Skip to main content

Fredericksburg, Battle of

Fredericksburg, Battle of (1862).After repelling the Confederates at the battles of Antietam, Perryville, and Corinth, the Union forces in the fall of 1862 renewed their offensives against Richmond, Chattanooga, and Vicksburg. President Abraham Lincoln replaced Gen. George B. McClellan with Gen. Ambrose Burnside in November 1862 in command of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside proposed to move toward Fredericksburg, Virginia, as a preliminary to an offensive against Richmond. Moving quickly, his army covered 40 miles in two days, leaving Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee guessing as to its destination, but confused orders and bureaucratic bungling delayed the arrival of pontoons for bridging the Rappahannock River for a week. These delays and Burnside's own indecisiveness allowed Lee to concentrate his forces and establish strong defensive positions on the hills behind Fredericksburg.

In the early morning of 11 December, Burnside's engineers began laying pontoon bridges. A heavy artillery bombardment and a crossing on the upper bridges by a Union brigade drove out the Confederate defenders. On the evening of 11 December and throughout 12 December, Federal troops moved into position in Fredericksburg. For the next several days, the soldiers thoroughly sacked the city.

On 13 December, Burnside ordered William B. Franklin to attack the Confederate right. However, carelessly drafted orders and Franklin's own lack of initiative led to delay and a weak assault with only one division. Despite these problems, however, George Gordon Meade's men poured through a gap in Gen. Thomas Jackson's line. A vigorous Confederate counterattack drove Meade's unsupported division back, and twilight ended the fighting on this part of the field.

While waiting impatiently for news of Franklin's attack, Burnside ordered Edwin Summer to take Marye's Heights in the rear of Fredericksburg. Around noon, William French's division moved through the streets toward a sunken road and stone wall at the base of Marye's Heights. French's brigades were thrown back by well‐placed Confederate artillery fire and what many participants described as a “sheet of flame” from Georgia and North Carolina infantry stationed behind a stone wall. Assaults by parts of five more Union divisions proved equally disastrous. Several generals talked Burnside out of leading the Ninth Corps in a desperate attack the following day, and by 16 December the Army of the Potomac had been withdrawn from Fredericksburg.

Although the battle had cost the Confederates over 5,000 casualties, the Federals had lost nearly 13,000. Historians have long criticized Burnside for both rashness and indecisiveness, yet the Union general was badly served by several subordinates. Some believe his battle plan stood a reasonable chance of success if properly executed. Whatever the merits of this argument, the results of the battle in the North were demoralization and political recrimination. For the Confederates, a relatively easy victory added to public confidence while producing fresh rumors of foreign mediation and peace negotiations.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Frank A. O’Reilly , “Stonewall” Jackson at Fredericksburg: The Battle of Prospect Hill, 1993.
Gary W. Gallagher, ed., Decision on the Rappahannock: Causes and Consequences of the Fredericksburg Campaign, 1995.

George C. Rable

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg-battle

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg-battle

Fredericksburg, Battle of

FREDERICKSBURG, BATTLE OF

FREDERICKSBURG, BATTLE OF (13 December 1862), the scene of a decisive Southern victory against great odds. After the defeat of Union General George B. McClellan at Sharpsburg, Maryland, command of the Army of the Potomac was given to General Ambrose E. Burnside, who made Richmond, Virginia—instead of the Army of Northern Virginia—his objective. General Robert E. Lee outmarched him to Fredericksburg and placed his army of about 78,000 on the high ground from one to two miles south of the Rappahannock River. Lee's lines roughly paralleled the river for more than six miles. Burnside slowly concentrated his 122,000 troops on the northern bank, with difficulty drove the Confederate sharpshooters out of Fredericksburg, and crossed to the southern bank, where he drew his lines for battle on 13 December. The Confederate right flank was unprotected by any natural obstacle, but Burnside launched only one major assault on the exposed line during the entire day, and this was repulsed. The main battle was fought at the base of Marye's Heights, where a sunken road provided a natural breastwork for the Confederates. Wave after wave of Union infantry was broken and rolled back by the devastating fire from this road. Nightfall ended the battle along the entire line, with 10,208 Unionists and 5,209 Confederates killed or wounded. Burnside planned to renew the attack on 14 December but was dissuaded by his commanders. His plans frustrated by his defeat, Burnside withdrew his demoralized army north of the Rappahannock during the night of 15 December, and on 25 January 1863 he was relieved of his command, which was given to General Joseph Hooker.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gallagher, Gary W. ed. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Decision on the Rappahannock. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Sutherland, Daniel E. Fredericksbsurg and Chancellorsville: The Dare Mark Campaign. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

George FrederickAshworth/a. r.

