(Image from findagrave)
It was a freezing cold morning. Thomas Galwey of the 8th Ohio wrote that men were waiting "for the signal that would ring out the knell of many thousand soldiers." The men waiting to attack believed it would be worse than Fredericksburg.
But 8:00 came and went, amd there was no attack. Studying the Confederate works (which had been strengthened overnight), Warren did not give the order to begin the attack. "My God!" Meade exclaimed when he learned that Warren called off the attack, "General Warren has half my army at his disposal!" (One can imagine that the Old Snapping Turtle went into one of his rages here.)
Meade soon rode to the left flank and ultimately confirmed Warren's decision. "If I had thought there was any reasonable degree of probability of success, I would have attacked. I did not think so; on the contrary believed it would result in a useless and criminal slaughter of brave men, and might result in serious disaster to our army."
Lt. Col. Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin served in the famous Iron Brigade of the 1st Corps. Dawes was undoubtedly a brave man -- he had fought in the Cornfield at Antietam and led the charge on the Railroad Cut at Gettysburg. The 1st Corps was on the right of the Union line (opposite Warren's command), where "Uncle John" Sedgwick was to lead a second assault in conjunction with Warren. Word had not yet reached Sedgwick that Warren's attack has been called off. Sedgwick's wing of the army, including Dawes and the 6th Wisconsin, began their advance. "Then rebel batteries began firing, the shot flying over our heads and making havoc with the trees to our right, the Union batteries replying," Dawes wrote. Then word reached Sedgwick that the attack had been called off. "A halt was made behind a hill, where we were protected from artillery fire. Hope began to gain upon us that the foolhardy attempt of charging the enemy was to be abandoned...."
Writing to his future wife on December 10, Dawes wrote: "All honor to General Meade, who at risk of personal discomfiture, and at sacrifice of personal pride, had the moral courage to order a retreat without a day of blood and National humiliation to demonstrate its necessity to every dissatisfied carper among the people."