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1862.

Lieut.-Col. William F. Fox, in his book of statistical

tables of losses during the war, selects three hundred regiments as being what he esteems “fighting regiments." He says that this number

Includes every regiment in the Union armies whicho lost over one hundred and thirty in killed and died of wounds during the war, together with a few whose losses were somewhat smaller, but whose percentage of killed entitles them to a place in the list.

His argument for this arbitrary designation is

That in the long run, active service brings its many scars. Where the musketry was the hottest, the dead lay thickest; and there is no better way to find the fighting regiments than to follow up the bloody trail which marked the brave advance.

Notwithstanding the rhetorical varnish with which he has polished his statement, it still remains a piece of sophistical argument. It is a military axiom, or ought to be, that war should be carried on to do the greatest possible injury to the enemy with the least possible danger to one's self. A man must have little appreciation of the qualifications necessary to constitute a "fighting regiment" to select three hundred out of the long list of regiments that did honorable service, because they had the misfortune to lose more than one hundred and twenty-nine men killed and died of wounds.

Two regiments standing side by side may show equal valor, yet meet with very unequal losses. Indeed, there were instances during the war where regiments showing little valor, on particular occasions, suffered most in their losses.

We refer to this matter, which is not very important, perhaps, for the reason that among his three hundred fighting regiments he selects three out of the four that composed Hartsuff's brigade, omitting the fourth one because it did not come up to his standard. It is fair to say that three better fighting regiments did not exist than the Ninth New York, the Eleventh Pennsylvania, and the Twelfth Massachusetts. It is also fair to say that the Thirteenth, which is the one omitted from Hartsuff's brigade, shared with the others their battles, their privations, and their hardships; but a person reading Colonel

Dec. 15.

1862.

Fox's list might reasonably infer, if he gave the statement

any consideration at all, that some disqualification existed to prevent the Thirteenth from being classed with its associates. Our number killed was one hundred and twenty-two, eight short of the number required to be in the list of " fighting regiments.”

Remained quiet until night, when the brigade received Monday,

an order to detail two hundred and fifty men, in two parties, for picket duty. The detail was made from the

Eleventh Pennsylvania and the Thirteenth Massachusetts, and was ordered to relieve the sharpshooters, that were formed a mile to the left. As the firing between the pickets ceased, the men one by one dropped off to sleep.

About 2 o'clock this morning we were awakened by a Tuesday, cavalryman who notified us that the rest of the army Dec. 16.

had crossed the river, and that we must hasten to

the bridge as quickly as possible. The work of withdrawing the troops had been conducted so quietly that this was the first intimation we received of what had been going on. The knowledge that we were in a very dangerous position lent an activity to our muscles they rarely felt on approaching an enemy. Fortunately for the success of our movements a strong wind was blowing toward the north.

Though close to the river we were two miles from the bridge, and in order to reach it we had to make a detour that took us within a hundred rods of the rebel pickets. A good deal of caution was therefore required to prevent the movement from being discovered.

At the bridge we found General Franklin waiting to see the last of the pickets safely across.

The pontoon bridge was immediately removed, and within half an hour the rebel cavalry were at the banks of the river where the bridge had been fastened.

We marched two or three miles and then went into camp with the brigade. Having pitched tents and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, the men gathered round the fires to cook their coffee and resume discussion of the battle and their commanders ; which, by the way, was somewhat severe. Whatever criticisms may have

1862. been made on Burnside on account of the foolishness of

this battle, we were ready to acknowledge that he and his officers deserved credit for the skill shown in getting his troops back across the river without further loss.

The following extract from Palfrey's story of Fredericksburg states so accurately our own experience that we venture to quote it:

Those who have been in battle know how much and how little they saw and heard. They remember how the smoke and the woods and the inequalities of ground limited their vision when they had leisure to look about them, and how every faculty was absorbed in their work when they were actively engaged; how the deafening noise made it almost impossible to hear orders; what ghastly sights they saw as men and horses near them were torn with shell; how peacefully the men sank to rest whom the more merciful rifle-bullet reached in a vital spot; how some wounded men shrieked and others lay quiet; how awful was the sound of the projectiles when they were near hostile batteries; how incessant was the sing. ing and whistling of the balls from rifles and muskets; how little they commonly knew of what was going on a hundred yards to their right or left. Orderly advances of bodies of men may be easily described and easily imagined, but pictures of real fighting are and must be imperfect. Participants in real fighting know how limited and fragmentary and confused are their recollections of work after it became hot. The larger the force engaged, the more impossible it is to give an accurate presentation of its experiences. We can follow the charge of the six hundred at Balaklava, from which less than one in three came back unharmed, better than we can follow the advance of Hancock's five thousand at Fredericksburg, from which not quite three in five came back unharmed. And llancock's advance was only one of many. “ Six times,” says Lee,“ did the enemy, notwithstanding the havoc caused by our batteries, press on with great determination to within one hundred yards of the foot of the hill, but here encountering the deadly fire of our infantry, his columns were broken, and fed in confusion to the town.”

