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January 22, 1863: Attack Abandoned

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Diary Entry:
Day before yesterday a great many troops were moving to the right. An attack was to be made there, but at night a heavy rain set in which continued until to day.  so much rain has fallen and the roads have become so bad that the attack has had to be abandoned. The troops have been moving back to their old position in front of Fredericksburg. I am very thankful that we have been permitted to remain in Camp. There is a report afloat that Gen. Burnside has lost confidence in our Corps, that he says we are completely demoralized. On the other hand the Corps has but little confidence in him, yet if taken into battle it will not disgrace its old name and fame.

I sincerely hope that he may prove successful in the next attempt. If he is, confidence in him will be restored.

See the scanned diary pages 46 and 47.

More Information:
General Burnside planned to launch another attack on General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in late December. The rumor Cyrus referred to about Burnside losing confidence in the troops most likely started after Brig. Generals John Newton and John Cochrane traveled to Washington, D.C. in early January, and spoke with Secretary of War Seward and President Lincoln about their concerns relating to Burnside’s ability to successfully lead the Army of the Potomac. After that meeting, Lincoln met with General Burnside and told him that two of his officers had expressed concerns for Burnside’s plans for a winter attack and the deteriorating condition of the Army. Burnside suggested those officers be court-marshaled, but felt that if Lincoln agreed with them, perhaps he should resign from his position. Burnside returned to Fredericksburg still planning a winter campaign, albeit it a scaled-down one.

The new battle plan was for the troops to cross the Rappahannock upstream from the Confederates on January 20 and circle behind them, thus surprising them. Up until that point, January had been fairly mild, but a Nor’Easter moved up the coast January 20 and 21, 1863. Rain fell for over 30 hours of rain, dropping over 3 inches of rain in Washington, D.C. over those two days. Artillery and cavalry forces soon became so swamped in the mud that  Burnside ordered the troops back to their quarters, ending the campaign before it ever really began.

Winter Campaigning. The Army of the Potomac on the Move
Drawn by Alfred Waud. January 21, 1863
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Sources: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “The Mud March Begins” on the Massachusetts 150 Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War website, The Civil War by Bruce Catton, and The History of the First Regiment, Delaware Volunteers by William P. Seville

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