The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 10

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe

CHAPTER X.
STUART’S RAID INTO PENNSYLVANIA.—BURNSIDE SUPERSEDES MACCLELLAN.—BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, DECEMBER 13TH, 1862.

GENERAL LEE’S first care, on arriving at Winchester, was to procure his soldiers shoes and clothing. The citizens of Richmond on their part hastened to contribute to the needs of their heroic defenders. Stragglers were likewise looked up. They came in from all sides, well rested and recovered from their fatigues. In less than a fortnight the army was increased by 30,000 new men. The district in which they were was admirably adapted to restore to the soldiers health of body and elasticity of mind. Rest, mountain air, abundance of food, brought back life to these warriors, exhausted by the glorious fatigues of the two preceding campaigns. In the evening, after the day’s drill, numerous groups were often seen, assembled under the trees, singing some religious hymn, a recollection of their infancy and family. The young chaplain talked in convincing terms of his holy mission, then another hymn was heard, and, by the glare of the half-extinguished torches, the groups of soldiers dispersed silent and reflecting.

The Confederates, far from being discouraged by later events, acquired an increase of faith in themselves, looking reasonably on the battle of Sharpsburg, where the enemy was so superior in numbers, as a feat of arms altogether honourable. Their confidence in their officers, especially in General Lee, was much augmented. Thanks to this sentiment, which, later, was developed to a point unheard of, Lee did extraordinary things. His men felt that he was a man to bear no matter what test, and in such cases the soldier is rarely deceived: he judges for himself. Lee had already been able to inspire them with a profound admiration for his military talents; his goodness, the care which he took of them, his simplicity soon caused him to be adored. In all this campaign not an impatient word had escaped him. Always in the front rank, indifferent to danger, he displayed a paternal sweetness towards all his subordinates; his soldiers regarded that firm and upright form with a constantly increasing feeling of affection, robed in its simple uniform of grey, that quiet countenance, that expression full of dignity and serenity, impassive alike amid the tiresomeness of the march and in the tumult of battle. “There is Uncle Robert,” they would exclaim one to another, as he passed, crowding round him, cheering him, and shaking his hands.

The country generally shared this feeling. Everywhere where he pitched his camp the neighbours came in crowds to see him. An English officer who passed some time in the Confederate camp near Winchester, speaks of it thus:

In visiting the head-quarters of the Confederate generals, but particularly those of General Lee, any one accustomed to see European armies in the field cannot fail to be struck with the great absence of all the pomp and circumstance of war in and around their encampments. Lee’s head-quarters consisted of about seven or eight pole-tents, pitched with their backs to a stake fence, upon a piece of ground so rocky that it was unpleasant to ride over it, its only recommendation being a little stream of good water, which flowed close to the general’s tent. In front of the tents were some three four-wheeled waggons, drawn up without any regularity, and a number of horses roamed loose about the field. The servants, who were, of course, slaves, and the mounted soldiers, called couriers, were unprovided with tents, and slept in or under the waggons. Waggons, tents, and some of the horses, were marked U.S.,—showing that part of that huge debt in the North has gone to furnishing even the Confederate generals with camp equipments. No guard or sentries were to be seen in the vicinity; no crowd of aides-de-camp loitering about, making themselves agreeable to visitors. . . . A large farmhouse stands close by, which, in any other army, would have been the general’s residence pro tem.; but, as no liberties are allowed to be taken with personal property, in Lee’s army, he is particular in setting a good example himself. His staff are crowded together, two or three in a tent; none are allowed to carry more baggage than a small box each, and his own kit is but very little larger. Every one who approaches him does so with marked respect, although there is none of that bowing and flourishing of forage caps which occurs in the presence of European generals; and while all honour him, and place implicit faith in his courage and ability, those with whom he is most intimate feel for him the affection of sons to a father. Old General Scott was correct in saying that, when Lee joined the Southern cause, it was worth as much as the accession of 20,000 men to the rebels. Since then, every injury that it was possible to inflict, the Northerners have heaped upon him. His house on the Pamunkey River has been entirely destroyed, and his beautiful estate on Arlington Heights pillaged of all it contained. All the relics of George Washington—such as pictures, books, plate—have been stolen, to be exhibited in the galleries of Northern towns. Notwithstanding all these personal losses, however, when speaking of the Yankees, he neither evinced any bitterness of feeling, nor gave utterance to a single violent expression, but alluded to many of his former friends and companions among them in the kindest terms. He spoke as a man proud of the victories won by his country, and confident of ultimate success, under the blessing of the Almighty, whom he glorified for past successes, and whose aid he invoked for all future operations.

The Confederate Government, profiting by the experience of the later military operations, divided the different armies into corps. The army of Northern Virginia, with which we are specially occupied, was divided into two corps, the first placed under the command of Major-General Longstreet, the second under that of Major-General Jackson. The first corps consisted of the divisions of MacLaws, Hook, Picket, and Walker; the second those of A. P. Hill, Ewell, and the division formerly under Jackson, now under General Tagliaferro. General D. H. Hill was at the head of the reserve, the cavalry remained under Stuart, and the artillery under Pendleton. At the end of October the army reckoned between 55,000 and 60,000 fighting men; but Lee had many difficulties to surmount in order to fill up gaps, and retain soldiers under his flags. The Confederate troops were badly paid when the depreciation of paper money is taken into account. Their patriotism was so much the more glorious. While the Federal soldier’s pay was higher than it has ever been in any country or time, the average of the Confederate’s, from May 1861 to April 1865, was 38[nine-tenths] cents, worth, so much was paper money depreciated, about 2 francs (i.e. about 1s. 7d.). A soldier who sells his life at this price cannot be suspected of mercenary motives. Likewise, in consequence of the many hardships and conflicts, the number of wounded and sick was very high. Most of these were sent to Richmond, Petersburg, and Lynchburg. The Southern hospitals were too few and ill-provided; of necessity, therefore, many were allowed to return to their own hearths to be taken care of; convalescents also, leaving the hospitals, received leave to go home and recover themselves more rapidly. A great number of these never returned to their standards.

Placed at Winchester, the key of the lower Shenandoah Valley, General Lee was in position to watch the line of the Potomac in his front, where the army of MacClellan was, and also the Blue Ridge passes on his right, by which the enemy might, by a rapid movement, march on his flank or rear. Posted in this advantageous position he let more than a month pass, the two armies watching one another. When the Confederates retired on Winchester, General Jackson was directed, as far as possible, to destroy the railway from Ohio to Baltimore, the principal way of communication between the West and East, of which the enemy made great use for revictualling. He completely fulfilled his mission, cutting away the bridges over an extent of thirty-seven miles, rendering the road utterly impracticable for a long time.

