The passage of troops had become a familiar story to the citizens of the Monumental city. It was the thunder of Burnside's guns at Fredericksburg that welcomed us to the army of the east. The same sun that saw us bivouac beneath the dome of the Capitol, shone down upon the Army of the Potomac, lying once again beaten and dispirited, on the plains of Falmouth.
"Hurry up, Dutch!" drawled a melancholy voice. "Don't you know when you're in a stick-up? Reverse your mules and climb out of the cart." It is due to the breadth of Hondo Bill's demerit and the largeness of his achievements to state that the holding up of the Fredericksburg mail was not perpetrated by way of an exploit.
For two terrible days and nights Betty Winter saw the endless line of ambulances creep from the field of Fredericksburg. Some of these men lay on the frozen ground for forty-eight hours before relief came. Many of the wounded might have lived but for the frightful exposure to cold which followed the battle. They died in hundreds.
November of the bloody year 1863 had come; and it seemed not unreasonable to anticipate that a twelvemonth, marked by such incessant fighting at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Salem Church, Winchester, Gettysburg, Front Royal, Bristoe, and along the Rappahannock, would now terminate in peace, permitting the combatants on both sides, worn out by their arduous work, to go into winter-quarters, and recuperate their energies for the operations of the ensuing spring.
In this movement the centre and left broke camp while Sumner's Grand Division remained to take care of the enemy's right at Fredericksburg. A terrible storm ended the movement almost before it was begun, and we remained comfortable in camp. Shortly after this Burnside resigned, and Gen. Joseph Hooker was appointed Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker had been named "Fighting Joe Hooker."
"When the train from the west on the Central Railroad reached Frederick's Hall, a station fifty miles from this, it was met by a rumor that the Yankee cavalry had made another raid from Fredericksburg, and had possession of the track at Anderson Turnout, ten miles below Beaver Dam, and thirty miles from Richmond.
The Copperheads are getting furious, and want to recognize the Southern Confederacy. "This is a pretty time to talk of recognizing such ," said a Pennsylvania officer in hospital to me to-day, "after what has transpired the last three years." After first Fredericksburg I felt discouraged myself, and doubted whether our rulers could carry on the war. But that has pass'd away.
There were indications in the forenoon of Saturday, the 7th, that Lee was withdrawing his army. A reconnoissance in force made it more apparent. Orders were issued for the removal of the wounded to Fredericksburg. At two o'clock in the afternoon the Ninth Corps was on the march to Spottsylvania. The first step towards Richmond had been successfully taken.
At the same time the Second Corps, under General Couch, was preparing to cross at United States Ford, a few miles distant; and General Sedgwick, commanding the detached force at Fredericksburg, having crossed and threatened Lee, in obedience to orders, now began passing back to the northern bank again, in order to march up and join the main body.
That night the Union army laid its pontoon bridges again across the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg and began to cross in great force. Hooker, like Burnside four months before, was favored by thick fogs, but he met with practically no resistance. At dawn a strong force under Sedgwick was across at Deep Run, and another as strong had made the passage at Kelly's Ford.