Report of Brigadier General Robert Ransom, Jr.

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 21, Part 1 (Fredericksburg)   


Report of Brigadier General Robert Ransom, Jr., C. S. Army, commanding Ransom's division. 

HEADQUARTERS DIVISION, Camp near Fredericksburg, Va., December 20, 1862. 

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of my division during the several days' operations 
before Fredericksburg, commencing on the 11th instant: 

On the morning of that day the division took position about 600 yards in rear of our batteries, which 
were upon Marye's and Willis' Hills, and at the time occupied by the Washington Artillery. About 
noon it was withdraw to the Telegraph road, a little in rear of where General Longstreet had his 
headquarters during the day. At 9 p.m. it retook the position of the morning, Cooke's brigade 
being advanced to within 200 yards of our batteries, and the Twenty-fourth North Carolina 
Volunteers, of my brigade, was placed in a ditch on the left and in the prolongation of Cobb's 
brigade, which occupied the Telegraph road in front of Marye's and Willis Hills. The left of the 
Twenty-fourth rested on the Plank road. My batteries remained in rear of the division. 

On the 12th, there was no change, except the placing of three long range guns from Cooper's 
battery near Howison's house, on the right of the Telegraph road. During these two days 
occasional shells from the enemy's guns burst among and near the troops, but there were few 
or no injuries. 

About 11.30 a.m. on the 13th, large numbers of skirmishers were thrown out from the town by 
the enemy, and it soon became evident that an effort would be made to take our batteries which 
I was supporting. Cooke's brigade was ordered to occupy the crest of Marye's and Willis' Hills, 
which was done in fine style. By this time the enemy backed his skirmishers with a compact 
line and advanced toward the hills, but the Washington Artillery and a well-directed fire from 
Cobb's and Cooke's brigades drove them quickly back to their shelter in the town. But a few 
minutes elapsed before another line was formed by the enemy, he all the while keeping up a 
brisk fire with sharpshooters. This line advanced with the utmost determination, and some few 
of them got within 50 yards of our line, but the whole were forced to retire in wild confusion 
before the telling fire of our small-arms at such short range. 

During this attack two of Cooke's regiments, being badly exposed [for there were then no rifle-pits 
on the hills], were thrown into the road with Cobb's brigade. For some few minutes there was a 
cessation of fire, but we were not kept long in expectancy. The enemy now seemed determined 
to reach our position, and formed apparently a triple line. Observing this movement on his part, I 
brought up the three regiments of my brigade to within 100 yards of the crest of the hills, and 
pushed forward the Twenty-fifth North Carolina Volunteers to the crest. The enemy, almost massed, 
moved to the charge heroically, and met the withering fire of our artillery and small-arms with 
wonderful staunchness. On they came to within less than 150 paces of our line, but nothing 
could live before the sheet of lead that was hurled at them from this distance. They momentarily 
wavered, broke, and rushed headlong from the field. A few, however, more resolute than the rest, 
lingered under cover of some fences and houses, and annoyed us with a scattering but well-directed 
fire. The Twenty-fifth North Carolina Volunteers reached  the crest of the hill just in time to pour 
into the enemy a few volleys at most deadly range, and then took position shoulder to shoulder 
with Cobb's and Cooke's men in the road. 

During this attack the gallant Brigadier-General Cobb was mortally wounded, and almost at the 
same instant Brigadier-General Cooke was wounded and taken from the field. Colonel [E. D.] Hall, 
Forty-sixth North Carolina Volunteers, succeeded to the command of his brigade. 

Nothing daunted by the fearful punishment he had received, the enemy brought out fresh and 
increased numbers of troops. Fearing lest he might by mere force of numbers pass over our line, 
I determined to resist him with every man at my disposal, and started in person to place the 
remaining two regiments of my brigade. Just at this instant Brigadier-General Kershaw dashed on 
horseback at the Telegraph road and near the mill, and led it into the fight immediately at Marye's 
house. A second regiment from his brigade followed and took position in rear of and near the 
grave-yard on Willis' Hill and remained there. I now advanced my regiments, and placed one a 
few yards in rear of Marye's house and the other on its right and a little more retired. With his 
increased numbers the enemy moved forward. Our men held their fire till it would be fatally 
effective. Meantime our artillery was spreading fearful havoc among the enemy's ranks. Still he 
advanced and received the destructive fire of our line. Even more resolute than before, he seemed 
determined madly to press on, but his efforts could avail nothing. At length, broken and seemingly 
dismayed, the whole mass turned and fled to the very center of the town. 

