General Franklin's placing a regiment at either end of both bridges, with instructions to allow no one to cross to the north side of the river without an order from a general officer. This duty was satisfactorily performed by the Second New Hampshire, Colonel Marston; Eleventh Massachusetts, Colonel Blaisdell; Sixteenth Massachusetts, Colonel Tannatt, and the Eleventh New Jersey, Colonel McAllister, all of whom rendered efficient service besides, in the construction of roads and in aiding and regulating the passage of troops, artillery, and trains over the pontoons. Subsistence for another day was issued to the troops.
On Saturday morning, the 13th, about 7 o'clock, the battle was opened by our artillery and skirmishers on the left wing, all of which had crossed the river the day before.
The course of the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg is south by east. The southerly bank of the river ascends abruptly about 30 feet, opening upon an irregular plain that spreads a mile or two to the base of a range of hills stretching from the Rappahannock to the city, which is built on the southerly slope, and descends to the river. These heights, intersected by the railroad and the Massaponax, undulating and covered by forests and undergrowth, describe a segment of a circle, broken on the right and left by the course of the river. The Massaponax, a considerable stream, follows in an easterly direction the inclination of the heights until both meet the Rappahannock. These heights and the plain, as far as the Massaponax, the enemy occupied in vast force, strengthened by elaborate works and defenses for infantry and artillery.
Our forces on the left and center occupied a portion of the plain north of the Massaponax, and between the Rappahannock and the heights, the right wing being massed in the suburbs and city of Fredericksburg, so that our line of battle, in conforming to the position of the enemy, had a convex outline, if theirs might be assimilated to a crescent.
The field of battle was veiled, as on the day before, by mists, made denser by the heavy fire, both of artillery and musketry now becoming general along the line; yet it was easy to see that on the left we were gaining ground, and on the right our troops were gallantly moving up the heights against the enemy's works.
Toward noon I was directed by the brigadier-general commanding the corps to send a regiment to report to Captain De Russy, commanding the artillery on the left, on the north bank of the river. The Fifth Excelsior (Seventy-fourth New York Volunteers), Lieutenant-Colonel Lounsbury commanding, was detailed for this duty by Colonel Hall, commanding Second Brigade.
I would invite attention to the concise and clear report of this accomplished officer, not only for its details of the efficient service performed by his regiment, but especially for the information given as to the force of the enemy and the dispositions of his cavalry. In the same relation I refer to the accompanying statement of Private Joseph Benway, Battery K, Fourth U. S. Artillery, reduced to writing, with a diagram by Captain H. D. F. Young, ordnance officer, of my staff. Benway was taken prisoner in Fredericksburg on the morning of the ---, and passed through the enemy's lines to the headquarters of Generals Hood and Longstreet, thence to Richmong. He returned yesterday, having been paroled; and it may be thought that his testimony concerning the movement of troops toward Richmond deserves attention.
Birney's (First) division crossed the river at noon, followed by the brigadier-general commanding the corps, and at 2.10 o'clock I received his order to follow with the Second Division, and await orders in rear of Franklin's headquarters, under cover of the river bank. The inter-