War of the Rebellion: Serial 015 Page 0434 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

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April 20, 1862.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of my recent movements, terminating in the evacuation of Fredericksburg:

My brigade was posted as follows: The Ninth Virginia Cavalry Regiment in two divisions, respectively under command of Colonel Johnson and Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, picketing an arc in my front, its left resting on the river above Fredericksburg, extending by way of Sackett's Mill, Aquia Church, Potomac Creek, & c., to the river below Fredericksburg. Lieutenant-Colonel Lee reporting that the enemy were advancing on the Warrenton road, in the afternoon of the 17th instant I ordered two companies of Colonel Brockenbrough's regiment (Fortieth Virginia) across the bridge to re-enforce the four companies of his regiment, already on that line, to support the cavalry. I ordered Captain Pegram's battery to a position commanding the Falmouth bridge; Colonel Mallory with his regiment (Fifty-fifth Virginia) to a point in Fredericksburg in supporting distance; Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, Fortieth Virginia, commanding the Fifth Alabama Battalion, having charge of the burning of the lower bridges, cotton, & c. All preparations having been made for this object, Captain Lewis, C. S. Navy, was charged with the duty of burning the shipping.

About 3 o'clock on the morning of the 18th instant report was brought of formidable demonstrations of the enemy. The skirmish occurred of which Lieutenant-Colonel Lee's report is herewith transmitted. On hearing the firing Colonel Brockenbrough, previously in position at the Falmouth Bridge, immediately, on his own judgment and afterward sanctioned by me, crossed over with the remainder of his regiment and re-enforced Colonel Johnson, Ninth Cavalry, who was on the Telegraph road.

About 6 a. m. an advance in heavy force was developed, and I proceeded to withdraw all my troops to this side of the river; ordered the bridges to be burned, the shipping, cotton, & c., burned, and every preparation made to retire from the town. All this was done in perfect order and without haste or fear, and with the unanimous concurrence of the senior officers then present and subsequently approved by all.

Up to this hour (6 o'clock) I had hoped his numbers might not be too great for me to resist him successfully on the other side. Whatever the enemy's strength may have been, all share with me the regret that the peculiar situation of the town rendered it impossible to give him such a reception as I think we could have done but for the exposure of the inhabitants and much valuable property, public and private, to certain destruction.

Even supposing but a single brigade opposed to me, with my effective force of not more than 2,200, to have risked an engagement on the other side, with a broad river in my rear, an immense amount of property in the town to be sent back or destroyed, and the country on this side for miles commanded by the opposite heights, I thought very hazardous.

In abandoning the town and destroying the property I knew that interested persons would raise a hue and cry, but I am perfectly willing to bide my time for vindication of the course, I thought proper under most trying circumstances to pursue. In carrying out my instructions and he suggestions of humanity, and at the same time making a strong