ePub 版

language fails rightly to tell their story, justly to sound their praises. In sixteen battalions which Hancock carried into fight, twenty-five officers had been killed or wounded while in command, regiments having seen their second, their third, and even in one case their fourth commander shot down. The regiment which at the close of the day had its fifth commander at its head was the Fifth New Hampshire, destined to lead the roll of all the infantry regiments of the Union armies, East or West, in the aggregate number of its “killed in action.” Of the five officers of Hancock's personal staff present in the field, four had had horses shot under them ; three had been wounded. It needs not here to describe the further actions of this memorable day; how Howard's division, which had held the right, advanced to the support of its hard-pressed comrades; how the Ninth Corps fought gallantly on the left of the Second; how Butterfield brought up the Fifth Corps, and Humphreys hurled his division of nine months' troops against the stone wall, while sheets of flame swept his men away and he, the knight without reproach or fear, rode back last of all; how Burnside from the other side of the river looked down on the useless sacrifice of his troops which, even then, he failed to apprehend in its true proportions, and again and again declared that the crest must and should be carried; how night fell at last over a field where more than eight thousand men had shed their blood in a vain and hopeless struggle; and the great battle of the right at Fredericksburg was over. The men of the Second Corps, especially of Hancock's division, still held most of the ground they had gained in their advance and lay there, faces downward, awaiting the word of command. After dark they were withdrawn to the town, where two days passed, often under severe shelling from the heights, until Burnside could be persuaded to retire altogether from the enterprise upon which he had embarked with so inadequate a conception of its difficulties. The camps to which Hancock's division returned on the night of the 15th of December, after an absence of five days, were, alas ! far too large for those who were left with the colors. Out of every group of five men, two had fallen in the desperate assault on Marye's Heights. There was room enough now, and to spare, in the little huts which the troops had constructed out of mud and logs, roofed in with “shelter tents.” Here the command was destined to remain for four dreary months after the disastrous action which has been thus hurriedly and rudely described. From the hills around, the men of the First Division could survey the field on which two thousand of their comrades had fallen in that short winter afternoon, while, beyond, still frowned the Confederate batteries. The spectacle was not an inspiring one; nor had our troops at any time come near enough winning to make them wish to try the thing over again. The discipline of the army had in no degree been impaired by the hideous losses it had sustained; but its confidence in Burnside had gone forever. The utter lack of anything like a definite plan of operations before the crossing of the 11th ; the vacillation of the 12th ; the senseless orders for the attack on the 13th; the dispatches to Washington about ground gained and still held ; the weak bluster about a renewal of assault—all these things had combined to show the shrewd soldiers in the ranks that this was not the man who could lead them to victory. The general feeling was that a change must come; and the dash and daring, the fine soldiership, the aggressive energy and Soaring ambition of General Joseph Hooker, while in command of a division or a corps, had made it almost certain that the choice would fall upon him. Only the most thoughtful asked whether it could really be that so much of boastful self-assertion did not indicate a weakness of character which, in the crisis of some severe and protracted trial, might prove fatal. But Burnside, though professing his willingness to be relieved at any time, could not altogether give up the hope that some fortunate combination of circumstances might yet redeem his reputation; and during the later days of January, 1863, he actually undertook a movement round Lee's left flank, which, had it not been foiled at the outset, must have led to a battle near Chancellorsville. But it was destimed that the command of the frank and kindly soldier was to close amid something very like general derision. As the center and left grand-divisions moved around behind the right, and took up the march for Banks' and United States fords, above Fredericksburg, a severe storm set in which soon converted fields and roads alike into one great bed of yellow Virginia mud. The infantry dragged themselves wearily along, pulling their legs out of the sticky clay with a great effort at every step, while at night the poor fellows slept on the flooded ground under an unceasing downpour, hungry because the supply trains had not come up. The artillery, the pontoons, and the ammunition wagons could hardly move at all. Only when half the horses of a battery were harnessed to a single gun, with large details of infantry to pull at the ropes, could any progress be made. At every stage caisSons and even cannon were left behind; the road was strewn with dead mules and wrecked wagons. When at last the turning columns had been brought, in such a shape as might be, up to the fords, it was found that the pontoons could not possibly be got down to the river's edge, while it was equally evident that, were the infantry forced across, it must be without artillery or reserve ammunition. Against

such difficulties Burnside's last hope gave way; and,


soon after the army had been withdrawn to its quarters, he relinquished the command to Hooker, who had long burned to try his hand at it. From the miseries and humiliation of the “mud campaign " Hancock's troops fortunately escaped, that division forming a part of the force which it had been intended to throw directly across the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg when the turning columns should have opened the way. So from their snug and comfortable huts Hancock's men looked cheerfully and philosophically out upon their fellows of the other corps as they went toiling up the roads to the fords, and as they came back, tired, bedraggled, hungry, and disgusted, after the lapse of three or four wretched days. In the interval betWeen Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Hancock's division lost, by the expiry of its term of enlistment (two years), the gallant Seventh New York; but was re-enforced by two splendid Pennsylvania regiments with full ranks, the One Hundred and Fortieth and the One Hundred and Fortyeighth. Hancock also added three excellent officers to his staff—Major G. W. Scott, Sixty-first New York; Captain H. H. Bingham, One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania; Lieutenant William P. Wilson, One Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania.

« 上一頁繼續 »