Battle of Fredericksburg
Virginia Civil War History
Battle of Fredericksburg
Virginia and the American Civil War
Names: Marye’s Heights, First Fredericksburg
Location: Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg
Campaign: Fredericksburg Campaign (November-December
Date(s): December 11-15, 1862
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Ambrose E.
Burnside [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee [CS]
Forces Engaged: 172,504 total (US 100,007;
Estimated Casualties: 17,962 total (US 12,653;
Result(s): Confederate victory
Introduction: On November 14, Burnside, now
in command of the Army of the Potomac, sent a corps to occupy the vicinity of Falmouth near Fredericksburg. The rest of the
army soon followed. Lee reacted by entrenching his army on the heights behind the town. On December 11, Union engineers
laid five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock under fire. On the 12th, the Federal army crossed over, and on December
13, Burnside mounted a series of futile frontal assaults on Prospect Hill and Marye’s Heights that resulted in staggering
casualties. Meade’s division, on the Union left flank, briefly penetrated Jackson’s line but was driven back by
a counterattack. Union generals C. Feger Jackson and George Bayard, and Confederate generals Thomas R.R. Cobb and Maxey Gregg
were killed. On December 15, Burnside called off the offensive and recrossed the river, ending the campaign. Burnside
initiated a new offensive in January 1863, which quickly bogged down in the winter mud. The abortive “Mud March”
and other failures led to Burnside’s replacement by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker in January 1863.
|Greater Fredericksburg and the Civil War
|Fredericksburg Battlefield Map. Library of Congress.
week after taking command of the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside executed
a forty-mile, cross-country march from his camps near Warrenton, Virginia, to Stafford Heights opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Burnside's rapid maneuver placed Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia at a decided disadvantage,
for Burnside's 120,000-man army threatened to position itself between Lee's 78,000-man army and Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate
Before moving south on Richmond, Burnside would first have to cross the
Rappahannock River, but owing to delays and miscommunication, the pontoon bridge equipment that was supposed to be waiting
for him at Stafford Heights on November 17 did not arrive until the twenty-fifth. By then, Lee's army was occupying a range
of hills across the river a short distance beyond Fredericksburg. Nevertheless, after several days of anxious deliberation,
Burnside decided to cross the Rappahannock near the town and at a point about a mile downstream. Early on the morning of December
11, Federal engineers began assembling the bridges and completed the lower spans later that day. But heavy rifle-musket fire
emanating from Fredericksburg forced the engineers to scurry for cover with the upper bridges just half-finished.
An impatient Burnside ordered his chief of artillery, Brig. Gen. Henry J.
Hunt, to pound the rebels into submission with his 150 guns. After a two-hour barrage in which the Union artillery fired over
8,000 rounds into the town, the Federal engineers warily crept back onto their pontoons. Much to the bridge-builders' disappointment,
Confederate marksmen again opened fire on them. Burnside then ordered volunteers to cross the river in bulky pontoon boats
and drive the enemy from Fredericksburg. Once across, the Union assault force slowly drove the stubborn Confederate defenders
back in a rare example of Civil War urban combat. The Federals cleared the town by dusk. The engineers, meanwhile, completed
the bridges, and the Army of the Potomac occupied Fredericksburg.
On December 12, Federal troops continued to march into town, but Burnside
made no attempt to organize them for an assault. Instead, Union soldiers exploited the free time by pillaging and vandalizing
homes and shops while the Confederates prepared for an expected attack. Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Corps held
the right of Lee's line on Prospect Hill, while Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's Corps manned the left along Marye's Heights above
Early on the morning of December 13, Burnside issued his assault orders
for his three grand divisions. Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin's Left Grand Division would first strike Jackson's Corps, and
then Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's Right Grand Division and Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's Center Grand Division would attack Longstreet's
Corps. Spearheading Franklin's assault was the 4,500-man infantry division commanded by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. Focusing
on a triangular patch of woods jutting out toward them, Meade's troops advanced with fixed bayonets. On reaching their objective,
the Federals were delighted to discover that they had stumbled upon a 600-yard gap in the Confederate line. Meade's men pushed
on and brushed aside a brigade of South Carolina troops before gaining the crest of Prospect Hill, deep within Jackson's position.
