No. 178. Report of Colonel T. B. W. Stockton, Sixteenth Infantry, commanding Third Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, Camp near Potomac Creek, Va., December 17, 1862.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with circular of this date, I have the honor to report the operations of the Third Brigade on the 13th,14th,15th and 16th instant, under my command.
On the afternoon of the 13th, the Third Brigade crossed over the Rappahannock at the lower pontoon bridge, marched up through the lower part of Fredericksburg, and was formed in line of battle in rear of said town, the left resting on the railroad. In this position it was much exposed to the cross-fire of the enemy's guns, as well as their musketry. Shells were constantly bursting around, and two or more of my men were killed and quite a number wounded. The First and Second Brigades having preceded us, my brigade received orders just before sundown to advance, my left to rest on a small white house, just this side of a ridge or crest, some 500 yards this side of the enemy's position.
Immediately on receiving said orders, the bugle signal to advance was sounded, and the line moved, except the Twelfth and Seventh New York Volunteers, which were on the extreme right, and, not distinguishing the call, did not move up until the other regiments had reached the position designated. The promptness with which they joined, after ascertaining the brigade had advanced, and their conduct on the day following, forbid the idea that their delay was intentional. The distance over which we had to advance is probably over 1,000 yards, the ground undulating, rising first to a ridge, and then descending and rising again to the ridge we were ordered to.
Immediately on approaching the first one, the enemy opened a terrible and destructive fire of shell and musketry on both from and side, and my command was entirely until it reached the second ridge. This will be demonstrated by the report of killed, wounded, and missing. It was dark by the time the position was reached. The formation of the ground unknown, and as the enemy continued to fire for some time after, we were much exposed under this severe fire in advancing. The line steadily and briskly advanced, firing, and though many fell, there was not a single instance came to my knowledge of either officers or men faltering. Officers of all grades performed their duties, and the men seemed to require no urging.
During the night the general commanding division visited the lines in person, inspected our position, and instructed myself and other commanders of brigades that we must hold our present positions until 10 o'clock next day, when the Ninth Corps would attack. As soon as daylight came on the 14th, the enemy opened fire upon our whole line, and as our orders were not to fire or bring on an engagement, my command was ordered to keep down and screen themselves as much as possible, which was done the whole day, the contemplated attack not being made.
Early on the morning of the 14th, the enemy fired three shells from our left, one of which burst immediately over us, wounding a number; the other two struck close by, but did no harm. Why no more were fired is unaccountable; we certainly could and would have been shelled out had they done so. The enemy's sharpshooters were very vigilant, and had evidently obtained such position that they could almost fire upon the men when lying down. Several were thus hit, and no one could move to the rear without being exposed to a volley. Late in the afternoon