MacClellan, having left, for purposes of observation, at Harper’s Ferry and on the neighbouring heights, two corps under General Sumner, was occupied in reorganizing his troops, and putting them in a condition to undertake a new campaign against the Southern capital. For that matter, his resources were ten times those of his adversary. During this interval nothing happened of importance, except a cavalry skirmish, in which Colonel W. H. F. Lee, son of the commander-in-chief, distinguished himself, and which terminated in the retreat of the federal cavalry. On the 8th of October, in order somewhat to ascertain what was passing with the enemy, and to know something of his movements and position, Lee directed Stuart to conduct a reconnoitring expedition into Pennsylvania.

On the 9th, at the head of 1800 horse and 4 pieces of artillery, under the command of General Hampton and Colonels W. H. F. Lee and Jones, he began his march. Very strict orders had been given to the soldiers to conduct themselves with prudence, and abstain from acts of violence. Their errand was limited to the taking of horses or other legitimate prizes, and, above all, to obtaining every sort of information about the enemy’s forces and movements. On the morning of the 10th the Confederate column crossed the Potomac at MacCoy’s, above Williamsport. Some Federal sentries took flight. A large corps of Federal troops had just passed on the road to Cumberland. Stuart would have liked to march on Hagerstown, where he knew the Federals had amassed a good deal of war-material, but he feared giving them warning; consequently, he hastened onwards. At night he reached Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, and summoned it to surrender on pain of bombardment: the municipal authorities did not appear. Stuart took possession of the town. All he had from individuals was paid for in paper money. Everywhere the soldiers demanded permission to have the benefit of fire and water. The officers begged for coffee, and conducted themselves with the utmost politeness, asking to be allowed to warm themselves at the fireside while their repast was preparing. This method of procedure was in striking contrast to that of the Federal troops in the South. At Williamstown, in South Carolina, these latter respected not a house, whether the owners were present or not. They forced the doors, carried off what they could, and destroyed the remainder. Frequently the houses were burnt. Many a time the sick and bed-ridden were maltreated and deprived of all they had. One of the diversions of these brave warriors was to leave nothing to eat in a house. Naturally enough all they could take was carried off,—horses, arms, clothing. They even broke open locked coffers and emptied them in sight of their owners. The citizens’ pockets were searched without scruple. All this took place without the least effort on the part of the officers to stop the pillage. Often, indeed, these gentlemen did not disdain to appropriate pianos, pictures, plate. How many families, whom terror caused to flee at the approach of the Northern soldiers, found, on their return, that clothing, bedding, plate, books, had disappeared; that furniture, dishes, gates, windows, harness, carriages, had been carried off or broken; partitions and fences burnt; all the corn, vegetables, provisions, carried off or spoilt—in a word, ruin, absolute, complete! The Southerners in Pennsylvania conducted themselves differently.

Next day, the 11th of October, the Confederates destroyed a great quantity of arms and ammunition; the telegraph wires were cut, and the railway-station, tool-houses, engines, and several railway waggons loaded with war-material, were delivered to the flames. In a military hospital 275 invalids were made prisoners on parole.

The telegraph had promptly spread the news of Stuart’s movements in the North. It caused there lively discontent and great agitation. MacClellan, fully resolved not to let him escape now, as on the Chickahominy, took every precaution to cut off his retreat towards the Potomac. General Pleasanton with his cavalry set off in pursuit, with orders to spare neither men nor horses. General Crook, whose division was loaded in waggons at Hancock, kept ready to march in case Stuart returned to cross the river in that neighbourhood. General Burnside posted two brigades in railway carriages at Monocacy, with engines alight prepared to start to no matter what part of the line, on receipt of signals that the Confederate troopers were there. At Harper’s Ferry and all the fords of the river the greatest vigilance was adopted. The approaches of Frederick, on the Chambersburg Road, were scoured in every direction by Colonel Rush’s lancers, in order to warn Burnside at the earliest moment of Stuart’s coming. General Stoneman was stationed at Poolesville with his division, to watch the fords below the mouth of the Monocacy, and had orders to prevent the Confederate column from recrossing the river at all hazards.

Stuart, although he knew nothing about all the hostile cavalry and four or five divisions of infantry being in pursuit of him, little doubted that the enemy would seek to intercept his retreat by the upper Potomac. So he determined to return by Leesburg, the most direct road. Leaving Chambersburg on the morning of the 11th, he marched first towards Gettysburg, to deceive the inhabitants of the district, then, the Blue Ridge being passed, he returned on his own steps onwards Hagerstown for six or seven miles, and then changing his route, marched direct on Emmetsburg, in Maryland, where he was enthusiastically received. Shortly before, a squadron of Rush’s lancers had passed there in search of him. Without halting he went on to Frederick, getting possession of a carrier of one of Rush’s despatches. The reading of this paper, while telling him the enemy knew not where he was, gave him a hint of the preparations to intercept him.

The Federal cavalry under Averill and Pleasanton followed him swiftly; but Stuart, aware of the dangers which surrounded him, redoubled his efforts, and directed his march towards the Potomac. Crossing the Monocacy a little above Frederick, he went on all night by Liberty, Newmarket, and Monrovia, on the railway between Baltimore and the Ohio. At daybreak on the 13th, the column was at Hagerstown, on the high road from Washington, which connected MacClellan’s camp with the capital. Here they found only some waggons, and the retreat was continued to Barnesville, which a Federal squadron of cavalry had just quitted. During his march, Stuart had learnt something more of MacClellan’s plan besides what Colonel Rush’s despatch informed him of; indeed, all the plan was revealed to him, namely, that a division of 5000 men watched the fords in his front.

Convinced that the boldest course was at the same time the safest, he marched rapidly, straight for the Potomac, resolved to force his way across in spite of the enemy. Without losing a moment, he started for Poolesville. Shortly before arriving there, he turned to the right into the woods, and gained the road which leads from Poolesville to the mouth of the Monocacy. The squadron at the head of the column soon descried General Pleasanton’s column also marching towards Poolesville. Stuart charged and defeated it, forcing it back on the infantry. The latter advanced to recapture the ground lost by the cavalry. Just then Colonel Lee’s skirmishers leaped from their horses, and held the enemy in check, till Pelham was able to get a gun into position. Under protection of its fire, and sheltered behind the elevation on which it stood, Stuart made his column defile towards White’s Ford, putting to flight, by the aid of his other guns, nearly two hundred Federal foot soldiers posted on the Virginian bank. Happily there was little water in the Potomac, and the Confederates crossed without inconvenience. Scarcely was he in Virginia when General Stoneman’s cavalry and infantry arrived in hot haste from Poolesville, but Pelham’s two cannon, which had been taken across the river, opened a fire brisk enough to stop all pursuit. In the evening Stuart retired from the Potomac, and, on the 14th of October, rejoined the army at Winchester, having lost but five men, though bringing back many horses, and some valuable information as to the disposition of the hostile force. In twenty-four hours Stuart’s column had marched about eighty miles.