On learning of Meade's breakthrough, Jackson calmly directed a massive counterattack that succeeded in driving back the heavily
outnumbered Federals and securing the Confederate line. Aside from a few tentative probes by either side, the fight for Prospect
Hill sputtered out following Meade's assault.
In the meantime, Burnside waited anxiously for news of Franklin's offensive,
mindful that the attack on Marye's Heights should not commence until he was sure Franklin had begun to roll up Jackson's line.
By late morning, Burnside had decided to abandon his plan of attack, and he ordered Sumner's Grand Division forward. Sumner's
first assault began at noon, setting a terrible precedent for the successive attacks that followed, wave after wave, until
The advance began on the edge of Fredericksburg. Federal soldiers had to
descend into a swale, cross a water-filled ditch, ascend an open slope that stretched for 400 yards to the Sunken Road at
the base of the heights, all the while under a deafening cannon fire from artillery positioned atop Marye's Heights and elsewhere.
Longstreet's guns tore large gaps in the long blue lines, and the Federals who reached the forward slope had to face sheets
of Confederate small arms fire originating from behind the stone wall fronting the Sunken Road. The men in blue bent their
heads and hunched their shoulders as if advancing into a rainstorm, but not one Union soldier reached the stone wall. As he
surveyed the systematic destruction of Burnside's assault formations, Lee turned to Longstreet and commented, "It is well
that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."
As the afternoon wore on, Burnside ordered Hooker's Center Grand Division
to join in the attack. As Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphrey's V Corps division waded through the human debris of previous assaults,
some of Humphrey's men had to break free from well-meaning hands that sought to prevent their advance. The final Union attack
began after sunset and proved as futile as its predecessors. Darkness brought the fighting to an end. That night, the cries
and the groans of the wounded filled the air. A distraught Burnside drafted orders to renew the offensive in the morning and
even resolved to lead the main attack until his subordinates convinced him to abandon the suicidal scheme. On the night of
December 15-16, Burnside withdrew the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock, taking up his bridges behind him. The Fredericksburg
Campaign was over.
The Battle of Fredericksburg was a resounding Confederate tactical victory,
as the lopsided casualty figures suggest. The fighting cost the Federals 12,600 killed, wounded, or missing, while the Confederates
sustained 5,300 casualties. Determined to rescue his reputation and bolster the morale of his army, Burnside attempted to
launch a midwinter campaign the following month, but torrential rains soon derailed his plans. His aborted campaign became
forever known as "The Mud March." On January 26, 1863, Burnside submitted his resignation to President Abraham Lincoln,
who accepted it and appointed Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac. During the winter months, Hooker
would rebuild his army and prepare for the next campaign to capture Richmond, which would begin with the coming of spring.
In the meantime, Lee's army would be waiting for him across the Rappahannock River.
|Battle of Fredericksburg, 13 December 1862
(Right) Union and Confederate positions on 13 Dec., with route of Union
advance on Marye's Heights. Protecting Southern ground, Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws initially had about 2,000 men on the front
line of Marye's Heights and there were an additional 7,000 men in reserve on the crest and behind the ridge. Massed artillery
provided almost uninterrupted coverage of the plain below. General Longstreet had been assured by his artillery commander,
Lt. Col. Edward Porter Alexander, "General, we cover that ground now so well that we will comb it as with a fine-tooth comb.
A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it." Longstreet later wrote, "The charges had been desperate and bloody,
but utterly hopeless." Thousands of Union soldiers spent the cold December night on the fields leading to the heights, unable
to move or assist the wounded because of Confederate fire. That night, Burnside attempted to blame his subordinates for the
disastrous attacks, but they argued that it was entirely his fault and no one else's.
