Virginia had sustained. There was only regret that more had not been done.135 p474 Slowly and sorrowfully, by the now familiar road, he made his way back to headquarters on the 16th and sat himself down to write Mrs. Lee about the battle and to discuss with her their plans for helping the Arlington Negroes whom he was soon to manumit under the will of Mr. Custis.136


The Author's Notes:

1 McCabe, 309. The moon, nearing the last quarter, had risen at 11:41 P.M.

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2 O. R., 21, 578; 3 B. and L., 86. Longstreet, op. cit., 301, was mistaken in saying the signal was given at 3 A.M., and was mistaken, also, in stating in 3 B. and L., 73, that it was fired by the Washington Artillery.

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3 10 S. H. S. P., 386.

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4 Statement of Colonel T. M. R. Talcott to the author.

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5 Farther to the south the high ground on the ridge was known as Howison's Hill, which has caused some writers mistakenly to assume that Howison's Hill and Lee's Hill were the same.

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6 For good description of the ground, see Early, 167‑68, and H. C. Cabell in O. R., 21, 585.

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7 Longstreet, in 3 B. and L., 75, gave the hour as 1 P.M., and Alexander, op. cit., 290, said 11 A.M. McLaws fixed it at 10 A.M. (3 B. and L., 87), and Walton (O. R., 21, 573) put it at 7 A.M. Hunt (O. R., 21, 182) did not mention the time. As McLaws was in immediate command, and should have known the facts, his statement is accepted here.

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8 Cooke, 177.

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9 Alexander, 290‑91.

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10 O. R., 21, 1058; 10 S. H. S. P., 387. Pendleton (O. R., 21, 564) misdated the placing of these guns and fixed it on the 12th.

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11 H. B. McClellan, 191; 2 von Borcke, 98‑100.

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12 O. R., 21, 448‑49.

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13 O. R., 21, 578.

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14 Longstreet, 302.

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15 Cf. 3 B. and L., 121.

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16 Sorrel, 137; 36 S. H. S. P., 20 ff.; O. R., 21,º 571, 578, 601, 607.

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17 Pendleton, 240.

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18 O. R., 21, 579.

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19 O. R., 21, 625.

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20 O. R., 21, 645.

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21 10 S. H. S. P., 392; 3 B. and L., 97.

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22 McCabe, 313.

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23 10 S. H. S. P., 392; O. R., 21, 574.

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24 2 von Borcke, 109‑10.

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25 2 von Borcke, 110. H. B. McClellan, 192; O. R., 21, 643, 1060.

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26 O. R., 21, 645, 675.

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27 O. R., 21, 1060.

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28 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 182.

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29 O. R., 21, 588.

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30 G. Wise, 128; Longstreet, 306; O. R., 21, 612.

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31 Taylor's General Lee, 146.

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32 Now called Hunter's Island.

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33 Some writers mistakenly have assumed that the sunken road ran along the whole of Lee's front. Its southern end, in reality, was under the present National Cemetery. For a detailed description of the road, see infra, p458.

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34 Wrongly spelled Reynolds on maps of the war period.

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35 Longstreet, 300. For a description of the artillery, see 10 S. H. S. P., 387‑88.

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36 O. R., 21, 1057, 1121. Burnside's gross strength of 201,000 was reduced to 125,000 by the Washington garrison and sundry detachments.

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37 Dabney, 610; 1 von Borcke, 295‑96; Mrs. Jackson, 365‑66; 43 S. H. S. P., 28‑29; Sorrel, 138.

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38 2 von Borcke, 114; Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 25, 1862; R. E. Lee, Jr., 89; Lee to W. M. McDonald, April 15, 1868, Jones, 267.

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39 Dabney, 611.

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40 Sorrel, 138.

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41 O. R., 21, 570.

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42 Dabney, 610.

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43 Fitz Lee, 227.

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44 Cooke, 182. Cooke evidently was present.

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45 Longstreet, 307; O. R., 21, 631; 3 B. and L., 76; Long, 239; F. W. Dawson, 85.

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46 Longstreet, 308.

