From The Constitution, Wednesday, December 24, 1862 (volume 26, number 1304)
A General Account of Operations at Fredericksburg
Headquarters, Army of the Potomac,
Falmouth, Dec. 17.
Yesterday morning when daylight appeared, the enemy seemed to be, as they no doubt were perfectly astonished that our army had succeeded in returning to this side of the Rappahannock river.
We returned without losing a single man or a gun in the retrograde movement. A few soldiers who had straggled off made their appearance on the river bank after the pontoon bridges had been removed but they were subsequently brought over safely in small boats. A few privates who were guarding a house inhabited by a private family were not during the night aware of our crossing the river, but in the morning becoming aware of this fact, they safely swam over.
The pickets of the contending armies being separated by only a few yards, rendering it necessary that everything on our front should be conducted with the utmost caution. The pickets on our outposts were unaware of the movement we were making till just before daylight, when an officer went to each individual man, and in a low tone of voice ordered him to fall back. After they got sufficiently far away to be out of danger, they were ordered to quicken their pace and reach the bridges as quickly as possible.
About nine o’clock yesterday morning the enemy advanced their skirmishers along their entire line, and by noon had established their pickets near the bank of the river. We had a large number of dead on what was regarded as “neutral ground,” and as soon as it was known that our forces had evacuated the city, the soldiers of the enemy commenced robbing the lifeless bodies. This was plainly seen through a field glass, as well as indistinctly with the naked eye.
About 10 or 11 o’clock ladies very neatly dressed were seen walking about the streets of Fredericksburg. They had doubtless been concealed in their houses during the time the city was occupied by our troops. They doubtless availed themselves of the first opportunity to make their re-appearance after our retreat.
On Monday the pickets of the contending armies fronting the left wing mutually agreed upon an armistice among themselves, and freely intermingled with each other, exchanging their dead friends and comrades who lay on “neutral ground.”
During this time a General of our army rode by and put an end to their proceedings. The result was that both parties at once commenced firing, when nine of our men were killed. After the General had left the friendly demonstrations of our pickets were renewed, and butternut and blue uniforms freely mingled. About this time Gen. Franklin dispatched a flag of truce, which the enemy recognized, and the exchange of dead bodies was resumed and continued till completed.
Yesterday, Gen. Lee sent a flag of truce to Gen. Burnside asking him to detail men to bury his dead in front of Gen. Sumner’s grand division. This was done. The wounded, with the exception of those whom the enemy obtained, have been brought to this side of the river, and as rapidly as possible are being sent to Washington.
Our entire army is now encamped on the same ground which they previously occupied. The soldiers are as comfortable for the present as they can be in shelter tents. Our army has been considerably re-enforced since the battle, and no danger whatever attaches to our present position.
It is the opinion of military men that even if we had succeeded in taking the first ridge of the rebel works the opportunity for slaughter by the rebels would have been far greater than previously. Our soldiers, it may be repeated, behaved with the greatest gallantry, courage, bravery and determination, but no troops in the world could withstand such a concentrated fire of heavy ordnance and musketry, under cover of fortifications, as was sent forth by the rebels.
Report of General Burnside.
Gen. Burnside on Monday published a report of the battle of Fredericksburg. He takes the whole responsibility of crossing at the time and place he did upon himself. He thinks he would have succeeded but for the delay of 24 hours in building his bridges. He speaks in the highest terms of his army. He reports our killed at 1,152, wounded 9,000, prisoners about 700.
Gen. Burnside is said to have sent in his resignation, but it was not accepted.
The last week has been a stormy time in President Lincoln’s Cabinet. Secretaries Seward and Chase resigned. Their resignations were not accepted by the President, and they were prevailed on to recall them. Affairs are now as they were.
An Investigation of the disaster at Fredericksburg should at once be instituted by Congress. It should be known by whose fault the army was delayed at Falmouth for nearly two weeks, giving the enemy ample time to erect impregnable fortifications. It should be known by whose authority the army was sent to take an impossible position, and whether an advance of such vast importance was ordered without previously having obtained an adequate knowledge of the strength of the enemy. Let there be a full investigation on these points, and let those, no matter how high their rank, who have shown a criminal incapacity be dealt with as they deserve.
