REASONS FOR CROSSING THE RAPPAHANNOCK.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,}
FALMOUTH, Dec. 19.}
To H.W. HALLECK, Commander-in-Chief, Washington.
GENERAL: I have the honor to offer the following reasons for moving the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock sooner than was anticipated by the President, Secretary of War, or yourself, and for crossing at a point different from the one indicated to you at our last meeting at the President’s. During my preparations for crossing at the place I had first selected, I discovered that the enemy had thrown a large portion of his force down the river elsewhere, thus weakening his defenses in front, and also discovered that he did not anticipate the crossing of our whole force at Fredericksburg, and I hoped by rapidly throwing the whole command over at that place to separate by a vigorous attack the forces of the enemy on the river below from the forces behind and on the crest in the rear of the town, in which case we could fight him with great avantage in our favor.
To do this we had to gain a hight on the extreme right of the crest, which hight commanded the new road lately made by the enemy, for the purpose of a more rapid communication along his lines; which point gained, his positions along the right crest would have been scarcely tenable, and he could have been driven from them easily by an attack on his front, in connection with a movement in the rear of the crest. How near we came to accomplishing our object, future reports will show. But for the failure and unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy 25 hours more to concentrate his forces in his strong position, we would almost certainly have succeeded; in which case the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than if we had crossed at the places first selected. As it was, we came very near success.
Failing in accomplishing the main object, we remained in order of battle two days, long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his stronghold to fight us with his infantry, after which we crossed to this side of the river unmolested, without the loss of men or property. As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade. Not the least demoralization or disorganization existed.
To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of recrossing the river in the face of the enemy, I owe everything; for the failure in the attack I alone am responsible, as the extreme gallantry, courage and endurance shown by them was never exceeded, and would have carried the points had it been possible.
To the families and friends of the dead, I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies; but for the wounded I can offer my earnest prayers for their comfortable and final recovery.
The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and your self, and that left the whole movement in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me responsible. I will visit you very soon, and give you more definite information, and will finally send you my detailed report, in which a special acknowledgment will be made of the services of the different Grand Divisions, division corps, and my general and staff departments of the Army of the Potomac, to whom I am so much indebted for their support and hearty co-operation.
I will add here that the movement was made earlier than you expected, and after the President, Secretary and yourself requested me not to be in haste, for the reason that we were supplied much sooner by the different staff Departments than was anticipated when I saw you.
Our killed amounts to 1,152; our wounded about 9,000; our prisoners, about 700, which last have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us. The wounded were all removed to this side of the river and are being well cared for. The dead were all buried under a flag of truce. Surgeons report a much larger proportion of slight wounds than usual, 1632 only being treated in hospitals.
I am glad to represent that the army at the present time is in good condition.
Thanking the Government for that entire support and confidence which I have always received from them,
I remain, General, your very ob’t servant,
Major Gen. Com’g.
The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) Dec 27, 1862
General Burnside is reported to have resigned the command of the Army of the Potomac. This may or may not be so; but Gen. B. has received enough shabby treatment from the Administration fully to warrant him in pursuing the course indicated. — [Chicago Times.
If the Times would only tell the public what this “shabby treatment” was, the statement would be more credible and more satisfactory. We presume, in the view of the Times, it was “shabby” to make Gen. Burnside Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Shabby to allow him to pursue his own plan, in his own way, and in his own chosen time. Shabby, likewise, to furnish him with all the supplies he wanted, and more promptly than he expected. This is the sort of support the Administration has given him. To us it appears to be a hearty and trustful co-operation with one whose success was hoped for before almost all things else. Burnside says this is what he has received. He does not appear to think it “shabby.” He does not attribute his recent misadventure to the Administration. He is too manly for that. Unfortunately, he is not posted in the vocabulary of the Times. Apparently he does not know what “shabby treatment” is. He ought to have an Attache of the Times with him to keep him posted!
The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) Dec 27, 1862
Image from American Civil War
“Corporal Green!” the Orderly cried,
“Here!” was the answer, loud and clear,
From the lips of a soldier who stood near,
And “Here!” was the word next replied.
“Cyrus Drew” — then a silence fell —
This time no answer followed the call,
Only his rear-man had seen him fall,
Killed or wounded, he could not tell.
There they stood in the falling light,
These men of battle, with grave, dark looks,
As plain to be read as open books,
While slowly gathered the shade of night.
The fern on the hill sides was splashed with blood,
And down in the corn, where the poppies grew,
Were redder stains than the poppies knew,
And crimson dyed was the river’s flood.
For the foe had crossed from the other side,
That day, in the face of a murderous fire
That swept them down in its terrible ire,
And their life blood went to color the tide.
“Herbert Cline!” — At the call there came
Two stalwart soldiers into the line,
Bearing between them this Herbert Cline,
Wounded and bleeding to answer his name.
“Ezra Kerr!” — and a voice answered “Here,”
“Hiram Kerr!” — but no man replied.
They were brothers, these two, the sad wind sighed,
And a shudder crept through the cornfield near.
“Ephraim Deane!” — then a soldier spoke —
“Deane carried our regiment’s colors,” he said,
“When our ensign was shot, I left him dead
Just after the enemy wavered and broke.
“Close to the roadside his body lies,
I paused a moment and gave him to drink,
He murmured his mother’s name I think,
And Death came with it and closed his eyes.”
‘Twas a victory — yes but it cost us dear,
For that company’s roll when called at night,
Of a hundred men who went to fight,
Numbered but twenty that answered “Here.”
The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) Dec 13, 1862