War of the Rebellion: Serial 039 Page 0560 N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.

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the right, gallantly fighting. On the left the troops are rapidly reformed, and, after a short interval, again advance upon the woods. The enemy is once more forced back in much confusion on our right, but steadily resisting on the left.

This was the condition of things when night put an end to the battle. The troops rested on their arms until morning.

During the night the enemy were re-enforcing heavily, and our wounded, as far as was practicable, were collected and sent to Fredericksburg.

The following morning, at an early hour, I was informed that a column of the enemy, 15,000 strong, coming from the direction of Richmond, has occupied the heights of Fredericksburg, cutting off my communications with the town. Expecting a movement of this kind, I had already formed Howe's division in line of battle to the rear. General Howe promptly extended his left to the river, and admirably checked an effort of the enemy to cut us off from Banks' Ford, where a pontoon brigade had been laid the day previous. In this affair he captured 200 prisoners and a battle-flag.

While these things were occurring on my left, I received a dispatch from the major-general commanding, informing me that he had contracted his lines; that I must look well to the safety of my corps, preserve my communications with Fredericksburg and Banks' Ford, and suggesting that I fall back upon the former place, or recross, in preference, at Banks' Ford, where I could more readily communicate with the main body. To fall back upon Fredericksburg was out of the question. To adopt the other alternative, except under cover of night, was equally so, far the enemy still maintained his position on Salem Heights, and was threatening my flank and rear from the direction of Fredericksburg. My line was formed with the left resting on the river, about midway between Fredericksburg and Banks' Ford, thence extending slightly beyond the Plank road, when it turned at right angles to the right, following the direction of the Plank road for a mile, and then again turning to the right at right angles, and recrossing the Plank road in front of Salem Heights, my right resting where it had been placed in the engagement of the previous evening . A line of battle of such length was necessarily weak, yet to contract it would inevitably provoke immediate attack from vastly superior forces.

Batteries were skillfully posted by Colonel Tompkins, chief of artillery, to maintain the weaker points, and rendered invaluable service.

Thus, fronting in three directions, I was compelled to await attack, determined to hold the position until dark and then fall back upon Banks' Ford. A dispatch from the major-general commanding had informed me that he could not relieve me, as he was in position in which he hoped to be attacked, and that he was too far away to direct my operations.

Subsequent dispatches directed me to hold a position on the right bank of the river until the following morning. During the day there was more or less skirmishing on the whole front, and in the evening a most determined attack was made upon Howe's line, for the purpose of cutting our communication with the river, and at the same time Brooks was attacked farther toward the right. The attack on Brooks was readily repulsed, chiefly by the skirmish line and the firing by the battery of McCartney's (First Massachusetts) battery. That on Howe was of a more determined character, being made en echelon of battalion and in columns. It was gallantly resisted by our infantry by a counter-charge, while the artillery of the division played with fearful effect upon their advance. At length our line was forced back upon the left, and Gen-