This raid astonished and irritated the Federals much. They in their turn made several unimportant reconnoitrings; but MacClellan was obliged to end his immobility, accomplish his preparations in haste, and obey an order telegraphed by President Lincoln to this effect: “Cross the Potomac, and give battle to the enemy, or drive him southwards.”

The Federal army now under arms numbered 110,000 men. The season was very favourable for offensive operations, and the Federal Government eagerly desired to profit by it, and carry the war into Southern territory.

MacClellan had the choice of two plans: to ascend the Shenandoah Valley directly, and attack Lee from the front; or enter Virginia to the east of the Blue Ridge, and endeavour to place himself between the Confederate army and Richmond. President Lincoln preferred the latter plan, and promised to make MacClellan’s army up to 140,000 men. The Federal commander-in-chief would have liked better to enter by the Shenandoah Valley, because he feared Lee would recross the Potomac if the Federals ceased their watch. The approach of the rainy season soon quieted him on this subject, for at such times the fords of the Potomac are impassable. Therefore he decided finally to enter Virginia to the east of the Blue Ridge, but he delayed beginning his march so long, that, on the 6th of October, the President transmitted to him a formal order to open the campaign. Consequently, on the 26th of October, the Federal army crossed the Potomac at Berlin, five miles below Harper’s Ferry. On the 2nd of November all the army was on the other side of the river.

The Shenandoah Valley, where Lee was encamped, is separated from Piedmontese Virginia, into which MacClellan was about to advance, by the inferior wooded heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which can only be crossed by certain defiles termed gaps; these are the natural gates of the Valley. So long as the Federal commander occupied these defiles with sufficient forces, he was sure his rear would not be disturbed, and he could at any time enter the Valley and throw himself on the Confederate flank.

Although the Federal general had taken the precaution of seizing all these defiles or passes of the Blue Ridge as he advanced, the better to mask his march, the real end of the movement of the Northern army did not escape Lee. He broke up his camp on the banks of the Opequan, and began to follow, on a parallel line, the march of his foe. A division of Longstreet’s corps was detached to Upperville, to watch, from a nearer point, the movements of the enemy. Jackson was posted between Berryville and Charlestown, to prevent the Federals from emerging into the Valley, whether from Harper’s Ferry or by the mountain passes. On the last day of October Lee, ascertaining that the Northern army was marching from the Blue Ridge in the direction of Warrenton, brought up Longstreet’s entire corps to Culpepper Court House, which was reached on the 3rd of November. In order to disquiet MacClellan about the safety of his communications, Jackson still remained at Millwood; at the same time one of his divisions advanced to the east of the Blue Ridge. Assuredly, thus to divide his army into two parts was to expose himself to great danger, but so necessity dictated to the Confederate commander. Little by little the Confederate troops were concentrated at Warrenton. Every day the cavalry outposts skirmished with varying success. The Southern cavalry under Stuart rendered immense services, notwithstanding the jaded state of most of their horses; they never left the flanks of the hostile army, and its slightest movements were immediately signalled. Suddenly, when Lee awaited anxiously his opponent’s plan of campaign, the Washington Government, on the 7th of November, without previous warning, withdrew MacClellan from the command of the army of the Potomac. The Radicals, fearing lest at a later period he would be nominated as the Conservative candidate for the Presidency, and not wishing to let him acquire fresh claims to the gratitude of his fellow countrymen, obtained his recall, under pretence that he had not accomplished all that might reasonably be expected of him; he had, however, done too much to deserve such an excess of ingratitude. Thus finished the military career of the best general the North had. General Burnside, his old division-general, succeeded him, after hesitating some time before accepting the high position offered to him, as well because of his friendship for MacClellan as from a conviction of his own insufficiency.

In retiring from the Valley, Lee had given proof of that mixture of audacity and prudence which marks the true warrior. He could either throw himself with all his army on MacClellan, and, which seemed to be his object, on Gordonsville, or manœuvre in such a manner as to retard and embarrass his adversary. It was the latter plan he adopted, although by it he ran a great risk. Jackson remained in the Valley, and Longstreet marched on Culpepper. MacClellan could thus, at his choice, crush one or the other of the two Confederate corps; but Lee knew his adversary’s character, and felt he need not fear so hardy a step on his part. Nevertheless he had taken his precautions even in this event. Jackson, in case of attack, was to retire by Strasburg and rejoin his chief. Thus Lee, by leaving his lieutenant in the Valley, far from having committed a blunder, gave a striking proof of ability, and put his adversary in a dilemma, for Jackson, prompt as a flash of lightning, could at any moment march on the enemy’s rear. By causing one of Jackson’s divisions to advance to the east of the Blue Ridge, Lee did but accentuate his threat. Therefore MacClellan relinquished all idea of attacking one of the two Confederate corps, and only employed himself in establishing a new base, whence he could march direct on Richmond.

The Confederate commander in all this had another object in view, namely, to gain time to render all attack upon Richmond impossible, regard being had to the season of the year. This, indeed, happened. Had MacClellan remained at the head of the Federal forces, and the battle of Fredericksburg not taken place, it is probable that the two armies separated by the upper Rappahannock would have remained in each other’s presence during the whole winter, and that the Confederate forces, exhausted by the long marches and sanguinary combats of 1862, would at length have tasted a repose so well deserved, and been prepared for the struggles yet to come.

MacClellan’s supersession by Burnside, who had, in spite of the nearness of winter, conceived the idea of crossing the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, and marching on Richmond, gave quite another direction to events.

The new commander-in-chiefs first act was a blunder. He lost ten days in reorganising his army into six corps. On the 17th of November there was no time left to march on Richmond; the season of rain and bad roads was near, and would put an end to any extensive military operations. Burnside could have attempted a decisive blow by taking advantage of the disposal of the Confederate army, Jackson being still in the Valley two days’ march from Longstreet. But, on the contrary, he resolved to march on Fredericksburg, and take up a position on the south bank of the Rappahannock before Lee could be aware of it; second blunder. It was nowhere in his intention to make use of Fredericksburg as a base of operations against Richmond, but simply to pass the winter there, to be able in the spring to proceed easily by water to the James River. Mr. Lincoln having confirmed his authority, on the 15th of November the Federal army began its march along the north bank of the Rappahannock towards Falmouth opposite Fredericksburg. There it found some pontoon-bridges sent from Washington, which would serve for sending the troops across to the other side. Then Burnside reckoned on posting himself strongly on the heights behind Fredericksburg.

