« PrejšnjaNaprej »
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
"November 14, 1862. "In addition to the bridge train which Captain Spaulding has been previously directed to fit out in Washington, General Burnside desires to have one more complete train mounted and horsed as soon as possible, and, with the other, sent with a company, at least, and Captain Spaulding in command, by land, to Fredericksburg, Va.
“Please advise me how long before they will be ready, and on starting advise me of that.
"C. B. COMSTOCK,
“Lieutenant of Engineers.”
To these telegrams I returned the following answer:
"WASHINGTON, November 14, 1862. "I have received your two telegrams to-day :
“Captain Spaulding has arrived, and 36 pontoons bave arrived. Forty men are expected in the morning Captain Spaulding received Captain Duane's order of the 6th on the afternoon of the 12th. One pontoon train can be got ready to start Sunday or Monday morning, (November 16 or 17,) depending somewhat upon the quartermaster's department. General Halleck is not inclined to send another train by land, but will allow it, probably, if General Burnside insists. A second train can be sent by water to Aquia creek, and from thence transported by the teams which carry the first.
"D. P. WOODBURY,
I received no further orders from General Burnside.
To fit out this train Major Spaulding had to draw from the quartermaster's department 270 fresh untried horses, some of which had never been in harness; to put together 270 harnesses, taken in separate pieces from boxes; to fit these harnesses to the horses; to shoe the horses, and to look up teamsters, who could not be obtained in Washington, but were procured, with difficulty, in Alexandria.
With four companies of men he worked day and night, but was not able to leave Washington before 2 o'clock on the morning of the 19th instant. Finding the roads almost impassable, he sent for a steam-tug and sent all his pontoons by water from the Oecoquan. With his empty pontoon wagons he arrived at Belle Plain, 10 miles from Fredericksburg on the 24th.
With his train, complete, he arrived at the headquarters of the army, 24 miles from Fredericksburg, on the 25th, one day after a train had come by water.
The order from General Halleck given above, and his verbal orders to me on the 14th, all looked to the transport of bridge material to Aquia creek by water, that place being then in possession of the enemy.
On the 15th I sent down three companies to build some temporary wharves. There were no pontoons to send with them, but some arrived towards night of that day. On the 16th eight companies started with forty-eight pontoons, which arrived at Belle Plain on the afternoon of the 18th, the transport hav. ing been aground twenty-four hours. On the 19th, fearing that the land train would not arrive in time, I had thirty pontoon wagons shipped for Belle Plain. These were delayed by rough weather, and did not arrive till the 22d. These wagons were loaded on the night of the 22d, and a pontoon train was taken to headquarters, as already stated, on the morning of the 24th, by means of teams which had come down with the army.
The advance of the army arrived at Falmouth on the 17th.
General Halleck's order to me of the 13th made it apparent that the army was preparing to march to Fredericksburg. As to the time when the movement would be made I never received any information. Fearing, however, that the movement would be precipitate, I went to General Halleck's office and urged him to delay the movement some five days, in order that the necessary preparations might be made to insure its success. To this he replied that he would do nothing to delay for an instant the advance of the army upon Richmond. I rejoined that my suggestion was not intended to cause delay, but rather to prevent it.
In making this suggestion I had reference, not only to the pontoon train, but to the landings still to be created for the quartermaster and commissary departments. The quartermaster department was very scantily supplied with the means required for these landings—I may say almost totally destitute of means.
With the very short notice given to me there was only one possible way of supplying the army with a pontoon train in time.
Had the emergency been made known to me in any manner I could have disregarded the forms of service--seized teams, teamsters, and wagonmasters for instant service wherever I could find them. Then, with good roads and good weather, they might possibly have been in time. But I had no warrant for such a course, which, after all, could only have been carried out by the authority of the general-in-chief.
I had a conversation with General Meigs on the 15th, in which much was said about the work to be done at Aquia creek--not a word, so far as I can remember, about the land pontoon train.
The department of which General Meigs is chief cannot be justly blamed in this matter. My requisitions for horses and for transports were answered immediately.
DECEMBER 20, 1862. Major General JOSEPH HOOKER sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Answer. I am a major general of volunteers, and command one of what is called the grand divisions of the army of the Potomac.
Question. You have read the resolution of the Senate under which this committee is now acting. Will you please go on and state, in your own manner, what you consider necessary in order to give us a clear and concise history of the movements of the army of the Potomac since General Burnside assumed the command of it?