Major General George B. McClellan affected a smile as he read the fateful orders from Washington. Turning toward his late
night visitor, McClellan spoke without revealing his bitter disappointment. "Well Burnside, I turn the command over to you."
With these words, the charismatic, overcautious leader of the Union's most famous fighting force exited the military
stage, yielding to a new man with a different vision of war.
General Ambrose E. Burnside inherited the Army of the Potomac on November
7, 1862. Its 120,000 men occupied camps near Warrenton, Virginia. Within two days, the 38 year-old Indiana native proposed
abandoning McClellan's sluggish southwesterly advance in favor of a 40-mile dash across country to Fredericksburg. Such a
maneuver would position the Federal army on the direct road to Richmond, the Confederate capital, as well as ensure a secure
supply line to Washington.
President Lincoln approved Burnside's initiative but advised him to march
quickly. Burnside took the President at his word and launched his army toward Fredericksburg on November 15. The bewhiskered
commander (whose facial hair inspired the term "sideburns") also streamlined the army's organization by partitioning it into
thirds that he styled "grand divisions." The blue clad veterans covered the miles at a brisk pace and on November 17 the lead
units arrived opposite Fredericksburg on Stafford Heights.
Burnside's swift March placed General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern
Virginia at a perilous disadvantage. After the Maryland Campaign, Lee had boldly divided his 78,000 men, leaving Lieutenant
General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley while sending Lieutenant General James Longstreet to face the
Federals at Culpeper. Lee had not anticipated Burnside's shift to Fredericksburg and now neither of his wings was in position
to defend the old city.
The Federals could not move South, however, without first crossing the Rappahannock
River, the largest of several river barriers that flowed across his path to Richmond. Because the civilian bridges had been
destroyed earlier in the war, Burnside directed that pontoon equipment meet him at Stafford Heights. A combination of miscommunication,
inefficient army bureaucracy, and poor weather delayed the arrival of the floating bridges. When the pontoons finally appeared
on November 25, so had the Army of Northern Virginia.
Burnside's strategy depended upon an unopposed crossing of the Rappahannock.
Consequently, his plan had failed before a gun had been fired. Nevertheless, the country demanded action. Winter weather would
soon render Virginia's highways impassable and end serious campaigning until spring. The Union commander had no choice but
to search for a new way to outwit Lee and satisfy the public's desire for victory. This would not be an easy task.
|Battle of Fredericksburg
|Battle of Fredericksburg, 11 Dec. 1862, Civil War Trust.
River Crossing: Longstreet's corps appeared at Fredericksburg
on November 19. Lee ordered it to occupy a range of hills behind the town, reaching from the Rappahannock on its left to marshy
Massaponax Creek on its right. When Jackson's men arrived more than a week later, Lee dispatched them as far as 20 miles down
river from Fredericksburg. The Confederate army thus guarded a long stretch of the Rappahannock, unsure of where the Federals
might attempt a crossing. Burnside harbored the same uncertainties. After agonizing deliberation, he finally decided to build
bridges at three places - two opposite the city and the other one a mile downstream. The Union commander knew that Jackson's
corps could not assist Longstreet in resisting a river passage near town. Thus, Burnside's superior numbers would encounter
only half of Lee's legions. Once across the river, the Federals would strike Longstreet's overmatched defenders, outflank
Jackson, and send the whole Confederate army reeling toward Richmond.
Burnside's lieutenants, however, doubted the practicality of their
chiefs plan. "There were not two opinions among the subordinate officers as to the rashness of the undertaking, "wrote one
corps commander. Nevertheless, in the foggy pre-dawn hours of December 11, Union engineers crept to the riverbank and began
laying their pontoons. Skilled workmen from two New York regiments completed a pair of bridges at the lower crossing and pushed
the upstream spans more than halfway to the opposite bank; then the sharp crack of musketry erupted from the river-front houses
and yards of Fredericksburg.