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47 For the unevenness of the plain, see H. C. Cabell, in O. R., 21, 586.

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48 H. B. McClellan, 193.

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49 Cooke, 183; Cooke: Wearing of the Gray, 133; Jones, L. and L., 209; Philip Mercer, The Gallant Pelham, 135 ff. Later in the day Lee said to Jackson, "You should have a Pelham on each flank" (White, 244). In his preliminary report of the battle Lee mentioned the young artillerist as the "gallant Pelham" (O. R., 21, 547).

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50 O. R., 21, 631. This fire had been heaviest from Prospect Hill, later called Jackson's Hill, which appears on the map p453.

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51 O. R., 21, 589; Longstreet, 298.

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52 O. R., 21, 625.

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53 10 S. H. S. P., 450.

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54 10 S. H. S. P., 448.

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55 O. R., 21, 580, 608.

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56 O. R., 21, 636.

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57 O. R., 21, 646.

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58 Longstreet, 312.

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59 Statement of Captain J. P. Smith to the author. For Lee's memories of Chatham see Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 8, 1861; R. E. Lee, Jr., 57.

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60 Sorrel, 140; O. R., 21, 566; 10 S. H. S. P., 453n; Morgan, 149‑50; McDaniel, 17. The second 30-pdr.-Richmond Parrott, to the right of Lee's Hill, exploded about the fifty-fourth round, during one of the charges by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Humphreys'º troops (Longstreet, 313). Pendleton (O. R., 21, 567) was vague as to the time this happened.

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61 J. C. Gregg: Life in the Army, 60. For other descriptions of the rebel yell, see Morgan, 70, and R. L. T. Beale, 192.

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62 Cooke, 184.

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63 Lawley, quoted in McCabe, 315.

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64 Dabney, 617.

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65 O. R., 21, 590.

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66 O. R., 21, 574, 580, 588, 625.

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67 O. R., 21, 589.

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68 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 187.

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69 O. R., 21, 589.

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70B. and L., 81.

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71 Goolrick, 51.

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72 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 188‑89; Alexander, 306n; 10 S. H. S. P., 455; O. R., 21, 574, 576.

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73 O. R., 21, 576, 589.

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74 Longstreet, 311.

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75 O. R., 21, 626.

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76 O. R., 21, 576, 581, 589; 10 S. H. S. P., 451.

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77 Cf. Scales, 15‑16; W. H. Stewart: A Pair of Blankets, 74, quoting Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. B. Magruder to his father, Dec. 20, 1862.

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78 O. R., 21, 634, 666; Early, 177‑78.

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79 Taylor's Four Years, 81‑82.

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80 Maurice, 172; Early, 180 ff.; Scales, 19.

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81 James H. Wood: The War, 110. General Alexander in 10 S. H. S. P., 461, stated that this aurora was on the night of Dec. 14.

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82 2 von Borcke, 132.

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83 Hood, 50; O. R., 51, part 2, p662.

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84 O. R., 21, 546.

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85 Longstreet, 316.

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86 Jones, 155; White, 250‑51; 39 S. H. S. P., 1; 43 ibid., 32‑33.

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87 O. R., 14, 711; O. R., 21, 1061.

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88 O. R., 21, 676.

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89 2 von Borcke, 106.

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90 O. R., 21, 653‑54.

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91 O. R., 21, 631‑32.

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92 O. R., 21, 632, 656‑57.

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93 Scales, 14.

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94 O. R., 21, 632, 645‑46, 653, 657, 663, 667, 672.

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95 O. R., 21, 623‑24.

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96 Alexander, 301.

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97 Longstreet, 307, 317; O. R., 21, 622‑23.

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98 O. R., 21, 566.

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99 2 von Borcke, 132‑33; cf. 10 S. H. S. P., 461.

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100 Longstreet, 316.

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101 O. R., 21, 546.

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102 G. Wise, 129.

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103 O. R., 21, 571, 576.

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104 10 S. H. S. P., 459.

