Thursday, December 20, 2012

1862 December 21 across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg

[from the diary of Samuel S. Johnson, of the 1st Massachusetts Independent Light Battery]

                                Dec 21st

     Unlike the two preceeding ones, these two
past weeks have been remarkably active, and
eventful, until the 10th however, every thing was
very quiet;  on that day, we received the orders
to march to attack G. Early on the morning
of the 11th, we left our encampment at Belle
Plain.  Oh, wasn’t it cold! (The rebs having refused
to comply with Gen Burnside’s summons to
surrender, the city of  F. to our forces.) over one
hundred peices of artillery opened simultaneously
on the ill fated city, and from day light
until dark a most furious bombardment was
kept up.  Arrived at the banks of the
Rappahannock river, at three P. M. where
we encamped for the night, after making
a vain attempt to cross the river.  Early
the next morning we were again turned out,

hitched up, and at 7. A. M we crossed the
river at Franklin’s crossing on a pontoon bridge,
and went into position about 2000 yds in front
of the rebel lines.  The day has been very misty,
about three P. M, the mist began to disappear raise left.
At this time, the 1st N. J. Brigade was moving
through the battery in column by division,
closed in mass: the rebs seeing this movement,
opened on us, a heavy and rapid fire from
their artillery;  to this fire the 1st N. J. and 1st
N. Y. batteries replied vigorously, and until dark
a severe cannonading was kept up, all along
our lines, our guns being short range, we retired.
Early the next morning all our batteries right
and left opened, and to our fire the rebs replied
vigorously: until 11. A. M a most terrible action
ensued; we were repulsed at every point, at
this time both sides, as if by mutual consent
ceased fireing, and until two P. M. all was
very quiet.  At 12. M. we were sent to take the
position occupied by an Ohio battery during
the forenoon, but who were unable to stand
their ground.  Shortly after going into position,
a reb battery came into position exactly
opposite to us, upon which we trailled our
guns, and opened a very rapid and heavy
fire, and which was so accurate that the
rebs did not return a single shot.  we
entirely demolished this battery.  Our battery

opening when it did proved a signal for our entire
line, and from two P. M. until four a [word lined through] terrible
fight ensued, the cannonading was perfectly
deafening,  at four the rebs opened on us a cross
fire from a 20 pdr. gun, their first shot striking
one of our limber wheels, breaking it in pieces,
cutting off a serg’ts leg, and seriously wounding one
other man in the arm.  Night coming on, the
conflict ceased, and found our army severely
whipped;  we were repulsed in every undertaking,
especially on the right was our loss severe;
on the left we were more successful, and but
for the treachery of Gen Frankling, a most
decisive victory was gained would have been
gained.  The next two days we lay in position,
but nothing of a serious nature took place.
On the night of the 15th Burnside having
called a council of war. who deemed it unad-
visable to attack the rebs again; we  re crossed
the river and returned to our respective camps.
Our loss has been from eight to twelve
thousand.  With one or two exception’s, the
weather has been mild and pleasant.

[transcript by Mary Roy Dawson Edwards]

MSS 8493

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