Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 14, 1862 (Sunday): Aftermath

The Sunken Road, Fredericksburg (NPS)

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, December 14, 1862-4 a.m. [Received 4.30 a.m.]
    I have just returned from the field. Our troops are all over the river. We hold the first ridge outside the town, and 3 miles below. We hope to carry the crest to-day. Our loss is heavy-say, 5,000.


[Copy to General Halleck.]

December 14, 1862-10.10 a.m.
Major-General BURNSIDE, Phillips House:
    Several new batteries of the enemy appear to have been placed on our front and the left. An attack of the enemy seems to be expected soon.

    Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

December 14, 1862-12 m. (Received 12.30 p.m.)
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
    Nothing new; awaiting attack from the enemy moment. They are placing two new batteries in our front. Constant and annoying skirmish fire. Enemy endeavoring to pick off gunners and horses of our batteries. Franklin maintains a skirmish fire to keep them off.

     JAS. A. HARDIE,
     Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

December 14, 1862-12.40 p.m. (Received 1.35 p.m.)
Major-General BURNSIDE:
    No development yet of enemy. Skirmishers of enemy very spiteful. Battery of enemy on river enfilades our left. De Russy to play on it.
    All agree that the indications are threatening of an attack of massed troops soon, on our left and front, probably. Enemy digging rifle-pits however. Must have a development soon of enemy's design. Franklin wants to hear from you. It is very important to know of the movements of the Ninth Corps, for Franklin wants to assist by a demonstration, if not attacked before long.

    Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

December 14, 1862-2 p.m.
    Nothing new as yet. What news from the right?

    Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

FREDERICKSBURG, December 14, 1862.
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:
     COLONEL: I desire to call the attention of the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to the great number of troops and batteries in this city, and to the danger to which they are exposed.
Should the enemy be disposed to shell it, the consequence of this would necessarily cause loss of life and destruction of property. I respectfully suggest that all the troops be transferred to the opposite side of the river, except two divisions, that number being all that will be required to hold the city. The troops will be much more comfortable and much less likely to demoralizing influences in their camps than here. I also recommend that instructions be given the provost-marshal-general to have every house in town searched, and all soldiers found in them sent to their regiments.
     I make these suggestions on the presumption that no immediate advance is contemplated from this point.
     Everything is quiet here to-night.
     My headquarters are at the corner of Hanover and Princess Anne streets.
     I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Fredericksburg, Va., December 14, 1862.
Brigadier-General COUCH,
Commanding Corps:
    The major-general commanding Fredericksburg requests that you will relieve two brigades of General Sykes' division to-night and that you will give directions, in case of an alarm, for your troops in the city to stand to their arms.
    The general is of the opinion that the advanced line of pickets is unnecessarily large, and he requests that it be considerably reduced.
    Please give instructions to the officer in command of your relieving arty to confer with General Sykes before proceeding to relieve his troops.
    Headquarters to-night will be at the corner of Hanover and Princess Anne streets.

    Very respectfully, &c.,
    Assistant Adjutant-General.

FREDERICKSBURG, VA., December 14, 1862.
    I am informed by chief of ordnance of this army that the train now on the road contains all the ammunition prepared in Richmond. I beg that every exertion be made to provide additional supplies, as there is every indication that it will be needed.

