General Burnside's Report on Fredericksburg


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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.

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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.



(Previous Page) sacrifice of the least obnoxious member of the Cabinet. Senator Sumner has not improved his record by his share in the manoeuvre; nor will the popularity of Senators Fessenden, Collamer, and the other members of the caucus be increased by the weakness with which they lent their aid to the conspiracy.

General Burnside's noble and generous letter will go far to silence this outcry. Though he does not explain why the pontoon bridges were not at Fredericksburg by 21st November, when General Sumner arrived there—which, after all, is the joint of the whole controversy—he assumes the entire responsibility of the battle, and sets at rest forever the current reports that he was ordered to cross the river by General Halleck or the President. For so much let us be thankful. Had Mr. Lincoln really ordered that movement, or suffered General Halleck to order it, the people of the North could have had no more confidence in their Government or their cause. It is a matter for profound congratulation that the terrible disaster which so thrilled the heart of the loyal North a week ago did not arise from any foolhardy recklessness of the Washington officials, but was an ordinary casualty of war, which does not appear to imply any want of generalship or prudence in Burnside, any lack of courage in our troops, any superiority of the rebels, or any thing but an adverse turn of Fortune's wheel.  


By the time this paper reaches our readers we may have intelligence of the arrival of the Banks expedition, which, as is now known by every one, is destined to operate in the Gulf. It is understood that the vessels are to rendezvous off Ship Island, for operations against Mobile, but whether the first landing will be made in the Bay of Mobile or the Bay of Pensacola is still matter of conjecture. The presumption, among parties who are usually well informed, is that the first landing will be made at Pensacola, from whence a good road leads overland to Mobile, the notion being that while Farragut assailed Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, and the other naval defenses of the harbor, Banks would lead a column of 30,000 men overland to the attack of the city itself. Were such a combined attack planned with skill and executed with vigor Mobile would inevitably fall, unless, indeed, the rebel army in garrison there be much larger than has been supposed.

It need hardly be observed, however, that the capture of Mobile is only one of the objects which General Banks proposes to endeavor to accomplish in the Gulf. It has been stated in the papers that he is to replace General Butler at New Orleans; and in this event he would doubtless detach a strong column of troops to attack Port Hudson and Baton Rouge, while the McClernand expedition and the army of the Southwest were assailing Vicksburg. It is reported that he will have altogether under his command an army of 50,000 men—quite enough, in the hands of an able General, to accomplish any thing that may be required on the shore of the Gulf.

The rumors that he is to operate in Texas and watch the designs of the French in Mexico we believe to be without foundation. There is not the least reason for supposing that the French entertain any designs upon Texas or Louisiana. They have already on their hands an elephant of the largest dimensions in Mexico, and they are not likely to increase their stock of that breed at present. Nor is it probable that General Banks will waste any of his strength in hunting predatory rebels over the vast area of Texas, as their capture could not shorten, or their unmolested career prolong, the war for a single hour. The country to which he will attend lies north, not south of him.

A good deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed at the East at the dispatch of so large an army as General Banks's to the Gulf, when it might have co-operated efficiently with General Burnside in Virginia. Had General Banks gone up the James River, or struck at Weldon, it is said the Battle of Fredericksburg would have ended differently, and we might be on the high-road to Richmond. There is no little force in these objections, and if it were clearly shown that the capture of Richmond would prove more fatal to the rebellion than the permament opening of the Mississippi and the liberation of 2,000,000 bales of cotton, they would be unanswerable. As it is, however, it is by no means clear that the defeat of Lee's army and even the fall of Richmond would put an end to the war: whereas the complete reopening of the great river of the West, and the restoration of peace and commerce to the Mississippi Valley, would undoubtedly change the entire aspect of the contest. The Mississippi and its tributaries once more securely in our possession, cotton would go forth to silence foreign clamor, and restore the currency to a sound basis, copious supplies of Western food would revive the loyalty of the planters of the Southwest, and the isolation of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas from the Confederacy would confine the slave empire within limits too contracted for a safe national existence. If a victory in Virginia would lead to results as important as these, then Banks might have been sent to Weldon; otherwise not.


