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divisions—Birney's and Sickles's-together held the line for the remainder of the day.
This was about 3 o'clock. The only division then in reserve at all, except Gibbon's and Meade's, which had been driven out, was Newton's. And although he had reported to General Reynolds, I asked him not to put it in if the position could be held by the two divisions of General Stoneman already there.
The two divisions of General Smith's corps were more or less engaged during the morning, they having remained in position ; but they were not very seriously engaged. I considered it my duty to keep them in position, because the order under which I was acting directed that the line of retreat should be kept open. It also directed that I should hold my troops in position for a rapid march down the Richmond road. I never dreamed that this was considered as a strong attack at all until since the battle took place. . At that time I had no idea that it was the main attack, but supposed it was an armed observation to ascertain where the eneny was.
Nothing more occurred during that day. That night General Burnside sent for me, and I supposed his object in sending for me was to tell me what kind of attack was to be made the next day, and that the grand attack was to come off the next day. While with him I learned that we had been severely handled on the right and centre, and that they were not in a position to make either the grand attack themselves or to help me in making a heavy attack.
There was skirmishing and cannonading during the whole of Sunday, but no severe attack was made on any point, so far as I have learned.
On Monday things remained in nearly the same condition, and during that night the troops were withdrawn by order of General Burnside.
The modification of my orders, which was sent to me by General Burnside late in the day, came at the time when my whole left was engaged very severely; and it was utterly impossible to make any modification of my attack at that time. Had I attacked with General Smith's two divisions, then in position, any disaster happening to one of them would have ruined the whole of my command.
Question. What was the force under your command ?
Answer. Somewhat over 40,000 men; I do not think it was over 50,000, counting Stoneman's two divisions. That is my impression, but I cannot tell without looking at the figures; but I think that is pretty nearly correct.
Question. What was the strength of your own grand division ?
Answer. There were six divisions engaged in supporting the attackMeade's, Doubleday's, Gibbon's, Birney's, Sickles's, and Newton's. I think the number was about 40,000, supposing that Birney's and Sickles's together amounted to about 10,000.
Question. Do you mean that all those divisions were so stationed, at the time of the attack by Meade, that they could support the attack as soon as it could be done with so large a body of men, taking into account the nature of the country?
Answer. No, sir; I do not. If I had had discretion about the time of making the attack, and had had the opportunity, I should have placed my men very differently to make that attack, both the attacking force and the support. But the order was to at once move a division. I tried to get authority the night before to make the dispositions during the night, which were necessary for the attack, supposing that the main attack was to be
made. But I did not suppose that this order involved the main attack. I was strengthened in this opinion by the staff officer who brought the order.
Question. How many of those divisions were placed in position to support Meade and the attacking column ?
Answer. Three of them- Mcade's, Gibbon's, and Doubleday's.
Question. How long a time would it have taken to bring the other three divisions into position to render assistance ?
Answer. It would have taken from four to five hours.
Answer. About 7.30 a. m.
Answer. Meade began to move before eight o'clock. Then he was stopped by this force of the enemy on the left, which had to be driven back before he could move further. After their batteries were silenced, General Reynolds shelled the woods in his front so as to clear the ground for Meade's advance. I think that'Meade was not in action severely until between twelve and one o'clock.
Question. Did you not understand from this order that you were to use all the troops necessary to seize and hold the heights near Captain Hamilton's, and that the general commanding considered that that was necessary to be done in order to secure success?
Answer. No; I did not. I should suppose that the order would not have limited me to " at least a division,” as the wording of it shows, had such been his intention; and besides, he directs me to keep my whole command in position to move along the old Richmond road. If he had intended me to use my whole force, if necessary to hold that hill, he hardly would have coupled it with the condition to keep my command in readiness for this other movement.
Question. Was the other movement feasible until after the possession of those heights by our troops ?
Answer. I think that the other movement, if it had been ordered with my whole force, would have necessarily involved the possession of those heights. Had I beeu ordered to move my whole force along the Richmond road, I should have been compelled to take all that would be found in the road, and those heights would have been in the road.
