The enemy was posted on his first line securely behind a stone wall near the foot of a crest, which was covered with batteries. The position of those batteries enabled the enemy to direct a severe cross-fire of artillery upon the heads of the columns. The enemy's position was one of exceeding strength, and his troops were well protected. During all the movements and formations the columns were subjected to a heavy fire. While endeavoring to force their way with powder and ball, no apparent advantage was gained. Orders were given to carry the heights with the bayonets. General Sykes was ordered to form a column of attack on the right of Humphreys. The attack of Humphreys' and Griffin's divisions was made with a spirit and efficiency scarcely, if ever, equaled in the records of this war; but the attack was made against a position so advantageous and strong to the enemy that it failed.
General Humphreys' division having been repulsed fell back. General Sykes was immediately ordered to change his dispositions, to cover his own ground and that upon which Humphreys had attacked. General Humphreys was ordered to form in the rear of him. General Griffin fell back, but shortly after advanced to the extreme front, which he had gained, and held his position. The reports of the division commanders set forth in detail the order and character of their respective movements. Sykes' division was directed to hold the line in the rear of the ditch (marked B on the map* accompanying this report). General Griffin continued the line on the left, connecting with the Ninth Army Corps: Allabach's brigade, of General Humphreys, in the rear of Major Andrews' brigade, at a point marked F on the map, and Andrews' and Stockton's brigades, at a point marked C on the map.
Late at night I received orders from the major-general commanding to have these troops take an advanced position, where some portions of General Couch's corps were lying down in front of the ditch, which position was accordingly taken. The brigades of Colonel Buchanan and Major Andrews, in General Sykes' division, and Colonel Stockton's, in General Griffin's, held this line within close range of the enemy's position behind the stone wall (marked D on the map), for twenty-four hours following on the 14th. A more severe test of the discipline and efficiency of these commands could not have been made.
At noon on the 15th, that portion of Fredericksburg bounded by Hanover street on the left, and the Rappahannock River on the right was assigned to me, to be put in a state of defense and held. General Whipple's division was ordered to me for this duty.
The different portions of the line of defense were apportioned according to the strength of the various divisions: General Whipple on the right, from the river to the junction of the canal and Fall Hill road; General Griffin on his left, to Fauquier street; General Humphreys on General Griffin's left, to Amelia street, and General Sykes on General Humphreys' left, to Hanover street, his left connecting with the command of General Couch, who had been intrusted with the remaining portions of the defenses of the town. General Warren was charged with the construction of the barricades and earthworks.# Captain Weed, chief of artillery of the corps, was charged with the distribution and disposition of the artillery.
As soon as darkness permitted, the work was carried on as rapidly as the limited number of implements at hand and to be obtained would allow. No work could be done before dark.
#See 193, p. 429.