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Battle of Fredericksburg Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Fredericksburg summary

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside.

  1. The engineers constructing the bridge on Rappahannock river directly across from city came under punishing fire from Confederate sharpshooters, primarily from the Mississippi brigade of Brig. Gen. William Barksdale, in command of the town defenses.
  2. Union artillery attempted to dislodge the sharpshooters, but their positions in the cellars of houses rendered the fire from 150 guns mostly ineffective.
  3. 135 Union infantrymen from the 7th Michigan and the 19th Massachusetts crowded into the small boats, and the 20th Massachusetts followed soon after. They crossed successfully and spread out in a skirmish line to clear the sharpshooters.
  4. Although some of the Confederates surrendered, fighting proceeded street by street through the town as the engineers completed the bridges. Sumner's Right Grand Division began crossing at 4:30 p.m., but the bulk of his men did not cross until December 12. Hooker's Center Grand Division crossed on December 13, using both the northern and southern bridges.
  5. By nightfall, four brigades of Union troops occupied the town, which they looted with a fury that had not been seen in the war up to that point.
  6. Meanwhile river crossings south of the city by Franklin's Left Grand Division were much less eventful. December 13 began cold and overcast. A dense fog blanketed the ground and made it impossible for the armies to see each other. Franklin started his attack with minimal forces.
  7. A temporary breakthrough by Meade's forces was not supported in time and did not move fast enough.
  8. The Confederates counter attacked driving Meade's men in a disorderly retreat.
  9. Finally the Confederates withdrew back to the safety of the hills south of town.
  10. Three Union attacks on the hills west of the town (Marye's Heights) were unsuccessful.
  11. Maj. Gen. George Pickett's Confederate division and one of Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood's brigades had marched north to reinforce Marye's Heights. Therefore more Union attacks just added up the number of casualties.
  12. The armies remained in position throughout the day on December 14. That afternoon, Burnside asked Lee for a truce to attend to his wounded, which the latter granted .
  13. The next day the Union forces retreated across the river, and the campaign came to an end.