MR. NOBODY, the party really responsible for the
Fredericksburg disaster.

THE DIFFERENCE.—"Can you tell me, Jim, where they get so much corn for the manufacture into whisky?" "Why, no," says Jim, "but I can tell very well where the corn comes from after the whisky is made."

What do sailors do with the knots the ship makes in the day?

Tongues are apt to be unruly, for, as we can't see them, it is impossible to keep a watch on them.

When a provincial alderman named Gill died, his wife ordered the undertaker to inform the Court of Aldermen of the event, when he wrote to this effect: "I am desired to inform the Court of Aldermen, Mr. Alderman Gill died last night by order of Mrs. Gill."

There are two classes of disappointed lovers; those who are disappointed before marriage, and the more unhappy who are disappointed after it."

The most tender-hearted man we ever heard of was a shoemaker, who always shut his eyes and whistled when he ran his awl into a sole.

The railing of a cross woman, like the railing of a garden, keeps people at a distance.

A gentleman was riding with a lady in an open carriage, "all of a summer's day," and accidentally—men's arms, awkward things, are ever in the way—dropped an arm around her waist. No objection was made for a while, and the arm gradually relieved the side of the carriage of the pressure upon it. But of a sudden (whether from a late recognition of the impropriety of the thing, or the sight of another beau coming, never was known) the lady started with volcanic energy, and with a flashing eye, exclaimed, "Mr. Brown, I can support myself!" "Capital!" was the instant reply, "you are just the girl I have been looking for these five years—will you marry me?"

He who said that the half is often better then the whole, might have added that none at all is often better than the half.

"Bobby,what is steamn?" "Boiling water." "That's right, compare it." "Positive, moral; comparative, boiler; superlative, burst."

A little girl was standing by a window, busily examining a hair which she had just pulled from her head. "What are you doing, my daughter?" asked her mother. "I'm looking for the number, mamma," said the child; "the Bible says that the hairs of our head are all numbered, and I want to see what number is on this one."

A woman has generally so much rigging about her, that, for the most part, she is the least part of herself.

A young lady from the country being invited to a party, was told by her city cousin to fix up and put her best foot foremost, in order to catch a beau, "she looked so green in her country attire." The country lass looked comically into the face of her rather faded relative, ami replied, "Better green than withered."

In the days of the old volunteers a respected inhabitant of Greenock commanded a company, which he duly drilled and paraded, though his recruits were but an awkward squad. They never would draw up in a straight line, do what he might. "Oh," he cried, one day, holding up his hands in horror as he looked along the front rank—"oh, whet a bent row! Just come out, lads, and look at it yourselves!"

"I say, Bill, Jim's caged for stealing a horse!"

"Sarve him right! Why didn't he buy one and not pay for, it, like any other gentleman?"

An anxious father had been lecturing his dissolute son, and, after a most pathetic appeal to his feelings, discovering no signs of contrition, he exclaimed,

"What, no relenting emotion? not one penitent tear?"

"Ah, father," replied the hardened hopeful, "you may as well leave off 'boring' me; you will obtain no water, I can assure you."

"There's two ways of doing it," said Pat to himself, as he stood nursing and waiting for a job. "If I save two thousand dollars I must lay up a hundred dollars a year for twenty years, or I can put away ten dollars a year for two hundred years! Now which shall I do?"



ON Wednesday, December 17, in the Senate, bills to forfeit the pay of officers of the army when absent from duty, to improve tine organization of the cavalry forces, and to facilitate the discharge of disabled soldiers and the inspection of convalescent camps and hospitals, were reported back by the Military Committee. The consideration of the bill providing for time discharge of State prisoners, and allowing judges of United States courts to take bail to secure their trial, was postponed till Monday, and the Senate adjourned.—In the House, the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means reported a bill to supply deficiencies in the appropriations for 1863, which was made the special order for Tuesday. A bill was introduced, amendatory of the Confiscation act, so that in all cases

pending, or which may hereafter arise, wherein any ship, vessel, or other property may be condemned, the court rendering judgment shall, before making award, first provide for the payment of any bona fide claim filed by any loyal citizen or friendly foreigner, where proof of the claim shall be established. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The resolution, referring the topics of the President's Message to the various committees was taken up. Mr. Noell, of Missouri, made a strong speech in support of the war policy of the Administration. At the conclusion of Mr. Noell's remarks the resolution was adopted, and the House adjourned.

