War of the Rebellion: Serial 039 Page 0196 N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.

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over, two of these lines were so close to each other that both could in places bring their fire upon a party crossing the river, the rising slope permitting the rear line to shoot over that in front. The obstacles here were so great to our forcing a passage that the enemy forbore to plant a redoubt on the summit of the hill, thus, as it were, inviting us to try it. A large force constantly near the place rendered a surprise impossible, and, in addition, the bend in the river was such that though Fredericksburg was but 3 miles distant over a good plank road for the enemy, it was 6 miles for us through a forest.

The next point on the enemy's left which offered a practicable approach to the stream was at the United States Mine Ford, not then fordable, about 7 miles by the road above Banks' Ford. The intermediate space along the river was so difficult in its approaches to the water on either side that any work of ours to make them practicable would have given time to the enemy to fortify the opposite side, so as to render the attempt abortive. At the approaches to the United States Mine Ford, too, the enemy had created long lines of infantry parapets, with battery epaulements, and an ample force was encamped near to occupy them.

The junction of the Rapidan occurring just above the United States Mine Ford, involved the passage of that stream, also, in any attempt to turn the enemy's left by going farther up the river. The passage of two streams, not fordable, and having a width of 200 to 300 feet, at such a long distance from our base by a flank movement, with heavy pontoon and artillery trains, in the presence of an enemy who was also supposed to be supplied with pontoons by which he could cross in our rear, over roads almost impassable and through interminable forests, seemed so unlikely that the enemy gave himself no concern about it nor adopted any contingent precautions against such an attempt. Indeed, he was at the time rebuilding the Germanna bridge, where a portion of our troops crossed.

Stafford County, in which the Union Army was located, is noted for its poverty. A lack of fertility in the soil has discouraged enterprise, and the country is wanting in public improvements such as are usually to be found in more prosperous communities. Dense woods and thickets of black-jack oak and pine cover most of the ground. The general character of the country is that of a wilderness, and it forms part of that distinguishing belt of country which continues through Orange and Spotsylvania Counties and southwesterly in a general direction parallel with the Blue Ridge. It forms, where it crosses the Rappahannock, a high ridge, composed in part of quartz rocks, in which the gold mines are located. The soil, however, in the mass in clayey, with occasional thin strata of gravel. In wet, wintry weather there was no practicable roadway for our heavy trains except what had been prepared by ourselves with a pavement of logs. Language fails to describe the weary, struggling marches of our trains, prolonged in many instances all through the night, and the picture of helplessness they presented on such marches as that of January 22.

Orange and the western part of Spotsylvania County, on the south side of the Rappahannock, in which Chancellorsville (a single large house at that time, now in ruins) is situated, is much of the character of Stafford, just described. There are two excellent roads leading from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, one macadamized and the other planked. These were routes open to General Lee. The term "Wilderness" in localized in common parlance for a portion of this country, and no one can conceive a more unfavorable field for the movements of a