« 上一頁繼續 »
and seize Fredericksburg, on the right bank of the lower Rappahannock, before Lee should apprehend his design. It was the latter course which Burnside decided to take. Its success required three good, stiff, though not excessive, days' marches, on the part of at least the leading corps, with prompt cooperation from Washington in the way of providing rations, beef cattle, and, above all, pontoons, at Acquia Creek. Of these latter needs, General Halleck, at Washington, was duly notified.
The Second Corps, still in advance, left Warrenton on the 15th, and, marching steadily, though with all-night rests, reached Falmouth, on the left bank of the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, in the early afternoon of the 17th. The little city of Fredericksburg was at this moment occupied only by a regiment of cavalry, four companies of infantry, and a light battery. But, by another of those miserable blunders which mar the whole history of the war, each one of them costing its hundreds or thousands of lives, the pontoons were not on hand when the column arrived, nor, indeed, until the 25th of the month. During all this time, the troops of the enemy were coming up to the right bank of the river, in plain view, and fortifying at their leisure positions which were a month later to be fruitlessly assaulted with terrific loss. Meanwhile the entire Army of the Potomac had come up and been extended along the Rappahannock. Hancock's division was stationed behind Falmouth with headquarters at the Washington House.*
Hancock's division on the eve of Fredericksburg was constituted as follows: First Brigade, BrigadierGeneral John C. Caldwell: Fifth New Hampshire; Seventh, Sixty-first, and Sixty-fourth New York; Eighty-first and One Hundred and Forty-fifth Pennsylvania. Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Thomas Francis Meagher: Sixty-third, Sixty-ninth, and Eighty-eighth New York; Twenty-eighth Massachusetts; One Hundred and Sixteenth Pennsylvania. Third Brigade, Colonel Samuel K. Zook: Second Delaware; Fifty-second, Fifty-seventh, and Sixty-sixth New York; Fifty-third Pennsylvania; Twenty-seventh Connecticut. The Division staff consisted of John Hancock, Assistant Adjutant General; Hoyt, Assistant Quartermaster; Balloch, Commissary of Subsistence; and Mitchell, Parker, and Miller, Aids; Rorty and Ritzius, Acting Aids.
The town of Fredericksburg, as was evident to all who looked across the river, could not be seriously held by the enemy, for it lay on the lower of the two banks of the Rappahannock, commanded by the artillery with which the Falmouth or Stafford side was soon lined. But there was small utility in carrying the town while the enemy held the hills in the rear. The Confederate troops had no use for the town, except to prevent a surprise upon the hills; the Union troops had no use for it whatever except as they might occupy it for a momentary cover, while forming their columns for an assault upon the hills. But a direct attack upon the enemy through Fredericksburg was full of difficulties. Between the town and the hills ran a deep ditch, or canal, which had been used to carry water from the river above to certain mills upon its course and then emptied into the river below the town. The hills themselves, which curved around Fredericksburg approaching the Rappahannock at either end, were admirably adapted for defense, and had been strongly fortified since the arrival of the Union troops upon the Stafford side. The plain, which our army emerging from the town must cross, was wide enough and clear enough to allow the utmost effects of artillery and infantry fire from the hills and from a sunken road and a stone wall which ran along their base at the only practicable point for assault. Such was the prospect which greeted the eyes of General Burnside and his troops every clear day from about the middle of November till the ioth of December, 1862. Nevertheless, Burnside decided to cross into the city and carry the hills by a resolute attack should the enemy make a stand there. At least that was the plan which he afterward claimed to have followed. So vacillating, however, were his
* Here it was that Hancock received his promotion in the regular army from captain to major and assistant quartermaster, November 30, 1863.
moods, so contradictory the orders given, that it must always remain doubtful how much of this was an afterthought, of the truth of which he had persuaded himself. Whatever his real intentions were, if, indeed, he had any definite purpose, he, on the day last named, directed General Sumner, commanding the Right Grand Division, consisting of the Second and Ninth Corps, to prepare to cross the river and occupy Fredericksburg. Coincidently with his crossing, Franklin was to cross with the Left Grand Division, three miles below the town, and threaten Lee's communications with Richmond. One thing, and one thing only, favored the operation undertaken on the nth of December. This was that Jackson, with a powerful column, was many miles down the river, awaiting a possible crossing in that direction. But to take advantage of this it was necessary that whatever was to be attempted should be done promptly and decisively. Our space will not serve to tell the miserable story of the long delays which beset the crossing by the Lacy House, owing to the fact that General Burnside trusted to the effect of more than one hundred guns, placed along the bank, to drive the Confederates out of the houses on the opposite side, and thus enable the bridges to be laid. Hancock's division had been ordered to cover the engineers and pontoon-men at their work; but these and Hancock's regiments alike suffered helplessly from the riflemen of the enemy, in cellars and pits along the shore, who defied the utmost fury of the cannonade. Hour after hour of precious time was wasted in efforts, manifestly futile, to lay the bridges under these conditions. It was not until the afternoon was well advanced that the thing was done that should have been done at break of day. Volunteers from Howard's division at a signal rushed down the banks, jumped into the pontoons, pushed off under a heavy fire, and, rowing straight across, formed under the bank; then, with a rush, carried the river street and smoked the enemy out of their defenses. Upon this the bridges were quickly laid, as might have been done in the early morning, and the remainder of Howard's troops crossed into the city and cleared the nearest streets. But by that time the short winter day was at its close, and nothing more could be done. Meanwhile, Jackson had taken the alarm and was hurrying back to join Longstreet. During the night most of the remaining troops of both wings were thrown over; and the dawn of the 12th of December found Sumner's column in Fredericksburg, on the right, while Franklin's six divisions, upon the left, held enough ground beyond their bridges below the town to enable them to manoeuvre.