Battle of Fredericksburg Discription


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863

This WEB site features an online archive of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. We have put this collection on the internet to help facilitate your study and research on the Civil War. The collection contains many unique illustrations and reports.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Thomas Nast Santa Claus

Civil War Christmas

Lincoln Cabinet Shake Up

Lincoln Cabinet Shake Up

Burnside's Fredericksburg Report

General Burnside's Fredericksburg Report

Battle of Fredericksburg Discription

Battle of Fredericksburg Description

Court Martial

Fitz-John Porter Court Martial

Admiral Semmes

Admiral Semmes

Fredericksburg Cartoon

Fredericksburg Cartoon


Attack of Fredericksburg

The Attack of Fredericksburg

Fighting in the Street's of Fredericksburg

Court Martial

Court Martial

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve




[JANUARY 3, 1863.



AH, dearest, if our tears were shed Only for our beloved—dead!

Although our Life's left incomplete, Tears would not be so bitter, sweet, As now!—ah, no.

Ah, dearest, if the friends who die

Alone were those who make us sigh;

Although Life's current is so fleet,

Sighs would not be so weary, sweet.

As now!—ah, no.

If oft more pain it did not give

To know that our beloved live,

Than learn their hearts have ceased to beat,

Grief would not be so hopeless, sweet,

As now!—ah, no.


WE publish on page 4 two pictures from sketches by Mr. A. R. Waud, representing respectively FREDERICKSBURG ON THE NIGHT OF 11TH, and the ATTACK ON THE REBEL WORKS BY THE CENTRE GRAND DIVISION ON DECEMBER 13TH; on page 5 an illustration of OUR TROOPS IN THE STREETS OF FREDERICKSBURG, also from a sketch by Mr. A. R. Waud; and on this page a picture from a sketch by Mr. Davis, representing THE PASSAGE OF THE RIVER by General Franklin's Grand Division.

The following extract from the Herald correspondence will serve to explain the


All the morning and afternoon the regiments comprising the Ninth army corps were in readiness to receive orders to cross the river. The men were prepared for a march, and had every thing with them in case they had to remain on the other side or to push forward. The sight presented by this vast number of men, all armed and in every respect ready for a battle at a moment's notice, was grand. Turn where you would and you encountered troops. In a hollow would be hidden a brigade, with their arms stacked, and the men lying on the ground resting themselves, while the officers would be collected together chatting over the result of the terrific cannonading and the chances of a great and decisive conflict; and on the open plain, lines upon lines of stacked arms showed that the word need but be given, and in a twinkling mountains of eager and trusty hands would seize them and be ready for the fight. Quite a number of the regiments were, encamped so close to the roadside that it was found unnecessary to take them from their camp, and they were permitted to remain there until about four o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the bridges were just ready and the troops were expecting orders to march. They were then all drawn up in line, and every body was in his place. During the day the bands of the different regiments enlivened us all by performing national and operatic airs, which afforded a most striking contrast to the booming of the artillery and the sharp hissing of the shells as they rushed through the air on their mission of death.


Mr. Waud's picture is well described in the following extract from the Herald correspondence:

No one could better understand what war is than by taking a stroll through the streets of the almost destroyed city of Fredericksburg. Turn where you will and your eye meets some evidence of the terrific fire that was hurled from our guns into the streets and dwellings. Nothing appears to have escaped. Roofs, walls, fences, trees, and chimneys are perforated; and in some instances to such an extent that the side of a house presents the appearance of a huge pepper-box, the holes are so numerous and regular, while immediately beside it are the smoking remains of what once was a stately dwelling. Some of the houses on the river-front are completely torn to pieces, and as one turned from one street to another the question would naturally rise to his mind—How could any thing remain here and live? And yet, strange to say, people did remain, and I have yet to learn of any casualty to those who did so. Quite a number, after the fashion of the citizens of Sharpsburg, took their families into the cellars of their houses, and there remained in safety. In one house I found about a dozen ladies and a few gentlemen. When we crossed they emerged from their place of refuge and received us with open arms. The majority of them are good Union people, and are not unknown to a number of our officers, who were here some months ago. I had but little opportunity of speaking to theta. In all, I suppose some fifteen or twenty families remained, and I can not see what saved them all from one common destruction. Instead of looking for a house that had been struck, the difficulty is to find one that has not suffered more or less. The streets are piled with bricks from the chimneys, and in fact the city looks as if it wanted to be made all over again. The churches have wonderfully escaped, having been but partially injured, and the steeples are nearly as good as ever. The Bank of the State of Virginia was burned down, and I am very much surprised that the greater part of the city was not reduced to ashes, as the number of frame houses, one would suppose, would serve to spread the flames.