There was a strong impression among the men of the Thirteenth that General Franklin had not given that cordial support to General Burnside that became a general who was determined to win. As we retreated to the north bank of the river, crestfallen and disgusted, very emphatic expressions of condemnation were made on his apparent lack of sympathy with Burnside's movement. The following is the order sent to General Franklin about which there has been so much criticism :

1862.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Dec. 13, 1862, 5.55 P.M. Major-General FRANKLIN, Commanding Left Grand Division, Army of the

Potomac : General Hardie will carry this despatch to you, and remain with you during the day. The general commanding directs that you keep your whole command in position for a rapid movement down the old Richmond road, and you will send out at once a division, at least, to pass below Smithfield, to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's on this side of the Massaponax, taking care to keep it well supported and its line of retreat open. He has ordered another column of a division or more to be moved from General Sumner's command up the plank-road, to its intersection with the telegraph road, where they will divide, with a view to seizing the heights on both of those roads. Holding those two heights, with the heights near Captain Hamilton's, will, he hopes, compel the enemy to evacuate the whole ridge between these points. I make these moves by columns distant from each other, with a view of avoiding the possibility of a collision of our own forces, which might occur in a general movement during the fog. Two of General Hooker's divisions are in your rear, at the bridges, and will remain there as supports.

Copies of instructions given to Generals Sumner and Hooker will be forwarded to you by an orderly very soon.

You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once, as soon as the fog lifts. The watchword, which, if possible, should be given to every company, will be “Scots.” I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JNO. G. PARKE,

Chief of Staff

General Franklin says that in the state of facts existing when it was received, “General Burnside's order, though incongruous and contradictory on its face, admitted of but one interpretation ; viz., that he intended to make an armed observation from the left to ascertain the strength of the enemy, an interpretation also given to it by both of my corps commanders.”

About 9 A.M. we marched twelve miles to Fletcher's Friday,

Chapel, situated on the road to the Potomac River, and went into camp on land of Mr. Bowie, where we stayed

until January 20. The camp was laid out with the usual regard to company streets, but instead of relying upon tents for protection, houses were built in accordance with the ingenuity and fancy of the occupants. Some

Dec. 19.

1862.

were one story and others two stories in height, while

others were mere “dug-outs.” The shelter tent supplied the roof.

In building huts, the following method was generally pursued : The work was begun by excavating about two feet of earth and laying a floor of trimmed cedar poles, lining the underground walls with matched green logs of cedar and pine, continuing the walls about two feet above the ground. On this frame was pitched the tent, the size of the hut depending on the number of occupants; as each man contributed one piece of tent, it was easy to distinguish the number of tenants by looking at the roof. The earth that was removed was used to bank up the outside of the walls. In each hut was built a fireplace, around which we could sit or cook. The chimney was made of green sticks, cob-house style, plastered inside with mud-mortar. In some instances barrels or cracker-boxes, lined with red clay, were used as chimneys. It will be seen by this that a fair degree of comfort was attained, though here and there a chimney smoked with exasperating annoyance to the occupants.

This camp presented a striking contrast to our other camps this winter, where huge log-fires were built in every company street, around which we gathered for warmth. Now the streets were almost deserted, though it frequently happened as you turned out for rollcall in the morning, that your sluggish nature would be awakened into activity by a snowball, just to remind you of school days.

Details were made for guard, for chopping wood, and to assist in building corduroy roads, while picket duty and drilling came in for their share of consideration.

Belle Plain Landing was three miles away, and details were often made to go to that place for supplies. Apples could be bought there, three for twenty-five cents. How many apples could you buy at this price on the munificent salary of thirteen dollars per month? was the question that excited the mathematicians of the regiment.

EXECUTIVE MANSION,

WASHINGTON, December 22, 1862. TO THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC:

I have just read your Commanding General's preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an

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