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MILITARY EVENTS OF 1863—THE REBEL DEFEAT AT GETTYS
BURG-FALL OF VICKSBURG AND PORT HUDSON.
The military events of 1863, though of very great importance, are much less closely connected with the direct action of the President than those which occurred in 1862 ; we shall not attempt, therefore, to narrate them as much in detail. When General Burnside succeeded General McClellan iu comniand of the Army of the Potomac, on the 7th of November, 1862, that army was at Warrenton, the rebel forces falling back before it towards Richmond. Deeming it impossible to force the enemy to a decisive battle, and unsafe to follow him to Richmond on a line which must make it very difficult to keep up his communications, General Burnside, on the 15th, turned his army towards Fredericksburg-marching on the north bank of the Rappabannock, intending to cross the river, take possession of Fredericksburg, and march upon Richmond from that point. The advance division, under General Sumner, arrived opposite Fredericksburg on the 19th ; but a pontoon train, which had been ordered and was expected to be there at the same time, had not come—so that crossing at the moment was impossible. The delay that thus became unavoidable, enabled General Lee to bring up a strong force from the rebel army, and possess himself of the heights of Fredericksburg. On the night of the 10th of December, General Burnside threw a bridge of pontoons across the river, and the next day constructed four bridges, under cover of a terrific bombardment of the town. On the 11th and 12th his army was crossed over, and on the 13th attacked the enemy-General Sumner commanding in front, and General Franklin having command of a powerful flanking movement against the rebel right. The rebels, however, were too strongly posted to be dislodged. Our forces suffered severely, and were unable to advance. On the night of the 15th, they were therefore withdrawn to the opposite bank of the river. Our losses in this engagement were 1,138 killed, 9,105 wounded, 2,078 missing; total, 12,321.
The army remained quiet until the 20th of January, when General Burnside again issued orders for an advance, intending to cross the river some six or eight miles above Fredericksburg, and make a flank attack upon the left wing of the rebel army. The whole army was moved to the place of crossing early in the morning, but a heavy storm on the preceding night bad so damaged the roads as to make it impossible to bring up artillery and pontoons with the promptness essential to success. On the 24th, General Burnside was relieved from command of the Army of the Potomac, and General Hooker appointed in his place. Three months were passed in inaction, the season forbidding any movement; but on the 27th of April, General Hooker pushed three divisions of his army to Kelley's Ford, twenty-five miles above Fredericksburg, and by the 30th had crossed the river, and turning south had reached Chancellorsville-five or six miles southwest of that town. A strong cavalry force, under General Stoneman, had been sent to cut the railroad in the rear of the rebel army, so as to prevent their receiving re-enforcements from Richmond,General Hooker's design being to attack the enemy in flank and rear. The other divisions of his army had crossed and joined his main force at Chancellorsville, General Sedgwick, with one division only, being left opposite Fredericksburg. On the 2d of May, the left wing of the rebel army, under General Jackson, attacked our right, and gained a decided advantage of position, which was recovered, however, before
the day closed. The action was renewed next day, and the advantage remained with the enemy. General Sedgwick, meantime, had crossed the river and occupied the heights of Fredericksburg, but was driven from them and compelled to retreat on the night of the 4th. On the morning of the 5th a heavy rainstorm set in, and in the night of that day General Hooker withdrew his army to the north bank of the Rappahannock, having lost not far from 18,000 in the move ment.
Both armies remained inactive until the 9th of June, when it was discovered that the rebel forces under Lee were leaving their position near Fredericksburg and moving northwest, through the valley of the Shenandoah. On the 13th the rebel General Ewell, with a heavy force, attacked our advance post of seven thousand men at Winchester under General Milroy, and not only compelled him to retreat but pursued bim so closely as to convert his retreat into a rout: and on the 14th of June the rebel army began to cross the Potomac and advanced upon Hagerstown, Maryland, with the evident purpose of invading Pennsylvania. The movement created the most intense excitement throughout the country. President Lin. coln issued a proclamation calling for 100,000 militia from the States most directly menaced, to serve for six months, and New York was summoned to send 20,000 also. On the 27th the main body of the rebel army crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, and General Lee took up his head-quarters at Hagerstown.
Meantime, as soon as the movement of the rebel forces from Fredericksburg was discovered, our army had broken up its encampment and marched northward, on a line nearly parallel with that of the enemy, and on the 27th, the same day that the rebels reached Hagerstown, the head-quarters of our army were at Frederick City-our whole force being thus interposed between the rebels and both Baltimore and Washington, and prepared to follow them into Pennsylvania. On that day General Hooker was relieved from command of the army, which was conferred upon General Meade, who at once ordered an advance into Pennsylvania in the general direction of Harrisburg—towards which the enemy was rapidly advancing in force. On the 1st of July our advanced corps, the First and Eleventh, under Generals Reynolds and Howard, came in contact with the enemy, strongly posted near the town of Gettysburg, and attacking at once, fought an indecisive battle; the enemy being so far superior in numbers as to compel General Howard, who was in command at the time, to fall back to Cemetery Hill and wait for re-enforcements. During the night all the corps of our army were concentrated and the next day posted around that point. The Eleventh Corps retained its position on the Cemetery ridge: the First Corps was on the right of the Eleventh, on a knoll, connecting with the ridge extending to the south and east, on which the Second Corps was placed. The right of the Twelfth
Corps rested on a small stream. The Second and Third · Corps were posted on the left of the Eleventh, on the pro
longation of Cemetery ridge. The Fifth was held in reserve until the arrival of the Sixth, at 2 P. M. on the 2d, after a march of thirty-two miles in seventeen hours, when the Fifth was ordered to the extreme left and the Sixth placed in reserve.
At about 3 o'clock the battle was opened by a tremendous onset of the enemy, whose troops were massed along a ridge a mile or so in our front, upon the Third Corps, which formed our extreme left and which met the shock with heroic firmness, until it was supported by the Third and Fifth. General Sickles, who commanded the Third Corps, was severely wounded early in the action, and General Birney, who succeeded to the command, though urged to fall back, was enabled, by the help of the First and Sixth Corps, to hold his
ground, and at about sunset the enemy retired in confusion. Another assault was made on our left during the evening, which was also repulsed. On the morning of the 3d a spirited assault was made upon the right of our line, but without success; and at 1 P. M. the enemy opened an artillery fire upon our centre and left from one hundred and twenty-five guns, which continued for over two hours, without reply from our side, when it was followed by a heavy assault of infantry, directed mainly against the Second Corps, and repelled with firmness and success by that Corps, supported by Doubleday's Division and Stannard's Brigade of the First Corps. This terminated the battle. On the morning of the 4th a reconnoissance showed that the enemy had withdrawn his left flank, maintaining his position in front of our left, with the apparent purpose of forming a new line of attack; but the next morning it was ascertained that he was in full retreat. The Sixth Corps, with all disposable cavalry, were at once sent in pursuit; but ascertaining that the enemy had availed himself of very strong passes which could be held by a small force, General Meade determined to pursue by a flank movement, and after burying the dead and succoring the wounded, the whole army was put in motion for the Potomac. On the 12th it arrived in front of the enemy strongly posted on the heights, in advance of Williamsport. The next day was devoted to an examination of the position; but on advancing for an attack on the 14th, it was discovered that the enemy had succeeded in crossing by the bridge at Falling Waters and the ford at Williamsport. The pursuit was continued still further, but the enomy, though greatly harassed and subjected to severe losses, succeeding in gaining the line of the Rapidan, and our forces again occupied their old position on the Rappahannock.
On the morning of the 4th of July, the day celebrated throughout the country as the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the President issued the following :