After it became clear the Union Army was not going to chase Lee anymore, his forces went into encampment. Hill's Division were encamped around the Bunker Hill area. During the next few weeks Lee would officially promote Longstreet and Jackson to Lieutenant General's and divide his army into two corps. It was also made clear in Lee's communication to President Davis, that his next choice for corps commander was AP Hill. Also during this period Jim Lane was promoted to general and officially given command of the North Carolina brigade, formerly led by the fallen Branch. Brockenbrough would continue to lead Field's Virginian's temporarily, replacing Field who had been wounded at Second Manassas. Col Bolling Holt was given official command of the 35th Georgia, releasing Thomas from his regimental duties to concentrate on his command of the entire brigade.

James Lane

courtesy General Officers of the Civil War

With the Union Army making no aggressive moves in the area, the Confederate Army took the opportunity to rest and rebuild its forces. New recruits joined, limited equipment was brought in, and life returned to a camp life routine. Within 4 weeks, the Hill Division had doubled in size to 9400 men. In the latter part of October, Hill's men moved to Berryville, and began destroying the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. When completed, they had destroyed nearly twenty miles of track, coming within 4 miles of Harper's Ferry, which Union forces had again occupied. On the 7th of November, the first snow of the year blanketed Hill's men, who on the 9th moved to near Castleman's Ferry, on the road to Snicker's Gap. As snow fell on the barefoot Confederates, miles away Lincoln was making changes in the command structure of his army again. Disgusted that McClellan could organize an Army like no other, but didn't seemed to know how to use it, Lincoln replaced him with General Ambrose Everett Burnside on October 10th.

Ambrose Burnside

courtesy General Officers of the Civil War

Burnside had his Army at Warrenton, Longstreet was in Culpeper, and Jackson's men were in the Shenandoah Valley. Burnside formulated a plan by which if he could beat Lee to Fredericksburg and cross the river, he would command the heights over the town and have a strong hold into southern territory, with Richmond his ultimate goal. His Army set out secretly and had a day and half head start before Lee realized what was happening. He quickly responded, putting Longstreet enroute to Fredericksburg. A few days later, on the 22nd of November, Jackson put his command in motion. Watching the Hill's troops pass through Winchester, one young girl wrote in her diary "They were very destitute, many without shoes, and all without overcoats or gloves, although the weather is freezing. Their poor hands look so red and cold holding their muskets in the biting wind" (Cornelia McDonald - A Diary With Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life - Nashville 1934 )

By now, Hill's Division had grown to over 11,000 troops. For over a week, for 12 hours a day, Hill's men would march through the icy hills. Blood stains marked the way for troops to follow, as the rock hard and sharp ice sliced open bare feet. On December 3rd, after marching 175 miles in horrible weather, Jackson's men joined Lee and Longstreet at Fredericksburg. During the next two days, four more inches of snow fell on the opposing forces.

Burnside had beaten Lee Fredericksburg all right, but his pontoons had not arrived with his Army. For a week the two armies stared across the Rappahannock river at one another, while Lee packed his army into position on the heights Burnside had hoped to secure before Lee arrived. On the eleventh, construction of the pontoon bridges began. Sniper fire from Barksdale's Mississippian's inside Fredericksburg made putting the pontoon's across the river a bloody process, and a two hour, 150 gun Union artillery fire was unable to push the Confederate sniper's out. By the afternoon of December eleventh, Union forces began crossing the river on pontoon boats, finally chasing Barksdale and his men out after dusk. On the twelfth Union forces poured into the town, ravaging and looting the little Southern town. To their front rested the entire Army of Northern Virginia, Longstreet commanding the Marye's Heights and Jackson's forces to the left. On the Southern right flank, Hill had made a mistake. Lining his forces up left to right, Hill had placed Pender, Lane and Archer. Between Lane and Archer, was a 200 yard wide track of woods and swamps that was left unmanned. Behind Lane sat Thomas' Georgian's, then Gregg, with Brockenbrough covering both the front and rear lines with his split brigade on the far right. Gregg's brigade was directly behind the dense wooded area he thought was manned.