These shots came from a brigade of Mississippians under William Barksdale.
Their job was to delay any Federal attempt to negotiate the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Nine distinct and desperate attempts
were made to complete the bridge[s] reported a Confederate officer, "but every one was attended by such heavy loss that the
efforts were abandoned."
Burnside now turned to his artillery chief, Brigadier General Henry
J. Hunt, and ordered him to blast Fredericksburg into submission with some 150 guns trained on the city from Stafford Heights.
Such a barrage would surely dislodge the Confederate infantry and permit completion of the bridges. Shortly after noon, Hunt
gave the signal to commence fire. "Rapidly the huge guns vomited forth their terrible shot and shell into every corner and
thoroughfare of [Fredericksburg]," remembered an eyewitness.
The bombardment continued for nearly two hours, during which 8,000
projectiles rained destruction on Fredericksburg. Then the grand cannonade ceased and the engineers ventured warily to the
ends of their unfinished bridges. Suddenly -impossibly - muzzles flashed again from the cobble-strewn streets and more pontoniers
tumbled into the cold waters of the Rappahannock.
Burnside now authorized volunteers to ferry themselves across the
river in the clumsy pontoon boats. Men from Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York scrambled aboard the scows, frantically
pulling at oars to navigate the hazardous 400 feet to the Confederates' side. Once on shore, the Federals charged Barksdale's
marksmen who, despite orders to fall back, fiercely contested each block in a rare example of street fighting during the Civil
War. After dusk the brave Mississippians finally withdrew to their main line, the bridge builders completed their work, and
the Army of the Potomac entered Fredericksburg.
|Battle of Fredericksburg, 13 Dec. 1862, Civil War Trust
Attack on Prospect Hill: December 12 dawned cold and foggy.
Burnside began pouring reinforcements into the city but made no effort to organize an attack. Instead, the Northerners squandered
the day looting and vandalizing homes and shops. A Connecticut chaplain left a graphic account of some of this shameful behavior:
I saw men break down the doors to rooms of fine houses, enter, shatter the
looking glasses with the blow of the ax, [and] knock the vases and lamps off the mantelpiece with a careless swing ... A cavalry
man sat down at a fine rosewood Piano ... drove his saber through the polished keys, then knocked off the top [and] tore out
the strings ...
The Battle of Fredericksburg would unfold in a natural amphitheater bounded on the east by the Rappahannock River
and on the west by the line of hills fortified by Lee. When Jackson's men arrived from downstream, Longstreet sidled his corps
to the north, defending roughly five miles of Lee's front. He mounted guns at Strong points such as Taylor's Hill, Marye's
Heights, Howison Hill, and Telegraph (later Lee's) Hill, the Confederate command post. "Old Pete's" five divisions of infantry
supported his artillery at the base of the slopes.
Below Marye's Heights a Georgia brigade under Brigadier General Thomas R.
R. Cobb poised along a 600-yard portion of the Telegraph Road, the main thoroughfare to Richmond. Years of wagon traffic had
worn down the surface of the roadway lending it a sunken appearance. Stone retaining walls paralleling the shoulders transformed
this peaceful stretch of country highway into a ready-made trench.
Jackson's end of the line possessed less inherent strength. His command
post at Prospect Hill rose only 65 feet above the surrounding plain. Jackson compensated for the weak terrain by stacking
his four divisions one behind the other to a depth of nearly a mile. Any Union offensive against Lee's seven-mile line would,
by necessity, traverse a virtually naked expanse in the teeth of a deadly artillery crossfire before reaching the Confederate
Burnside issued his attack orders early on the morning of December 13. They
called for an assault against Jackson's corps by Major General William B. Franklin's Left Grand Division to be followed by
an advance against Marye's Heights by Major General Edwin V. Sumner's Right Grand Division. Burnside used tentative, ambiguous
language in his directives, reflecting either a lack of confidence in his plan or a misunderstanding of his opponent's posture
-- perhaps both.
