On the 29th of October we struck tents and the
army-drew out of its camp at Harper's Ferry. The Second Corps crossed the
Shenandoah and moved around under Loudon Heights, in a cold, dreary rain,
the marching being heavy and toilsome. On the 2d of November, we occupied
Snicker's Gap. The enemy advanced with five or six thousand infantry to
drive the Corps from the Gap, and a battle seemed imminent; but after t
some sharp skirmishing and a sharp fire of artillery, he withdrew.
On the 4th, the Second Corps moved round to and
occupied Ashley's Gap, the army being directed on Warrenton. The Second
Corps arrived at Rectortown on the
6th, and came upon the territory over which we had skirmished in May last,
in our advance on Front Royal. On the 9th we arrived at Warrenton.
The whole army was now massed in the vicinity of
Warrenton. On the 10th the Brigade went into camp, having its baggage
brought up, and enjoyed a few days of rest, which was duly appreciated, as
the weather and the roads along the mountain range had made the late march
a laborious and uncomfortable one.
It was now officially known that MCCLELLAN
had been relieved, and the command of the army given to Gen. BURNSIDE.
This . created no particular sensation or excitement among the troops and
but very little speculation as to the cause or the immediate object of the
change. MCCLELLAN departed,
Burnside commanded in his stead. He was now the "old" man" of the army, as
the men were wont to call their chief, and they gave him as enthusiastic
cheers when he appeared among them as they had lately given his
predecessor—this was the fact, at least, among the men.
On the 14th we struck tents, and the Second Corps
taking the advance moved rapidly toward Falmouth, where it arrived on the
17th. Immediately upon the arrival of the corps at Falmouth a rebel
battery on the opposite side of the river opened up very briskly. Gen. SUMNER
soon had a battery in position, and a sharp artillery duel was had, the
rebels being completely routed, and driven from their guns. The idea
prevailed that the corps would immediately cross and seize the heights.
This was not however, done, and the troops went into camp, the Eighth
Regiment in nearly the same place where we had burned Gen. King's hew
fence last spring.
Temporary camps were established next day, but the
supply of material for tents and cooking purposes was very limited, and as
the weather had become cold and
inclement the men, arid officers too, for they were not even so well
provided as the men, suffered much.: The wagons had not yet come up arid
much of the baggage had been sent by way of Washington for which no
transportation was yet provided.
On the 18th the enemy appeared at the United State's
Ford, a few miles up river and Gen. KIMBALL was sent with his
brigade to examine into the matter. There were some troops on
the opposite side of the Rappahannock in temporary rifle pits, but
evidently only a strong picket force. After some little
demonstration on our part to draw them out, and to which they were not
disposed to respond very spiritedly, the brigade returned to camp at
The entire army was presently massed in this
neighborhood, and preparations were going forward rapidly for a great
battle. The rebels were also rapidly concentrating on the opposite side of
the river, and were at work night and day in entrenching the heights
beyond the city. The Stafford hills on one side of the river were soon
lined with artillery. The pontoons were being brought up, though kept
concealed for the present, until they should all be in readiness.
Gen. BURNSIDE had made a change
in the organization of the army by creating G-rand Divisions. The right
Grand Division was commanded by Gen. SUMNER, and
composed of the Second and Ninth Corps. The divisions and brigades
remained as before. Gen. HOOKER was in command of
the center and Gen. FRANKLIN of the left Grand
The balloon reconnaissance was daily resorted to ; in
fact, we expected Professor Lowe of the balloon, to rise every morning as
much as we did the sun.
On the 10th of December the troops were carefully
inspected, and received orders to be under arms at three o'clock next
morning, with sixty rounds of cartridges and three days cooked rations.
This meant a battle.
At six o'clock on the morning of the 11th, the Second
Corps drew out of camp, and* moving under the cover of the woods, was
massed behind a ridge in front of. the Phillips mansion. A brigade was
sent down to the river near the Lacy mansion to cover the laying down of a
pontoon bridge, while from the heights, along the river, something over
three hundred pieces of .artillery were in position, keeping up a constant
cannonade upon the city of Fredericksburg and the rebel works beyond.
These were replied to by occasional shots from the rebels. The
bridge-builders were several times driven away by sharp shooters. from the
rebel side of the river, and at three o'clock in the afternoon, Gen. FRENCH
moved his whole division down to the river, forming in line of battle. The
Seventh Michigan was thrown into the pontoons, and rowed rapidly across
the river, where they effected a landing, and drove out the sharp
shooters. The bridge was speedily laid, and the first brigade of the
While in this position we were opened on by the rebel
batteries on the heights beyond and at the right of the town, but suffered
no loss, the gunners failing to get a ball or shell into our ranks, though
the missiles frequently bespattered us with mud, so near did they strike
to our lines.
During this firing a most unearthly noise—a cross
between the scream of a locomotive and a wild cat—was heard approaching in
the air. The men turned pale, and so did the officers, one of whom rode
his horse at breakneck speed to the river. The missile was a piece of
railroad rail with lead about the end, so as to fit a cannon. When it
struck it scooped out a big hole, and sent the mud over a whole brigade.
Towards dusk we were withdrawn to the. ridge in the
rear of this position, and bivouaced for the night. Every man was kept in
his place, and in readiness to move at a moment's notice. The night was
cold and we suffered much, being obliged to lie on the ground with no
protection but a blanket.
The next morning at an early hour French's Division
drew out, and crossed to the city on the pontoon bridge, followed by the
balance of the corps. The artillery below us, in FRANKLIN's
front, being particularly noisy, but no opposition was offered in our
front. The brigades and regiments took position along the streets, being
kept under arms during the entire day. The city had been pretty badly
knocked to pieces by our artillery fire, and there was any amount of goods
and debris scattered about town. The men were not disposed, however, to
seek plunder, except to replenish their tobacco pouches, which had become
collapsed from the long absence of the sutler.
Our troops occupied the streets parallel with the river
; those at right angles being enfiladed by the enemy, were kept clear. The
night was dark and gloomy. The men slept on their arms along the streets,
while the officers were to be seen soundly sleeping on the door steps and
The morning of. the 13th was dark and foggy. The rebel
works on the hills were completely obscured by the mists. The men were
ordered to get their breakfast, and remain in ranks. The order of battle
had been arranged, and each officer instructed as to his part and
position. We knew and felt the desperate character of the recounter before
us. The enemy was to be assaulted "in his stronghold 6nrthe
heights—the careful entrenchment of which we had witnessed for so many
days, while waiting for our lagging pontoon train.