War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0287 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

At 12 m. I received orders to attack, and the movement at once commenced. The heights to be carried were about three-quarters of a mile outside of the town, crowned by batteries, with rifle-pits and walls beneath, forming a continuous line of defense. The skirmishers, under the command of Colonel John S. Mason, Fourth Ohio, debouched from the town, rapidly, the right wing deploying to the left and the left wing deploying to the right as soon as they crossed the bridges of the canal, at the railroad depot and beyond Hanover street.

A heavy infantry and artillery fire was opened upon the line, which, however, spread itself out over the plain. Kimball's brigade, moving by the left flank, followed immediately, crossing by the depot bridge, and, when that was cleared, it faced to the right, marching directly toward the center of the enemy's line, the left resting on the Telegraph road. The Third Brigade, under Colonel J. W. Andrews, First Delaware, followed Kimball, and the Second Brigade, under Colonel Palmer, One hundred and eighth New York, followed that.

The column of attack was now complete, the head of which had not ceased steadily to advance, until the First Brigade arrived in front of the enemy's rifle-pits, at short musket range. The skirmishers, having driven the enemy to cover, were met with a terrible fire on the front and flanks, and compelled to lie down, slightly protected by the undulations of the plain. The brigades, shattered by the fire to which they were exposed, filled up the serried lines of the First Brigade, and poured their fire into every part where the enemy appeared. The length of time required to cross the bridges, and the extent of the plain to be crossed under the fixed batteries and covered ways of the enemy, permitted the columns of attack to be so reduced as to be unable to make a serious impression upon the works to be carried. Still, the heads of the columns rushed on up to the very walls, melting away before superior numbers, in strong positions. My troops now covered themselves to the right and left of the front of attack,opening a cross-fire upon it, with such execution as to slacken its fire.

Hancock's division, following mine in order, and contending against the same difficulties, steadily came up. At my request, he re-enforced the part of my line of skirmishers which was holding the houses to the right and farthest to the front. I had asked permission of the general commanding the corps, through Captain Morgan, his chief of artillery, to place a section of rifled guns in a commanding position at the head of Prince George street. These were furnished by Arnold's Rhode Island Battery, and handled with judgment and precision, strengthening my right of attack at a moment when the enemy were massing a column for a charge.

My division was on the filed four hours, and retired only when relieved by fresh troops. It was most effectually supported by Hancock and Howard, commanding the First and Second Divisions. The major-general commanding the Second Corps, by his presence and direction, under a destructive fire, concentrated the efforts of these divisions to second my own.

Brigadier-General Kimball was wounded while gallantly leading his troops to charge on the first line. The loss of this distinguished officer was severely felt by myself and the division during the remainder of the day. His brigade consisted of the Seventh West Virginia, Fourteenth Indiana, and Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth New Jersey, the Fourth and Eighth Ohio being in the line of skirmishers.

His staff, Captain E. D. Mason, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenants Swigart and Burrill, were conspicuous for coolness and courage