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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 21, Part 1 (Fredericksburg)
Page 585 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

upper heights. These upper heights, however, rapidly recede from the river bank and then take a course nearly parallel with, but at considerable distance from, the river. These hills shortly after-below the right of the position of this division-rapidly diminish until near Hamilton's Crossing, where they have very inconsiderable elevation. The hills on the other side are much nearer the river. This gave the enemy great advantage in an attempt to cross the river and in sheltering his troops after they passed over. On our right and shortly below Fredericksburg their whole army could, and a large portion of it did, deploy on this side of the river in almost perfect security from our artillery; at the same time, being under the cover of their artillery on the Stafford side of the river, they were nearly as secure from an attack by our infantry. A knowledge of this fact probably induced General Burnside to cross the river, and his boast that after the fight of Saturday he remained two days in the plain waiting and inviting an attack from us is simply ridiculous.

But near Dr. Taylor's house, where the upper heights commence to recede from the river, a lower range of hills commences, which, though also receding from, keeps much nearer the river. This lower range of hills terminates abruptly with Marye's Hill, immediately in rear of the town of Fredericksburg, the hill there having almost the appearance of a promontory, the low grounds extending about 800 yards back to the base of the upper heights. This lower range of hills is much lower than the hills on the Stafford side of the river, and is commanded by the enemy's artillery. The position of our artillery and infantry made by Major-General McLaws was certainly most happy to counteract the disadvantages of our position. While the whole line was under my direction, I had recommended that short-range guns should be placed on the declivity on each side of Marye's house, between the house and the stone wall, where our infantry were drawn up during the battle. I had recommended this in addition to the guns on the crest of the hill, in order to sweep the plain in front. The impossibility of giving guns on the crest of an abrupt hill sufficient depression gives great advantages to a column of infantry, who, by making a rapid charge, soon find themselves completely protected from the artillery on the hills. I had also recommended that guns should be placed on the northern side of the Plank road, on the hills that sweep toward the upper part of Fredericksburg as if for its protection. These positions would have given a complete enfilading fire upon the enemy advancing upon Marye's Hill, and also upon their forces massed in front of, but protected by, the conformation of the ground from the fire or even sight of the gunners on the crest of the hill. These dispositions for some reason were not made. Had they been made, the repulse would have been even more signal and the victory even more complete than we obtained. It is but an act of simple justice to Major-General McLaws to say that the disposition of the artillery in other respects was such as he had chosen.

During the whole of Thursday, December 11, not a gun was fired by our batteries, and our cannoneers stood quiet spectators of the enemy's attempt to cross the river. The enemy's cannon was firing almost incessantly, and their shell frequently fell near our batteries.

The next day, Friday, upon the uplifting of the fog, disclosed to our view the larger portion of the whole force of the enemy upon this side of the river. On the right of my position a battery of light artillery was discovered in position. A few well-directed shots from our batteries caused this battery quickly to retire to a position still farther to the right. The first position of this battery, if retained, would have been


Page 585 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 21, Part 1 (Fredericksburg)
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