On Thursday, 18th, in the Senate, a resolution was adopted directing the Committee on the Conduct of the War to inquire into and report to the Senate the facts relative to the recent battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and particularly as to what officer or officers are responsible for the assault which was made upon the enemy's works; and also for the delay which occurred in preparing to meet the enemy. The bill to improve the organization of the cavalry force was passed; also the bill to facilitate the discharge of disabled soldiers from the army and for the inspection of convalescent camps and hospitals. The Bankrupt bill was taken up, and Senator Foster made an effective speech in favor of its passage. The Senate then adjourned.—In the House, the Army appropriation bill, containing in the aggregate appropriations to the amount of $731,000,000 for the maintenance of the army for the year ending June, 1864, was passed by a vote of 107 to 3. An amendment to the bill was offered by Mr. Mallory, of Kentucky, but rejected by the House, to the effect that none of the appropriations should be used for the benefit of runaway slaves, or for emancipating or colonizing them. The Naval Committee were instructed to report at an early day whether letters of marque ought not to be issued for the purpose of capturing or destroying the pirate vessel known as the "No. 290," or the Alabama, and other vessels of like character, now fitting out in the ports of Great Britain for the purpose of preying upon our merchantmen engaged in lawful commerce, and what further legislation, if any, is necessary for that purpose. The Judiciary Committee reported back the bill extending relief to loyal citizens for slaves wrongfully taken or abstracted, with the recommendation that it do not pass. After considerable debate the bill was laid on the table by a vote of 86 against 45. The remainder of the session wad occupied with speeches and political topics.

On Friday, 19th, in the Senate, a resolution calling on the Secretary of War for information relative to the Court of Inquiry upon the operations of General Buell in Kentucky was laid over. The memorial of the War Committee of New York, asking Congress to authorize the issue of letters of marque for the capture of the rebel cruiser Alabama, was presented. A bill granting pecuniary aid to Missouri for emancipated slaves was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The consideration of the resolution providing for a joint special committee on time subject of compensating States for the emancipation of their slaves was postponed. The bankrupt bill was then taken up, several verbal amendments adopted, and the Senate adjourned.—In the House, the Senate bill to facilitate the discharge of disabled soldiers and the inspection of convalescent camps and hospitals was passed The credentials of Mr. Flanders, the new member from Louisiana, were presented, and a motion offered that he be qualified. Mr. Vallandiglam, however, objected, and the papers were referred to the Committee on Elections. The bill making appropriations for invalid and other pensions was passed. Mr. Stevens made an explanation as to the financial scheme recently introduced by him, saying it was his own act, without consultation with the Committee of Ways and Means or with the Secretary of the Treasury. He was opposed to the financial scheme of Mr. Chase. Joint resolutions thanking Lieutenant Commanding Morris, of the Cumberland, and Lieutenant Commanding Worden, of the Monitor, for their gallantry in the engagement with the Merrimac, were reported. These thanks are a necessary preliminary to the promotion of these officers.

Both Houses adjourned till Monday.