The street running along the river gave strong evidence of the intention of the rebels as to stopping our crossing. It was completely lined with rifle-pits, and stone fences were made to answer the same purpose. From behind these the sharp-shooters picked off our men, until compelled to retreat themselves.

The houses were nearly all empty of furniture, with the exception of some old chairs, tables, and the like. In one house was a good piano uninjured. Whatever remained in the buildings was soon in the possession of the soldiers, and as there was nothing of value, it was some little time before they were interfered with. Some ludicrous scenes were the consequences, the men arraying themselves in old hats, bonnets, etc., and parading the streets. This interfered with discipline, however, and an order was given that any one found with any article that was taken from a house should be at once arrested. General Patrick, the Provost Marshal, is deserving of great praise for hie exertions in this respect. The men for a time took all they could lay their hands on, and tubs, rakes, baskets, and pots of all descriptions were carried away, to be thrown into the street at the next crossing. Tobacco appeared to be very plenty, and all the soldiers had their pockets and haversacks filled with it. It was quite a luxury to them, as they had been paying the robbing sutlers from two to three dollars a pound the wretched stuff.

In an inclosure on a corner I perceived the bodies of about a dozen men, who were lying there previous to being buried. They were all our own men, with one exception, and he was an aged man, to all appearance fully sixty years old. His dress was that of a citizen, and he had been shot while in the act of aiming his piece: for even in death his arms retained their position, and in his face was the mark of hate. Probably the old man, carried away by his passion, volunteered; but dearly he paid for his mistaken zeal. Our own men were properly interred, with their name, and regiments placed over their graves.


The following graphic account of the attack is from the Times correspondence:

The time had now come to attempt an advance on the rebel position.

The orders were to move rapidly; charge up the hills and take the batteries at the point of the bayonet. Order, easy to give, but, ah! how hard of execution!

Look at the position to be stormed.

There is a bare plateau of a third of a mile, which the storming patty will have to cross. In doing so they will be exposed to the fire, first, of the enemy's sharp-shooters, posted behind a stone wall running along the base of the ridge—of a double row of rifle-pits on the rise of the crest —of the heavy batteries behind strong field-works that stud the top of the hill—of a powerful infantry force now lying concealed behind these—of a plunging fire from the batteries on the lower range—of a double enfilading fire from "cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them." Sebastopol was not half as strong.

The line of battle was formed by Couch's Corps (the Second), composed of the Divisions of French, Hancock, and Howard, the left of the line abutting on Sturgis's Division of Wilcox's Corps (the Ninth). The first advanced was French's, competed of the brigades of Kimball, Morris, and Weber, supported by Hancock's Division, consisting of the brigades of Caldwell, Zook, and Meagher.

Forming his men under cover of a small knoll in the rear of the town, skirmishers were deployed to the left toward Hazel Dell; Sturgis, supporting at the same time, moved up, and rested on a point, on the railroad.

The moment they exposed themselves on the railroad forth burst the deadly hail. From the rifle-pits came the murderously-aimed missiles; from the batteries, tier above tier, on the terraces, shot planes of fire; from the enfilading cannon, distributed on the arc of a circle two miles in extent, came cross showers of shot and shell.

Imagine, if you can, for my resources are unequal to the task of telling you, the situation of that gallant but doomed division.

