Report of Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner, U. S. Army, Commanding Right Grand Division.
DECEMBER 11-15, 1862.--Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXI [S# 31]
HEADQUARTERS RIGHT GRAND DIVISION,
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
January 14, 1863.
Maj. Gen. J. G. PARKE,
Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.
SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my command during the actions at and near Fredericksburg:
It was intended that my grand division should cross on two pontoon bridges--the upper one to be thrown at the Lacy house, and the other at the old steamboat landing. The work of the bridge-builders commenced at daylight on the morning of December 11, covered by guns, under charge of the chief of artillery. Army of the Potomac, crowning the crest on the left bank of the river, and supported by infantry lying under the crest. The pontoniers were annoyed during the day by the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, secreted in the houses near the proposed landing of the bridges, whom the artillery fire, directed upon the houses, failed to drive. The Engineer Brigade failing to accomplish its assigned work under the fire it met, troops crossed the river, at the two points selected for the bridges, in boats, and carried handsomely the houses and shelters occupied by the enemy, and suffering sharply, but inflicting severe loss on the enemy in killed, wounded, and prisoners. The Seventh Michigan and Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts Regiments crossed at the upper bridge, the Seventh Michigan leading, and the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers at the lower. Under the cover of these gallant men, the bridges were completed, and Howard's division crossed near the Lacy house, occupying at first the streets of the town nearest and parallel to the river. The upper portion of the town was held by the enemy, who opened a sharp and effective fire upon the heads of Howard's columns as they showed themselves in the streets perpendicular to the Rappahannock. Howard made judicious dispositions, advanced, and, after sharp fighting, drove the enemy, so that at daylight on the morning of the 12th, in conjunction with Hawkins' brigade, of the Ninth Corps, he occupied the entire town of Fredericksburg.
During this day the remaining troops of the Second and Ninth Corps d'Armee crossed the river. The Second Corps held the center and right of the town, and the Ninth Corps, reaching to the left, connected with Franklin's right. Franklin, having crossed the Rappahannock about 3 miles below the city, Hooker's grand division was massed in readiness to move to the support of the attack proposed for my grand division. The enemy held the successive crests and wooded slopes which encircle the town, his infantry covered by breastworks and rifle-pits, his guns protected by earthworks, and mostly in embrasure, the general dispositions of his lines being such as to give front and enfilading fires on any troops who might debouch from the city with the intention of crossing the gradual slope which swells from the town to the crest.. He had also concentrated many guns on the bridges necessarily to be crossed by the troops after leaving the cover of the houses before reaching the open plain. The enemy was quiet during the day and night.
On the morning of the 13th, I was directed by the commanding general to attack with a division, supported closely by a second, the direction of the attack to be indicated by the Plank and Telegraph roads, and its object the possession of the heights immediately in the rear of the town. French's division (Couch's corps) was selected as the leading column. General French made his dispositions promptly. The movement of his command was partially covered by a heavy fog. Hancock's division was formed in proper supporting distance and order.
At 11 a.m. the advance division moved in three columns of battalions by brigades, with front and flank covered by a heavy line of skirmishers. The orders given to this storming column were that it should advance steadily, and, driving the pickets of the enemy before it, should follow them closely and go into their works with them. A handsome attempt was made to carry these orders into execution, but failed. Hancock threw his division in with spirit and decision, and was followed subsequently by Howard.
These three divisions lost many gallant officers and men in repeated and fruitless attempts to carry positions of great natural strength, made stronger by the unremitting labor of weeks, and held by an enemy in strong force, who fought under cover, aided by a tremendous fire of artillery, while such was the nature of the ground that we could derive little support from our own guns.
Willcox held his corps in hand to support Couch, and at the proper moment threw in Sturgis' division, which showed the same gallantry and met the same ill-fortune as that shown and experienced by the divisions of the Second Corps. Subsequently Getty's division was precipitated against the works of the enemy, but recoiled before the volume of fire it met.
Burns' division, on the left, was pushed across Hazel Run, holding the communication with Franklin, and shared with the other five divisions of the grand division the perils and disappointments of the nay. There was sharp picket firing during the night along the line held by our troops, at some points within a hundred yards of the enemy's position.
The next day, the 14th, the troops held the ground they had occupied when their advance was checked on the previous day.
During the 15th there was continuous picket firing, and the enemy was more active than on the preceding day with his artillery. On the night of this day orders were received to withdraw the command to the left bank of the Rappahannock. The order was executed quietly and promptly, without loss or confusion, and the grand division marched to the bivouac now occupied by it.
Where all behave so gallantly it is impossible to discriminate. I adopt and indorse all the subordinate reports of my command, and I would respectfully commend to the Government the corps commanders, Generals Couch and Willcox, for skill and gallantry in handling their troops.
The following officers of my personal staff were all zealous and prompt in the discharge of their duties: Lieut. Col. J. H. Taylor, assistant adjutant general and chief of staff; Lieut. Col. C. G. Sawtelle, chief quartermaster; Lieut. Col. W. W. Teall, chief commissary; Maj. Lawrence Kip, aide-de-camp; Capt. W. G. Jones, acting aide-de-camp; Capt. J. C. Audenried, aide-de-camp; Capt. S.S. Sumner, aide-de-camp; Lieut. A. H. Cushing, topographical engineer, and Lieut. R. S. Mackenzie, topographical engineer.
I would also recommend Surg. A. N. Dougherty, medical director of the right grand division; also Capt. J. M. Garland, the master of ambulances, and Maj. J. E. Mallon, provost-marshal.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. V. SUMNER,
Brevet Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding.
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