On the 11th instant, the division moved from the camp near White Oak Church to the vicinity of the point on the Rappahannock River selected for the crossing of the left grand division. The previous evening Captain Amsden's battery of rifled guns had been detached and ordered to report to Captain De Russy, U. S. Army, for service on the river bank. Brigadier-General Jackson's brigade, together with Ransom's and Simpson's batteries, were also detached and sent down during the night of the 10th, and posted on the river bank to protect the working party, which duty was successfully accomplished without any loss, although there was considerable firing between our sharpshooters and those of the enemy posted on the opposite bank.
The bridges being completed, the division crossed the river on the morning of the 12th, and was posted on the plateau on the left of the line of battle formed by the left grand division. The following was the formation of the division: The First Brigade in line of battle, its left resting on the river bank, and the line extending in a northwesterly direction, along and in rear of the ravine at Smithfield, the right connecting with the left of Gibbon's division. Two regiments of this brigade, the First Rifles and Second Infantry, were detached, the former for picket duty, the latter to occupy the buildings and outhouses at Smithfield, and to hold the bridge across the ravine at its debouch into the river. The batteries were posted in front of the First Brigade, on the edge of the ravine, where they had complete command of the front and of the approach by the Bowling Green road. The Second Brigade was formed in line of battle 300 paces in rear of the first and parallel to it, and the Third Brigade along the river bank in column of regiments, the head of the column being 100 paces in rear of the left of the Second Brigade. This position was occupied by 3 p. m. without any serious opposition from the enemy, but with occasional skirmishers with the pickets in front.
Early on the morning of the 13th, I accompanied the general commanding the First Corps to the headquarters of the left grand division, where the commanding general indicated the point he was instructed to attack, and I was informed my division had been selected to make the attack.
The point indicated was on the ridge, or rather range of heights, extending from the Rappahannock, in the rear of Fredericksburg, to the Massaponax, and was situated near the left of this ridge, where it terminated in the Massaponax Valley. Between the heights to be attacked and the plateau on which the left grand division was posted, there was a depression or hollow of several hundred yards in width, through which, and close to the foot of the heights, the Richmond railroad ran. The heights along the crest were wooded. The slope to the railroad from the extreme left for the space of 300 or 400 yards was clear; beyond this it was wooded, the woods extending across the hollow and in front of the railroad. The plateau on our side was level and cultivated ground up to the crest of the hollow, where there was quite a fall to the railroad. The enemy occupied the wooded heights, the line of railroad, and the wood in front. Owing to the wood, nothing could be seen of them, while all our movements on the cleared ground were exposed to their view. Immediately on receiving orders, the division was moved forward across the Smithfield ravine, advancing down the river some 700 or 800 yards, when it turned sharp to the right and crossed the Bowling Green road, which here runs in a parallel direction with the railroad. Some time was consumed in removing the hedge fences on this road, and bridging the drains on each side for the passage of the artillery.