Burnside had reinforced Franklin's sector on the morning of battle to a
strength of some 60,000 men. Franklin, a brilliant engineer but cautious combatant, placed the most literal and conservative
interpretation on Burnside's ill-phrased instructions. Rather than clearly denote Franklin's attack as his main effort, Burnside
ordered Franklin to attack the Confederate position with "a division at least" (a division numbers only 4,000-5,000 men).
Lacking time to clarify, Franklin designated Major General George G. Meade's division -- just 4,500 troops -- to spearhead
Meade's men, Pennsylvanians all, moved out in the misty half-light about
8:30 a.m. and headed straight for Jackson's line, not quite one mile distant. Suddenly, artillery fire exploded to the left
and rear of Meade's lines. Major John Pelham had valiantly moved two small guns into position along the Richmond Stage Road
perpendicular to Meade's axis of march. The 24 year-old Alabamian ignored orders from Major General J.E.B. Stuart to disengage
and continued to disrupt the Federal formations for almost an hour. General Lee, watching the action from Prospect Hill, remarked,
"it is glorious to see such courage in one so young." When Pelham exhausted his ammunition and retired, Meade resumed his
approach, Jackson patiently allowed the Federals to close to within 500 yards of the wooded elevation where a 14-gun battalion
lay hidden in the trees. As the Pennsylvanians drew near to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad north of Hamilton's
Crossing, "Stonewall" unleashed his masked artillery. Confederate shells ripped gaping holes in Meade's ranks and the beleaguered
Unionists sought protection behind wrinkles of ground in the open fields.
Union guns responded to Jackson's cannoneers. A full throated artillery
duel raged for an hour, killing so many draft animals that the Southerners called their position "Dead Horse Hill." When one
Union shot spectacularly exploded a Confederate ammunition wagon, the crouching Federal infantry let loose a spontaneous Yankee
cheer. Meade, seizing the moment, ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge. Meade's soldiers focused on a triangular point
of woods that jutted toward them across the railroad as the point of reference for their assault. When they reached these
trees they learned, to their delight, that no Southerners defended them. In fact, Jackson had allowed a 600-yard gap to exist
along his front and Meade's troops accidentally discovered it.
The Unionists pushed through the boggy forest and hit a brigade of South
Carolinians, who at first mistook the attackers for retreating Confederates. Their commander, Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg,
paid for this error with a fatal bullet through his spine. Meade's men rolled forward and gained the crest of the heights
deep within Jackson's defenses.
Jackson, who had learned of the crisis in his front from an officer in Gregg's
brigade, calmly directed his vast reserves to move forward and restore the line. The Southerners raised the "Rebel Yell" and
slammed into the exhausted and outnumbered Pennsylvanians. "The action was close-handed and men fell like leaves in autumn,"
remembered one Federal. "It seems miraculous that any of us escaped at all."
Jackson's counterattack drove Meade out of the forest, across the railroad,
and through the fields to the Richmond Stage Road. Union artillery eventually arrested the Confederate momentum. Except for
a minor probe by a New Jersey brigade along the Lansdowne Road in the late afternoon and an aborted Confederate offensive
at dusk, the fighting on the south end of the field was over.
Burnside waited anxiously at his headquarters on Stafford Heights for news
of Franklin's offensive. According to the Union plan, the advance through Fredericksburg toward Marye's Heights would not
commence until the Left Grand Division began rolling up Jackson's corps. By late morning, however, the despairing Federal
commander discarded his already-suspect strategy and ordered Sumner's grand division to move to the attack.
|Battle of Marye's Heights
|Battle of Marye's Heights, 13 Dec. 1862, Civil War Trust
Attack on Marye's Heights: In several ways, Marye's Heights
offered the Federals their most promising target. Not only did this sector of Lee's defenses lie closest to the shelter of
Fredericksburg, but the ground rose less steeply here than on the surrounding hills.
