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FIGHTING ON THE RIGHT,
batteries (Martin's), yelling and cheering, as they came on the double quick. Slowly the Second and Fourth Vermont, which were in the skirmish line, fell back, until the enemy had advanced well on towards the guns, when a most sweeping cross fire was poured upon them. At the same time, the Third Vermont, concealed in a ravine close by, rose to their feet, delivering volley after volley, and they were sent back, broken, disorganized and howling to the thickets.
And so the dark masses of men swayed to and fro through the livelong day, neither side gaining any material advantage. Nor did the going down of the sun end the struggle. After the evening shadows had gathered over the plain, the artillery still kept playing upon each other, though probably with but little effect. About half past eight, the last gun was fired, and the shrieks and groans of the sufferers alone broke upon the stillness of the night.
The fighting on the right, at Fredericksburg, had been still less successful. Again and again were our forces hurled against the rebel works, only to be rolled back with confusion and slaughter. The narrow plain previously described, over which they had to charge, was so completely commanded by the enemy's guns, as to render every foot of it untenable. The last assaulting column succeeded, however, in reaching the stone-wall which we had all day attempted to gain possession of. But they had no sooner commenced clambering up the green sides of the bluff, and arrived within a few feet of
250 BURNSIDE DETERMINED TO RENEW THE CONTEST.
the guns, before rebel reinforcements arrived and drove thein back beyond the wall and over the plain. This terminated the fighting on the right.
During the night General Burnside summoned his Division Commanders to his Headquarters, and after a brief consultation, informed them of his determination to renew the attack in the rear of the city, on the following day. His plan was to form his old Corps, the Ninth, into a column of attack, by Regiments. He thought that the eighteen or twenty Regiments of which it was composed, by arriving quickly, one after another, would be able to carry the stone-wall and the batteries in front, and force the enemy back to his second line of works.
All of his Generals stoutly opposed the project, but still believing that it would prove successful, he ordered the storming columns to be got in readiness. When, however, General Sumner, always so fond of a fight, rode up to him on the following day, and said, “General, I hope you will desist from this attack; I do not know of any General Officer who approves of it, and I think it will prove disastrous to the army,” he decided upon abandoning it.
HOW A DESERTER ESCAPED.
HOW A DESERTER ESCAPED.
Events succeeding the Battle.- A North Carolina Deserter.
The Bernard Estate. Re-crossing the River.-The Thirtythird in its old Camp.- Families on the Picket Line.- A Courageous Female.- Changes in the Regiment.
The dawn of Sunday found the left Grand Division arranged in much the same order of the day previous. The Thirty-third still held the position which it had occupied during the afternoon. An attack from the enemy was now hourly expected, but they made no demonstrations, and what was most inexplicable to Gen. Franklin and every one else, failed to open their guns planted along the crest, and completely sweeping every part of the plain. The men rested on their arms, and the day was spent in removing the wounded from the field.
Collected in the rear of the Bernard House were several of the prisoners, who were addressed by Chaplain Lung in the afternoon. Prominent among the number was a member of the Fifty-fourth North Carolina, mostly composed of conscripted Union men. Finding that he could not escape to the North, or avoid being impressed, he concluded to accept $1,200, to go as a substitute, and desert at the 252
THE BERNARD MANSION.
first favorable opportunity. He was caught in the act, and sent to Richmond and imprisoned. On the day before the battle, he was hurried up to Fredericksburg, with several others, and sent to the front with a gun. When the enemy gave way before Meade's charge, he remained behind, concealed in the bushes, expecting our soldiers would come up and rescue him. The charging force failing, however, to follow up their success, he was seized with the most intense forebodings. Knowing full well that he would surely be shot, if thus caught in the act of deserting the second time, in a moment of frenzy, he whipped out his jack-knife, and made two perforations, opposite each other, in his left leg, hoping thereby to make his officers think that he was wounded, and on this account lagged in the rear. He afterwards fortunately made his escape. The wound was a poor apology for a gun-shot hole, though it might have passed-muster with the rebel surgeons if he had been taken, and thereby saved his life.
The Bernard House, since destroyed by fire, was a large, elegant stone mansion, built after the English style, and fitted up in a princely manner. The spacious apartments were furnished with velvet carpeting, damask curtains, statuary, and paintingseverything which wealth could command. Several large libraries of choice volumes evinced a literary taste on the part of the occupants, while the well stocked larder, and spacious wine cellar, testified no less to their epicurean proclivities. The proprietor,
SUCCESSFUL RE-CROSSING OF THE RIVER.
A. N. Bernard, a corpulent bachelor of the genuine F. F. V. stamp, was arrested when our forces first crossed, for conveying information to the enemy. He was, however, granted the freedom of his house, and wandered about from one room to another, almost distracted at seeing the “Yankees” carrying away his furniture and books, devouring his sweetmeats, and drinking, in Union toasts, his imported liquors. He had sown the wind, he was now reaping the whirlwind.
Monday passed in much the same manner as Sunday. The enemy could be seen erecting new batteries along the crest, but did not open upon us. Why this failure to shell our forces, which lay for two days upon the open plain, exposed to the destructive cross-fire of their guns, remains a mystery to our Generals to this day. They probably desisted, hoping that we would renew the attack, or were afraid to fire upon them, lest, infuriated and exasperated, our troops would, as a dernier resort, recklessly charge up the heights, and capture their batteries, at whatever cost.
Monday evening the retrograde movement across the river, which had several hours previously been determined upon, commenced. The three Grand Divisions began crossing simultaneously. A light rain and a heavy wind blowing away from the enemy, lavored the perilous movement, and it was conducted in safety. A more masterly retreat from before an enemy was never executed. So secretly had all the preliminary movements been conducted, that