Lee, on ascertaining the movement of the hostile army, was much tempted to attack it, and drive it back towards the Orange and Alexandria railway, but his numerical weakness paralysed him. Shortly before, he had told his government that he had too few troops to risk a pitched battle, and was limiting himself to strategic movements, not meaning to deliver battle unless Burnside exposed himself very imprudently. On November 15th, divining that Fredericksburg was the Federal object, he reinforced the garrison there with a regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery. On the 17th, two divisions of Longstreet’s corps and W. H. F. Lee’s cavalry brigade were made to follow. Jackson received orders to retire from the Valley and occupy Orange Court House. Stuart, reconnoitring in force as far as Warrenton, where he arrived directly after the departure of the enemy’s rearguard, put Burnside’s intentions beyond doubt. On the 19th, Lee marched towards Fredericksburg with the other divisions of Longstreet’s corps.

It will be asked, perhaps, why Lee did not repeat against Burnside the manœuvre he had so successfully tried against MacClellan. A look at the map will suffice for an answer. Burnside took a new base, Acquia Creek, on the lower Potomac. The configuration of the country neutralised all efforts to cut him off from it. The Federals would have been able to fall back on the Potomac, and render useless all Jackson’s manœuvres, or those of any other Confederate corps whatever. Lee was a first-rate tactician. He manœuvred admirably, himself watching the most trifling details. When the battle day came, feeling he had done all he could, and that, humanly speaking, all necessary precautions were taken, he usually allowed a certain latitude to his division generals.

If General Sumner, when he arrived with the Federal van opposite Fredericksburg on the 17th of November, had immediately crossed the Rappahannock, the feeble Confederate garrison would have been unable to hinder him from getting possession of the heights behind Fredericksburg. But Burnside’s orders were peremptory, and no detachment was to attempt the passage before all the army had arrived. On the night of the 20th, all the Federal forces were concentrated in the neighbourhood of Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg.

Lee had not lost a moment, and on the 21st he occupied the heights behind Fredericksburg in person, having with him all Longstreet’s corps, D. H. Hill’s division, and all the cavalry. Jackson’s corps was at Orange Court House, and had orders to join the rest of the army on the 26th. Burnside, in refusing to cross the Rappahannock, had declined the only opportunity of becoming master of the heights. On arriving, the first object which met his view was the adversary, whom he had hoped to baffle, tranquilly established on those same heights, and ready to dispute his passage across the river. He found himself obliged, therefore, to establish his communications with Acquia Creek, on the Potomac, and to prepare to take the new Confederate positions by sheer force. His first care was to reconstruct the railway connecting Acquia Creek with the Rappahannock. He drew up his army along the latter river, from a point above Falmouth to a point opposite Port Royal.

Lee profited by this respite to fortify himself carefully. To prevent the Federal gunboats from ascending the river and supporting the land forces, he constructed, four miles below Fredericksburg, on the right bank, a strong battery, protected by intrenchments. Strong cavalry detachments guarded the fords above the town, and W. H. F. Lee’s brigade was directed to watch the enemy on this side. Behind the town, the Southern army occupied a very formidable defensive position, the left being supported on the river, one and a half miles above Fredericksburg, the right extending beyond the railway which leads to Richmond. This position, it is true, was commanded by the Stafford heights, in the hands of the Federals. To obviate this disadvantage as much as possible, the Confederates raised some ramparts and earth-works on the summit of the heights they occupied. The plain in which the town was situated was also commanded by the fire of the batteries on the opposite side, and the narrow stream, confined between steep and woody banks, offered so many facilities to throw bridges across out of the reach of the Confederate artillery, that lee was obliged to renounce all idea of preventing the enemy from crossing the river. His sole aim, therefore, was so to place himself as to be able to arrest the Federals when once they had effected their passage. He contented himself with placed troops along the bank, sheltered by houses and trees, to retard the enemy’s attack as much as possible.

For two days the weather was very dirty, and rain was falling in torrents, when, on the 21st of November, at five o’clock, General Sumner sent a flag of truce to demand the surrender of Fredericksburg, threatening, in case of refusal, to bombard the town next day at nine o’clock. Seeing, however, that it was defenceless, and could not, from a military point of view, be of any use to the Confederates, since the Federal batteries swept all the streets, Sumner, be it said to his praise, did not execute his menace. Most of the inhabitants took Lee’s advice, and sought refuge in the neighbourhood. The cold was severe; they had much to endure, but not a murmur was heard, and every one was ready to sacrifice all he possessed for the triumph of the Southern cause. The Confederate army, although itself short of victuals, did all it could to relieve the unfortunate fugitives. Burnside would have liked to postpone the resumption of hostilities till the spring, but neither the government nor people of the North would cease demanding of him to take the offensive against Lee immediately. They desired that Richmond should be taken before Christmas. He had nothing, therefore, to do but be resigned and obey. He had it within his power to cross the Rappahannock above or below the position occupied by the Confederate army, and, by threatening to turn it, compel it to abandon the heights where it was so strongly intrenched. This, indeed, was the thought he had when he began to concentrate his army twelve miles below Falmouth, at Shenker’s Neck; but, perceiving D. H. Hill’s division on the opposite side, and all Jackson’s corps ready to support it in case of need, he gave up his project. Believing Lee had withdrawn his garrison at Fredericksburg to send forces to Shenker’s Neck, he determined to profit by it, and march on the front of Lee’s position before the latter was able to reunite his troops. Burnside’s calculation supposed on the part of the Confederate general a want of foresight altogether foreign to his character.

General Hampton, having reconnoitred on the 28th of November, was able to re-assure Lee as to any hostile designs on his left flank. He could, therefore, give all his attention to the Federal movements at Falmouth.

On the night of the 10th December, General Hunt, the commander of the Federal artillery, ranged, on the Stafford Heights, opposite Fredericksburg, and at some distance below, 147 cannon of huge calibre, to cover the passage of the river, and command the town and surrounding plain. The Federal columns were formed on heights several hundred feet from the bank, and the engineers began to throw five bridges over the Rappahannock, three connecting Falmouth with Fredericksburg, two others about one and a quarter mile lower down, where the watercourse called Deep Run falls into the Rappahannock. All preparations were combined with the greatest care, and at two o’clock on the morning of December 11th the engineers silently put themselves to work.