Nevertheless, Union soldiers had to leave the city, descend into a valley
bisected by a water-filled canal ditch, and ascend an open slope of 400 yards to reach the base of the heights. Artillery
atop Marye's Heights and nearby elevations would thoroughly blanket the Federal approach. "A chicken could not live on that
field when we open on it," boasted on Confederate cannoneer.
Sumner's first assault began at noon and set the pattern for a ghastly series
of attacks that continued, one after another, until dark. As soon as the Northerners marched out of Fredericksburg, Longstreet's
artillery wreaked havoc on the crisp blue formations. The Unionists then encountered a deadly bottleneck at the canal ditch
which was spanned by partially-destroyed bridges at only three places. Once across this obstacle, the attackers established
shallow battle lines under cover of a slight bluff that shielded them from Rebel eyes.
Orders then rang out for the final advance. The landscape beyond the canal
ditch contained a few buildings and fences, but from the military perspective it provided virtually no protection. Dozens
of Southern cannon immediately reopened on the easy targets, and when the Federals traversed about half the remaining distance,
sheets of flame spewed forth from the Sunken Road. This rifle fire decimated the Northerners. Survivors found refuge behind
a small swale in the ground or retreated back to the canal ditch valley.
Quickly a new Federal brigade burst toward Marye's Heights and the "terrible
stone wall," then another, and another, until three entire divisions had hurled themselves at the Confederate bastion. In
one hour, the Army of the Potomac lost nearly 3,000 men; but the madness continued.
Although General Cobb suffered a mortal wound early in the action, the Southern
line remained firm. Kershaw's Brigade joined North Carolinians in reinforcing Cobb's men in the Sunken Road. The Confederates
stood four ranks deep, maintaining a ceaseless line of fire while the gray-clad artillerists fired over their heads.
More Union units tested the impossible. "We came forward as though breasting
a storm of rain and sleet, our faces and bodies being only half- turned to the storm, our shoulders shrugged," remembered
one Federal. "Everybody from the smallest drummer boy on up seemed to be shouting to the full extent of his capacity," recalled
another. But each blue wave crested short of the goal. Not a single Union soldier laid his hand on the stone wall.
Lee, from his lofty perch on Telegraph Hill, watched Longstreet's almost
casual destruction of Burnside's divisions as Jackson's counterattack repulsed Meade. Turning toward Longstreet, Lee confessed,
"It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."
Burnside ordered Major General Joseph Hooker's Center Grand Division to
join the attack in the afternoon, and late in the day, troops from the Fifth Corps moved forward. Brigadier General Andrew
A. Humphreys led his division through the human debris of the previous assaults. Some of Humphreys' soldiers shook off well-meaning
hands that clutched at them to prevent their advance. Part of one brigade sustained its momentum until it drew within 25 yards
of the stone wall. There, it too melted away.
The final Union effort began after sunset. Colonel Rush C. Hawkins' brigade,
the fifteenth such Federal unit to charge the Sunken Road that day, enjoyed no more success than its predecessors. Darkness
shrouded the battlefield and at last the guns fell silent.
The hideous cries of the wounded, "weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and
bear," echoed through the night. Burnside wrote orders to renew the assaults on December 14, wishing to lead them personally,
but his subordinates dissuaded him from this suicidal scheme. On the evening of December 15-16, Burnside skillfully withdrew
his army to Stafford Heights, dismantling his bridges behind him. The Fredericksburg Campaign had ended.
Grim arithmetic tells only a part of the Fredericksburg story. Lee suffered
5,300 casualties but inflicted more than twice that many losses on his opponent. Of the 12,600 Federal soldiers killed, wounded,
or missing, almost two-thirds fell in front of the stone wall.
