Dec. 11-15,1862…“Battle of Fredericksburg”
Defense: CSA Commanding General Robert E. Lee seizes the initiative when the Union Army marches to cross the Rappahannock River across from Fredericksburg, Virginia and stalls for 2 weeks waiting for pontoon bridges. The Union Army has given up the advantage. Lee sets up strong defenses by the river and on the hills. The Battle of Fredericksburg will also be fought in the town which resulted in urban fighting.
The greatest Union loss at the Battle of Fredericksburg will be the numerous and futile Union assaults against the dug in Rebels at the top of the hill called Marye’s Heights.
CSA Lieut. General James Longstreet‘s position at the top of Marye’s Heights will prove to be effective and costly to the Federals. Line after line of Federals marched up the heights to be cut to pieces. Many wounded will lie out on the frozen ground that cold night as the Confederates continued their fire. The “kill zone” created by Lee and Longstreet forcing the Federals up the hill into their guns was so effective, many Confederates called it murder. Lee himself would comment “it is good that war is so terrible..or we should grow too fond of it”.
“The Angel of Marye’s Heights” who came out to give the wounded and dying Federals a sip of water and blankets as they lay wounded on the frozen ground was in fact a Confederate from South Carolina Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland.
Recognized as a humantarian by both sides, Kirkland strapped himself with numerous canteens and went out originally under fire.
As both sides realized his intent, they held their fire and watched as this kind and sympathetic American went out on the battlefield for almost 2 hours giving comfort to his wounded enemies.
Kirkland, promoted to Lieutenant was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20,1863.
Attack: The plan to attack and secure the Confederate capital at Richmond,Virginia had been a plan of the Federal command for months. President Lincoln himself felt the capital should not be the objective. He opted that the CSA Army of Northern Virginia itself under General Lee was the key and should be destroyed.
Frustrated by Federal failures the President knew from his studies of logistics and strategy that speed and timing would be he key to a victory over Lee. He wanted the Federal Army to move as fast as the CSA could to acquire a defensive position as had been shown by Jackson’s “foot cavalry” in the past.
Union Commander General Ambrose Burnside will find numerous delays in supplies and the arrival of pontoon bridges to cross the Federal Army over the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, resulting in Lincolns’ greatest fear.
The Confederates will now have time to race their armies to Fredericksburg, making the building of the Union bridge while under fire costly. As well, the CSA army will secure the town resulting in urban warfare, and secure Marye’s Heights, resulting in the decimation of the attacking Federals as they later march up the heights into the well entrenched Confederate line of defense.
Important Note: Burnside himself had stated he did not want command of the whole Federal Army of the Potomac. That he considered himself a better corp commander at best, and was a good friend of recently removed McClellen.
Humiliated by this defeat he had offered to resign after the battle, but is refused by President Lincoln. He was transferred to command the Dept. of the Ohio in the west.
Battle outcome: Confederate victory. (costly Federal loss)
Soldiers: Union -114,000 / CSA -74,000
Casualties: Union-12,653(1,284 killed) / CSA-5,377(608 killed)
The Union Army now commanded by Burnside has orders to cross the Rappahannock and strike Lee in this epic battle set in the winter of December, 1862.
The key was to cross the river and strike Fredericksburg, Va. fast. See what happens when political confusion and delays in supplies change the Union tactics, giving Lee opportunities and time to set up defenses that were forewarned by Lincoln.