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234

WHITE-OAK CHURCH.

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,

235

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,

286

LAYING BRIDGES OVER THE RIVER.

CHAPTER XXVI.

Laying of the Bridges. — A solemn scene. — Bombardment of

Fredericksburg.- Gallantry of the Seventh Michigan and other Regiments.- Crossing of the left Grand Division.

T length everything was in readiness, and during Wednesday evening, December 11th, the advance movement was begun. All night long, the rumbling of artillery could be heard, as numerous batteries moved to the Rappahannock and

were planted along the bank. One after another, the long, phantom-like pontoons descended the hill-sides, and were unloaded near the points designated for crossings. Four bridges were to be thrown, the first a few yards above the Lacey House, which fronts the main street of the city, the second several hundred yards below, and the third and fourth about a mile still further down the river. The right and centre Grand Divisions were to cross on the first two, and the left on the remaining two. General Burnside

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A SOLEMN SCENE.

237

designed to have all the artillery in position by eleven o'clock, the pontoons thrown by two A. M., and a large force across by sunrise. Owing, however, to numerous delays, none of the boats were launched before four o'clock.

The writer stood at the upper crossing. It was a most solemn scene, those brave Engineers (50th New York) pushing their pontoons out upon the ice, and fearlessly moving them around in the water, to their proper positions. Any moment might terminate their existence. They were upon the very threshold of eternity. Pacing along the opposite bank, or grouped around the picket fires, were to be seen the rebel sentinels, almost within pistol-shot. Occasionally they would stop a moment to view our operations, then resume their beat as unconcernedly as if nothing unusual was transpiring. The bridge was headed directly for one of their fires.

Nearly one quarter of it was completed without interruption, when, suddenly, as the Court House clock struck five, two signal guns boomed away in the distance, and were immediatedly followed by a sharp volley of musketry. Lieutenant-Colonel Bull, two captains and several men fell dead; others tumbled headlong into the water and sank to the bottom, or were rescued by their brave comrades and brought bleeding and dripping to the shore. We were not unprepared for this. Before the enemy had time to re-load, our artillery planted on the bluffs overhead, and infantry drawn up along the river's bank, returned a heavy fire upon the buildings in which the sharpshooters were secreted.

238

BOMBARDMENT OF FREDERICKSBURG.

..

Boom, boom, went the cannon, crack, crack, went the rifle, for one long hour, until the silence of the rebels terminated the duel, and the pontoniers resumed operations. But they had hardly reached the outermost boat, and turned their backs to place an additional one in position, before another murderous fire was poured in upon them, and the fierce duel was renewed. After another hour's delay firing ceased, and again the builders stepped forward, but were again compelled to fall back. New batteries now opened rapidly upon the buildings, but failed to dislodge the sharpshooters, who, crouching down in their hiding places, fired upon the pontoniers as often as they ventured from the shore. About ten o'clock General Burnside appeared and gave the order, “Concentrate the fire of all your guns upon the place, and batter it down.” One hundred and forty-three, cannon of various calibre, from 10-pound Parrots to 44-inch siege guns, were immediately trained upon the doomed city, and for fifty minutes rained down a perfect tempest of solid shot, shell and canister. Through the mist and dense clouds of smoke, bright fires appeared bursting forth in different parts of the town, and adding to the terrible grandeur of the spectacle. · When the cannonading ceased and the smoke cleared away, the destructiveness of our fire was apparent. Whole rows of buildings along the river side were rent and riven, as if by the thunderbolts of heaven-roofs gone, doors and windows smashed to atoms, and great hideous gaps through the walls ;

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