Question. As it was indispensable that we should have possession of those heights in order to move down the old Richmond road, and as you were ordered to send out at least one division to pass below Smithfield and seize, if possible, those heights, did you not deem that that order required of you that you should, when repulsed in the first attempt, renew the attack ?
Answer. I think I did ; but by the time the rebels were driven back into the woods by Birney's division and Sickles's division, it was past three o'clock. It was dark, at that time, by five o'clock, and it was too late then to make such an attempt with the slightest hope of success.
Question. Did you receive any modification or qualification of this order, or any subsequent crder? If so, will you state what it was?
Answer. I received an order from General Burnside—the only other one I received from him during the day—to make an attack in my front. The only two divisions in my front were the two in General Smith's corps; and it was utterly impossible, in the first place, to make an attack from that position with the slightest hope of success, as the enemy were strongly intrenched on the hill in front, with abattis in front of the hill, and at the time I received that order all my available troops were heavily engaged on the left. In General Burnside's letter to General Halleck, dated December 19, he distinctly states in so many words that his main attack was on the right;
and I also wish to state that General Burnside expressed his entire satisfaction with what had been done on the left, for as long as the first week after the battle, so far as I am informed. He expressed to me great dissatisfaction with what had been done on the right.
Question. When General Burnside expressed full satisfaction with what had been done on the left, did he not understand that you had fought the whole strength of your command, so far as you could ; and at the same time keep open your communication with the river ?
Answer I think he did.
Question. Did you receive an order from General Burnside, through an aide, to make a vigorous attack at once with your whole force, and did you send him word that you would attack with every man that you
spare after protecting the bridges ?
Answer. I remember the message which General Burnside sent. It was not an order ; it was more in the light of a request to me to do it, if I thought I could, and I sent back word that I could not do it. The aidede-camp, I think, was Captain Cutts. It was not that message I referred to as being a modification of the attack; it was a mere request which he sent me, saying that they had been very severely handled on the right, and wanted me to make an attack in my front, if I could. I sent word back that I could not.
Question. What did you understand by this sentence in the order: "You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once as soon as the fog lifts ?
Answer. I supposed that after the result of this attack with a division was known to the general, he would give some orders which would regulate our movements when we could see when the fog lifted. I supposed that it meant that I would receive further orders as to what my action was to be when the fog lifted. I submit copies of the reports of General Hardie, who was with me during the entire day, made to General Burnside. They in themselves give a pretty accurate account of the manner in which things went on during the fight. It will be seen that there was no reference to any orders from General Burnside for a general advance of my command.—(See appendix to testimony of General Franklin.) So far as General Burnside's opinion is concerned, for some days after the battle, of my conduct there, I wish to state to the committee that he told me that it was his intention to resign his command, and recommend to the President that I should be put in command of that army. That may give some idea of what his opinion then was of what I had done there; and he stated the same thing in effect to friends of mine.
Question. I notice in these reports of General Hardie one dated 2.25 p. m., in which he says: “Despatch received. Franklin will do his best. New troops gone in. Will report soon again.”
Answer. I think the despatch there referred to is the one that modified the first order. The despatch was : “Your orders of this morning are so far modified as to make the attack in front.” But at that time the attack on the left was going on as strong as it could be made, and therefore it was impossible to make the change.
Question. Now, in regard to another subject about which we have been directed to make inquiry. Had you, or not, any knowledge of any interference with General Burnside in any of his proposed movements after the battle of Fredericksburg ?
Answer. Some time after that battle, General Newton applied to me for leave of absence. I knew he had become very much dissatisfied with the manner in which things were going on. I gave him his leave, independently of any feeling of dissatisfaction on his part. He told me that he intended to see influential people, and try to have things made right. That is all I know about it. I had no idea when General Newton left that he was going to see the President, or anybody else who had any power in the matter. The leave of absence was granted entirely without reference to the intimation that he was going to see any one about anything connected with the army.
Appendix to General Franklin's Testimony. [Copies of General Hardie's notes to General Burnside, from General Franklin's head. quarters, December 12, 13, and 14, 1862.]