At this time I sent my adjutant-general to the road to ascertain the condition of the troops and the 
amount of ammunition on hand. His report was truly gratifying, representing the men in highest 
spirits and an abundance of ammunition. I had ordered Cobb's brigade supplied from my wagons. 

The afternoon was now nearly spent, and it appeared that the enemy would not again renew his 
attempts to carry our position. Again, however, an effort, more feeble than those which had 
preceded, was made to push his troops over the bodies of the now numerous slain. The sun was 
down, and darkness was fast hiding the enemy from view, and it was reasonable to suppose 
there would be no further movements, at least toward the point we held; but the frequent and 
determined assaults he had mad would not permit me to despise either his courage or his 
hardihood; ant thinking that as a last alternative he might resort to the bayonet, under cover of 
darkness, I massed my little command, so as to meet such and attack with all the power we were 
capable of exerting. Instead, however, of a charge with the bayonet, just after dark he opened a 
tremendous fire of small-arms and at short range upon my whole line. This last desperate and 
murderous attack met the same fate which had befallen those which preceded, and his hosts 
were sent, actually howling, back to their beaten comrades in the town. 

A short time before the last, Brigadier-General Kemper had reported to me with his brigade. With 
two of his regiments I relieved the Twenty-fourth North Carolina Volunteers, which had been in the 
ditch two days, and placed the others in close supporting distance of the crest of the hill. During 
the whole time the enemy's artillery had not ceased to play upon us, but our batteries took no 
notice of it, reserving their fire and using it against his infantry as it would form and advance with 
extraordinary effect. Thus ended the fighting in front of Fredericksburg. 

By 1 p.m. General Kershaw had put the whole of his brigade in the road and sent me word he 
could hold it. I was satisfied no further attempt would be made by the enemy before daylight, and 
withdrew my division 200 yards and permitted it to rest. At this time of night I received orders to 
send a battery of long-range guns to Major [John J.] Garnett. The three guns of Cooper's at 
Howison's house were sent, and they replaced by a like number from Branch's battery. 

Until about 4 p.m.on the 13th, the Washington Artillery had served in the batteries, when it was 
relieved by Colonel Alexander's battalion, and during the night I replaced five of his guns with 
12-pounder howitzers from my batteries. During the day only three of my guns were in action, 
and those were at the Howison house. I am informed by the report of the captain that they did 
good service both in the direction of Fredericksburg and more to the right. 

On the 14th, little of moment occurred. The enemy annoyed us by an unceasing fire from 
sharpshooters, but did little injury. Early on that night I was directed to return Kemper's brigade to 
General Pickett. It was replaced by my own. Before daylight orders came to relieve Jenkins' 
brigade, on the right of the Telegraph road, which I had done with my own, and the latter was 
replaced by Cooke's and one regiment from Featherston's, which was immediately on my left. 

Late in the afternoon of the 15th, large numbers of infantry were seen collecting in the town, and 
the sharpshooters again began to be troublesome. Colonel Alexander and Lieutenant [Captain 
J. R.] Branch-the latter having charge of a 12-pounder howitzer and a Napoleon which Colonel 
Alexander had sent me-by a few well-directed shell dispersed the infantry in the town and 
dislodged the sharpshooters. 

About daylight on the morning of the 16th, Brigadier-General Jenkins, with his brigade, reported 
to me and relieved Cooke's. 

Too high commendation cannot be bestowed upon the troops under my command and those of 
the other corps who came under my observation, and I trust it will not be out of place to mention 
some at least of the latter. The unwavering firmness evinced throughout by all raises them to the 
highest pitch of admiration. The field, on the 13th, presented the unprecedented spectacle of a 
fierce battle raging, and not a straggler from the ranks. 