Three or four Confederate regiments, under the orders of General Barksdale, were posted as skirmishers on the edges of the southern bank. A thick mist covered the river during the night, and the Federals hoped, thanks to this veil, their works would not be noticed. But, shortly after two o’clock, an unusual movement on the bank opposite attracted the attention of the Confederate sentinels, and, at three o’clock, two cannon shots announced that the alarm had been given. About four o’clock, the rays of the moon piercing the fog indistinctly revealed the shadowy outlines of the engineers energetically at work to fix their floating-bridges. A brisk and well-directed fire, which the Confederate riflemen opened, put them to flight, leaving several dead and wounded behind. Two fresh Federal attempts to renew the work met with the same result. Two Northern regiments, sent to cover the workmen, lost in a few minutes 150 men. it was, therefore, necessary to try and dislodge the Mississippians sheltered behind their stone walls.

At ten o’clock in the morning, the Federal batteries opened for an hour a tremendous fire on the south bank, but without doing the Confederates much harm;—for Lee’s army was too far off to suffer from it, and Barksdale’s skirmishers, thanks to the hostile artillerymen finding it impossible to incline their guns sufficiently to fire their shells at them, were too near the water’s edge to be reached. But the rest of the town, in which were huddled together women and children, was soon in flames. Not a house but was struck; the poor inhabitants took refuge, some in their cellars, others in the country round, making their way through a shower of cannon balls. Nothwithstanding this cruel and useless act Burnside did not attain his end, and from the opposite bank Confederate carbines carried off all his engineers whenever they presented themselves to resume their work. He then decided on throwing three regiments across the water. in spite of Barksdales’s resistance this movement succeeded; the Confederates were obliged gradually to retire into the upper part of the town, the bridges were constructed, and during the night of the 11th and daytime of the 12th, the Federal army crossed the river; on the morning of the 13th, it was drawn up in order of battle in front of the Confederate position. Thanks to a thick fog, the Northern army was not disturbed in these movements,—General Lee, out of regard for the town, not wishing to open an artillery fire at hazard. Generals D. H. Hill and Jackson having been recalled from Port Royal, all the Northern Virginian army found itself reunited on the heights of Spottsylvania. The position which the Confederate generalissimo had chosen was very strong. The range of hills held by him starts from the river, 550 yards above the town. The ground rises nearly perpendicularly, without trees or bushes to afford shelter to attacking columns. Here was the Confederate left under Longstreet. Hence the heights extended in a semi-circle to the right, being crossed by the Richmond railway at a place nearly two miles behind the town, giving to the Confederate line an extent of nearly five miles. Between the river and these hills the country is uneven, but very open. As the heights recede from the river, their elevation decreases, and their sides become furnished with trees. At their base flows a little stream, the Deep Run, which falls into the Rappahannock close to Fredericksburg, and whose abrupt banks offer to an attacking column admirable shelter. All the heights were furnished with artillery. Jackson’s corps occupied the centre and right, and extended to Massaponnax Creek. Stuart’s cavalry formed the extreme right in the plain, where the marshes of the Massaponnax stretch away to the Rappahannock.

Great was the joy in both armies at the prospect of a conflict; both sides were full of hope, and there had been time to prepare for a struggle which, to all appearance, would be decisive.

Not having succeeded in surprising Lee, the Northern commander proposed to carry the Southern position by assault General Franklin, who commanded the Federal left, was to try and pierce the enemy’s line at Hamilton’s Crossing, a passage level with the railway. Jackson had charge of the defence at this point, which was reasonably regarded as the weakest and most exposed part of the Confederate line. Franklin was at all hazards to become master of the road and railway leading to Richmond. Then, if success crowned his colleague’s efforts, Sumner, with the rest of the army, was to carry by assault the heights on the Confederate left.

On the morning of the 13th of December, all the country around Fredericksburg was covered by a dense fog. Quite early, the hostile batteries on Stafford Heights opened their fire on the Confederate position commanded by Longstreet. Already Generals Franklin and Sumner were forming their columns of attack.

At eight o’clock, Lee left his head-quarters, and went with Generals Jackson and Stuart to inspect the portion of the line at Hamilton’s Crossing. Received everywhere with enthusiasm, the Confederate commander, after having passed along the front of his army, placed himself on the hill which has since borne his name, and from thence witnessed the successive checks given to the Federals in their desperate efforts to get possession of the heights where he was. Shortly after nine o’clock the fog cleared. Franklin’s columns advanced in the plain against Hamilton’s Crossing. Arrested a moment by the raking fire directed on them by Stuart’s mounted artillery, those in the front retreated, when Franklin opened a fire from all his batteries. The Confederate line made no reply. Emboldened by this silence, the Federal infantry, 10,000 strong, (according to General Meade, who commanded it,) advanced against the hostile position, defended at this point by 14 guns under Colonel Walker, and supported by two brigades of infantry. The Confederates let them approach to within less than 800 yards. But there a shower of grape-shot threw them into disorder.

About one o’clock Franklin made his chief attack; with three lines of infantry in close order he vigorously assailed A. P. Hill’s position at Hamilton’s Crossing; the fire of the Confederate cannon could not arrest the impetuosity of the Federals, who were soon in hand-to-hand conflict with the Southern infantry. Profiting by a gap between two of the hostile brigades, the Federal General Meade made tow divisions charge by this opening, and threw back Jackson’s front line on the second. At this critical juncture Jackson, with the three divisions of Early, Trimble, and Tagliaferro, from his second line of defence, rushed in front of the Federals, and the latter, being taken in front and flank, were thrown back beyond the railway and pursued into the plain. General Early pressed them very hard, not giving over the pursuit till he found himself under the fire of the Federal batteries. Franklin did not again seek to cut the Confederate line; he was content with throwing some shells, while his outposts did some skirmishing during the afternoon. It was while beholding the quick retreat of the Federals, pursued by his soldiers, and the aspect of the ground, strewn with dead and dying, that Lee, posted on the hill whence he had directed the action, murmured in a low tone: “It is well this is so terrible; we would grow too fond of it.̶

While what we have been describing was passing on the Confederate right, General Sumner was exerting himself to accomplish the task which had fallen to his lot. At eleven o’clock, forming his columns under the protection of the houses of Fredericksburg, he hurled the divisions of French and Hancock on Marye’s Hill and Willis’s Hill. The assault was repulsed, and his soldiers, decimated by a terrible fire, were finally obliged to take shelter in the houses. One half of the men remained on the battle-field. In fifteen minutes Hancock lost more than 2000 men out of 5000. Although exposed to the fire of the Federal batteries on the other side of the river, the Confederate artillerymen did not cease to concentrate all their efforts on the hostile infantry as long as the struggle lasted. Sumner renewed his attack with the divisions of Howard, Sturgis, and Getty. Thrown back in disorder by the crushing fire of Longstreet, these divisions were replaced by the Federal reserve, consisting of three divisions. General Hooker, who was at their head, received orders to capture the heights, no matter at what cost. Six times the Northern infantry threw itself valiantly on the Confederate positions, and six times was hurled back again, its ranks ploughed by grapeshot. Some of the dead were found within pistol-shot of the enemy’s line. The last assault took place a little before night. These successive defeats had put General Burnside in a state of despair and excitement impossible to describe. He walked backwards and forwards, exclaiming from time to time: “These heights must be ours this evening.”

