In which we look at the action on the southern portion of the Fredericksburg battlefield on December 13, 1862 as Meade's and Gibbon's divisions assaulted the Confederate line.


United States


00:00:25hey everyone Thanks for tuning in to what is actually episode 234 of our civil war podcast I'm rich I love you all welcome to the show previously on the podcast we talked about how at the Battle of Fredericksburg the federal offencive on the southern part of the battlefield would begin on Saturday December 13th 1862 with vague confusing orders from Ambrose Burnside to William Franklin
00:00:56Franklin commander of the left Grand division have been awake all night waiting for the orders to initiate the Army's main attack against Stonewall Jackson's sector of the Confederate lines for Franklin's already sour mood even more when burnside's imprecise somewhat mystifying orders finally arrived that morning
00:01:22based on our conversation the night before Franklin had assumed Burnside one of the left Grand division to deliver the Army's major major assault on December 13th but now the instructions Franklin received didn't clearly communicate that that was still the plan
00:01:41it is booked on the battle George rable has concluded that because of the metal door ders quote the force of the attack depended on Franklin's understanding and judgment and that General had never shown much imagination or aggressiveness and quote we think Ray was appraisal is fair but we also think that when you're weighing at Franklin's decision to interpret burnside's orders in the narrowest since then you also need to place the army of the Potomac strouble passed on the scale it's one thing to fault Franklin for not showing my imagination or aggressiveness but it has to be pointed out that the general who built the army of the Potomac George McClellan didn't exhibit either those qualities to any significant degree accept inconsistently wildly overestimating how many Confederates he imagined confronted him right
00:02:41well but the point is this that especially as far as lack of aggression it's not surprising that those commanders who were mcclelland's strongest devotees such as Franklin would be cut from the same old + Franklin had to have had been upset as he'd watched as Little Mac was removed from command and dismayed as he'd seen V Corps commander and McClellan night Fitz John Porter cast as the scapegoat for the union to baccala second Bull Run said those factors probably also need to be added to the scale when weighing what was behind Franklin's decision to interpret burnside's orders in the most conscious possible since
00:03:31at any rate William Franklin certainly Bears the responsibility for not asking the staff officer who brought the orders about burnside's intentions and for not sending a message to Army Headquarters asking for clarification in the end for whatever reason Franklin stubbornly chose to interpret burnside's orders in the narrowest tents and so assigned just one division to the effort he had a thority over roughly 60 thousand troops on his part of the battlefield but ultimately would end up using less than 1/4 of them directly against Stonewall Jackson's portion of the Confederate defensive line
00:04:11as we said last week Franklin assigned the task to John Reynolds first core and Reynolds intern selected George meets division of Pennsylvania reserves to make the attack meet questioned whether he was really to make the assault with just his One Division since he worried it would simply be a repeat of the Army's piecemeal attacks at a but she was told that is general burnside's order
00:04:40Franklin had directed rentals to keep the division making the attack well-supported so as needs 4500 pennsylvanians deployed a quarter mile south of a property known today as Slaughter pen Farm the other two first Corps divisions position themselves to support him on me it's left Abner Doubleday to put his division although Doubleday would soon get sidetracked by the apparent Confederate threat to the Army's Left Flank and so he would be useless to me in the coming effort to John Gibbon Gibbon had the four thousand men in history brigades arrayed in three lines General Nelson Taylor's Brigade compose the first Colonel Peter Littles the second Adrian Roots the Third
00:05:30given a North Carolinian who chose to stay with the Union didn't know it but on this stay when he would go forward to support me. He would end up fighting a Confederate Brigade that included three of his brothers in last week's show after medes and Givens troops had deployed for battle the union attack was delayed by a single Confederate Cannon directed by Major John Pelham the commander of Jeb Stuart's horse artillery here on the morning of December 13th the Bold young officer would win Everlasting Fame as the Gallant Pelham only to fall mortally wounded in a cavalry charge 3 months later and so Fredericksburg prove to be pelham's finest day as he stalled the entire Federal Advance on the south end of the battlefield for nearly an hour