Brigadier-General Cooke was wounded early in the action, but handled his troops well. 
Brigadier-General Kemper came upon the field late, but in the handsomest style, under a galling
fire, moved his command into position with the greatest alacrity and steadiness, and during this 
time lost a few killed and quite a number wounded. 

While I do not disparage any, I cannot fail to mention the splendid and dashing action of the 
Twenty-fifth North Carolina Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel [Samuel C.] Bryson commanding, in 
going into battle, though, as part of my command, I will not pass over the already famous 
Washington Artillery. Its gallantry and efficiency are above praise. Colonel Alexander, of the 
artillery, brought in his battalion admirably and relieved the Washington Artillery under a hot fire. 
I regret that I could not witness the part taken by the long-range guns of my batteries, but from 
the commander' reports they did good service, both in the direction of Fredericksburg, and more 
to the right of our lines. Lieutenant [Captain J. R.] Branch, in charge of the two pieces above 
mentioned, handled them beautifully. 

Lieutenant and Adjutant [Oliver D.] Cooke, Twenty-fourth North Carolina Volunteers, was severely
wounded. I have before witnessed his conduct, and no one more richly merits promotion. 
The valuable assistance and daring gallantry of my assistant adjutant-general, Captain Thomas 
Rowland, and volunteer aide, Dr. H. J. Davis, deserve my warmest commendations. They three 
times each during the day traversed the entire front of my line, descending and returning from the 
road, thus six times running the gauntlet of a most fearful fire. 

I am much indebted to Lieutenant E. A. Thorne, ordnance officer for the division, for his devotion 
and energy. Whatever might have been the duration of the battle, so long as ammunition could 
have been had I felt sure that my troops would be supplied. After the battle he collected about 
2,000 small-arms. Lieutenant and Aide-de-Camp [William E.] Broadnax rendered valuable aid. 

I should fail in my duty if I did not notice the splendid dash of General Kershaw and his staff. 
Lieutenant [R. P.] Landry, of Captain [V.] Marin's battery [I believe called the Donaldsonville 
Artillery], by direction of Captain [Osman] Latrobe, acting adjutant and inspector general, took 
his piece from behind the epaulement in order to dislodge a body of the enemy upon whom the 
battery could not play. Most effectually he performed this service, but in doing so lost several of 
his men, and had his piece disable. His conduct was admirable, for during the time he was 
exposed to a direct fire of six and an enfilade fire of four guns. 

With sadness we mourn the loss of many gallant men, but I will pay a special tribute to the 
intrepid General Cobb, who fell, mortally wounded, in the midst of his men, while nobly defending 
our righteous cause. His brigade throughout the day remained at the post of honor in the front line. 

Among those who fell, and those of his comrades who lament his loss, there was not one more 
meritorious than the modest, but brave and manly, Major [J. M.] Kelly, of the Thirty-fifth North 
Carolina Volunteers. To two of my couriers-Private De Vane, Twenty-fourth, and Private Hood, 
Thirty-fifth North Carolina Volunteers-I am truly indebted for their devotion, gallantry, and 
intelligence during the several days. 

I herewith inclose a complete list* of the casualties in my division; in the aggregate, 530. The 
wounded bear a large proportion to the killed. 

Before the town there were not engaged, all told, on our part, more than 5,000. It is impossible to 
estimate exactly the number of the enemy who were opposed to us. From prisoners taken it is 
certain that all of Sumner's grand division and part of Hooker's was brought against the position. 
Among these can be named specially Hancock's and Whipple's divisions, the Irish Brigade, and

 the whole of the regular infantry of the old United States Army, the latter under Sykes. 
The enemy's loss in killed must have been very large. Each of the nights of Saturday, Sunday,
 and Monday the enemy bore off large numbers. On Tuesday I walked over the field, and the 
slain lay in many places piled upon each other. As I understand an accurate count of those 
buried has been made, I will not hazard an opinion as to the real number killed. The havoc was 

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 


Brigadier-General, Commanding Division. 


Asst. Adjt. General, First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. 

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