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105 Lane's six-gun battery, less his 12‑pdr. Whitworth (O. R., 21, 566; 10 S. H. S. P., 387).

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106 Hood, 50‑51.

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107 O. R., 21, 547.

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108B. and L., 82.

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109 O. R., 21, 546‑48.

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110 10 S. H. S. P., 461.

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111 Richard Lewis to his mother, Dec. 19, 1862; Camp Life of a Confederate Boy, 37.

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112 O. R., 21, 567.

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113B. and L., 100.

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114 10 S. H. S. P., 460.

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115 G. Wise, 130.

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116 1 Shotwell Papers, 430‑431, with the author's strange punctuation adapted to current usage.

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117 O. R., 21, 587.

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118 O. R., 21, 142; Alexander, 313.

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119 O. R., 21, 584, 629.

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120 Marginalia, 21.

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121 Taylor's General Lee, 149.

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122 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 16, 1862, R. E. Lee, Jr., 87.

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123 Dabney, 625.

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124 G. Wise, 130.

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125 O. R., 21, 581.

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126 Extracts of Letters of Maj.-Gen. Bryan Grimes to His Wife . . . Compiled by Pulaski Cowper (cited hereafter as Grimes), 27.

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127 Lee to W. M. MacDonald, April 15, 1868, Jones, 267.

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128 Lee to Mildred Lee, Dec. 25, 1862, R. E. Lee, Jr., 89. Cf. Marshall, quoting William Allan, 249.

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129 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 16, 1862, R. E. Lee, Jr., 87.

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130S. H. S. P., 153.

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131 De Leon, 248; 2 von Borcke, 147.

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132 O. R., 21, 1063.

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133 O. R., 21, 548, 548‑49.

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134 O. R., 21, 568.

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135 As Burnside's report was not written until November, 1865, Lee did not learn for several years, if indeed he ever knew, all the reasons for Burnside's strange actions. The crossing of the Potomac was delayed because the necessary pontoons were slow in arriving (O. R., 21, 86 ff.). The attack on the Confederate right had been entrusted to Franklin's Grand division, but owing to vagueness of orders and to Burnside's lack of a definite plan, it was delivered by only three divisions, Meade's, Gibbon's, and Doubleday's, though Franklin had 60,000 men at his command. The first assaults in front of Marye's Heights were made by French's division of Sumner's command, followed by the rest of Couch's II corps, then by Willcox's IX corps, and finally by parts of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hooker's III and V corps. The final attacks were by Getty's 3d division of the IX corps and by (p474)Humphreys'sº division of the V corps. Burnside planned, as Lee anticipated, to renew the attacks on the 14th, but was dissuaded by some of his subordinates. By Dec. 20, the Confederates had a reasonably accurate report of the protests of the Federal commanders against a renewal of the battle. Cf. J. B. Magruder to his father, Dec. 20, 1862, in W. H. Stewart: A Pair of Blankets, 76. The best Southern account of the battle is Alexander's, op. cit., 285 ff. The fullest Northern accounts are F. W. Palfrey's The Antietam and Fredericksburg, 136 ff. and J. C. Ropes, op. cit. William Allan contributed an excellent paper on Fredericksburg to 3 M. H. S. M., 122 ff.

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136 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 16, 1862, Fitz Lee, 235. General Lee had repeatedly referred to plans for releasing these slaves and was anxious to do so as promptly as possible. Cf. Lee to Custis Lee, Jan. 4, 1862, Jones, L. and L., 157; and same to same, Nov. 22, 1862, MS., Duke Univ.


Thayer's Note:

a This is an opportunity not to let pass the memory of a good man. Well before any truce was declared, Sergeant Richard Kirkland, Company G, 2d South Carolina Volunteers, at the risk of his own life, and after having sought the permission of his commanding officer, General Kershaw, brought water to dozens of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate. For further details on the man who would be called the Angel of Marye's Heights — his gravesite, his monument at Fredericksburg — see the following sites:

Civil War Home (excerpt from C. M. H., 12) • Fredericksburg.com National Civil War Museum Sergeant Kirkland's Museum and Historical Society


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