At night the battle ceased. All the Federal army, upwards of 100,000 men, had taken part in it, while, on the Confederate side, 25,000 men alone had been engaged, the rest remaining simple spectators. In his report, General Lee estimated his losses at 4101 dead and wounded. The Federals owned to a loss of 12,321 killed, wounded, or prisoners. The Southern commander-in-chief announced his success to his Government in these words:

December 13th.

To General Cooper, A.A.G.

At nine o’clock this morning the enemy attacked our right wing, and as the fog lifted, the battle ran along the whole line, from right to left, until six, p.m., the enemy being repulsed at all points. Thanks be to God! As usual, we have to mourn the loss of many of our brave men. I expect the battle to be renewed at daylight to-morrow morning.

R. E. Lee.

During the night the Confederate army raised some earthworks at the most exposed points, and occupied itself in rendering its position more formidable. The enemy’s attack had been so easily repulsed, and with such a weak portion of the forces, that General Lee was persuaded the battle would be renewed on the morrow. At daybreak, on the 14th, all his troops were under arms, ready to resist the anticipated attack.

Lee’s conduct in this instance has been severely criticised. He has been blamed for not having followed Jackson’s advice, who wished him to attack Burnside on the night of the 13th. To reason after the event is very easy. Lee was naturally ignorant of the losses the Northern army had undergone, and had no wish to expose his soldiers uselessly to the fire of 200 pieces of cannon, ranged on the Stafford Heights. It must be never lost sight of that the South repaired its losses with great difficulty, and that behind this army there was no other to take its place. Waiting, therefore, to be attacked, Lee did not desire to renounce the advantages of his position by issuing from his lines and advancing into the plain.

He did not possess the war-material and means of transport which his adversary had. Numerically inferior, with troops badly fed, he judged that to make a night attack on an enemy, beaten, it is true, but not demoralized, would be the height of imprudence. He did not know the situation of the Northern army, nor what impression the defeat it had just experienced had made on it.

As to General Burnside, his duty was clear: he ought without delay to have placed the Rappahannock between himself and his foe. Far from that, however, he conceived the foolish idea of putting himself at the head of the 9th corps, which he had formerly commanded as division-general, and leading it to assault the Confederate position on Marye’s Hill. But on the urgent advice of all his generals he abandoned his design at the last moment, when orders had been already issued, and the attacking columns formed.

During the whole of the 14th, the Northern batteries on the north bank of the river at intervals directed their fire on the Southern line. The 15th passed similarly without the Federal army making any other hostile demonstration. That night a tempest of wind and torrents of rain burst over the country, and Burnside profited by it to recross the river, abandoning the town, and carrying off his bridges. On the morning of the 16th the Confederates learnt the Federal retreat. But Lee, still convinced the battle would be renewed, telegraphed to Richmond:

Head-quarters, near Fredericksburg.
16th December, 1862.

As far as can be known on a morning so stormy, the enemy has disappeared from our front, and recrossed the Rappahannock. I think he intends to make his appearance at some other point.

R E. LEE.

But the Federal general gave no sign of life, and the battle of Fredericksburg finished the campaign.

As soon as became certain that General Burnside had given up all thought of continuing hostilities, Lee led his army into winter-quarters; it was cantoned along the Rappahannock, from Fredericksburg to Port Royal. Some troops were detached to watch the ford higher up the river. The cold soon became severe, and the soldiers were glad to shelter themselves in their huts and tents. On the last day of the year, the general-in-chief addressed a proclamation to the Northern Virginian army. After recapitulating the events of the campaign which had just terminated so gloriously, he thanked them for their magnificent conduct, and expressed his confidence in the final triumph of the Southern cause, thanks to the visible protection of the Almighty, a protection for which he showed himself humbly grateful.

The winter was felt acutely. In the middle of December several Federal sentries were found frozen at their post. The Confederate troops, badly clothed and badly furnished, suffered even more than their adversaries from this exceptional temperature. General Lee, about the 1st of December, addressed a report to the war minister, asserting that several thousands of his soldiers were bare-foot.

The general himself shared the lot of his soldiers. He constantly refused to establish his head-quarters in a house, even in the depth of winter; he slept under a tent, like the commonest of his men. This self-denial on the part of their chief produced its effect, and nobody was heard to complain.

Thus ended the memorable year of 1862. During its whole continuance, in a succession of campaigns following each other almost without interruption, Lee had directed the movements of the principal Southern army. It was to his military talents, quick-sightedness and skill, that the brilliant successes were due which illuminated the Confederate cause, and acquired to the Separatist chief a reputation of the first order, which following campaigns only contributed to increase.

A rapid recapitulation of the events of the year that had flowed away will put the services rendered by Lee in a better light.

Four Federal armies had been charged to invade Virginia and meet at Richmond, that being the head and heart of the rebellion. The most numerous and formidable of these armies, that of MacClellan, had arrived in sight of the Confederate capital when Lee assumed the command. The Southern chief marched against this army of 150,000 men, and pushed it back 30 miles from the city, rendering it impossible for it to renew its attack on Richmond. Meanwhile a new army advanced from the North. Lee was watching MacClellan when the news of this new danger came to him. Leaving a sufficient force to hold his adversary in check, he marched rapidly to the place where, henceforth, the real danger was, drove General Pope before him, took him on the flank, and lastly, in the sanguinary battle of Manassas, put his army to the rout, and forced him within his lines at Washington.

Thus two armies, in the short space of five months, had been driven from Virginian soil. Then the Confederate commander entered Maryland, in order to attract the enemy thither, and, if possible, to transport the scene of war into Pennsylvania. Events which could not be foreseen had prevented the realization of the second part of this programme. Lee was obliged to concentrate his forces at Sharpsburg, and there deliver one of the most hotly contested of all the battles. Without undergoing a defeat, he was obliged to abandon the idea of entering Pennsylvania, and recrossing into Virginia, still continued to face his enemy. This was the first check Lee had experienced in the campaigns of that year. It is only to weigh the circumstances attentively, and he will not be considered responsible for what happened. Accidents over which he was powerless set his combinations at nought, and compelled him to give way. An impartial judge might even think that his having withdrawn his soldiers safe and sound out of so perilous a predicament, was a greater proof of ability than the gaining of the battle of Manassas. The relief felt in the North, on learning that he had recrossed the Potomac, is the proper measure of the consternation he had spread among the Federals.