On Monday, 22d, in the Senate, the Vice-President laid before that body a communication in response to the resolution of inquiry relative to the chartered vessels of the Banks expedition which had failed to fulfill the duties for which they were engaged. Resolutions were offered and adopted instructing the Naval Committee to inquire into the expediency of attaching the marine corps to the army, and requesting the Secretary of the Navy to give the Senate information in regard to captains and commanders in the navy, and in reference to the iron-clads Housatonic and Passaic. The resolution of inquiry relative to the alleged sending of Maryland troops into Delaware at the last election was discussed, but not finally disposed of, when the bill relating to the discharge of State prisoners was taken up, and Senator Lane, of Indiana, addressed the Senate on the subject, and was replied to by other Senators, after which the bill was postponed. The Senate then went into executive session, and on the opening of the doors adjourned.—In the House, the credentials of Mr. Hahn, Representative from the First Congressional district of Louisiana, were presented and referred. A resolution was presented and referred to the Military Committee inquiring of the Secretary of War what number of soldiers are now in service to whom pay is due, and why they have not been paid. A resolution looking to the of peace was offered by Mr. Vallandigham, and laid over. A resolution was offered to place upon the Journal the protest of the thirty-six members against the bill recently passed, indemnifying the President and others for arrests and irregular proceedings. The resolution was tabled by 75 to 40. Bills were introduced in reference to governments for the Western Territories. The President was requested to inform the House, if compatible with the public interests, whether our Minister to Mexico has been using his influence in that country in favor of the French. The Ways and Means Committee were instructed to canvass the expediency of so amending the Tax law that newspapers with a circulation not exceeding twenty-five hundred shall be exempt from taxation. A bill was introduced and referred providing for the emancipation of slaves in the rebel States. A resolution was offered, but tabled, asking information of the President in reference to the alleged order of the Secretary of State warning the Fort Warren State prisoners against employing counsel. A resolution was passed declaring it as the opinion of Congress that the claims of soldiers and sailors should take precedence in settlement of all others. A resolution was offered proposing to give gold medals to the small heroic band who crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg to clear that city of rebel sharp-shooters. It was referred to the Military Committee. The House agreed to adjourn from 23d till the first Monday in January. Some other business was transacted, and the house then adjourned.



FALMOUTH, December 19, 1862.

Major-General H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief United

States Army, Washington:

GENERAL,—I have the honor to offer the following reasons for moving the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock sooner than was anticipated by the President, Secretary of War, or yourself, and for crossing at a point different from the one indicated to you at our last meeting at the President's:

During my preparations for crossing at the place I had first selected I discovered that the enemy had thrown a large portion of his force down the river and elsewhere, thus weakening his defenses in front, and also thought I discovered that he did not anticipate the crossing of our whole force at Fredericksburg; and I hoped, by rapidly throwing the whole command over at that place, to separate, by a vigorous attack, the forces of the enemy on the river below front the forces behind and on time crest in the rear of the town, in which case we could fight him with great advantage in our favor.

To do this we had to gain a height on the extreme right of the crest, which height commanded a new road lately made by the enemy for purposes of more rapid communication along his lines, which point gained, his positions along the crest would have been scarcely tenable, and he could have been driven from them easily by an attack on his front in connection with a movement in the rear of the crest.

How near we came to accomplishing our object future reports will show. But for the fog and unexpected and unavoidable delay in building the bridges, which gave the enemy twenty-four hours more to concentrate his forces in

his strong positions, we would almost certainly have succeeded, in which case the battle would have been, in my opinion, far more decisive than if we had crossed at the places first selected. As it was, we came very near success.

Failing in accomplishing the main object, we remained in order of battle two days—long enough to decide that the enemy would not come out of his strongholds to fight us with his infantry—after which we recrossed to this side of the river unmolested without the loss of men or property.

As the day broke our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade. Not the least demoralization or disorganization existed.

To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of thus recrossing the river in the face of the enemy I owe every thing.

For the failure in the attack I am responsible, as the extreme gallantry, courage, and endurance shown by them were never exceeded, and would have carried the points had it been possible.

To the families and friends of the dead I can only offer my heart-felt sympathies; but for the wounded I can my earnest prayers for their comfortable and final recovery.

The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton on to this line, rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you left the whole movement in my hands, without giving the orders, makes me responsible.

I will visit you very soon and give you more definite information, and, finally, will send you my detailed report, in which a special acknowledgment will be made of the services of the different grand division corps and my general and staff departments of the Army of the Potomac, to whom I am so much indebted for their support and hearty co-operation.