Across the plain for a while they swept under this fatal fire. They were literally mowed down. The bursting shells make great gaps in their ranks; but these are presently filled by the "closing up" of the line. For fifteen immortal minutes at least they remain under this fiery surge. Onward they press, though their ranks grow fearfully thin. They have passed over a greater part of the interval and have almost reached the base of the hill, when brigade after brigade of rebels rise up on the crest and pour in fresh volleys of musketry at short range. To those who, through the glass, looked on, it was a parlous sight indeed. Flesh and blood could not endure it. They fell back shattered and broken amidst shouts and yells from the enemy.

General French's Division went into the fight six thousand strong; late at night he told me he could count but fifteen hundred.


The Herald correspondent thus describes how Franklin's Grand Division crossed the river:

The left Grand Division, commanded by Major-General Franklin, crossed on pontoon bridges about a mile below Fredericksburg. General Devens's brigade had the honor of the advance, and of occupying the ground during Thursday night. The Second Rhode Island regiment—of which General Burnside was once a member—led the brigade at a double quick, in gallant style, followed by the Tenth and Thirty-seventh Massachusetts regiments. The night passed quietly, and at daylight the main portion of the left wing commenced crossing, and continued till the whole were over. The morning was beautiful and the troops in fine spirits, and every thing looked propitious.

The enemy could be seen occupying a strong position upon a long range of hills about three miles back of Fredericksburg, intrenched as usual.

A more beautiful sight can not be imagined than our army presented as they were formed into line of battle, with the artillery in front, supported on either side by the infantry drawn up in columns by divisions, with General Bayard's splendid cavalry in the centre. General Reynold's corps occupied the extreme left, with General Smith on his right. The enemy continued to maintain a strict silence, although they were in a position to see all our movements.

It was nearly two o'clock before our army was in readiness to advance when the Eighteenth and Thirty-second New York regiments. were sent out in front of General Smith's corps as skirmishers, and also portions of the First New Jersey and First Pennsylvania cavalry. They had advanced only about half a mile, when they came in contact with the skirmishers of the enemy, who slowly fell back, firing, wounding quite a number of our men. By this time our batteries had reached the position they intended to occupy darkness came on, and our troops slept upon their arms till morning without any fighting.


CHILDREN, you mustn't think that Santa Claus comes to you alone. You see him in the picture on pages 8 and 9 throwing out boxes to the soldiers, and in the one on page 1 you see what they contain. In the fore-ground you see a little drummer-boy, who, on opening his Christmas-box, beholds a jack-in-a-box spring up, much to his astonishment. His companion is so much amused at so interesting a phenomenon that he forgets his own box, and it lies in the snow, unopened, beside him. He was just going to take a bite out of that apple in his hand, but the sight of his friend's gift has made him forget all about it. He has his other hand on a Harper's Weekly. Santa Claus has brought lots of those for the soldiers, so that they, too, as well as you little folks, may have a peep at the Christmas number.

One soldier, on the left, finds a stocking in his box stuffed with all sorts of things. Another, right behind him, has got a meerschaum pipe, just what he has been wishing for ever so long.

Santa Claus is entertaining the soldiers by showing them Jeff Davis's future. He is tying a cord pretty tightly round his neck, and Jeff seems to be kicking very much at such a. fate.

He hasn't got to the soldiers in the back-ground yet, and they are still amusing themselves at their merry games. One of them is trying to climb a greased pole, and, as he slips down sometimes faster than he goes up, all the others who are looking at him have a great deal of fun at his expense. Others are chasing a greased boar. One fellow thought he just had him; but he is so slippery that he can't hold him, and so he tumbles over on his face, and the next one that comes tumbles over him.

In another place they are playing a game of football, and getting a fine appetite for their Christmas dinner, which is cooking on the fire. See how nicely the soldiers have decorated the encampment with greens in honor of the day! And they are firing a salute to Santa Claus from the fort, and they have erected at triumphal arch to show him how welcome he is to them.

But Santa Claus must hurry up and not stay here too long; for he has to go as far south as New Orleans, and ever so far out West; so he says, "G'lang!" and away he goes through the arch like lightning, for he must give all our soldiers a Merry Christmas.

General Franklin Crossing the Rappahannock




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