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festing that nobleness of soul which characterized him while living, the brightest promise of his parents, and the fondest hopes of their afflicted family.”
Led, doubtless, by the expectation of discovering buried valuables, some one had removed the stone from its original position, and excavated the earth beneath. Close by the entrance on the north side, are three enclosed graves, where sleep those of another generation. The brown, moss-covered tombstones appear in strong contrast to a plain pine board at the head of a fresh made grave alongside, and bearing the inscription : “Henry Basler, Co. H, 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers.”
One evening considerable alarm was occasioned by the appearance of numerous camp fires in the rear, the supposition being that the enemy had turned the right of our lines, and were pushing for Acquia Landing. Inquiry, however, soon ascertained that they proceeded from General Sickles’ Division, which was on the march from the vicinity of Fairfax to join the Second Corps.
Nearly four weeks had now elapsed since the army arrived at the new base of operations. The rainy season was approaching, and whatever was done, must be done quickly. Owing to the difficulty our scouts and spies experienced in crossing the river, but very little reliable information could be obtained of the enemy's forces. They were variously estimated at from sixty to one hundred and twenty-five thousand men. A long extended line of
PLANS FOR CROSSING THE RAPPAHANNOCK.
fortifications appeared on the first crest of hills, but whether these constituted their only earthworks, or a new Torres Vedras existed beyond, was a inatter of uncertainty.
It was, however, definitely ascertained that Jackson had arrived from the Shenandoah Valley, and that Lee had posted his troops up and down the river for a distance of twenty miles, to obstruct our crossing.
After consulting with his Division and Corps Commanders, General Burnside decided upon throwing his entire army across at some given point, and hurling it quickly upon the necessarily weak line, pierce, and break it, before the rebel General could concentrate his forces. Skinner's Neck, about twelve miles below the city, was the point first chosen for crossing. But he afterwards decided to cross at Fredericksburg, because, as he has since informed us, he “felt satisfied that they did not expect us to cross here, but down below. In the next place, I felt satisfied that this was the place to fight the most decisive battle; because, if we could divide their forces by piercing their lines at one or two points, separating their left from their right, then a vigorous attack by the whole army would succeed in breaking their army in pieces. The enemy had cut a road along the rear of the line of heights, by means of which they connected the two wings of their army, and avoided a long detour around, through a bad country. I wanted to get possession of that road."
· MARCHING ORDERS RECEIVED.
As an initiatory step to active operations, he commenced a series of feints down the river as far as Port Conway, twenty miles below. Among other ruses, a long train of empty wagons was sent down the river road, in plain view of the enemy, and returned by an obscure route. Wednesday evening, Decenīber 3rd, the Left Grand Division received marching orders, with instructions to proceed in a southerly course, as if intending to strike and cross the river several miles below Fredericksburg.
Colonel Taylor had just moved his command to a new spot, higher up the side of the woody crest on which it was encamped, and the men were busily employed in erecting log-huts when the orders came. Instead, however, of occasioning any dissatisfaction, they were received with joy, and the men began, with alacrity, preparations for resuming the “on to Richmond.” Strange as it may seem, soldiers dread the privations and dangers of an active campaign less than the idleness and ennui of camp; and, contrary as it may be to the opinion generally entertained, there is much less sickness on the march than when the troops are encamped. The excitement consequent upon seeing new sights, and participating in new scenes, dispels those camp ills, real or imaginary, so common among soldiers during a period of inactivity.
By eleven o'clock the next morning, everything was got in readiness, and the Regiment took its place in the advancing column, which extended for miles, and was headed by Generals Franklin and
Smith. Proceeding about eight miles, through Stafford Village, on the cross-road intersecting the Falmouth and Acquia Turnpike, the troops bivouacked for the night close by Potomac Creek bridge.
On the following day a snow storm set in, which, together with the rain, imparted a decidedly gloomy and sombre aspect to the surroundings. The soldiers protected themselves as best they could with their frail tents, stirring out but little. The march was resumed Saturday morning at eight o'clock, and reaching White-Oak Church, an insignificant building, in which Stephen A. Douglass delivered an address during his last political tour, the Corps turned straight to the left, towards Belle Plain, and proceeding about a mile, encamped in the fields and woods adjoining the road. Here it remained until the following Thursday, about six miles from Fredericksburg, and two in the rear of Burnside's Headquarters. The Thirty-third occupied a small grove, together with the 20th, 49th, 77th New York and 7th Maine. The First Corps soon after came up and took position near the Sixth. Various inquiries concerning the roads and distances to Port Conway were made of the inhabitants, who, with hardly an exception, were rebels, in order to create the impression that we were going to move down the river. This, together with other similar ruses, succeeded admirably, for, as we afterwards learned, General Lee sent down the whole of Jackson's force to Port Royal, opposite Port Conway, to resist our crossing.
ARRIVAL OF MORE PONTOONS.
Meanwhile preparations were actively going on in front. Additional pontoons had been brought from Washington, and the Engineers’ Brigade made ready their trains. The Second, Third, Fifth and Ninth Corps, composing the right and centre Grand Divisions, were placed under marching orders, though not moving from their camps.