A little later, during MacClellan’s offensive movement on Warrenton, the arrangements of he Confederate commander to delay the Federal march deserve our attention. With very inferior forces he much embarrassed his adversary, fronting him on the upper Rappahannock, cleverly stopping his offensive attempt in that direction, and then, when the Federal army marched rapidly on Fredericksburg, quick as lightning, he crossed the Rapidan, and appeared on the heights commanding the town, thus blocking the passage of the river. The battle which followed went far to idemnify the South for the failure of the Maryland campaign and the indecisive battle of Sharpsburg. The Federal army experienced a complete defeat. This stormy year, so full of great events and bloody encounters, was finished by a battle in which the enemy was repulsed with frightful loss.

In less than six months Lee had fought four pitched battles,—all victories except Sharpsburg. This result was promising for the future of the Southern cause. Had the army of Northern Virginia had its ranks renewed like those of the Northern army, the successes of the year 1862 would have led subsequently to the triumph of the Southern cause. Unfortunately, Lee’s army, which had to sustain the conflicts up to a point where the result would of necessity decide the issue of the whole war, never had a numerical force sufficient to allow it to draw the whole advantage from its victories. In the battles on the Chickahominy, the army reckoned, at the most, 75,000 men; at the second battle of Manassas, nearly 50,000 men; at Sharpsburg, less than 40,000 men; and at Fredericksburg, about 50,000 men. The following year, the number of his soldiers scarcely rose above the figures given, and in time such a diminution took place, that in the month of April, 1865, all the forces of which he had the disposal at Petersburg hardly exceeded 30,000 men.

The enemy, however, had wherewith to oppose him on the Chickahominy, 150,000 men, of whom 115,000 were efficients; 100,000 under Pope, at the second battle of Manassas; 87,000 actually in line at Sharpsburg; and at Fredericksburg, from 110,000 to 120,000.

Certainly, therefore, it could only be to the great superiority of their commander’s military genius that the triumphs of the Confederates were due. But little known beyond the ranks of the old United States’ army at the moment when he assumed the command in June, 1862, Lee, before the end of the year, acquired a great reputation. From the first he conciliated the confidence and respect of all. Everybody rendered justice to the elevation of his character, to his perfect sincerity and entire disinterestedness in the accomplishment of his duty. Without the least personal ambition, he was devoted, body and soul, to the cause for which he fought. Although nobody, either in the army or in the country, had ever penetrated his true character, although he was supposed to have more reserve and less warmth and dash than he really possessed, he finished by winning the admiration even of those who were angry at his supposed hesitation in April, 1862, and who then had criticised his strategic operations; they in the end recognized in him a great man, and a military genius of the highest order.

All classes in the South beheld with pride the dignity of their cause nobly represented in the person and character of the commander of their most important army. While so many others in the Separatist ranks, as brave, as patriotic as Lee, but of a different temperament, allowed themselves to indulge in violent language against the North, he remained calm and moderate, in spite of all provocations. His reports are without emphasis, without exaggeration, his language always modest. The day after his most brilliant successes, he rendered an account of his victories with a tone of such moderation, that in reading them at this distance of time, it appears almost impossible he could have written them in the burning atmosphere of a war which displayed the most ardent passions of the human heart.

This was a very remarkable side of his character. Perhaps this rare moderation and this elevated sense of justice are answerable for the general idea, widely spread, that Lee was cold and unimpressionable. On the contrary, nobody more than he had a heart susceptible of emotion, nor experienced a more profound indignation at seeing the South invaded. But he knew how to control himself, and was never drawn beyond what was compatible with the dignity of the supreme military commander of a people struggling for its independence.

The South had come to regard Lee in is private and public character with an admiration that soon knew no bounds, and there was placed in him, as general, the most absolute confidence, a confidence never withdrawn, even in the hour of the greatest disasters.

The army first set an example of blindly trusting to him; it saw him always at work, and in each of the terrible blows which he struck at the enemy, his brave soldiers had a further proof that their confidence was justified. The extreme care which he took on every occasion not to expose them without necessity, (especially at Fredericksburg, where an ambitious commander would not have hesitated to shed torrents of blood to complete his triumph,) singularly contributed to increase their affection.

In spite of the reserved air which seldom left him, Lee received with kindness the humblest of his soldiers. Naturally very simple in his manners, and kind, endued with great sweetness and much patience, he made no difference in his fashion of receiving those of all ranks who came to him. He often used to say that the common soldiers, who fought without being enticed by the allurement of rank, pay, or glory, but only from a sense of duty and love of country, were the most deserving class in the army, and had a right to the utmost consideration and best treatment.

This extreme simplicity of life and manners rendered him peculiarly dear to the troops.

Let us narrate one example from among a thousand. Once Lee had fallen asleep beneath a tree, on the roadside, over which 15,000 Confederates were defiling. On learning that their chief was tasting a repose of which he had so much need, there was the most absolute silence suddenly in their ranks, and the entire corps was able to pass without waking him.

The inside of his tent, which he would never leave for the shelter of a house, although often entreated to do so, afforded no object of luxury. The covering of the commander-in-chief was the same as that of the soldier, and his food often inferior to that of the majority of his officers and men.

Everywhere he was presented with dainties, cases packed with turkeys, hams, wines, spirits, and other things very tempting in the rough life of a soldier: he sent them nearly always to the sick and wounded.

His guiding principle was that of setting his officers an example of not faring better than their soldiers.

For the rest, to lie hard, to eat little, and that little of poor quality, to drink only water, were not to him privations. It was the life he had led for years on the frontiers of Texas and Mexico. He liked neither wine nor spirits, and made no use of tobacco under any form; very rarely did he allow himself a moment’s relaxation. When not traversing his camp to note that the soldiers were not in want of anything, or when not inspecting the outposts, his time was spent in his tent at work, going through reports, corresponding with the authorities at Richmond, and occupying himself about all that touched the well-being of the army under his orders.

Sometimes, also, if in the neighbourhood of country houses, he would pay a visit to the ladies there, and caress the children, thus revealing an unexpected side of his character. His goodness, sweetness, and affectionate smile, singularly attracted children, and inspired them with a touching confidence. One day a little girl, in the neighbourhood of Fredericksburg, confided to him as to her best friend, trembling all the while, that she would like to kiss General Jackson. The brave Stonewall blushed like a young girl, when Lee, with a mischievous smile, told him of the child’s wish. In such moments Lee was charming. The pleasure he felt was true and unalloyed; he forgot himself, and one found it difficult to believe that this officer, in a simple grey uniform, so affectionate and childlike, was the commander-in-chief of the Confederate army.

