Report of Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, C. S. Army,
Commanding First Army Corps. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
December 11-15, 1862
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXI [S# 31]
HDQRS. FIRST ARMY CORPS, DEPT. OF NORTHERN VA.,
Near Fredericksburg, Va., December 20, 1862.
Brig. Gen. R.H. CHILTON,
Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General.
GENERAL: Upon my arrival at Fredericksburg, on November 19, the troops of this command were assigned to positions as follows, viz: Mc-Laws' division upon the heights immediately behind the city and south of the Telegraph road; Anderson's division on McLaws' left, and occupying the heights as far as Taylor's Hill, on the Rappahannock; Pickett's division on McLaws' right, and extending to the rear along the margin of the wood which skirts Deep Run Valley; Hood's division near Hamilton's Crossing of the railroad; Ransom's division in reserve near my headquarters. Our batteries were assigned positions along the heights by General Pendleton, Colonels Cabell and Alexander, and Captain [S. R.] Johnston, Colonel Walton being absent sick. Pits were made for the protection of the batteries under the supervision of these officers. A portion of General Pendleton's reserve artillery was assigned to the heights with Major-General McLaws' division. Colonel Walton's Washington Artillery occupied the heights at Marye's Hill, and a portion of Colonel Alexander's reserve occupied the other portion of Anderson's front, extending to the Taylor house, on our left. The brigade batteries that were not assigned to positions on the heights were held in readiness to co-operate with their commands, or for any other service that might be required of them. Our picket line was established along the river bank, extending from Banks' Ford to Talcott Battery, the most important portion of it under the immediate orders of Major-General McLaws.
Upon the approach of General Jackson's army, Hood's division was closed in upon the right of Pickett, and put in position upon the heights on the opposite side of Deep Run Valley. In addition to the natural strength of the position, ditches, stone fences, and road cuts were found along different portions of the line, and parts of General McLaws' line were further strengthened by rifle trenches and abatis.
The enemy held quiet possession of the Stafford Heights until 3 o'clock on the morning of the 11th, when our signal guns gave notice of his approach. The troops, being at their different camp grounds, were formed immediately and marched to their positions along the line. Ransom's division was ordered to take a sheltered position in easy supporting distance of the batteries on the Marye Hill. Before the troops got to their positions, McLaws' pickets (Barksdale's brigade) engaged the enemy at the river, and from time to time drove back different working parties engaged in laying the bridges. The enemy was compelled eventually to abandon his plan of laying his bridges, and began to throw his troops across the river in boats, under cover of the fire of his sharpshooters and one hundred and fifty-odd pieces of artillery. At many points along the river bank our troops could get no protection from the artillery fire. This was particularly the case at the mouth of Deep Run, where the enemy succeeded in completing his bridge early in the afternoon. Later in the afternoon he succeeded in throwing large bodies of troops across at the city by using his boats. Barksdale, however, engaged him fiercely at every point, and with remarkable success. Soon after dark, General McLaws ordered Barksdale's brigade to retire. The general was so confident of his position that a second order was sent him before he would yield the field. His brigade was then relieved by that of Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb, which was placed by General McLaws along the Telegraph road, in front of the Marye house (a stone fence and cut along this road gave good protection against infantry). When Cobb's brigade got into position, Ransom's division was withdrawn and placed in reserve. During the night the enemy finished his bridges and began to throw his troops across.
His movements early on the 12th seemed to be directly against our right, but when the fog lifted columns were seen opposite Fredericksburg, the head of them then crossing at the bridges opposite the city. Ransom's division was moved back to the Marye Hill. Featherston's brigade, of Anderson's division (previously occupying this hill), was closed in upon the other brigades of Anderson. The entire day was occupied by the enemy in throwing his forces across the river and in deploying his columns. Our batteries were opened upon the masses of infantry whenever they were in certain range. Our fire invariably drew that of the enemy's batteries on the opposite heights, and they generally kept up the fire long after our batteries had ceased.
Early on the morning of the 13th I rode to the right of my position (Hood's division). The dense fog in the early twilight concealed the enemy from view, but his commands, "Forward, guide center, march!" were distinctly heard at different points near my right. From the direction of the sound and the position of his troops the day before, I concluded that his attack would be upon General Jackson at some point beyond my right. I therefore rode back to a point near the center of my forces, giving notice to General Hood that the enemy would attack General Jackson beyond his right; that he should watch carefully the movements, and when an opportunity offered he should move forward and attack the enemy's flank. Similar instructions were given to General Pickett, with orders to co-operate with General Hood. The attack was made as had been anticipated. It did not appear to have all the force of a real attack, however, and General Hood did not feel authorized to make more than a partial advance. When he did move out, he drove the enemy back in handsome style. About 11 a.m. I sent orders for the batteries to play upon the streets and bridges beyond the city, by way of diversion in favor of our right. The batteries had hardly opened when the enemy's infantry began to move out toward my line. Our pickets in front of the Marye house were soon driven in, and the enemy began to deploy his forces in front of that point. Our artillery, being in position, opened fire as soon as the masses became dense enough to warrant it. This fire was very destructive and demoralizing in its effects, and frequently made gaps in the enemy's ranks that could be seen at the distance of a mile. The enemy continued his advance and made his attack at the Marye Hill in handsome style. He did not meet the fire of our infantry with any heart, however, and was therefore readily repulsed. Another effort was speedily made, but with little more success. The attack was again renewed, and again repulsed. Other forces were seen preparing for another attack, when I suggested to General McLaws the propriety of re-enforcing his advanced line by a brigade. He had previously re-enforced with part of General Kershaw's brigade and ordered forward the balance. About this time Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb fell, mortally wounded, and almost simultaneously Brig. Gen. J. R. Cooke was severely wounded. General Kershaw dashed to the front to take the command.