George Meade

courtesy General Officers of the Civil War

The morning of December 12 was foggy, and while unable to see to their front, Hill's Division could hear the Federals moving into position. Opposing them were Union troops under General's Meade and Gibbon. As the fog lifted around 10, Hill's men in front could see the Union forces advancing against them. After a single cannon held the advance at bay for a time, the Union cannons on the opposite bank pounded Hill's men for nearly an hour. Then they went silent, and the Union assault commenced again. Now the Confederate cannons opened up and for a time it appeared they would break the advance. But as the Union and Confederate line grew close, the cannons fell quiet. Releasing the gap was unprotected the Union Army advanced in force toward it and the brigades protecting its flanks. This meant Lane and Archer. Both were hit hard and pushed back, Lane giving up less ground than Archer. Brockenbrough rushed his men to Archer's assistance, while Thomas rushed his men forward to support Lane. Meanwhile, in the gap, the Union troops broke through on an unsuspecting Gregg. Gregg's forces were completely taken off guard, and fought bitterly to maintain their position. Pender's forces and Lane's left flank came under attack as Gibbon's men joined the advance. Initially pushed back, Pender's men held. Lane's retreat had stopped with Thomas' support and now these two brigades held strong in the woods. On the right Brockenbrough's help had stopped the rout of Archer's forces. And in the middle, Gregg's men, less their mortally wounded commander, held on long enough for Jackson to rush three new brigades under Jubal Early into the fight. Charging past the dying Maxcy Gregg, who raised his hat in salute to them, Early's men charged into the Union high point and began to push them back. Strained to their limits, and unsupported, Meade's forces were slowly pushed back. By two in the afternoon, the fight in Jackson's front was over. The blood bath to the left on Longstreet's front would continue on late into the evening.

Jubal Early

courtesy General Officers of the Civil War

In this battle, the troops under Thomas, initially were only under Union artillery fire. But as Lane's North Carolinian's were being pushed back, the Georgian's rushed into the woods to their support. Facing them on the right were most likely the 4th, 8th, and 142nd Pennsylvanian's under Union Colonel Albert Magilton, of Meade's command. To the front were three brigade's of Brig Gen John Gibbon's Second Division. Lane's Carolinian's had successfully met the attacks of the first two brigades sent against them, but by the time the 1st Brigade attacked, they were out of ammunition and fell back into the woods. It was here that Thomas Geogian's came to their rescue. Facing the combined forces of Thomas and Lane were most likely soldiers from the 16th Maine (the Blanket Brigade), 94th, 97th (Conkling Rifle's), 104th, and 105th New York, 12th Massachusetts, and 88th Pennsylvania (Cameron Light Guards), among others. Two men of the 16th Maine were actually speared by bayonet tipped rifles thrown by Lane's retreating troops.

Marker near where Thomas and Lane fought Gibbon and Meade

Col Warren of the 142nd Pennsylvania, believed to be attacking Thomas' right flank, would later say in a speech "(Fredericksburg) is where our first genuine experience of war commenced-here is where we passed the first ordeal that was calculated to try men's souls--here is where we heard the first rattle of musketry and knew and realized that the leaden missiles, screaming past our ears, coming directly from the muzzles of well aimed muskets, in the hands of our common enemy, must deal death and destruction to our ranks, and summon many a good friend and comrade to lay his life upon the alter of his country and manfully meet his God." (History of the Regiment)  The 35th would loose 14 dead and 41 wounded. The 142nd Pennsylvania lost over 170 men killed and wounded. To their front, the 16th Maine lost 230 of 417 men, and the 12th Massachusetts lost 105 of 258 men. On the whole the Hill Division lost 231 killed, 1474 wounded and 417 missing. Gibbon's Second Division had lost 1267 casualties out of 3500 men sent in.

Hill would be criticized for this battle, like no other. His whereabouts during the entire battle were unknown, and the hole he had left between two of his regiments caused many men their lives. It was a mistake he would not repeat. Meade would report 1,853 casualties out of 4700 engaged and Gibbon would reported 1267 casualties. It was a costly mistake for the Union Army, but a far worst mistake was being made against Longstreet on the hill. By the next day, the Union Army had suffered a total of 12,653 casualties, compared to Lee's 5,309.

