War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0356 OPERATIONS IN N. VA. W. VA., MD. AND PA. Chapter XXXIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

knowledge or information on my part, these two divisions were ordered forward with Franklin. Subsequently I was ordered to send the remaining division (Whipple's) of the Third Corps to relieve the division of General Howard, in Fredericksburg. The corps of General Butterfield was left intact up to this time, ready to cross the bridges.

At 1.30 o'clock, or thereabouts, I received orders to cross this corps and attack. Before the corps had fully crossed, I was directed to send one division to support General Sturgis. General Griffin's division, the largest of the three, being nearest in position, for the purpose,was assigned to this duty. General Butterfield was then left with the two smallest divisions of his corps to make an attack upon the right, where General Sumner's (Second) and a portion of the Ninth Corps, greatly outnumbering this force, had been at work all day without making any impression.

A prisoner in the morning had given to General Burnside, General Sumner, and myself full information of the position and defenses of the enemy, stating that it was their desire that we should attack at that point, in rear of Fredericksburg, on the Telegraph road, that it was perfectly impossible for any troops to carry the position; that, if the first line was carried, a second line of batteries commanded it.

The result of the operations of General Sumner's corps, which had made a determined,spirited attack, without success, fully confirmed the statements of this prisoner. I carefully surveyed the point of attack, and, after conversation with several of the general officers of Sumner's and my own command, I was convinced that it would be a useless waste of life to attack with the force at my disposal. I dispatched an aide to General Burnside, to say that I advised him not to attack. The reply came that the attack must be made.

Under ordinary circumstances I should have complied at once, but so impressed was I with the conviction heretofore stated, that I determined it to be my duty to the troops under my command to give General Burnside a fuller explanation and dissuade him, if possible, from what I considered a hopeless attack, especially as the few moments it would take for this purpose could not possible affect the result of the attack in the slightest degree. Accordingly I did so. The general insisted upon the attack being made.

I returned and brought up every available battery, with the intention of breaking their barriers, to enable Butterfield's attacking column to carry the crest. This artillery fire was continued with great vigor until near sunset, when the attack with bayonet was made by Humphrey's division, General Sykes' division moving on its right, to assault en echelon and support. This attack was made with a spirit and determination seldom, if every, equaled in war. The impregnable position of the enemy had given them so strong an advantage that the attack was almost immediately repulsed, and Sykes' division was recalled, without having fully assaulted, to cover the withdrawal of Humphreys'. This movement was a necessity, for the loss and repulse of the attacking columns had been so severe that, should the enemy have followed up their advantage, without this precaution, the result could not have failed to be of the most disastrous character.

During the cannonade the batteries of Randol, First U. S. Artillery, and Hazard, First Rhode Island Artillery, performed most valuable and gallant service. Hazard's battery was posted at the point marked* on the map accompanying General Butterfield's report, inclosed with this. This position was within about 500 yards of the enemy's line, and the


*Characters indicated represent four pieces of cannon.