Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 1862: Burnside's pontoons fail to arrive

Two federal pontoons on their transportation carriages.
Major General Ambrose Burnside had managed to do something very few men ever did: he had stolen a march on Robert E. Lee and got to Fredericksburg before Lee could move most of his army there to meet him. There was just one small problem: the pontoons that Burnside needed to get his men over the Rappahannock River were late. Burnside and his army were stuck on the north bank of the river, across from Fredericksburg. Time was running out, as Lee hurried the rest of his army forward to block the Union advance.

November 22, 1862-4.30 p.m.

GENERAL: The sergeant sent out last night to meet the pontoon train has just returned. He was unable to communicate with the train until this morning. He brings the inclosed note from the officer commanding it, which I forward, hoping it will reach you while at headquarters.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


Lieutenant-Colonel and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.


AQUIA CREEK, November 22, 1862.


Commanding Army of the Potomac:

I have found General Woodbury here. He says the pontoon train left Washington last Wednesday; that it had orders to come up as rapidly as possible. It has 20 pontoons on the train, and wagons to carry 20 more, which are at Belle Plain. I sent out from the latter place to turn in the empty pontoon wagons. I ordered Major Magruder, at Belle Plain, to land his wagons, and load up his pontoons. He has about 50 pontoons, and some 26 wagons. The quartermaster will furnish teams; common wagons cannot carry pontoons. I see no way of having enough at Fredericksburg before to-morrow evening.


Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief Quartermaster.

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