For more information and maps on this part of the Fredericksburg battle, see
Battle of Fredericksburg
Report of Stonewall Jackson
Report of Union General George Meade

Report of Union General John Gibbon

Private Marion FitzPatrick of the 14th Georgia Regiment wrote of the battle "Early on the morning of the 11th heavy canonadeing was heard in the direction of Fredericksburg about six miles from here. We were ordered to be in readiness to march at a moments warning and remained so all that day. Early on the morning of the 12th we took up the line of march toward Fredericksburg. We moved slowly and cautiously and constantly could hear the booming of canon and the sharp crack of the skirmishers rifles. We moved on about three miles and took a position in a thick wood as supporters. All day we could hear canonading and skirmishing but no general engagement. We remained in that position till about 2 o'clock the next day which was the 13th. Canonading and skirmishing was still kept up, getting nearer and more vigorous, and occasionally they would salute us with a bomb and sometimes with dangerous consequences. About half past 1 o'clock the deafing roar of thousands of small arms and whistling of bullets all around us told us that the ball had opened in earnest. We staied there some 20 or thirty minutes and were ordered to another place about 3/4 of a mile to the left. We doublequicked the most of the way and when we reached the place formed a line of battle or tried to in a thick low cedar growth, and marched into it. We had gone but little distance before the bullets came whistling thick and fast and the heartrending cries of the wounded were constantly heard. On we went but still could see no Yankees, but soon the right wing of our regiment fired a deafening volley which told that they were in sight of the blue coats. In a moment more we could all see a plenty of them. I raised my rifle took deliberate aim and fired, loaded and fired again. The Yanks retreated and we followed with a rush and a yell and poured death in their ranks at every step. They retreated about five or six hundred yards and made a stand or tried to, but we charged on and soon made them run again. The Yanks were then in an open field, we followed them a short distance in the open field and halted and fired on them as they retreated till they got beyond our reach. We then ceased firing and took our position there in line of battle. We could see thousands of blue coats to our right but all was still near us except a few skirmishers to our left. The regiment to our left sent out skirmishers to rebut against them but the fire of the Yankee scouts was right towards us. We were ordered to lie down. About a dozen balls one after another whistled close by me. I had my blankets folded in a narrow belt tied together at the ends and had them across my shoulders as is usual for soldiers to carry them. I was lying rather on my side with the fold of the blankets against my head. A ball struck the blankets right against my head but did not go clear through the blankets and did not hurt me. I moved a little lower down and was lying on my left side, in a few moments another ball came and struck me on the left side on the lower part of my ribs which knocked me nearly senseless. I have never had any thing to hurt quite so bad before. I jumped up and halloed that I was wounded. Two of our boys bore me quickly away, one under each arm. I had gone but little ways before a dizziness came over me with the strangest feelings I ever had came over me. The boys poured some water on my head and face and it soon passed off and we went on, till we came to the ambulances. They put me in one, and carried me to the hospital which was on the ground in the woods. They took me out of the ambulance made a pallet with my blankets and I lay down. Fortunately I got near one of my own company that was wounded. I suffered considerably, but after awhile went to sleep and slept soundly for several hours. When I awoke I felt greatly refreshed but just half of my head and one arm and leg felt sore and stiff. I was tired lying and by rubbing and twisting and trying pretty hard to my great joy I got up by myself and walked about some which helped me the most in the world. The shock I received had passed off and I was comparitively a well man to what I was a short time before. It is strange to me how a ball can shock a man in that way, but I do not wish to gain any more knowledge about it from experience" "Letters to Amanda" edited by Jeffrey C Lowe and Sam Hodges.