Despite winning in the most overwhelming tactical sense, however, the Battle
of Fredericksburg proved to be a hollow victory for the Confederates. The limitless resources of the North soon rectified
Burnside's losses in manpower and materiel. Lee, on the other hand, found it difficult to replenish either missing soldiers
or needed supplies. The Battle of Fredericksburg, although profoundly discouraging to Union soldiers and the Northern populace,
made no decisive impact on the war. Instead, it merely postponed the next "On to Richmond" campaign until the spring.
|Battle of Fredericksburg
|Union and Confederate positions at Battle of Fredericksburg
Analysis: 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 Major General Ambrose Burnside, as part of the American Civil War. The Union
Army's futile frontal attacks on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders on the heights behind the city are remembered
as one of the most one-sided battles of the war, with Union casualties more than three times as heavy as those suffered by
the Confederates. A visitor to the battlefield described the battle to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as a "butchery."
Burnside's plan was to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in mid-November and race to the Confederate
capital of Richmond before Lee's army could stop him. Bureaucratic delays prevented Burnside from receiving the necessary
pontoon bridges in time and Lee moved his army to block the crossings. When the Union army was finally able to build its bridges
and cross under fire, urban combat in the city resulted on December 11–12. Union troops prepared to assault Confederate
defensive positions south of the city and on a strongly fortified ridge just west of the city known as Marye's Heights.
On December 13, the "grand division" of Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin was able to pierce the first defensive line
of Confederate Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson to the south, but was finally repulsed. Burnside ordered the grand divisions
of Maj. Gens. Edwin V. Sumner and Joseph Hooker to make multiple frontal assaults against Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's position
on Marye's Heights, all of which were repulsed with heavy losses. On December 15, Burnside withdrew his army, ending another
failed Union campaign in the Eastern Theater.
The Union army suffered 12,653 casualties (1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded, 1,769 captured/missing). Two Union generals were
mortally wounded: Brig. Gens. George D. Bayard and Conrad F. Jackson. The Confederate army lost 5,377 (608 killed, 4,116 wounded,
653 captured/missing), most of them in the early fighting on Jackson's front. Confederate Brig. Gens. Maxcy Gregg and T. R.
R. Cobb were both mortally wounded. The casualties sustained by each army showed clearly how disastrous the Union army's tactics
were. Although the fighting on the Southern flank produced roughly equal casualties (about 4,000 Confederate, 5,000 Union),
the Northern flank was completely lopsided, with about eight Union casualties for each Confederate. Burnside's men had suffered
considerably more in the attack originally meant as a diversion. (Casualties provided Official Records of the Union
and Confederate Armies.)
*National Park Service. Depending on the source, casualties vary.
Sources: National Park Service; Library of Congress; Official Records of
the Union and Confederate Armies; Civil War Trust; Alexander, Edward P. Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative.
New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80509-X. First published 1907 by Charles Scribner's Sons; Center of Military History.
Fredericksburg Staff Ride: Briefing Book. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 2002. OCLC 50210530;
Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5;
Esposito, Vincent J. West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. OCLC 5890637. The collection
of maps (without explanatory text) is available online at the West Point website; Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative.
Vol. 2, Fredericksburg to Meridian. New York: Random House, 1958. ISBN 0-394-49517-9; Freeman, Douglas S. R. E. Lee, A Biography.
4 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934–35. OCLC 166632575; Gallagher, Gary W., ed. The Fredericksburg Campaign:
Decision on the Rappahannock. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8078-2193-4; Goolrick, William
K., and the Editors of Time-Life Books. Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books,
1985. ISBN 0-8094-4748-7; Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,
1998. ISBN 0-395-74012-6; Marvel, William. Burnside. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8078-1983-2;
O'Reilly, Francis Augustín. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8071-3154-7; Rable, George C. Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina
Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8078-2673-1; Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
Books, 2001. ISBN 0-8117-2868-4; Smith, Derek. The Gallant Dead: Union & Confederate Generals Killed in the Civil War.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2005. ISBN 0-8117-0132-8; Tucker, Spencer C. "First Battle of Fredericksburg." In Encyclopedia
of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New
York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X; Welcher, Frank J. The Union Army, 1861–1865 Organization
and Operations. Vol. 1, The Eastern Theater. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-253-36453-1.