I will add here that the movement was made earlier than you expected; and after the President, Secretary, and yourself requested me not to be in haste, for the retreat that we were supplied much sooner by the different staff departments than was anticipated when I last saw you.

Our killed amounts to eleven hundred and fifty-two; our wounded, to about nine thousand, and our prisoners to about seven hundred, which last have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us.

The wounded were all reproved to this side of the river, and are being well cared for, and the dead were all buried under a flag of truce.

The surgeons report a much larger proportion of slight wounds than usual, 1632 only being treated in hospitals.

I am glad to represent the army at the present time in good condition.

Thanking the Government for that entire support and confidence which I have always received from them, I remain, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General commanding the Army of the Potomac.



Dec. 16—6 P. M. Major-General Halleck, Commander-in-Chief:

The Army of the Potomac was withdrawn to this side of the Rappahannock River because I felt fully convinced that the position in front could not be carried, and it was a military necessity either to attack the enemy or retire. A repulse would have been disastrous to us under existing circumstances.

The army was withdrawn at night without the knowledge of the enemy, and without loss either of property or men. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE, Major-General Commanding.


The following was received on 20th at the head-quarters of the Army of the United States:

HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA, KINSTON, N. C., December 14, 1862. Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief, Washington:

I have the honor to inform you that I left Newbern for this place on the 11th instant, but that, owing to the bad roads and consequent delays to my trains, etc., I did not reach Southwest Creek, five miles from this town, until the afternoon of the 13th instant. The enemy were posted there, but, by a heavy artillery fire in front and a vigorous infantry attack on either flank, I succeeded in forcing a passage, and without much loss.

This morning I advanced on this town, and found the enemy strongly posted at a defile through a marsh bordering on a creek. The position was so well chosen that very little of our artillery could be brought in play. The main attack, therefore, was made by the infantry, assisted by a few guns pushed forward in the roads. After a five hours' hard fight we succeeded in driving the enemy from their position. We followed them rapidly to the river. The bridge over the Neuse at this point was prepared for firing, and was fired in six places; but we were so close behind them that we saved the bridge.

The enemy retreated precipitately by the Goldsborough and Pikeville roads. Their force was about six thousand men, with twenty pieces of artillery.

The result is, we have taken Kinston, captured eleven pieces of artillery, taken four to five hundred prisoners, and found a large amount of quarter-master's and commissary stores. Our loss will probably not exceed two hundred killed and wounded. I am, with great respect, your obedient servant, S. G. FOSTER,   Major-General Commanding.


Dispatches from Cairo state that a body of rebel cavalry, variously estimated at from two thousand to eight thousand, made a raid on the railroad, three miles from Jackson, Tennessee, on 20th. After firing into a train, they tore up the track for a considerable distance, and burned a long trestle work. The operator at Trenton reports an attack on that place. There has been considerable excitement at Columbus in anticipation of a rebel visit to that place.


General Beauregard's wife is now lying dangerously sick in New Orleans, and General Butler has sent to General Beauregard a kind invitation to visit her, assuring him of every protection and courtesy during his melancholy errand of sorrow.




MR. GLADSTONE, Chancellor of the English Exchequer, has written another letter on the subject of the American war. He says he has not "expressed any sympathy" with the South, or "passed any eulogium on President Davis." He says he is "a much better friend to the North Americans than those who have encouraged and are encouraging them to persevere in their hopeless and destructive enterprise."



The Ratazzi Cabinet had been dissolved in Italy, and Victor Emanuel had failed to organize a Ministry up to the evening of the 6th inst.



The people of Greece commenced voting on the question of the election of a new king on the 4th inst. Prince Alfred, of England, had an immense majority of the votes given on the first day, and his election was considered certain. He had the support of the provisional government of Greece. The tone of the London press was in favor of his accepting the throne. The London Times says the event will annoy both France and Russia, This seems to be a rather serious aspect of the case; for it is said that Russia had already officially asserted that the principle of the treaty of 1830—which provides that no member of the houses of the three protecting Powers shall be king of the country—must be upheld.





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