Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
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WITH JACKSON AT HAMILTON'S CROSSING (1)
BY J. H. MOORE, C. S. A.
TRAFFIC BETWEEN THE LINES DURING A TRUCE.
The morning of the 13th [of December] dawned with a dense fog enveloping the plain and city of Fredericksburg, through which the brilliant rays of the sun struggled about 10 in the morning. In front of the right of the confederate army was displayed the vast force of Franklin, marching and coutermarching, hastily seeking the places assigned for the coming conflict. Here was a vast plain, now peopled with an army worthy of its grand dimensions. A slight but dazzling snow beneath, and a brilliant sun above, intensified the leaping reflections from thousands of gleaming bayonets. Officers, on restless horses, rushed from point to point in gay uniforms. Fieldartillery was whisked into position as so many fragile toys. Rank and file, foot and horse, small-arms pageant as to call forth the unbounded admiration of their adversaries. In a word, this was the grandest martial scene of the war. The contrast between Stonewall Jackson's corps and Franklin's grand division was very marked, and so far as appearances went the former was hardly better than a caricature of the latter
When all was in readiness, adjutants stepped to the front and, plainly in our view, read the odes of the day. This done, the fatal advance across the plain commenced. With gay pennants, State, regimental, and brigade standards flying, this magnificent army advanced in three closely compacted lines of battle. At intervals, in front, preceded by horse=artillery and flanked on either side by numerous field-pieces, hundreds of heavy fieldpieces from the north bank of the rappahannock belched forth their missiles of destruction and swept the plain in advance of Franklin's columns, while at the same moment his smaller field-pieces in front and on the flanks joined in to sweep the open space on all sides. This mighty cannonading was answered by the Confederate ordnance. Onward, steady and unwavering, these three lines advanced, preceded by a heavy skirmish line, till they neared the railroad, when Jackson's right and right center poured into these sturdy ranks a deadly volley from small-arms. Spaces, gaps, and wide chasms instantly told the tale of a most fatal encounter. Volley after volley of small-arms continued the work of destruction, while Jackson's artillery posted on the Federal left and at right angles to their line of advance kept up a withering fire on the lessening ranks. The enemy advanced far in front of the River road [and crossing the railroad charged the slopes upon which our troops were posted], but a length wavered, halted, and suddenly retreated to the protection of the railroad embankments. The struggle was kept up by sharpshooters for some time, when another general advance was made against a furious cannonade of
(1) Condensed from an article in the "Southern Bivouac" for August, 1886.