00:06:20increasing enemy pressure and a diminishing supply of ammunition eventually forced him to withdraw from his Advance position and he reluctantly gave the order to limber up and go back after that Federal artillery pounded Prospect Hill the anchor of Stonewall swine and the woods that can seal the Confederate infantry for 2 more hours and so it wasn't until about 1 p.m. that afternoon that needs to Vision finally stepped out and charged forward
00:07:03early on the morning of the 13th General Jackson Road along the front by our guns AP Hill and Cornel Walker his chief of artillery did the same we were caution to keep ourselves concealed as much as possible and ordered on no account to reply to artillery fire or engage in artillery duels that are fire must be reserved to use app on Infantry and then not until the enemy had reached a given point or expectations were excited all the more from the fact that a heavy fog hung over the plane concealing it from RV you but there we could not see through the fog there was no lack of ominous sounds to indicate what was going on
00:07:42when the Mist lifted about 10 a gorgeous Panorama was spread out before us as far as the eye could see back towards the river and stretching up towards Fredericksburg the fast plane was filled with moving masses of men deploying informing alignments and what appeared to be a battle and here and there large gaps in the lines filled with artillery while moving about and adding more Life in Color to the scene where squadrons of cavalry
00:08:14back of it all the Stafford Heights stood out crowned with heavy parrots and Siege pieces which had not waited for the Mist to lift before they began throwing their heavy missiles and feeling our position no grander military spectacle was ever presented to human View
00:08:33the heavy guns from the Stafford Heights have been engaged chilling in the woods which shirt is a screen making it very uncomfortable some of the shells were enormous size and tearing through the Tree Top tube of us brought down huge limbs which was trying to the man which fight in the horse is greatly until they were taken out of reach when the field batteries belonging to the divisions of meeting given open their fire the situation became still more trying but our orders were strict to savor ammunition not to fire until the given signal and then at The Columns of infantry there was there for nothing to do but to lay still and take it the gun redoubts offered little protection some of the men lay flat on the ground and some head the trunks of large trees which was all right except for the limbs which came down from above
00:09:25Captain David G McIntosh PD South Carolina artillery AP Hill's division
00:09:34we were now underway in this ever to be remembered charge one of the most terrible pieces of work was even worse than standing in front of the famous cornfield at Antietam as we lost three times the number here we were now well into the enemy's warm fire on this December day the men incline their heads some what is that a moving against the driving rain The Familiar Chop Chop of balls striking the line was heard constantly to right and left while men tumbled out of line in quick succession we were so close together that there was a little place for balls to pass between the man we were Shirley shoulder-to-shoulder in this Advance with this great pressure on both sides and it determined little fellow in my rear foamer of Annville PA I went into battle this day
00:10:28I noticed Bennie Smith of Middletown PA lying supporting himself on left elbow shot to the right shoulder the sharp that it was spent ball on my front below the belt cost me to quickly look and feel for a hole in my Overcoat but no hole this time though twist no false alarm as I felt it thump against me with some Forest soon thereafter for Merced Bates a ball went to your haversack holding up my left hand I said in reply I know it looks there I've been wounded in the coat sleeves at the wrist while passing through overcoat and dress coat sleeves carrying away a bit of hide and allowing about one drop of blood to come forth and defensively the spot burned is so cold of Fire have touched it
00:11:16arriving at the railroad we halted and lay against the sides of a cut about 3ft that in-depth many of us lay with backs against the bank to where the enemy while some occupied the ditches by the track in the opposite bank here we lay for a few minutes listening to the Roar of Yankee and Confederate Cannon as they slam into each other I heard no order the line went forward without regular order making a grand dash for the woods along which the enemy was posted gaining the wood at this point somewhat open we slacking dark Ace
00:11:55a white worm or snake fence now nearly demolished ran along the edge of the wood
00:12:02the first of the enemy's infantry that I saw was one who had been firing from a rest on the crotch or 4 of a dogwood tree just high enough to allow him to take a game while kneeling
00:12:14he must have had a glorious time and smiled while working as gun as we Advanced but the poor young Soldier had been struck by a ball or small fragment of a shell just above the right eye he lay on his back with his legs still been under it seemed as though a bucket of blood run out of his head Corporal Bates Alexander 7th Pennsylvania reserves megatons Brigade