Answer. I joined the army at Warrenton about the 10th of November. At that time General Burnside was in command. After I had been there a day or two, during which time there was some talk of transferring the line of operations from the line of the railroad at Warrenton to the line of railroad at Aquia creek, General Halleck and General Meigs visited General Burnside, as I was informed, to determine whether this transfer of the line of operations should be made. As near as I can recollect, that was about the 11th of November. That matter was discussed between those generals and General Burnside, and it was determined that that transfer should be made. Some one of the party remarked, either General Halleck or General Meigs, I do not recollect which, that they thought they could have everything ready on this line in three days. This was not a private consultation. I was present in the room at the time these things were discussed, and although my opinion in regard to them was not asked I heard the conversation. They said that they thought they could have the pontoons ready, the stores landed, and everything in readiness to advance in three days. I remember that I thought that was marvellous at the time; that it was not within the range of human possibility to do that. Soon after the movement to the Rappabannock commenced.
I will say here that I brought up the rear of the army in marching from Warrenton to this point. I mention this matter because I think it has an important bearing upon some matters which are to come afterwards. The rear of this movement was considered the post of honor.
After being upon the road for about three days, I stopped one day, with my command, at Hartwood. From that point I addressed a letter to General Burnside, requesting that he would permit me to cross the river with my grand division at one of the fords there, and come down on the south side of the Rappahannock. But, for reasons assigned in a communication from him, the request was denied me. I then marched to this place.
In the meantime I had received orders to have my command furnished with twelve days' rations, forage for three days, and the requisite amount of ammunition. At Hartwood I had three days' provisions with me. On reaching this point I found that the divisions which had preceded me, I presume in obedience to orders, had provided themselves with the prescribed preparations, rations, forage, &c., for a forward movement, and nothing was left for my division. For three days after reaching here I was on less than half rations. After a few days, however, provisions began to accumulate here, and after a week or ten days I was enabled to prepare for the advance, so far as related to food. When I reached here, which was on the 22d November, all the pontoons had not arrived, and I was told that the reason for the limited amount of supplies was the difficulties of landing and forwarding ; there were not cars enough; there were no facilities at Aquia creek or at Belle Plain for landing them.
After the pontoons arrived, it became a matter of importance to determine where and in what way we should cross the Rappahannock. The officers commanding the grand divisions were called together to discuss and determine that matter. One of the first questions that were submitted to us was where we should cross the river. General Burnside proposed that a portion of the command should cross here, and a portion should cross about twelve miles below here. I objected, by my vote in the council, to crossing two columns so far apart, and stated my preference that the whole army should cross at what is called the United States or Richards's Ford, about twelve miles above here. But I was overruled, and it was determined that the crossing should be here and about twelve miles below here, and the road was corduroyed in the vicinity of the crossing about twelve miles below here, in order to facilitate the crossing.
About this time General Burnside intimated that I should take the advance in crossing. I said to him that I should be most happy to do it; but if my division should hold the advance when it was the post of danger, and cover the retreat when that was the post of danger, I would like to have that place assigned me in line of battle; and if he would give me the right of this army I would vindicate my claim to it.
It was then that General Burnside changed the plan of crossing, and he also changed the place of crossing. He had three bridges thrown across at Fredericksburg, and two bridges about three or four miles below here; and it was determined that Franklin should cross on the lower bridges, and Sumner should cross in advance of me on the upper bridges. My position, if they succeeded, was to be to hold my division in hand to spring upon the enemy in their retreat.
About this time a council of war was held to determine in what manner we should attack the enemy after crossing the river. It was determined, as I supposed—for I left the council with that impression—that we should attack them without any separation or division of the army, attacking the enemy on their right, below here. That was what I advocated, the keeping the army together, and turning the enemy's right. I did not approve the attempt to pierce so strong a line at two points, when one would be as much as we would be likely to succeed in. A prisoner, a German, had been taken and brought into this very room, (General Sumner's headquarters.) This prisoner said he had no objection to communicating everything that he knew in regard to the rebel forces, provided the rebel authorities were not informed of it. He had been impressed into their service, and wanted to quit it. His appearance and his story were such as to carry conviction to the minds of every one who heard him. He told us precisely of the arrangements for defence they had made on the right, but in regard to the left he knew less. He said that it was impossible for us to carry this position. He informed us of the batteries they had, the positions they had taken, and the defences they had thrown up, and said that the rebels regarded it as an impossibility for them to be driven from it. But General Burnside said that his favorite place of attack was on the telegraph road. Said he, “That has always been my favorite place of attack.” The army was accordingly divided to make two attacks.
