Monday, December 17, 2012

December 14, 1862

December 14, 1862: As the remains of his attacking columns lay all night on the frozen ground in front of Marye’s Heights, Burnside frets about his losses. He decides to ride at the head of his old IX (Ninth) Corps to attack again at dawn on the 15th, but his subordinate generals argue against it. On the Confederate side, Lee is convinced that Burnside may try again, and spends the day collecting more ammunition for the battle that does not come.


—George Templeton Strong of New York City writes in his journal: 
I think the fate of the nation will be decided before night. The morning papers report a general engagement that lasted all yesterday, with no result but a little advance by part of our line, and heavy losses apparentlly on both sides. Taken together, the little scraps of fact and incident and humor that have come over the wires look unpromising but they might be much worse.

—Mrs. Judith White McGuire, in Richmond, records in her journal:
Nine o’ Clock at Night.—A sad, sad train passed down a short time ago, bearing the bodies of Generals Cobb, of Georgia, and Maxcy Gregg, of South Carolina. Two noble spirits have thus passed away from us. Peace to their honoured remains! The gentlemen report many wounded on the train, but not very severely. I fear it has been another bloody Sabbath. The host of wounded will pass to-morrow; we must be up early to prepare to administer to their comfort.
—The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, writes in his journal about the Battle of Fredericksburg, which he correctly surmises to be a defeat for the North:
December 14, Sunday. There has been fighting for two or three days at Fredericksburg, and our troops were said to have crossed the river. The rumor at the War Department—and I get only rumor — is that our troops have done well, that Burnside and our generals are in good spirits; but there is something unsatisfactory, or not entirely satisfactory, in this intelligence, or in the method of communicating it. When I get nothing clear and explicit at the War Department I have my apprehensions. They fear to admit disastrous truths. Adverse tidings are suppressed, with a deal of fuss and mystery, a shuffling over of papers and maps, and a far-reaching vacant gaze at something undefined and indescribable.

Burnside is on trial. I have my fears that he has not sufficient grasp and power for the position given him, or the ability to handle so large a force; but he is patriotic, and his aims are right. It appears to me a mistake to fight the enemy in so strong a position. They have selected their own ground, and we meet them there. Halleck is General-in-Chief, but no one appears to have any confidence in his military management, or thinks him able to advise Burnside.

—In New Orleans, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks and his new expeditionary force of Union troops steams upriver to the city, where he will take commend of the Department of the Gulf.

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