General Ransom, on the Marye Hill, was charged with the immediate care of the point attacked, with orders to send forward additional re-enforcements if it should become necessary, and to use Featherston's brigade, Anderson' division, if he should require it.
The attack upon our right seemed to subside about 2 o'clock, when I directed Major-General-Pickett to send me two of his brigades. One (Kemper's) was sent to General Ransom, to be placed in some secure position, to be ready in case it should be wanted. The other (Jenkins') was ordered to General McLaws, to replace that of Kershaw in his line. The enemy soon completed his arrangements for a renewed attack, and moved forward with much determination. He met with no better success than he had on the previous occasions. These efforts were repeated and continued from time to time until after night: when he left, the field literally strewn with his dead and wounded. Colonel Walton's ammunition was exhausted about sunset, and his batteries were relieved by Colonel Alexander's. Orders were given for fresh supplies of ammunition, and for everything to be prepared for a renewal of the battle at daylight.
On the 14th, there was little firing between the sharpshooters. The enemy, screening his forces under a slight descent in the ground, held a position about 400 yards in front of us. In the afternoon I sent Captain [Osman] Latrobe, of my staff, to the left, to place artillery in position to play along the enemy's line, with instructions to Colonel Alexander to use such artillery there as he might think proper. The point was selected, and pits made by light the following morning. General Ransom was also ordered to strengthen his position on the Marye Hill by rifle trenches. Similar instructions were sent along the entire line. These preparations were made to meet the grand attack of the enemy, confidently expected on Monday morning. As the attack was not made, this artillery and General Ransom's sharpshooters opened upon the enemy and drove him back to cover in the city.
During the night the enemy recrossed the river. His retreat was not discovered until he had crossed the river and cut his bridges at this end. Our sharpshooters were moved forward and our old positions resumed. Four hundred prisoners, 5,500 stand of small-arms, and 250,000 rounds of small-arm ammunition were taken.
Our loss for the number engaged was quite heavy. Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb fell, mortally wounded, in the heat of the battle of the 13th. He defended his position with great gallantry and ability. In him we have lost one of our most promising officers and statesmen. A tabular statement and lists of the killed, wounded, and missing accompany this report.
Much credit is due Major-General McLaws for his untiring zeal and ability in preparing his troops and his position for a successful resistance, and the ability with which he handled his troops after the attack.
I would also mention as particularly distinguished in the engagement of the 13th, Brigadier-Generals Ransom, Kershaw, and Cooke (severely wounded), and Colonel McMillan, who succeeded to the command of Cobb's brigade, and Colonel Walton (Washington Artillery) and Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander (reserve artillery).
Brigadier-General Barksdale with his brigade held the enemy's entire army at the river bank for sixteen hours, giving us abundance of time to complete our arrangements for battle. A more gallant and worthy service is rarely accomplished by so small a force.
I refer you to the reports of these officers for more detailed accounts of the engagements. I desire to call the attention of the Government to the gallant officers and men mentioned in their reports.
Major-Generals Anderson, Pickett, and Hood, with their gallant divisions, were deprived of their opportunity by the unexpected and hasty retreat of the enemy. A portion of General Anderson's command was engaged in defending the passage of the river, a portion of General Hood's in driving back the attack against our right, and a portion of General Pickett's did important service near the Marye Hill. I refer you to their reports for particular accounts.
Major [John J.] Garnett held three batteries in reserve in the valley between the positions of Generals Pickett and Hood, and was much disappointed not to have the opportunity to use them.
My staff officers--Major [G. M.] Sorrel, Lieutenant-Colonel[P. T.] Manning, Major [J. W.] Fairfax, Captains [Osman] Latrobe and [Thomas J.] Goree, and Lieutenant [R. W.] Blackwell--gave me their usual intelligent, willing aid. Major [John C.] Haskell, Capts. H. E. Young and Rodgers volunteered their assistance and rendered important services.
My thanks are also due to Surgeon [J. S. D.] Cullen, chief surgeon; Major [S. P.] Mitchell, chief quartermaster; Major [R.J.] Moses, chief of the subsistence department, and Captain [J. H.] Manning, signal officer, for the valuable services in their respective departments.
I have the honor to be, general, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
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