grand army than in presents between these roads and the river. Between Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg the country becomes more open and clear as you approach the latter place, and for several miles along the Plank road the country is clear and even-surfaced, and affording a fine field for the use of all arms.
I have thus described in somewhat of a general way the field of operations. In this, though I have been at some length, I feel I have not allowed more than the importance of the subject demands, in order to aid in comprehending the campaign.
The plan which the commanding general formed was kept a profound secret until its successful initiative disclosed it to friend and foe. Three corps, the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth, were put in motion on April 27 to pass around the enemy's left flank, crossing the Rappahannock at Kelly's Mills, a distance of 30 miles from Fredericksburg, thence to cross the Rapidan by Germanna and Ely's Fords.
The Rappahannock was successfully crossed by the morning of the 28th on a canvas pontoon bridge, laid by Captain Comstock, engineer, with but slight opposition from a small observing force. The Rapidan proved barely fordable, and was crossed by the morning of the 30th. To divert the enemy's attention from the main movement, the passage of the Rappahannock was forced by the Sixth Corps, opposite our left, at the place known as Franklin's Crossing, on the night of April 28. Two pontoon bridges, about 300 feet each in length, were constructed here, under General Benham, and the troops crossed in force during the day. Up to this time I had remained at headquarters.
At 5 p. m. on the 29th, I set out, as directed, for the United States Mine Ford, to assist major Spaulding, of the Engineer Brigade, if necessary, in throwing the pontoon bridge across at that place. About the same time it began to rain, and so continued through most of the night. I found the bridge train on the road between Banks' Ford and the United States Mine Ford. The road was a crooked one, through forests, and very muddy, and the night was very dark. Great difficulty attended the movement of the train, which did not reach its destination till about 8 a. m. on the 30th, though everybody worked with energy all through the night, with extra teams furnished by Colonel Ingalls, quartermaster, and General Couch, from their trains.
On the morning of the 30th, I reconnoitered the approaches to the crossing-place, and found that to make any one of them practicable was a difficult undertaking. General Couch detailed 500 men under my direction, and this force went to work in earnest, working right down to the bank of the river. The mist of the morning so obscured the view that we could not ascertain whether the enemy, who had occupied the opposite bank on the preceding night, had withdrawn or not; but our freedom from molestation encouraged the idea that he had, and about 9 a. m. the appearance of some cavalrymen from General Meade's column showes us that he had, and that the grand flanking movement had succeeded. The work on the road was pushed with all possible dispatch, the men working with the greatest spirit, and by 1 p. m. was made practicable for artillery and pontoon wagons.
By 3 p. m. the bridge was laid and the Second Corps was crossing the river. The road up the opposite bank was wood completed, and great was the enthusiasm of the men as they found we had turned these formidable intrenchments without losing a man, and gained the advantage of meeting the enemy in an open field. The force assembled at and near Chancellorsville, on the night of the 30th, consisted of the Second, Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps, with General Hooker there in person in command.