Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/35

This page has been validated.
Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade at Fredericksburg.

that hour. The deafening roar of cannon and bursting shells, falling walls and chimneys, brick and timbers flying through the air, houses set on fire, the smoke adding to the already heavy fog, the bursting of flames through the housetops, made a scene which has no parallel in history. It was appalling and indescribable, a condition which would paralyze the stoutest heart, and one from which not a man in Barksdale Brigade had the slightest hope of escaping.

During that hail of iron and brick, I believe I can say that there was not a square yard in the city which was not struck by a missile of some kind. Under cover of the bombardment, Burnside undertook to renew his efforts to complete the bridges, but the matchless men of Barksdale's Brigade, acting under the immortal Lieutenant Colonel Fiser, concealed in their pits along the river bank, poured a volley first and then a concentrated fire on the workmen and drove back all who survived their deadly aim. During this time the flames were blazing from every quarter, and ladies and children were forced to flee from their cellars to escape death by fire, even at the risk of being stricken down by shells and bricks.

The horror of the occasion was heightened by the veil of fog, which obscured all objects 50 yards distant. About half an hour after the bombardment had ceased, the fog cleared away, leaving a picture which riveted every eye and sickened every heart. Mansions that for years had been the scene of a boundless hospitality and domestic comfort, lay in ruins and smoldering ashes. Blackened walls and wrecked gardens were all that were left of numerous happy homes. The memory of those scenes will be hard to efface.

Defeated at every turn, the Federal commander abandoned his bridges for the time and began to cross in boats. He directed a destructive rifle fire against the Mississippians along the river bank, and also against those in the city. Colonel Fiser continued to dispute this passage, and many of the boats were forced to return to remove their dead and get others to take their places.

After a large force had been landed above and below, Colonel Fiser was ordered to rejoin the brigade in the city. The enemy soon formed line and dashed at the Mississippians, deter-