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terial were equally lacking. Moreover, it may have been the case and this is doubtless the true reason for General Lee's inaction-that the Army of the Potomac had not suffered so serious a disaster as the exaggerated reports of the battle at first led the country to believe. General Burnside would not have been sorry to have met General Lee outside his intrenchments. President Lincoln's address to the army, which was published a few days after the battle, contained a truthful declaration when it stated, that "the attempt was not an error nor the failure other than an accident." The Army of the Potomac, though it had been somewhat rudely shaken, was still in effective condition. There was no general demoralization or despondency, and it was soon ready to prove, on other and more successful fields, that it possessed those qualities of persistence, courage and self-reliance which would, in "the fullness of time," ensure for it a complete and permanent triumph!


The result of the battle of Fredericksburg gloomi ly affected the loyal people of the country. General Burnside had personally so strong a hold upon the public regard, as to induce many persons to feel that he had been led to fight against his better judgment, and that the authorities at Washington were responsible, not only for the battle itself, but also for the failure. In order to do away with such an impression, which was impairing the public confidence in the wisdom of those who were conducting military affairs at Washington, General Burnside, of his own generous motion and from the magnanimity of his nature, wrote to General Halleck the letter which is given below. It was published throughout the country, and had the desired effect, of relieving our military authorities from the distrust which had begun to form. It also had another effect which was entirely unexpected on the part of the writer. It called forth the highest commendations both in public and private, and General Burnside, instead of losing by the want of success at Fredericksburg, rather gained in public estimation, having by his generosity increased the respect of all whose respect was worth securing for his fine qualities as a man and a soldier:


"HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Falmouth, Dec. 17th, 1862.

"TO MAJOR GENERAL HALLECK, General in Chief of the armies of the United States, Washington:

"GENERAL: I have the honor to offer the following reasons for moving the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock sooner than was anticipated by the President, Secretary of War and yourself, and for crossing at a point different from the one indicated to you at our last meeting at the President's.

"During my preparations for crossing at the place I had first selected, I discovered that the enemy had thrown a large portion of his force down the river and elsewhere, thus weakening his defences in front, and also thought I discovered that he did not anticipate the crossing of our whole force at Fredericksburg. And I hoped by rapidly throwing the whole command over at that place to separate, by a vigorous attack, the forces of the enemy on the river below from the forces behind and on the crest in the rear of the town, in which case we could fight him with great advantage in our favor.

To do this we had to gain a height on the extreme right of the crest, which height commanded a new road lately made by the enemy for the purpose of more rapid communication along his lines, which point gained, his positions along the crest would have been scarcely tenable, and he would have been driven from them easily by an attack on his front in connection with a movement in the rear of the crest.

How near we came of accomplishing our object future reports will show. But for the fog and unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy twenty-four hours more to concentrate his forces in his strong positions, we would almost certainly have succeeded, in which case the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than if we had crossed at the places first selected. As it was, we came very near


"Failing to accomplish the main object, we remained in order of battle two days, long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his stronghold to fight us with his infantry, after which we recrossed to this side of the river unmolested and without the loss of men or property.

"As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade. Not the least demoralization or disorganization existed.

"To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of thus recrossing the river in the face of the enemy, I owe everything. For the failure in the attack I am responsible, as the extreme gallantry, courage and endurance shown by them was never exceeded, and would have carried the points had it been possible.

"To the families and friends of the dead I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies, but for the wounded I can offer my earnest prayers for their comfort and final recovery.

"The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line, rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War and yourself, and that you left the whole movement in my hands without giving me orders, makes me responsible.

"I will visit you very soon and give you more definite information, and finally I will send you my detailed report, in which a special acknowledgment will be made of the services of the different grand divisions, corps and my general and personal staff, of the departments of the Army of the Potomac, to whom I am much indebted for their hearty support and co-operation.

"I will add here that the movement was made earlier than you expected and after the President, Secretary of War and yourself requested me not to be in haste, for the reason that we were supplied much sooner by the different staff departments than was anticipated when I last saw you.

"Our killed amount to one thousand one hundred and fifty-two, our wounded to about nine thousand, and our prisoners seven hundred, which last have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us. The wounded were all removed to this side of the river, and are being well cared for, and the dead were all buried under a flag of truce. The surgeons report a much larger proportion of slight wounds than usual, one thousand six hundred and thirty only being treated in hospitals.

"I am glad to represent the army at the present time in good condition.


Thanking the Government for that entire support and confidence which I have always received from them, I remain, General,

Very respectfully,


"Your obedient servant,

"A. E. BURNSIDE, "Major General Commanding Army of Potomac."




FTER the battle of Fredericksburg, General Burnside still believed that the enemy's position could be carried, or, at all events, successfully turned. The weather continued favorable, and the idea of going into winter quarters was unwelcome to an active mind. He immediately made preparations for another movement. A plan proposed by General Averill for making an extensive cavalry raid around the enemy's lines, destroying his communications and exciting alarm in the rebel capital was approved with some modifications. The army was to assist in the execution of the plan by a demonstration across the river, by which it was to withdraw the attention of the enemy from General Averill's movements sufficiently to give good promise of success to the operations in his General Averill's plan contemplated a movement across the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford, and the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford. Thence, according to order, the troops were to make a detour around the enemy's position, with detached parties to cut the telegraph wires between Gordonsville and Culpepper Court House on one side and those between Louisa Court House and Hanover Junction upon the other side. The main body was to 'pass down near Louisa Court House to Cartersville or Goochland Court House, cross the James river, destroy one or more locks on the canal which runs along the left bank of the James river, destroy the bridges across the Appomattox river and Flat Creek, destroy whatever bridges might be found on the Petersburg and Lynchburg railroad, and the



bridges across the Nottoway river and Stony Creek on the Petersburg and Weldon railroad."*

General Averill hoped to make a junction with General Peck at Suffolk, who was to be instructed to send out strong reconnoitering parties to the Blackwater river. Two signal officers were to accompany General Averill, two were to be sent to General Peck. A code of rocket signals had been prepared, by which communications could be interchanged over a distance of twenty miles. A picked force was organized, consisting of five hundred volunteer and five hundred regular cavalry, of the best men and most trustworthy officers, with four pieces of light horse artillery and an engineer party furnished with 66 proper tools and all the materials for destroying the bridges and blowing up the stone structures." The party was to go without baggage, or wagons, or pack animals, or anything to encumber the expedition. A division of infantry and an extra brigade with a battery and a few hundred additional cavalry were placed at General Averill's disposal to go as far as Morrisville, to be distributed along the upper fords of the Rappahannock. The enemy's cavalry were at the time attempting a raid upon our own lines near Fairfax Court House, and it was hoped that this extra force might cut off and capture the raiding party or disconcert its plans. In the meanwhile, General Burnside was to engage the enemy's attention by making a feint of attack upon his lines in front or flank. The officers and men in the cavalry force were eager to go upon this expedition, and burned for the opportunity of giving some eclat to their branch of the service.

On the 26th of December, General Burnside ordered preparations for a movement to be made, intending to cross the river at a point called Hayfield, some six or seven miles below Fredericksburg, and seize the railroad in the enemy's rear. On the 30th the cavalry started, and on the next day the head of the column had arrived near Kelly's Ford, intending to cross and en

*Order to General Averill.

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