See alsoAntietam, Battle of ; Army of Northern Virginia ; Chancellorsville, Battle of ; Civil War .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fredericksburg-battle

"Fredericksburg, Battle of." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fredericksburg-battle

Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg:1 Town (1990 pop. 6,934), Gillespie co., S central Texas, in the Texas Hill Country near the Pedernales River; inc. 1928. Located in an agricultural (cattle, peaches, wine, lavender) and quarrying (granite, sand, gravel) region, the city produces animal feed, processed foods, and millwork. Tourism is important, with visitors drawn by the architecture, customs, and language that still recall the German settlers of 1846 and by hunting and fishing nearby. The National Museum of the Pacific War, Pioneer Museum, and Bauer Toy Museum are there; Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is to the north; the LBJ Ranch, part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is to the east. 2 Independent city (1990 pop. 19,027), N Va., on the Rappahannock River, midway between Washington, D.C., and Richmond; settled 1671, laid out 1727, inc. as a town 1781, as a city 1879. A city filled with historic interest, Fredericksburg attracts tourists. It is also a farm trade center with some light industry. Historic buildings include the home of Mary Washington (1772–89), the mother of George Washington; "Kenmore," the home of George Washington's sister; the Rising Sun Tavern (c.1760); the law office of James Monroe; and the home of John Paul Jones. Fredericksburg is the seat of Mary Washington College. Nearby are Wakefield (Washington's birthplace), Ferry Farm (the site of his boyhood home), and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (see National Parks and Monuments, table), commemorating the Civil War battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania Courthouse (see Wilderness campaign).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fredericksburg." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fredericksburg." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg

"Fredericksburg." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, battle of

battle of Fredericksburg, in the Civil War, fought Dec. 13, 1862, at Fredericksburg, Va. In Nov., 1862, the Union general Ambrose Burnside moved his three "grand divisions" under W. B. Franklin, E. V. Sumner, and Joseph Hooker to the north side of the Rappahannock River opposite Fredericksburg; his objective was Richmond. Delay in bringing up pontoons prevented Burnside from seizing the heights on the south bank immediately. Robert E. Lee, having anticipated the move, soon confronted him from those heights with James Longstreet's 1st Corps, which soon was joined by Stonewall Jackson's 2d. The Federals crossed on Dec. 11–12 and attacked Lee on Dec. 13. After Jackson had repulsed Franklin's attack on the Confederate right, Burnside ordered Sumner to storm Longstreet's impregnable position on Marye's Heights. Successive charges brought death to droves of courageous Union troops. Burnside's subordinates protested against renewing the foolhardy assaults, and on Dec. 15 the Federals made an undisturbed withdrawal to the north bank. Union losses, more than twice the Confederate, were over 12,000. The defeat caused profound depression throughout the North.

See E. J. Stackpole, Drama on the Rappahannock (1957); V. E. Whan, Jr., Fiasco at Fredericksburg (1961); J. Luvaas and H. W. Nelson, The U.S. Army Guide to the Battles of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg (1989).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fredericksburg, battle of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fredericksburg, battle of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg-battle

"Fredericksburg, battle of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg-battle

Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg City on the Rappahannock River, n Virginia, USA. Planned in 1727, the many historic landmarks make it a major tourist attraction. It is particularly associated with the American Revolution and Civil War. From 1760, the Rising Sun Tavern was a meeting place for American patriots. Many sites are connected to George Washington, including the site of the signing of a 1775 resolution of American Independence. The US Civil War battle of Fredericksburg (1862) was a victory for the 72,500-strong Confederate army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee, over the 114,000-strong Union Army of the Potomac, led by Major General Ambrose Burnside. Nearly 13,000 Union troops were killed or wounded. In comparison, the Confederate troops of Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet lost about 5300 men. Industries: tourism, clothing, shoes, cement, cinder blocks. Pop. (2000) 19,279.

http://www.civilwarhome.com/fredrick.htm

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fredericksburg." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fredericksburg." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg

"Fredericksburg." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fredericksburg