The divisions were assigned to various portions of the town, in accordance with the orders given them to move to the proper relief on support without confusion.
At about 10 o'clock at night, the main body, assigned to the portion of the town on the left of Hanover street, was withdrawn, and the defense of the entire town was assigned to me. I was directed to relieve the pickets on the left of Hanover street.
The darkness and the wearied condition of both officers and men of the command incident to exposure and the duties performed since breaking camp, made this a severe task upon them. Generals Griffin and Humphreys were withdrawn from the right and assigned to the line from Hanover street to the left. General Sykes and General Whiple covered the line from which the other two divisions were withdrawn. The alacrity with which these orders were obeyed was most praise worthy.
At 3.30 a.m. orders came to withdraw the command from Fredericksburg and recross the river, covering the withdrawal of the bridges. Captain Weed was directed to move all the artillery immediately; the provost-guard ordered to patrol the town; wake up all stragglers; search all alley-ways and by-ways, and make every possible exertion to get all absentees to their commands. Precise and detailed orders in writing were given for the withdrawal of the forces. Under direction of General Sykes, one of his brigades covered the whole. The order was carried out in the most admirable manner. No confusion occurred; no haste or disorder.
Contrary to my understanding, and without notice, the engineers in charge took up two of the pontoon bridges before all the troops directed to cross them had done so. This action necessitated a change in the order to withdrawal, which was made properly and without confusion. It was a most fortunate circumstances that this unwarrantable blunder caused no confusion. The bridges were immediately ordered to be relaid, and the crossing continued successfully.
Colonel Buchanan's brigade, of Sykes' division, crossed last, at about 8 a.m., in most excellent order. Several boat-loads of stragglers were brought over after the taking up of the bridges, which was completed at 9 a.m. My command was two hours longer in retiring from the position in front of the enemy to the left bank of the river than it was in crossing from the left bank of the 13th and engaging with the enemy. I can give no better commentary that this upon the spirit which animated all in the performance of their duty.
The accompanying sketch* will illustrate fully the positions of attack, the lines of defense, the enemy's line,&c., alluded to in my report. The reports of the division commanders furnish in detail the movements executed by them.
I regret to state that, by the neglect of duty of a subordinate officer, on picket duty, of General Humphreys' division, and the failure to comply with precise orders given. Captain Lentz's company, of the Ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, were left unrelieved on picket. The gallant behavior of Captain Lentz and his men, his successful withdrawal of all but a small portion of them, is set forth modestly in his report, hereto annexed and marked C. This officer deserves an acknowledgment and reward for his conduct.
The list of casualties in the corps (annexed and marked B) aggregated 2,440.+
+But see revised statement,p.137.
26 R R-VOL XXI