00:12:53during pelham's one gun bombardment of the federal flank the Union Soldiers in the divisions of Mead and Gibbon remained prone on the ground which turned from Frozen to muddy is the morning passed away in the day begins warm lying on the open floodplain and growing increasingly uncomfortable in the cold Med meets division of Pennsylvania reserves was comprised of three brigades led by Colonel William Sinclair Colonel Albert Lewis McElhattan and Brigadier General Conrad figure Jackson
00:13:24Sinclair and served as an enlisted man in the artillery during the Mexican-American War here in the Civil War in criminal the 6th Pennsylvania and it only been in Brigade command for short time
00:13:38Michael Jackson had graduated from West Point in 1846 ranking just behind Stonewall Jackson in class standings a veteran of the war with Mexico Megalodon had commanded the 4th Pennsylvania reserves since the end of 1861 and had only let his Brigade for a month
00:13:57Baker Jackson had been at about Quaker and pacifist for much of his early life is exposure to Warfare while serving as a courier during the conflict with Mexico and his involvement in a militia company back in the Keystone State after that war I'd let him to raise a regiment the 9th Pennsylvania reserves in 1861
00:14:20Jackson was promoted to Brigadier General in the summer of 1862 and let his Brigade at second Bull Run South Mountain and Antietam
00:14:30the soldiers who made up the units of Meads to vision wear mostly battle-hardened veterans but except for figure Jackson his Brigade commanders had precious little experience managing multiple regiments in battle The Assault on the Confederate line below Fredericksburg with service there on the job training
00:14:49Sinclair's Brigade formed meets first-line medical terms for gay deployed in line behind Sinclair while Jackson's troops remained in column on the left needs of jai Dev once he gets East Prospect Hill would be to push on and cut the Military Road behind the Confederate Lions remember the road was really just a walking path behind their front that the rebels had improved upon to facilitate movement between longstreet's and Stonewall Jackson's sections of their line
00:15:241st Corps Commander John Reynolds had prepared for an artillery bombardment to soften up the Confederates across the way before me did Vance the broad started about 11 a.m. 66 guns blasted away for an hour One Federal Road of how quote the air was resume with the Savage music of shells and solid shot and what's Confederate Cannon remain silent you see Stonewall didn't want his artillery to prematurely disclose their exact positions by engaging in a duel with the Union X plus he wanted to Rebel Canon to reserve the ammunition to break up the inevitable advance of the Yankee Infantry
00:16:10noon meet sent his men forward the Confederate Gunners as personas orders let the Yankee infantry get within eight hundred yards before finally opening a withering barrage of the Rebel artillery position on Prospect Hill and around Bernard's played cabins and near Hamilton crossing the port of destructive fire on to Meads and Gibbons troops again dough for cover in the muddy Fields the federal bombardment had obviously done little to soften up the Confederates after all but now that the Rebel Guns had opened fire they reveal their position and the federals accuracy improved significantly
00:16:51the union infantry could do little but hit the dirt once again and wait for the artillery to settle the matter between them one of the waiting Pennsylvanian Slater recalled the cannon balls were flying over in among us all the time killing men and Hoss's and tearing up the ground all around us and throwing mud and dirt over us and blowing up whenever of our ammunition wagons during the show me did his best to reassure the men and encourage them when he wrote up to William Buck McCandless of the second reserves Mead smiled and asked a star this morning William referring to a possible promotion for the colonel McCandless responded more likely it wouldn't Overcoat a moment later a Confederate shell art in an exploded under the Colonel's horse killing it after the initial shock both officers try to laugh off the incident as McCandless pulled himself from the mud
00:17:50shortly before 1 Federal Gunners happened to strike to Confederate limber chest full of art up in an impressive pyrotechnics show that Drew the man of means division to their feet with the cheer the spectacular explosions on Prospect Hill ended up serving as The Unofficial signal for the start of the Union attack because when he saw the troops up on their feet and realizing there was no sense in Waiting any longer George Meade gave the order for his man to charge the killing field south of the slaughter pen Farm Meats man took heavy casualties from the Revel artillery posted on Prospect Hill as well as from the Confederate infantry of lanes and archers Brigade one of the Pennsylvanian said quote it was terrible to see the men falling all about the balls humming and choosing about us like bees and such Roar of Cannon and muskets that one
00:18:50are they cure the orders of our officers
