Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Battle of Fredericksburg - Fredericksburg, Virginia

Stone wall at Sunken Road at Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg was, for the Union, one of those names that pierced the heart like the names Gettysburg and Vicksburg did for the the Confederacy. It was on the fields surrounding Fredericksburg that the Army of the Potomac suffered one of its worst defeats of the Civil War.

Key areas of the battlefield at now preserved at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, which also preserves areas of the Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Spotsylvania and other battlefields.
Bullet scarred house on the Fredericksburg battlefield
The Battle of Fredericksburg developed when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln named Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside to replace Gen. George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac. While the latter general had favored a slow, methodical approach to dealing with Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Nothern Virginia, Burnside proposed a rapid campaign with overwhelming force.

Inexplicably, however, Burnside pushed his army forward to the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg without making sure that his pontoon boats would be there ready for use in building bridges to cross the river. The week-long delay experienced in waiting for the pontoons to come up gave General Lee the time he needed to concentrate his on the heights overlooking Fredericksburg. By the time Burnside was ready to begin his crossing, Lee was so ready for him that, as one Confederate officer observed, a chicken couldn't have survived on the ground across which the Union soldiers would have to march.
Thousands of Union soldiers are buried at Marye's Heights
Even then, Burnside couldn't get across until after he blasted Fredericksburg with 8,000 artillery shells trying to drive away General William Barksdale's Mississippians who kept shooting his men everytime they tried to build their bridges.

Once he finally did get his army across the Rappahannock, Burnside then took another day to get his men formed for battle, while Lee and his generals watched from the heights above.

The main day of the Battle of Fredericksburg was December 13, 1862. Time after time the Union forces advanced and time after time they were driven back. At Marye's Heights, they never even got close to the Confederate infantry position at the stone wall and sunken road. By the time the day ended, the Army of the Potomac had lost over 12,000 men in killed, wounded and missing. It was one of the deadliest days of the war for the Union army.

To learn more about the Battle of Fredericksburg, please visit

1 comment:


War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.