Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE CONFEDERATE LEFT AT FREDERICKSBURG.
ON the 25th of November, 1862, my division marched into Fredericksburg, and shortly after, by direction of General Longstreet, I occupied the city with one of my brigades and picketed the river with strong detachments from the dam at Falmouth to a quarter of a mile below Deep Run creek, the enemy's pickets being just across the river, within a stone's-throw of mine. Detachments were immediately set a work digging rifle-pits close to the edge of the bank, so close that our men, when in them, could command the river and the shores on each side. The cellars of the houses near the river were made available for the use of riflemen, and zigzags were constructed to enable the men to get in and out of the rifle-pits under cover. All this was done at night, and so secretly and quietly that I do not believe the enemy had any conception of the minute and careful preparations that had been made to defeat any attempt to cross the river in my front. No provision was made for the use of artillery, as the enemy had an enormous array of their batteries on the heights above the town, and could have demolished ours in five minutes.
Two or three evenings previous to the Federal attempt to cross, I was with General Barksdale, and we were attracted by one or more of the enemy's bands playing at their end of the railroad bridge. A number of their officers and a crowd of their men were about the band cheering their national airs, the "Star Spangled Banner," "Hail Columbia," and others, once so dear to us all. It seemed as if they expected some response from us, but none was given until, finally, they struck up "Dixie," and then both sides cheered, with much laughter. Surmising that this serenade meant mischief, I closely inspected our bank of the river, and at night caused additional rifle-pits to be constructed to guard more securely the approaches to the bridge.
Early in the night of the 10th General Barksdale reported that his pickets had heard noises, as if the enemy were hauling pontoon-boats to the brink of the river; a dense fog had prevented a clear view. About 2 A. M., of the 11th, General Barksdale notified me that the movements on the other side indicated that the enemy were preparing to lay down the pontoon-bridges. I told him to let the bridge building go on until the enemy were committed to it and the construction parties were within easy range. At 4:30 he reported that the bridge was being rapidly constructed and was nearly half done, and he was about to open fire. I then ordered the signal to be given by firing two guns of J. P. W. Read's battery, posted on the highest point along my front, on the edge of the hills alongside the main road running to the city.
Previous notice had been sent to General Lee and to corps headquarters that the bridge was being constructed. With the sound of the cannon was mingled the rattle of the rifles of the Mississippi men, who opened a concentrated fire from the rifle-pits and swept the bridge, now crowded with the construction