War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0085 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

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Halleck is not inclined to send another train by land, but will allow it, probably, if General Burnside insists. A second train can be sent by water to Aquia Creek, and from thence transported by the teams which carry the first.



This was my first information of delay; but the statement that thirty-six pontoons had arrive, and forty more were expected next morning, connected with the statement that the first train [which would have been ample for our purposes] would start on the 16th or 17th, was deemed sufficient to authorize me in continuing the movement of the troops, as the pontoons would have arrived in very good time had they started as promised, although not so soon as I had expected.

After telegraphic communication between my headquarters and Washington was broken, General Woodbury sent me the following dispatches, which reached me by orderlies, after my arrival at Falmouth:

HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE, Washington, D. C., November 17, 1862-7 p.m.

Lieutenant COMSTOCK,

Engineer, General Burnside's Headquarters, Army of the Potomac:

Major Spaulding has not been able to get off to-day. He expects to start at 10 a.m. tomorrow. I will telegraph when he leaves.


Assistant Adjutant-General.

HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE, Washington, D. C., November 18, 1862.

Lieutenant COMSTOCK, or, in his absence,


Major Spaulding has been delayed in obtaining barness, teamsters, &c., for 270 new horses. He expects to start to-night.


Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

On the 19th, General Hooker's grand division was at Hartwood, and a portion of the cavalry occupied positions above him, opposite the fords, where they could cross, upon the receipt of the necessary orders. It was my intention, and I so informed General Halleck, to cross some of the cavalry, and possibly a small force of light infantry and artillery, over the fords of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, with a view to moving rapidly upon Fredericksburg, and holding the south bank off the river while bridges wee being laid; but the above telegrams, announcing still further delay in the arrival of means to cross the main army, decided me in the already half-formed determination not to risk sending a portion of the command on the opposite side of the river until I had the means for crossing the main body. Subsequent events proved the wisdom of this course, by showing that none of these fords are reliable for the passage of large bodies of troops without the use of temporary bridges, and the pontoons did not arrive until the 25th. It is possible that the cavalry, with some light infantry, could have crossed both rivers and moved down to Fredericksburg on the south side; but before the pontoons arrived, enabling the entire army to cross, this force would have been called upon to resist an attack from the greater portion of General Lee's army.

General Sumner, on arriving at Falmouth on the 17th, suggested crossing a portion of his force over the fords at that place, with a view to taking Fredericksburg; but, from information in my possession as to the condition of the ford, I decided that it was impracticable to cross