DECEMBER 12–94 o'clock a. m. Franklin's grand division crossing well. Two divisions of Smith's corps already, over ; the third division about to cross. Bayard's cavalry will cross first, to reconnoitre, and to communicate with Sumner. A battery is now crossing. Three batteries already over. A portion of the artillery on the bluffs, in position, might, it is thought, be advantageously taken over. Franklin needs some.
10.45 a. m. Smith's corps all over, except a few regiments. Reynolds crossing his first division, (Meade's.) Smith's right rests on the ravine at Deep creek. Reynolds to be on the left of Smith. Line occupying crest of hill beyond the bridges. General Bayard out with his cavalry. Enemy reported to be placing guns on Smith's right; rifle battery sent for to meet it. Just learned that a free negro reports the enemy in position on the hill, with abattis in their front; ravines intervening ; impracticable for troops ; troops must march by roads.
31 p. m. Reynolds in position. A lull in the firing ; enemy have been firing from batteries in the hills. No harm done. They exhibited twelve guns. On the left enemy's pickets close by ours; their pickets on Richmond road. Ground between us and batteries represented impracticable ; gullies intervene. Abattis visible. P. S.--A new battery just opened.
DECEMBER 13–7.40 a. m. General Meade's division is to make the movement from our left; but it is just reported that the enemy's skirmishers are advancing, indicating an attack upon our position on the left.
9 a. m. General Meade just moved out ; Doubleday supports him. Meade's skir mishers, however, engaged at once with enemy's skirmishers. Battery opening on Meade, probably from position on old Richmond road.
9.40 a. m. Two batteries playing upon Reynolds's advance, in rear of his fir t line, cause him to desist the advance. They are on the Bowling Green road, near the river. They must be silenced before he can advance. Heavy firing in our front.
II a. m. Meade advanced half a mile and holds on. Infantry of enemy in woods in front of extreme left ; also in front of Howe. No loss, so far, of great importance. General Vinton badly, but not dangerously, wounded.
Later.—Reynolds has been forced to develop his whole line. An attack of some force of enemy's troops on our left seeins probable, as far as can now be judged. Stoneman has been directed to cross one division to support our left. Report of cavalry pickets from the other side of the river that enemy's troops were moving down the river on this side during the latter part of the night. Howe's pickets reported movements in their front, same direction. Still they have a strong force well posted, with batteries here.
Birney's division is now getting into position. That done, Reynolds will order Meade to advance. Batteries over the river are to shell the enemy's position in the woods in front of Reynolds's left. He thinks the effect will be to promote Meade's advance. A column of the enemy's infantry is passing along the crest of the hills from right to left as we look at it.
12.5 General Meade's line is advancing in the direction you prescribed this morning.
1 p. m. Enemy opened a battery on Reynolds, enfilading Meade. Reynolds has opened all his batteries on it. No report yet. Reynolds hotly engaged at this moment. Will report in a few moments again.
1.15 p. m. Heavy engagement of infantry where battery is. Meade is assaulting the hill. Will report in a few moments again.
1.25 p. m. Meade is in the woods in his front; seems to be able to hold on. Reynolds will push Gibbon in if necessary. The battery and woods referred to must be near Hamilton's house. The infantry firing is prolonged and quite heavy. Things look well enough; men in fine spirits.
1.40 p. m. Meade having carried a portion of the enemy's position in the woods, we have 300 prisoners. Enemy's battery on extreme left retired. Tough work. Men fight well. Gibbon has advanced to Meade's right. Men fight well, driving the enemy. Meade bas suffered severely. Doubleday--to Meade's left--not engaged.
2.15 p. m. Gibbon and Meade driven back from the woods. Newton gone forward. Jackson's corps of the enemy attacks on the left. General Gibbon slightly wounded. General Bayard mortally wounded by a shell.
Things do not look so well on Reynolds's front. Still, we'll have new troops in soon.
2.25 p. m. Despatch received. Franklin will do his best. New troops gone in. Will report soon again.