But these moments were rare. Hare work, incessant pre-occupation, took again possession of him. With the exception of such occasions as these already cited, he permitted himself no distraction. Indeed, he recalled, in an extraordinary manner, the traditional idea which we have of General Washington. What tended to the fulfilment of his duties alone had the power to influence this noble soul: he gave himself up entirely to the incessant labour which the cares of governing a great army brought with them, and that, too, with grave and systematic self-denial.

But, in fine, the most beautiful and interesting feature of his character, was his humble and profound piety. Generally in this respect justice has not been done him. At the time of the war, indeed, he passed for a sincere Christian; his noble character and the purity of his morals left no opening for criticism; but this once recognized, no eye had sounded the depth of his feelings with regard to the most august, the grandest, the most terrible subject that has been given to man to meditate on. Nevertheless it was faith in Divine Providence alone, and trust in the support of the Almighty which guided and sustained him so marvellously in hours of trial. Here was the secret of his unalterable calm in the midst of disasters. His slight effusion, his extreme reserve, explain the difficulty there has been in estimating his religious feelings. The depth of his soul would only display itself by a flash, as when he learnt that the army chaplains were praying for him: “I thank you sincerely,” said he, with tears in his eyes; 𔄬all I can say is that 1 am a poor sinner, having faith in Christ alone, and that I have great need of all your prayers.”

He expressed himself in like manner one day in an interview with several members of the clergy, who had met to discuss with him the subject of measures to be taken to cause the sanctity of the Sabbath to be better observed in the army. “His eye brightened, and all his countenance sparkled with joy,” said one of his interlocutors, “when we conversed with him on this subject.”

On the morrow, an urgent order of the day called the particular attention of officers and soldiers to the respect due to the sacred day, recommending them to assist at divine service in their respective camps, and forbidding on that day all official work and duty, except what was necessary in reference to the nourishment or safety of the army. He himself never failed to attend a religious service when he found it possible. Very often he took part in the meetings of his chaplains, and interested himself much in all that could contribute to spread religious ideas among his soldiers. He never let an opportunity escape of showing publicly to his men that he was a sincere Christian. On one occasion, when General Meade had come to Mine Run, and the Southern army was marching to meet him, Lee, riding on horseback in front of his army through the woods, found on his road a group of soldiers assembled to pray before entering into battle. Such was the custom among certain sects, and the most eager to fight were often men of great piety. But this time, this spectacle, although sufficiently frequent, appeared to move Lee profoundly. He stopped, dismounted,—his staff did the same,—uncovered his head, and stood respectfully attentive as long as the impassioned and moving prayer lasted, a prayer accompanied by the growling of the enemy’s cannon, and the bursting of their shells.

We find, dated November 24th, 1862 , a letter from him, in which his religious sentiments are clearly shown.

. . . The death of my dear A——, (one of his daughters who had just died far from him,) was indeed to me a bitter pang. But the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord. In the quiet hours of night, when there is nothing to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be overwhelmed. I had always counted: if God should spare me a few days of peace after this cruel war was ended, that I should have her with me. But year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned.

One of Lee’s first cares, during the enforced rest of winter, was to give his artillery a better organization, to partly replace his batteries by others taken from the enemy, and to get the Confederate Government to recast a great number of guns. Thanks to these measures, the Southern army, in the spring of 1863, was better provided with artillery than it had ever been.

In the course of January, 1863, Burnside, burning to take his revenge, conceived the plan of crossing the Rappahannock above Fredericksburg, and turning the Confederate right wing, thus obliging Lee to abandon his line of defence, or see himself cut off from Richmond. The weather was beautifully dry, and everything at the beginning went well. The grand secret was jealously kept. On the 20th, the whole army was ranged at different points on the north bank, ready to cross the river. During the night the pontoons were to be fixed. But a frightful tempest happened shortly before nightfall; torrents of rain caused a considerable rise, and the clayey soil, sodden by the water, reduced the general’s plans to nothing. Lee’s vigilance had not blundered. Notwithstanding the strife of the elements, the Confederate general had massed his troops opposite the points of passage. On the Federal side the roads were in a most deplorable state; the pontoons, buried in the mud, resisted all efforts to move them. All day, on the 24th, and the night following, the tempest and rain continued without ceasing. A chaos of pontoons, carriages, ammunition waggons, and guns, impossible to describe, encumbered all the roads: tumbrils upset, pieces of cannon stuck in the mud, trains of war-material engulfed in a sewer, thousands of horses and mules immersed in yellow masses of slush—such was the spectacle offered to the view on all sides. There was no further thought of an advance—it was necessary to consider how best to get out of this plight. The three days’ rations, brought by the soldiers, were exhausted; there was no means of bringing up supplies of victuals. The whole army was compelled to be occupied in remedying the roads, thus, they cut down trees, and laid them symmetrically across the roads, so as to create a solid bottom, one which did not sink. Thanks to these efforts, next day, most of the army could gradually re-enter their cantonments. Such are some of the difficulties on which an army must reckon in a winter-season in Virginia.

If, however, the Federal general had succeeded in crossing the river, Lee was ready to receive him, and, as he sent word to Richmond: “Nothing was more fortunate for the Federals than not to cross the Rappahannock.” Shortly after, Burnside sent in his resignation. He was replaced by one of the most distinguished of his division generals—Hooker.

The Confederate soldiers had sometimes to suffer this winter from scarcity of provisions. The country was little prepared for a war of so long duration, and those who were charged with providing for the wants of the army were not always able to fulfil satisfactorily their arduous and complicated duties.

Another subject which gave much cause for anxious reflection to the Confederate general-in-chief, was that of recruitment. The population bent with difficulty to this new law, so full of antipathy to the American nature. General Lee proposed to the Government to make the governors of each state responsible for a certain number of soldiers; the conscription would thus have been worked through the local authorities, and perhaps by that means would have ceased to be odious.

But the Richmond Cabinet did not judge it advisable to give effect to this proposition, and no change was made in the method of enlistment.

Nothing was done for some time, except that Longstreet’s corps was detached in February, and sent to the south of the James to oppose the attempts at revictualling there made by the enemy along the coasts and in the most exposed counties of Southern Virginia and North Carolina.

Lee took all precautions against the enemy’s passing the Rappahannock. All the fords were guarded. His army was so disposed that it could easily be concentrated, if necessary, on a given point. Earthworks and redoubts were raised in places most easily accessible to the enemy, and the time was passed in watching the spots most in danger, and in getting ready to repulse the first offensive movement of which the spring would necessarily be the signal.

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