00:18:53punished by the rebel fire Sinclair's Brigade raced toward the nearest cover in front of them a finger of woods the jetted out from the Confederate lines into the open ground not only did the trees promise concealment for the charging Federal's but incredibly no enemy fire came from those woods
00:19:14Sinclair's Yankees couldn't have known and of course but they were headed straight for that pole in AP Hill's line where the Tangled marshy ground headmen a 600-yard gap is left between lanes and archers brigades headed toward that Gap in the Rebel line Michaelson's Brigade followed closely on their heels I figured Jackson beards the left or to Stonewall near the railroad line Jackson's man out of the open suffered quote under a murderous fire that made them down like grass according to the unit units Chaplin as enemy fire pour down upon them from Prospect Hill figure Jackson's Federal's dough for cover along the tracks or huddled in the ditches that boarded the open field even though they were filled with several feet of icy water with his for Gades Advanced stalled Jackson Road along those lines to study is man and prepare for a charge but it was not to be
00:20:14a rebel bullet crashed into Jackson skull killing him that I thought to be impossible by any organized body of troops and he'll was kind of right because it's the federals force their way through the body Tangled Thicket unit cohesion among Sinclair spaghetti Brigade broke down almost completely they were anything but organized medical terms for Gade following behind also became jumbled up as it clamber through the Sinclair went down with an injured ankle Michaelson was trapped beneath his horse when it was killed meet himself never made it past the railroad and so the federals here who had pushed into the Gap in the Rebel line may have been more and armed mob than an army if they scrambled up toward The High Ground behind the marsh but the sheer momentum of their advance in the absence of opposition
00:21:14carried them forward for the unsuspecting South Carolinians of maxcy Gregg Brigade
00:21:33buying in the woods behind are stacked arms we underwent a heavy shelling a good many men being wounded seminar company a man belong to Company E Line close to me how does arm shattered Captain has school out in front of us sitting with his back to the enemy leaning against a sapling the signs of a man's arm quietly Munch to Cracker
00:21:58send later began to come mixed with the shells rifle balls faster and faster they came and there was quite a stir on our right where we could see men jumping up and seizing their gun some beginning to fire
00:22:12we spring to the stacks but our officers shouted let the guns alone lie down those are our men to the front
00:22:21wish clean the bullets faster than ever the commotion on our right increased and far up to the right we could see our men jumping up and seizing their guns many were firing and loading as fast as they could others stood your Resolute many officers in front trying to keep the men from firing
00:22:40we could stand it no longer we all rows in the officers than ordered us to take arms we know sooner had them in hand and we saw men in front some cried their Yankees and begin firing other Shadow know their own men don't shoot then came the cry forward my old schoolmate sergeant P transom spring forward on the left leading the charge down the slope we went firing and driving whoever they were so we did not drive far being halted in order back always have a son saying they were Yankees I tell you I saw their blue clothes other said couldn't be Yankees there's a North Carolina Brigade out front been there all the time Sergeant Matthew says while I hope they're not our men for I've killed one he was very pale and plainly in great trouble less you killed one of our own men 4 of The Killing he was positive then to know a few men were sent down to the front to look at the day
00:23:40they seem return with the good news that it was the enemy Mackey's man they found dead just where he had said
00:23:48on the right the trouble have been worse the enemy through a gap between two brigades in our front head Advanced on a line oblique to ours striking are right first which received the brunt of the meeting
00:24:02when they first Advanced General Greg being quite certain it was the first line of battle falling back road in front of his men commanding them to cease firing and thereby he lost his life for the enemy came quickly upon him and he was shot from this horse receiving a wound from which he died how it was that the line which was in our front got out of position exposing us to surprise I don't think was ever clearly explained
00:24:32during the battle just after hour charge while we were down in the woods in a state of considerable excitement a rabbit jumped up and ran here and there among the man seemingly frightened out of its wits and no wonder for an all directions at heard the rattle of small arms and the Roar of artillery and bursting of shells
00:24:55and it's imagination no doubt it was the last Grant hunt of the world a very judgement day
00:25:01finally the poor creature jumped up on a stump just in front of the line and squatted there the most conspicuous position that could possibly have found
00:25:10Corporal Barry Benson First South Carolina Gregg's Brigade
