On Dec. 9, 1862, a Tuesday, the 13th remained in camp on Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg with the 18th Regiment. The 21st and the 17th regiments went back down to the city on picket duty.
The 17th Regiment’s Private Robert A. Moore liked it because he was out from under his drafty tent fly on the Heights and in unspecified “comfortable quarters” on provost guard duty.
“All is very quiet across the river,” he wrote in his diary that Tuesday.
“‘Dined’ with the first free negro,” he added. “Have taken up about thirty. A number of souldiers [also] in the city without permission. The Yankees are very quiet on their side and our boys are fishing.”
Their division commander Gen. Lafayette McLaws wrote his wife on the 9th that the enemy seemed to be contemplating some move before the winter set in:
“The air is misty from the gradual melting of snow & it is impossible to see the enemies movements, tho their drums were beating along their lines as if something was in contemplation….The weather is extremely cold, it threatens to block the river which [would] make it precarious for a large army to get supplies & it would place their gun boats & transports at our mercy.”
Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley wrote later that, among the 13th in camp on the Heights on the evening of Dec. 10:
“….all was gay as usual, and no one dreaming that the morrow coming would call upon us to witness anew those [scenes] of blood and carnage. Camp amusements with more glee and on more extensive scale than they had been in some time and we were going to bed not thinking that anything would call us up earlier than common.”
But the peace and quiet were soon shattered. About 3 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, the regiment’s drums beat the long roll, calling the surprised men out from their tents.