    R. E. LEE,
    General, Commanding.

Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
    SIR: On the night of the 10th instant, the enemy commenced to throw three bridges over the Rappahannock, two at Fredericksburg and the third about 1 1/2 miles below, near the mouth of Deep Run. The plain on which Fredericksburg stands is so completely commanded by the hills of Stafford (in possession of the enemy) that no effectual opposition could be offered to the construction of the bridges or the passage of the river without exposing our troops to the destructive fire of his numerous batteries. Positions were, therefore, selected to oppose his advance after crossing. The narrowness of the Rappahannock, its winding course, and deep bed afforded opportunity for the construction of bridges at points beyond the reach of our artillery, and the banks had to be watched by skirmishers. The latter, sheltering themselves behind the houses, drove back the working parties of the enemy at the bridges opposite the city, but at the lowest point of crossing, where no shelter could be had, our sharpshooters were themselves driven off, and the completion of that bridge was effected about noon on the 11th.
     In the afternoon of that day, the enemy's batteries opened upon the city, and by dark had so demolished the houses on the river bank as to deprive our skirmishers of shelter, and under cover of his guns he effected a lodgment in the town. The troops which had so gallantly held their position in the city under the severe cannonade during the day, resisting the advance of the enemy at every step, were withdrawn during the night, as were also those who, with equal tenacity, had maintained their post at the lowest bridge. Under cover of darkness and of a dense fog on the 12th, a large force passed the river and took position on the right bank, protected by their heavy guns on the left.
     The morning of the 13th, his arrangements for attack being completed, about 9 o'clock (the movement veiled by a fog) he advanced boldly in large force against our right wing. General Jackson's corps occupied the right of our line, which rested on the railroad; General Longstreet's the left, extending along the heights to the Rappahannock above Fredericksburg. General Stuart, with two brigades of cavalry, was posted in the extensive plain on our extreme right. As soon as the advance of the enemy was discovered through the fog, General Stuart, with his accustomed promptness, moved up a section of his horse artillery, which opened with effect upon his flank and drew upon the gallant Pelham a heavy fire, which he sustained unflinchingly for about two hours.
    In the mean time the enemy was fiercely encountered by General A. P. Hill's division, forming General Jackson's right, and, after an obstinate combat, repulsed. During this attack, which was protracted and hotly contested, two of General Hill's brigades were driven back upon our second line. General Early, with part of his division, being ordered to his support, drove the enemy back from the point of woods he had seized, and pursued him into the plain until arrested by his artillery. The right of the enemy's column, extending beyond Hill's front, encountered the right of General Hood, of Longstreet's corps. The enemy took possession of a small copse in front of Hood, but were quickly dispossessed and repulsed with loss.
     During the attack on our right, the enemy was crossing troops over his bridges at Fredericksburg and massing them in front of Longstreet's line. Soon after his repulse on our right, he commenced a series of attacks on our left with a view of obtaining possession of the heights immediately overlooking the town. These repeated attacks were repulsed in gallant style by the Washington Artillery, under Colonel [J. B.] Walton, and a portion of McLaws' division, which occupied these heights. The last assault was made after dark, when Colonel [E. P.] Alexander's battalion had relieved the Washington Artillery (whose ammunition had been exhausted), and ended the contest for the day.
     The enemy was supported in his attacks by the fire of strong batteries of artillery on the right bank of the river, as well as by his numerous heavy batteries on the Stafford Heights.
     Our loss during the operations since the movements of the enemy began amounts to about 1,800 killed and wounded. Among the former I regret to report the death of the patriotic soldier and statesman, Brigadier General Thomas R. R. Cobb, who fell upon our left, and among the latter that brave soldier and accomplished gentleman, Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg, who was very seriously, and it is feared mortally, wounded during the attack on our right.
     The enemy to-day has been apparently engaged in caring for his wounded and burying his dead. His troops are visible in their first position in line of battle, but, with the exception of some desultory cannonading and firing between skirmishers, he has not attempted to renew the attack. bout 550 prisoners were taken during the engagement, but the full extent of his loss is unknown.
     I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, December 14, 1862-12 p.m. [Received 12.50 a.m.,15th.]
     No movements to-day. Will telegraph you in full in the morning.


    General G. W. CULLUM,
    Chief of Staff.

 Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Various.

The day after the battle of Fredericksburg passed without a renewal of fighting.  As Hooker pointed out, the Union army was in an exposed position in the town and demoralized.  It is a point of considerable debate as to whether Lee should have renewed the attack.  However, a telling point is his letter to the Secretary of War regarding the scarcity of ammunition.  Lee also is fearful the Union force is not through attacking. 

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