00:25:28we shared that rather lengthy quote from that Rebel Soldier because it really shows the confusion that rained in maxcy Gregg Brigade as the federals inadvertently exploded that Gap in the Confederate front line in scramble through the tangle at the swamp and then broke through on to the hilly dry ground Beyond as you could tell from what we just read Greg and his South Carolinians were completely surprised when the pennsylvanians burst upon them I sweat Rebel Soldier Corporal Benson indicated Greg and his men had supposed to cells to be in the second rank of the Confederate line and so it seems the soldiers to their front where their own man falling back Benson by the way I survived this chaotic action unharmed but was wounded in 1863 and then was captured at Spotsylvania in 1864
00:26:22how did the Union prison camp at Elmira New York he escaped by tunneling out in October 18th 64 and somehow made his way back south where he rejoined his serving until Appomattox at any rate maxcy Gregg he was partially deaf may not have fully understood the orders which place is Brigade where it was because he apparently never realized that he had been positioned directly behind the hole in the Confederate Frontline to cover that Gap and so when needs men came boiling out of the swampy ground Greg tried to stop his troops from shooting it was their own man he told them but of course it wasn't fellow Confederates it was the enemy and one of the advancing Yankee soldiers trained his musket on Greg who was a conspicuous Target on his horse the bullet ripped into Greg side severing his spine he died two days later
00:27:21the disorganized but surging mass of Sinclair's in magnetons Man Shattered Greg South Carolina Brigade and turned north and south beginning to attack the right flank of Lane Spring and starting to roll up the left of archers Brigade virtually clap sing it Mead realized he had made a breakthrough but he needed reinforcements to sustain his efforts on Meats right is supporting attack by John Gibbons division had also bog down while needs men it's printed for the cover of the word but it's to their front and hit the hole in the Confederate line Givens troops had no coverage protector advance to the railroad in bankment & Beyond where Lanes well-protected Rebels weight among the trees
00:28:07Gibbon attacked with Taylor's Brigade and then Littles but both were stopped by Fierce Confederate artillery in musketry and driven back given then ordered Roots Brigade cross the tracks and over the deadly open ground troops were soon slowed to a crawl by the devastating Rebel fire Lieutenant after small and Aid to Colonel root saw a soldier trying to advance Into the Storm of enemy fire however the man couldn't make his leg support him as he fell to his knees and strove in vain to rise the expression on his face betrayed the intensity of his inner struggle small try to shame him into moving by shouting coward
00:28:51the man screamed back you lie but still couldn't force himself to his feet and go forward
00:28:59after the attack he came too small and tears and said I couldn't go on but I'm not a coward
00:29:07small Touch by the soldiers sincerity asked his forgiveness
00:29:13meanwhile I need Sprint the tide has shifted increasingly disorganized and still unsupported the pennsylvanians were running out of steam Justice Lee found themselves to sailed on three sides by counter-attacking Confederates Rebel troops from early's and tolliver's divisions came rushing through the woods to reach the spot of the federal breakthrough seen that's the hard pressed remaining regiments of lanes and archers brigades rallied and manage to form new lines facing the now faltering Yankees
00:29:47at the same time I'm given strine rude and fellow Brigade Commander Taylor Road up and down the lines urging the men forward into the Furious Confederate fire somehow the officers manage to keep the troops moving when the federals were close enough that they caught sight of Rebel soldiers up ahead amongst the trees a shout Rose Among the man they leaped over ditches and surged over the railroad embankment to charge into the woods and close with the Enemy they hit Lance Confederates and in a violent struggle that was sometimes hand-to-hand the Yankees initially prevailed and even managed to take a couple of hundred prisoners but then the federal attack here like needs a salt began to break down and Reese team Andrew road back to Gibbon to ask for help and further orders
00:30:40given those simply told him to press on
00:30:43meanwhile earliest Confederate troops were continuing their Furious Counterattack against meets breakthrough realizing the opportunity that was quickly slipping away meet had sent repeated messages asking for reinforcements then the outrage General had finally written back himself looking for support at least 20,000 Federal soldiers did Idol nearby none were ordered to support the increasingly desperate attackers as the rebel brigades swarm down upon them perhaps Franklin was not sufficiently in touch with the oven flow the fighting to know that meeting given needed support
00:31:22perhaps he was simply on willing to commit more men to what he had already decided was to be simply a limited effort by Just One Division