Losses of the 14th Regiment.—Capt. Gibbons’ Company.—Full returns of the casualties of the Fourteenth regiment are now received. Col. Perkins was badly wounded in the neck. Major Clark was wounded in the side.
Company B suffered severely. We have the following list of killed and wounded :
Wounded—Capt. Gibbons, thigh bone broken ; D. H. Otis, badly, one leg shot off ; James M. Marble, leg, not badly ; C. S. Brooks, leg, not badly ; H. A. Lloyd, left wrist, not badly ; H. N. Shaw, right arm, not badly ; W. H. Johnson, Jr., arm and back ; George A. Hubbard, leg, slightly ; James H. Sage, slightly ; James H. Hilleker, eye, badly.
A. B. Calef, Esq., left town for Washington last week to look after our wounded. A letter was received from him yesterday (Monday) afternoon, giving some of the above facts. Another letter was received from him last evening stating that he had made arrangements to have all the wounded belonging to Co. B who can be moved brought to New Haven.
FROM THE FOURTEENTH REGIMENT.
The following letter was written after the late battle by a member of the 14th C. V. from this city to his brother. It has been handed us for publication, and contains many interesting facts.
Headquarters, 14th C. V.,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., Dec. 16, 1862.
Dear Brother : We broke camp last Thursday and started for Fredericksburg. We arrived to within a mile of the river at about 9 A. M., and lay there all day waiting for the Engineer Corps to lay the pontoons, which they had hard work to do on account of the rebel sharpshooters. They picked off our men as fast as they showed themselves, until our troops got angry and went to work and shelled the city, which they did handsomely.—They blew almost every house in the city to pieces, some they burned and while they were on fire the scene was beautiful. Thus the rebels with 200 men kept the whole army of the Potomac at bay for a whole day. At night the bridge was laid and a part of Howard’s division crossed. They had a street row in the evening. On the following morning (Friday) the remainder of Sumner’s corps crossed at a double quick. We entered the city without molestation and remained there all day. We ravished every house in the city and found many desirable articles. In the afternoon the rebels paid us their compliments by shelling us severely. They kept it up until nine o’clock in the evening. The 14th loss [sic] three men, wounded slightly by a shell. They were conveyed to the hospital. The Colonel, Major, Adjutant and myself, took possession of a house and appropriated two nice feather beds to our own use. In the morning we awoke to the tune sounding very much like thunder. The rebels had awoke as well as ourselves, and the way they played into us from their batteries was a caution to poor folks. They were very strongly entrenched behind earth works and rifle pits of the heaviest kind. At ten minutes to twelve we, that is our division under Gen. French, were ordered to the front and to charge the rebels, and take their pits and batteries. We went forward as ordered and went willingly, but went in vain. The rebels poured in a terrible volley of both musketry and artillery, consisting of grape and canister shell and railroad iron which literally mowed us down. It was utterly impossible for us to stand before such a tremendous force. They were behind entrenchments, and we in an open field, and on a hill side at that, and mud knee deep, a stone wall in our front which they used as a screen for their sharpshooters. The fire was awful. Our regiment went into the action with 362 men, and came out with 106. Think of that will you, and then ask why we did not take their redoubts. We also went into the fight with eighteen field staff and line officers, and when we came out we had three line officers left that were not wounded or killed. The following is a list of the killed and wounded, as far as I can remember. As soon as we get our list made out I will send it you. Col. Perkins, in neck and back badly ; Maj. Clark, contusion in side by shell, badly ; Capt. Gibbons, thigh bone broken, badly ; Lieut. Canfield, killed ; Lieut. Hawley, in foot, badly ; Capt. Tubbs, in neck, not bad ; Capt. Carpenter, in foot, badly ; Capt. Bronson, ball went clear through him and it is almost impossible for him to live. Lieut. Coomes, twice in leg, very bad ; Lieut. Simpson, in side, not bad ; Capt. Davis, Co. H, in shoulder, slightly ; Lieut. Goddard, Co. G, in leg, not bad ; the other two officers I forgot.
