Thursday, November 17, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: December 16, 1862

To-day the city is exalted to the skies! Gen. Lee telegraphed that the enemy had disappeared from his front, probably meditating a design to cross at some other place. Such were his words, which approach nearer to a practical joke, and an inkling of exultation, than anything I have seen from his pen. He has saved the capital. Before the enemy could approach Richmond from “some other place,” Lee would be between him and the city, and if he could beat him on the Rappahannock he can beat him anywhere.

Doubtless Burnside has abandoned his heavy stores, siege guns, etc., and at this moment our army must occupy the town. Lee allowed the invaders to cross the river, and, in exact accordance with his promise, made a month ago, before they could advance from Fredericksburg, his “whole army was in position.” They could not debouch without passing through our crescent line, the extreme ends of which touched the river above and below them. They attempted this on Saturday, and met with a bloody defeat, and until last night, when they retraced their steps, were confined to an exceedingly narrow and uncomfortable strip of land along the south bank of the river.

Our loss in the battle will not exceed, perhaps, 2000 men, not more than 500 being slain. It is estimated that the enemy's loss is over 10,000, and it may greatly exceed that number, as our positions were strong and our batteries numerous. The enemy fought well, charging repeatedly over the plain swept completely by our guns, and leaving the earth strewn with their dead. We have many prisoners, but I have heard no estimate of the number.

The enemy have taken Kinston, N. C, having overwhelming numbers, and a letter from Gen. Bragg, dated at Raleigh, yesterday, says it is probable Goldsborough will fall into their hands. This will cut our railroad communication with Wilmington, which may likewise fall — but not without its price in blood.

Why not let the war cease now? It is worse than criminal to prolong it, when it is apparent that subjugation is an impossibility.

There were no stragglers from Lee's army, and never were men in better spirits and condition. They are well clad and fed, and exceedingly anxious for Burnside to resume his “On to Richmond” after the skirmish of Saturday. They call it but a skirmish, for not a brigade was blown, not a regiment fatigued.

Although men shake hands over this result, they all say they never looked for any other termination of Burnside. The ladies say he is now charred all over. Well, he may come again by some other route, but I have doubts. The rigors of winter are sufficient punishment for his troops. It is said Burnside intended to resume the battle on Sunday morning, but his generals reported that their men could not be relied upon to approach our batteries again. I shall look with interest for the next Northern papers.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 214-5

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