00:31:31whatever the case needs man then Gibbons began to yield ground and soon were driven back over the railroad tracks and out onto the open ground of the flood plain advancing Confederates was one of jupiler Lee's for Gades led by Colonel Robert Hope hopes men raced after the retreating Federal's and gain the railroad cut Captain James you recall that it was not empty of Yankees saying I ran up in front of my men and jumped into the cut landing on a big Captain's head ramming it down in the mud the men piled in after us a detail of three boys was made to show the prisoners where to go and they were ordered to get out quick to give us room
00:32:15as the Federalist gave up their hard-earned gains and is a counter-attacking Confederates stabilize their lines George Meade still in a rage encounter John Reynolds and storm my God General Reynolds did they think my division could we please and tire Army
00:32:34the butcher's bill for both sides at Prospect Hill showed how fears the few hours of fighting have been on this part of the battlefield with Stonewall Jackson losing 3398 man while Franklin's left Grand Division and attached units suffered 5333 casualties in the repulses of Maiden Gibbon had put Franklin in a defensive-minded mood when Burnside sent his staff officer later that afternoon to ascertain Franklin situation and give him orders to renew his assault Franklin responded by saying that he thought he would need all of his strength just to maintain his present position
00:33:18many of Franklin's officers wear by then out early discouraged many had believed the assault to be hopeless from the outset but then they had actually puncture the Confederate line I've been on the verge of a breakthrough only to watch is the opportunity then Slipped Away along with thousands of lives
00:33:39Many were furious with Franklin for not supporting me to tack when it Pierce The Rebel line Franklin for his part had lost all faith in Burnside and ignore the Army commanders subsequent order telling him to send his men back into the attack and so doing he earned burnside's wrath but avoided the wholesale Slaughter that was at that moment being visited upon the hapless minute. Sumner's command up at the foot of Murray's Heights outside Fredericksburg
00:34:20the battle has raged fiercely today the rebels occupy and advantageous position our troops are on an open plane while they occupy a ridge and our front and are sheltered by dense woods but about 1:30 p.m. one part of the line made a forward movement our division as usual taking the advanced this was a fearful Movement we left the field Every Witch Way Advanced take restraining with are dead and wounded we drove the rebels from their physician in the railroad cut at the edge of the woods on entering the woods are lying must run into Confusion by misunderstanding of orders
00:35:02but are men pushed on boldly and reach the summit of the Hill
00:35:06during the confusion I received a shot through both legs completely disabling me our men were soon after attacked by the enemy in heavy force and being being by the great Slaughter in our ranks while I'm dancing and holy without support they were driven back over me and disorder
00:35:26all that we gained it so fearful of cost is lost
00:35:31I'm still lying where I fell the rebels have Advance the line over me so that I am a prisoner I am now exposed to the fire of our artillery which is fearfully destructive death has been doing fearful work today
00:35:48Sergeant Jacob heffelfinger 7th Pennsylvania reserves megatons Brigade
00:36:02that means it's time for this episodes book recommendation and I recommendation this time is the Fredericksburg campaign decision on the Rappahannock edited by Gary W Gallagher this book is a collection of 7 essays by Leading Civil War historians about various aspects of the Fredericksburg campaign and this is one of a series of these books with essays about different battles that Gallagher has edited and each one is really top-notch so this one about Fredericksburg isn't the first and won't be the last that we recommend on the podcast at the podcast website which is ww.w W. Civil War podcast. O RG also with the website you can sign up to become a member of the straw foot Brigade and support the podcast financially each month as well as get access to over 60
00:37:02five members episodes and we want to thank Jesse Sam and Steve for joining the ranks of this traffic Brigade recently and a big thank you to enter Brooks for his gift thanks guys thanks guys and thanks to each of you for listening to this episode of the Civil War 1861 to 1865 History Podcast Tracy and I do hope you'll join us again next time as we shift our Focus to the northern portion of the battlefield at Fredericksburg and talk about the fearful Slaughter of the federal attackers in front of Maurice Heights but until then take care
00:38:07also the website you can sign up to become a member of the straw that Brigade and support the podcast financially each month so that we can replace books that are chewed up by certain mischievous golden retriever who shall remain nameless

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