The night before the attack, two of my divisions—and they were my favorite divisions, for one was the division which I had educated myself, and the other was the one that Kearny had commanded, and of those two divisions I knew more than of any others in my command-these two divi. sions were sent down to support Franklin. They left here under orders to hold the bridge head. At 10 o'clock on the day of the battle I was standing here on this roof with General Burnside, when word was brought that those two divisions had been ordered forward with Franklin. I said to General Burnside that when it came to my turn to act I would have nothing to act with, and that I did not want General Franklin to fight my divisions; that the next report we heard would, be that those divisions were under fire. He assured me that they should not cross the bridge down there; that they were ordered as supports to Franklin, to assist in defending the bridges, and were not to go into battle with him.
Soon after I received an order to send another of my divisions to relieve General Howard's division, in the upper end of Fredericksburg. My other three divisions were drawn up at the heads of the bridges on this side, ready to cross at a moment's notice. About 2 o'clock on that day I received orders to send another of my divisions to support General Sturgis, and about the same time I received an order from General Burnside to cross over my other two divisions and attack the enemy on the telegraph roadthe same position we had been butting against all day long. As soon as I received the order my divisions commenced crossing.
I rode forward to see what I could learn from the officers who had been engaged in the attack-General French, General Wilcox, General Couch, and General Hancock. Their opinion, with one exception, was that the attack should not be made on that point. After conferring with them, I went to examine the position to ascertain whether or not it could be turned. Discovering no weak point, and seeing that many of the troops that had been already engaged in the attack were considerably demoralized, and fearing that should the enemy make an advance, even of but a small column, nothing but disaster would follow, I sent my aide-de-camp to General Burnside to say that I advised him not to attack at that place. He returned, saying that the attack must be made. I had the matter so much at heart that I put spurs to my horse and rode over here myself, and tried to dissuade General Burnside from making the attack. He insisted on its being made.
I then returned and brought up every available battery in the city, with a view to break away their barriers by the use of artillery. I proceeded against the barriers as I would against a fortification, and endeavored to breach a hole sufficiently large for a “forlorn hope” to enter. Before that the attack along the line, it seemed to me, had been too general—not suffi. ciently concentrated. I had two batteries posted on the left of the road, within four hundred yards of the position upon which the attack was to be made, and I had other parts of batteries posted on the right of the road at the distance of five hundred or six hundred yards. I had all these batteries playing with great vigor until sunset upon that point, but with no apparent effect upon the rebels or upon their works.
During the last part of the cannonading I had given directions to General Humphrey's division to form, under the shelter which a small hill afforded, in column for assault. When the fire of the artillery ceased I gave directions for the enemy's works to be assaulted. General Humphrey's men took off their knapsacks, overcoats, and haversacks. They were directed to make the assault with empty muskets, for there was no time there to load and fire. When the word was given the men moved forward with great impetuosity. They ran and hurrahed, and I was encouraged by the great good feeling that pervaded them. The head of General Humphrey's column advanced to within, perhaps, fifteen or twenty yards of the stone wall, which was the advanced position which the rebels held, and then they were thrown back as quickly as they had advanced. Probably the whole of the advance and the retiring did not occupy fifteen minutes. They left behind, as was reported to me, 1,760 of their number, out of about 4,000.
I may as well state here that Sykes's division was drawn up to support Humphrey's, so that, in case Humphrey should succeed, I could throw forward all the force that I had left-Sykes's division, about 4,000 mento hold the position in face of 30,000 men who were massed behind that wall. That was why I did not like to make the attack, because, even if successful, I could not hold the position; and I assigned that as the reason I did not think it advisable to make the attack.
It was now just dark. Finding that I had lost as many men as my orders required me to lose, I suspended the attack, and directed that the men should hold, for the advance line between Fredericksburg and the enemy, a ditch that runs along about midway between the enemy's lines and the city, and which would afford a shelter for the men.
I will say that, in addition to the musketry fire that my men were exposed to, the crests of the hills surrounding Fredericksburg form almost a semicircle, and these were filled with artillery, and the focus was the column that moved up to this assault. That focus was within good canister range, though I do not think any canister was thrown on my men that day. All these difficulties were apparent, and perfectly well known to me, before I went into this assault. They were known also to other officers. General French said to me that the whole army could not take that point, and I reported that to General Burnside.
After establishing my picket line, I returned and reported to General Burnside what I had done. He was dissatisfied with the line I had taken for my pickets, and said that they must be established at the advanced position that we had held during the day. We had had some men lying down on their bellies, about one hundred yards beyond this ditch, on the side hill which we could sweep with our artillery, and take possession of at any time. I immediately sent word for my pickets to advance to that