In an effort to be closer to his men, C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson moves his headquarters to “Fairfield”, the sprawling farm owned by the Chandler family at Guinea Station, Virginia, which is slowly becoming a main railroad supply hub for the Confederates. The Chandler’s offer Jackson use of their main house but he refuses. They try to persuade him to at least use a small outbuilding located nearby, but he instead chooses to stay in his tent; he doesn’t feel entitled to additional comforts just because of his rank. He prefers to work and sleep in the same conditions as his men.
U.S. Commanding General Ambrose Burnside has ordered Commodore Andrew Harwood to command the Potomac Flotilla, consisting of four gunboats, up the Rappahannock River from the south. Burnside assumes that all of C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee’s forces are within his sights at Fredericksburg; he is wrong. Burnside is unaware of the arrival of Jackson’s corp on December 3, and did not know C.S.A. Major D. H. Hill is as far south as Port Royal. The Confederates, with the help of skillful reconnaissance by cavalry Major General J.E.B. Stuart, have constructed rifle pits and placed a field of artillery overlooking the Rappahannock where Burnside had hoped to cross: Skinker’s Neck. To make his plan even more obvious, Burnside has also ordered the use of Union hot air balloons to oversee the traveling gunboats, which is a clear sign to the Confederates that Burnside is intending to cross his army right where they predicted. As the balloon observers watch from the air, the gunboats are relentlessly fired upon and eventually retreat. Assessing the results, Burnside comes to the conclusion that Lee expects him to cross at Skinker’s Neck and likely has reduced forces at Fredericksburg on the heights behind the city. He will need some time to formulate his plan, but Burnside now feels confident that crossing at the city would be a shock to Lee and will also be his safest bet on getting his army across the river safely.
From the 5th Avenue Hotel in New York City former U.S. General George B. McClellan is still dealing with military affairs, though what he addresses today is an old situation that Brigadier General Charles P. Stone still has questions about. Stone had been arrested in February for his conduct in the battle of Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. One could say that the charges against Stone were political and personal; it was during this battle that U.S. Senator and Colonel Edward D. Baker was killed. The death of Baker was devastating to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, as Baker had been a long time friend from Springfield, Illinois. Congress was enraged that one of their own died in a way that they felt could have been avoided if a more capable leader – and one who was more “pro-Union” – was in charge. The blame fell on Stone, and while he was arrested and held prisoner, no charges were ever brought against him and he was released on August 16 with no explanation or apology. McClellan had tried to re-instate Stone in September as he felt his services were needed, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton declined the request. Stone is in Washington and is still technically in the military but “awaiting orders.” McClellan writes him today in response to questions Stone had about why he was arrested; he is trying to come to terms as to what happened.
McClellan writes to Stone that he was given the order by Stanton, who informed McClellan that it was based at the solicitation of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War and was based upon testimony taken from them (Stone was one of the 39 people who testified). He also writes that “At the time I stated to the Secy that I could not from the information in my possession understand how charges could be framed against you, that the case was too indefinite.” McClellan takes the position that he tried for several days prior to the arrest to approach the Congressional Committee and requested that they fully confront Stone with all the witnesses and testimony against him, as McClellan was “confident that you were innocence of all improper motives, and could explain whatever facts were alleged against you.” It was common for McClellan to do whatever necessary to make himself look good, so whether these statements were truthful or whether McClellan was posturing to make himself out to be a hero is unclear.
From Chattanooga, C.S.A. General Joseph E. Johnston boards a train to Murfreesboro, Tennessee so he can see General Braxton Bragg’s army and assess their situation. In the meantime C.S.A. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton has his hands full with U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant as he continues to push his way south into Mississippi towards Vicksburg.