No. 63. Report of Brigadier General Thomas F. Meagher, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
HDQRS. IRISH Brigadier (SECOND Brigadier), HANCOCK'S DIV.,
In Camp before Fredericksburg, Va., December 20, 1862.
I have the honor to report through you to the brigadier-general commanding the division the part taken by the brigade I have the honor to command in the action of Saturday, the 13th instant.
On the Thursday morning previous, December 11, at 7 o'clock precisely, the brigade left the camp from which this report is dated, and proceeded toward the pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock, which it was arranged the division should cross. The brigade never was in finer spirits and condition. The arms and accouterments were in perfect order. The required amount of ammunition was an hand. Both officers and men were comfortably clad; and it would be difficult to say whether those who were to be led, or those who were to lead, were the better prepared or the more eager to discharge their duty.
Arriving within a few hundred paces of the headquarters of Major-General Sumner, commanding the right grand division of the Army of the Potomac, the brigade was halted, by order of Brigadier-General Hancock, in a well-sheltered valley, where we stacked arms and bivouacked from 9 o'clock until 4.30 p.m. The fire of our batteries and those of the enemy, incessant and terrible as it was, taught every man of the brigade to prepare himself equably and sternly for a desperate conflict.
A few minutes after 4 o'clock, word was conveyed to me that a body of daring volunteers had crossed the river in boats, and taken possession of the city of Fredericksburg. The State of Michigan will fairly reserve to herself the largest measure of pride justified by this achievement. Immediately after this word was brought to me, an order reached me from Brigadier-General Hancock to march forward my brigade and take up and hold a position nearer the river.
At 7 o'clock the following morning the brigade was under arms, and in less than two hours the head of the brigade presented itself on the opposite bank of the river. The order of the advance of our division on this occasion was as follows: Colonel Zook, commanding French's old brigade, led the way; the Irish Brigade came next, and Brigadier-General Caldwell's brought up the rear.
Passing along the south bank of Rappahanock to the lower crossing communicating with the city, the brigade halted, countermarched, stacked arms, and in this position, ankle-deep in mud, and with little or nothing to contribute to their comfort, in complete subordination and good heart a waited further orders. All this time, and until night came on, the batteries of the enemy continued their fire; at one time, especially, so operating that an entire division, crossing immediately on our left flank, was compelled to fall back and wait for the approaching night to conceal and protect its advance. An order was issued by Major-General Couch, commanding the corps, that no fires should be lit after nightfall. This order was uncomplainingly and manfully obeyed by my brigade. Officers and men lay down and slept that night in the mud and frost, and, without a murmur, with heroic hearts composed themselves as best as they could for the eventualities of the coming day.
I do not wish to introduce into an official report, where facts alone should be narrated, any expression of personal feeling;but it would be