The 20th Mass. street fighting in Fredericksburg Dec. 11, 1862

"A Useless Slaughter of Gallant Men"

From Greeley, A.W. Reminiscences of Adventure and Service. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927. Greeley was a Corporal in Co. B of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, and witnessed the street fighting.

pp. 84-85: "It took a long time, the building of our bridge and the crossing of our troops, but they came soon enough to save the remnants of the 'forlorn hope'. The first reenforcements I saw were the 20th Massachusetts Infantry, who, to our horror and against the outcries of the 7th Michigan and the 19th Massachusetts, made their disastrous advance. Marching, as one man quoted, 'into the jaws of Hell', the 20th lost within ten minutes and in the distance of one square of ground ninety-seven killed and wounded. Thrown into platoon fronts I saw the 20th make this desperate march, with no definite end in view as far as anyone could see, into the most useless slaughter I ever witnessed. It was a wonderful display of orderly movement by a body of men of unsurpassed courage and coolness. Instead of skirmishing warfare and fighting from house to house, as we advised, the advance was in mass, with no enemy in sight on whom to fire....this was one of the minor instances of military incompetency, no matter what friends may advance in excuse of the commander. A useless slaughter of gallant men, it did not gain a yard beyond advances already made, and ended in retirement to cover."

 

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