Illustrations of the War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1183, p. 43.
January 10, 1863
Our Special Artist and Correspondent in America, having, in common with the correspondents of other European journals, been curtly refused permission to accompany the Federal forces, has pitched his tent in the opposite camp, whence, as opportunity serves, he forwards to us his Illustrations of the War. Thus it happens, without any intention of the kind on our part or on that of our Artist, that his Sketches illustrate the varying aspects of the war from the Confederate instead of from the Federal point of view, and have possibly, in consequence, a colouring somewhat different from that which would have marked sketches taken by the same hand in the camp of the army of the Potomac. However that may be, his Illustrations cannot fail to be of interest, giving, as they do, glimpses into what is wellnigh a sealed book--the doings in the Confederate camp. Our present
"Every evening, when we cluster around our pine-log fires, the 'darkies' press in amongst us and listen to the yarns their masters spin. In our camp we are fortunate enough to possess the most famous banjo-player in the Southern States, and when Sweeny strikes up one of his quaint old Virginian breakdowns, some nigger is sure to 'wade' in and put his legs through a series of marvelous gyrations, to the delight of the sympathetic lookers-on, who beat time for him. Although the enemy is within cannon-shot, no one experiences the least uneasiness, and the universal refrain is, 'We'll sing to-night and fight to-morrow--bullyboys, oh!' "
"Of the entire Confederate army encamped near Winchester Jackson's corps alone remains, and that, I presume, will soon follow the main body into Loudon County, where Burnside menaces with an immense army the line of the Rappahannock in this, the third, advance of the Federals on Richmond. The subject of the Engraving is one of the picturesque passes in the Blue Ridge, with General Longstreet's corps-d' armée passing through on its way to Culpepper to hold in check the Northern forces. The scenery of these Virginian mountains reminds me forcibly of the Apennines, and recalls many scenes which I have witnessed with Garibaldi's forces in Southern Italy."
"The Rappahannock at Fredericksburg (writes our Artist on the day he took the above Sketch) is scarcely more than a hundred yards in width, and this is the distance that divides the Confederates from the Federals. The pickets of each army are within earshot and in full view of each other, and they frequently indulge in remarks that might be taken exception to in polite society. While making the accompanying Sketch a sentinel who was leaning on his musket, looking over me, suddenly called out to a blue-coated German on the other side, 'How many men have you got over thar, Yank?' 'Doo or dree dousand,' grunted the Teuton. 'Oh, bring them along; that's nothing. We reckoned you had an army!' It is whispered at head-quarters to-day that an attempt will be made by the enemy to cross the river at three different points during the night. Everything is ready for them when they come, and the battle that will possibly take place within the next few days must determine, as far as the Federals are concerned, whether the war is to continue or not: it will be by far the largest and most important of the whole campaign. Probably not less than 250,000 men will be engaged. I am lying out in the pine-woods at the advance, ready to wield my pencil when the struggle begins. Every shot we hear as we lie with our feet to the fire during the long cold nights starts us on our legs, for we know the enemy has his pontoons ready to cross in the darkness. What a bursting of shells over my bed there will be when the ball opens!"
The little town of Fredericksburg, which has been rendered famous by the great battle fought near it on the 13th ult., had previously suffered rough usage, having been alternately in the hands of Confederates and Federals two or three times. It is the chief town of Spottsylvania county, Virginia, and is situated on the right bank of the Rappahannock River, at the head of tidewater. It is between fifty and sixty miles from Richmond by railroad, and sixty-five miles by the turnpike, in a northerly direction. The town is pleasantly situated in a fertile valley, and has advantages for commerce and manufactures. The railroad from Washington, vià Acquia Creek, passes through it, and as the through-trams generally stop at Fredericksburg Station for about an hour on each trip, a not inconsiderable chance trade was caused thereby in the immediate locality of the dépôt. A good canal has bee constructed from the town to a point on the Rappahannock River about forty miles above, by which large quantities of wheat, flour, and tobacco were formerly received for exportation. The river affords extensive water power, which, however, has not been much used. The hills in the neighbourhood, varying from forty to one hundred feet high, abound in fine granite and freestone.
About thirty years since the prospect of Fredericksburg being a rapidly-rising town was very great; but it suddenly stopped in its prosperity, and after, as it were, standing still for about twenty years, gradually retrograded in importance. In 1840 its population numbered 4000 souls, and in 1850, ten years after, it had only increased eighty-eight persons--less than nine each year, and being about two per cent in the decade--a remarkably small increase. Before the war it contained five churches, one orphan asylum, two seminaries, four newspaper-offices and two banks. Such was Fredericksburg. The correspondent of the New York Times reports:--"It is 'living' Fredericksburg 'no more.' A city, soulless, rent by the wrack of war, and shooting up in flames athwart night's sky, is the pretty little antique spot by the Rappahannock, erewhile the peculiar scene of dignified ease and retirement."
The Rappahannock River rises in the Blue Ridge, but a few miles from the south fork of the Shenandoah, and pursues an easterly course to Fredericksburg, some sixty miles south-south-west of Washington city, where it is within ten miles of the Potomac. It has here become a broad navigable stream, though its extreme sources are hardly eighty miles distant. From Fredericksburg it has a general south-east course till it is lost in Chesapeake Bay, some twenty-five miles below the mouth of the Potomac. For the present its course below Fredericksburg is commanded by the Union gun-boats, but above that city it becomes disputable, and has for months in good part divided the Union from the Confederate forces. It naturally forks towards its source into innumerable streams and rivulets, but at first, some ten miles above Fredericksburg, into two main branches, whereof that coming from the north-west retains the name of Rappahannock, while that from the south-west is known as the Rapidan.