Lee's report on this part of the battle ...."About 1 p.m. the main attack on our right began by a furious cannonade, under cover of which three compact lines of infantry advanced against Hill's front. They were received, as before, by our batteries, by whose fire they were momentarily checked, but, soon recovering, they pressed forward until, coming within range of our infantry, the contest became fierce and bloody. Archer and Lane repulsed those portions of the line immediately in front of them, but before the interval between these commands could be closed, the enemy pressed through in overwhelming numbers and turned the left of Archer and the right of Lane. Attacked in front and flank, two regiments of the former and the brigade of the latter, after a brave and obstinate resistance, gave way. Archer held his line with the First Tennessee, and, with the Fifth Alabama Battalion, assisted by the Forty-seventh Virginia Regiment and the Twenty-second Virginia Battalion, continued the struggle until the arrival of re-enforcements. Thomas came gallantly to the relief of Lane, and, joined by the Seventh and part of the Eighteenth North Carolina, of that brigade, repulsed the column that had broken Lane's line and drove it back to the railroad.
In the mean time a large force had penetrated the wood as far as Hill's reserve, and encountered Gregg's brigade. The attack was so sudden and unexpected that Orr's Rifles, mistaking the enemy for our own troops retiring, were thrown into confusion. While in the act of rallying them, that brave soldier and true patriot, Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg, fell, mortally wounded. Colonel Hamilton, upon whom the command devolved, with the four remaining regiments of the brigade and one company of the Rifles, met the enemy firmly and checked his further progress. The second line was advancing to the support of the first. Lawton's brigade, of Early's division, under Colonel Atkinson, first encountered the enemy, quickly followed on the right and left by the brigades of Trimble (under Colonel Hoke) and Early (under Colonel Walker). Taliaferro's division moved forward at the same time on Early's left, and his right regiment (the Second Virginia, belonging to Paxton's brigade) joined in the attack. The contest in the woods was short and decisive. The enemy was quickly routed and driven out with loss, and, though largely re-enforced, he was forced back and pursued to the shelter of the railroad embankment. Here he was gallantly charged by the brigades of Hoke and Atkinson, and driven across the plain to his batteries. Atkinson continuing the pursuit too far, his flank became exposed, and at the same time a heavy fire of musketry and artillery was directed against his front. Its ammunition becoming exhausted, and Colonel Atkinson being severely, and Capt. E. P. Lawton, [assistant] adjutant-general, mortally, wounded, the brigade was compelled to fall back to the main body, now occupying our original line of battle, with detachments thrown forward to the railroad.
The attack on Hill's left was repulsed by the artillery on that part of the line, against which the enemy directed a hot fire from twenty-four guns. One brigade advanced up Deep Run, sheltered by its banks from our batteries, but was charged and put to flight by the Sixteenth North Carolina, of Pender's brigade, assisted by the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-seventh North Carolina, of Law's brigade, Hood's division. The repulse of the enemy on our right was decisive, and the attack was not renewed, but his batteries kept up an active fire at intervals, and sharpshooters skirmished along the front during the rest of the afternoon."

A private in the 142nd, in a speech at the dedication of a monument at Gettysburg in 1889, related a story of the unit's commander before their advance at Fredericksburg. "Colonel Cummins hailed me and wished a canteen of water in exchange for a canteen of "ELIXIR," which I most readily consented to. I held the horse while he rearranged his baggage and canteens on his saddle. While in the act of passing the canteen to him after receiving the "ELIXIR," in apparently less time than could be counted, about half a dozen shells and shot passed in close proximity to his head, and the colonel was only saved by turning in his saddle that moment to give the command, "Fall in!" The check or curb-rein was twisted, and I was in the act of straightening it out when a shot stuck the horse below the eye and carried the lower part of the head away. I had the rein and bit on my arm and shoulder; I was horror-stricken and fell to the ground, as something struck me in the head, back of the left ear. In an instant I was up again and surely thought the shell or shot went through the body of the colonel, but was startled and surprised to see him, With apparent coolness getting off the horse as the latter was slowly sinking upon his haunches, the colonel urging me with some emphasis to get "traps" off the saddle. This apparent coolness on his part was, to a certain extent, a stimulant to my nerves. I conceitedly supposed at the time I was really a veteran, and my lesson from him served to support me in many after- contingencies. This incident is upon record as one of the cases of singular vitality, related of wounded battery, cavalry and infantry horses. Imagine a horse with the major part of his head shot away, and running over the field! Some comrade--I think Sergeant Wood of Company "A"--and myself fired several shots from revolvers into his head and neck, but the horse seemed invincible, as the shots did not kill him." (Speech of Private James E McLane)

Fredricksburg/Spotslvania National Battlefield

35th Georgia Index