List of killed and wounded in Co. B. D. B. Lincold, killed ; Sergeant H. N. Shaw, in arm ; Sergeant G. A. Hubbard, slightly ; Corporal H. A. Lloyd, in arm ; Corporal W. H. Johnson, Jr., in arm ; James H. Marble, in leg ; Chas. S. Brooks, in foot ; Daniel H. Otis, leg shot off ; James H. Sage, slightly ; Wm. H. Johnson, Sen., missing, think killed ; James H. Hillieker, eye ; John Vanderwort, in leg ; making in all, including Gibbons, 14, a large percentage for Co. B. To tell the truth the regiment is cut to pieces, in fact, we have not got one hundred men that are able to march a mile. We left Connecticut the 25th of August with 998 men, and have not been out 4 months yet, and look at us now ! Take those that are in hospitals and here, and we could not muster over 180 men. If that is not using up men fast, your humble servant would like to inquire what is. How I have escaped being killed both at Antietam and Fredericksburg, is a mystery to me, but it is nevertheless so. The only accident that has happened to me was in the last fight. I was knocked over by a horse running against me as we were going into the engagement. It bruised me a little on the leg, and causes me to limp a little. I am glad it is no worse. It does not keep me from duty.
The regiment is now under the command of Capt. S. H. Davis, of Co. H. There are many more killed and wounded. I will send you a list as soon as possible.
More anon, John [Pelton?].
Sergeant Major, 14th C. V.
The Freedmen’s Cause.—Mr. J. Ridley, of New Haven, the authorized agent of the Freedmen’s Relief Society of Connecticut, is in this city making collections for his cause. He appeals for money to relieve the wants of the contrabands, and in view of what the National Freedmen’s Society, to which this of this State is auxiliary, has done, his appeal will not be in vain to many of our citizens.
Finished This Week.—The stone work on the Pameacha Bridge was finished some time since. The filling in and grading will be completed this week, when it will be ready for the use of the public. Next spring a wall of stone two feet high will be built on each side of the bridge, and this will be surmounted with an iron railing, making the sides of the bridge perfectly secure. This bridge has cost the town, as we are informed on the best authority, less than $15,000, which is close on to the estimate originally made for it, showing that the business has been conducted in an economical and judicious manner.
Christmas.—This festival will be observed in this city this week in the usual manner. The Episcopal church and the Universalist church are being trimmed with evergreens, and the work is exercising the taste and skill especially of the ladies of these congregations. Services will be held in both these churches and at the Catholic church on Christmas eve., and at the Episcopal and Catholic on Christmas day.
Christmas trees will be prepared for the benefit of the Sunday School children of the Methodist and the Universalist churches. A great amount and variety of fruit may be expected to be produced by these trees, and some of it will be of a kind that was never known to grow on any other kind of tree.
Saint Nicholas will visit this place on Wednesday night. He will come by private conveyance. Such as expect a visit from him need not be particular to leave their doors unlocked. He prefers to come in by way of the chimney. The little folks had better hang up their stockings in a good place where Santa Claus can find them.
At several stores in the city, valuable and beautiful presents may be found. Ferree & Hubbard have filled their rooms with a choice lot of articles for Christmas and New Years. A half hour may be spent in a very pleasant way in looking over their extensive assortment.
A. Putnam has at his bookstore a beautiful assortment of gift books and other articles suitable for the season. What is more acceptable in most cases as a Christmas or New Years gift, than a handsomely bound volume with something valuable between its rich covers ? Any one in search of such a present can satisfy himself at Mr. Putnam’s.
E. Rockwell has also a fine lot of gift books some of them got up in superb style.
Cold Weather.—Saturday and Sunday were as cold days as are often seen in this latitude. On Saturday morning, the mercury stood at zero. There was a high wind from the north, which made it seem even colder than it was. The dust blew in clouds. During the day, although the sun shone clear, the mercury did not rise higher than five degrees. On Sunday morning, it was still colder—the thermometer showing three degrees below zero. There was very little wind, and the weather moderated during the day. A light snow fell on Sunday night.
Corn For Fuel.—It seems incredible, but it is said to be a fact that the Delzell steam mills at Atlanta, Illinois, are now using corn for fuel instead of wood, that article being cheaper and more easily obtained than either wood or coal.