Regiments crossed at the upper bridge, the Seventh Michigan leading, and the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers at the lower. Under the cover of these gallant men, the bridges were completed, and Howard's division crossed near the Lacy house, occupying at first the streets of two town nearest and parallel to the river. The upper portion of the town was held by the enemy, who opened a sharp and effective fire upon the heads of Howard's columns as they showed themselves in the streets perpendicular to the Rappahannock. Howard made judicious dispositions, advanced, and, after sharp fighting, drove the enemy, so that at daylight on the morning of the 12th, in conjunction with Hawkins' brigade, of the Ninth Corps, he occupied the entire town of Fredericksburg.
During this day the remaining troops of the Second and Ninth Corps d'Armee crossed the river. The Second Corps held the center and right of the town, and the Ninth Corps, reaching to the left, connected with Franklin's right. Franklin having crossed the Rappahannock about 3 miles below the city, Hooker's grand division was massed in readiness to move to the support of the attack proposed for my grand division. The enemy held the successive crests and wooded slopes which encircle the town, his infantry covered by breastworks and rifle-pits, his guns protected by earthworks, and mostly in embrasure, the general dispositions of his lines being such as to give front and enfilading fires on any troops who might debouch from the city with the intention of crossing the gradual slope which swells from the town to the crest. He had also concentrated many guns on the bridges necessarily to be crossed by the troops after leaving the cover of the houses before reaching the open plain. The enemy was quiet during the day and night.
On the morning of the 13th, I was directed by the commanding general to attack with a division, supported closely by a second, the direction of the attack to be indicated by the Plank and Telegraph roads, and its object the possession of the heights immediately in the rear of the town. French's division (Couch's corps) was selected as the leading column. General French made his dispositions promptly. The movement of his command was partially covered by a heavy fog. Hancock's division was formed in proper supporting distance and order.
At 11 a.m. the advance division moved in three columns of battalions by brigades, with front to this storming column were that it should advance steadily, and, driving the pickets of the enemy before it, should follow them closely and go into their works with them. A handsome attempt was made to carry these orders into execution, but failed. Hancock threw his division in with spirit and decision, and was followed subsequently by Howard.
These three divisions lost many gallant officers and men in repeated and fruitless attempts to carry positions of great natural strength, made stronger by the unremitted labor of weeks, and held by an enemy in strong force, who fought under cover, aided by a tremendous fire of artillery, while such was the nature of the ground that we could derive little support from our own guns.
Willcox held his corps in hand to support Couch, and at the proper moment threw in Sturgis' division, which showed the same gallantry and met the same ill-fortune as that shown and experienced by the divisions of the Second Corps. Subsequently Getty's division was precipitated against the works of the enemy, but recoiled the volume of fire it met.
Burns' division, on the left, was pushed across Hazel Run, holding