War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0431 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG,VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

accompanied me to the ground, first to arrive crossing the Telegraph road, where the troops could form under partial cover; then to the high ground above, on which, some 200 yards in advance, were the troops I was to support, slightly sheltered by a small rise in the ground. One hundred and fifty yards in advance of them was a heavy stone wall, a mile in length, which was strengthened by a trench. This stone wall was at the foot of the heights in rear of Fredericksburg, the crest of which, running 400 yards distant from the wall, was crowned with batteries. The stone wall was heavily lined with the enemy's infantry.

The Second Brigade was quickly formed under my direction by Colonel Allabach, and then led by him and myself. It moved rapidly and gallantly up to General Couch's troops, under the artillery and musketry fire of the enemy. The nature of the enemy's line of defense could not be clearly perceived by me until I reached our line. The troops I was to support, as well as those on their left (I could not see those on their right from the interruption of the line by a road and the thick smoke), were sheltering themselves by lying on the ground. This example Colonel Allabach's brigade immediately followed, in spite of an effort to prevent it, and opened a fire upon the enemy. A part only of his men were able to reach the front rank, owing to the numbers already occupying the ground. The continued presence of the troops I was to support or relieve proved a serious obstacle to my success. As soon as I ascertained the nature of the enemy's position, I was satisfied that our fire could have but little effect upon him, and that only mode of attacking him successfully was with the bayonet. This I resolved to do, although my command was composed of troops that entered the service in August. With great difficulty their firing was arrested, chiefly by the exertions of myself and staff, and Colonel Allabach, aided by Colonel Allen, Colonel Clark, and Captain Tyler. While this was being done, I sent a staff officer to General Tyler with instructions to bring his command to the left of the road in the ravine, and prepare it to support or take the place of Allabach's brigade, as the event might require. The charge was hen made,but the deadly fire of musketry and artillery broke it, after an advance of 50 yards. Colonel Allabach reformed the brigade, a portion in the line from which the charge was made, and the remainder in the ravine from which they originally advanced.

The greater part of my staff were now on foot, having had their horses killed or disabled, my own being in the latter condition from two wounds. Mounting the horse of my special orderly (Damond, Sixth U. S. Cavalry), I rode to General Tyler's brigade to conduct it to the enemy, and while doing so received three successive orders from General Butterfield to charge the enemy's line, the last order being accompanied by the message that both General Burnside and General Hooker demanded that the crest should be taken before night. It was already growing dusky. General Tyler's brigade was not yet entirely formed, and was impeded in doing so by a battery of six guns, whose limbers occupied a part of his ground, and whose fire would have rendered it impossible for him to advance. With great difficulty I brought this battery to cease firing. Then, riding along the two lines, I directed them not to fire; that it was useless; that the bayonet alone was the weapon to fight with here. Anticipating, too, the serious obstacle they would meet with in the masses of men lying under the little shelter afforded by the natural embankment in front, before mentioned, who could not be got out of the way, I directed them to disregard these men entirely, and to pass over them. I ordered the officers to the front, and, with a hurrah, the brigade, led by General Tyler and myself, advanced