Tag Archives: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

The Death of “Stonewall” Jackson

May 10, 1863 – Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, commanding the Second Corps in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, died after being shot on May 2.

Jackson had sustained three gunshot wounds, two of which resulted in the amputation of his left arm just below the shoulder. Following the procedure, an ambulance took him to Guiney’s Station, near his former headquarters about 10 miles south of Fredericksburg. It was hoped that he would be safe from Federal cavalry raids there. Jackson arrived on the 4th, where he began convalescing at the Chandler estate.

Lt Gen T.J. Jackson following his amputation | Image Credit: OldVirginiaBlog.Blogspot.com

Over the next three days, Jackson’s wife, Anna, joined him, and he appeared to be recovering. His medical director, Dr. Hunter Maguire, noted that the general seemed stronger each day, regaining his appetite and responsiveness. Regarding his wounds, the pious Jackson told a visitor, “Many would regard them as a great misfortune. I regard them as one of the blessings of my life.”

Jackson complained of fatigue and slept most of the 6th. He woke at 1 a.m. on the 7th with severe nausea and pain on his left side. Dr. Maguire arrived later that morning and determined that Jackson had developed pneumonia in his right lung. Maguire applied most of the customary treatments for that time, including bloodletting, mercury, antimony, and mustard compresses.

The doctor then wrapped Jackson in warm blankets and administered a combination of whiskey, opium, laudanum, and morphine. This helped numb the pain, but it also put Jackson into a state of delirium. He spent the next two days going in and out of fevered consciousness.

Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, had been informed that Jackson’s recovery was proceeding well. Now he was told that Jackson had taken a turn for the worse. Lee said, “Tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”

On the 9th, Dr. Maguire informed both Lee and President Jefferson Davis that Jackson’s chances of survival were doubtful. Lee said, “Surely General Jackson will recover. God will not take him from us now that we need him so much.” The editor of the Richmond Whig wrote:

“We need have no fears for Jackson. He is no accidental manifestation of the powers of faith and courage. He came not by chance in this day and to this generation. He was born for a purpose, and not until that purpose is fulfilled will his great soul take flight.”

Not convinced that he was nearing his end, Jackson asked Dr. Maguire for his opinion. The doctor said that recovery was likely impossible. Jackson resigned himself and said, “If it is the will of my Heavenly Father, I am perfectly satisfied.” Anna read the Psalms to him, as he was attended to by his doctor and other physicians, his minister, his aide, and his slave Jim Lewis. One of the attending physicians said they had “done everything that human skill could devise to stay the hand of death.”

Early on the 10th, Anna told her husband the doctors had determined that by day’s end, he “would be with the blessed Saviour in His glory.” Jackson disagreed; he called in one of the attending physicians and asked, “Anna informs me that you have told her that I am to die today. Is that so?” The physician said yes. Jackson said, “Very good, very good. It is all right. It is the Lord’s day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”

Jackson requested the visitors to sing his favorite hymn, “Shew pity, Lord; O Lord, Forgive; Let a Repenting Rebel Live.” When Dr. Maguire asked him if he wanted brandy, Jackson said, “It will only delay my departure, and do no good; I want to preserve my mind, if possible, to the last.” Around 1:30 p.m., a physician informed him that he probably had no more than two hours to live. Jackson replied, “Very good. It is all right.”

He soon slipped back into delirium, where he was back on the battlefield calling out, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action!” Then his voice trailed off until he briefly rallied, smiled, and said, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” Then Jackson died.

A courier delivered a message to Lee bearing the news. Lee responded by issuing General Order No. 61 to the Army of Northern Virginia:

“With deep regret the commanding general announces the death of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson. Let his name be a watch-word to his corps who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our loved Country.”

Jackson’s body was taken to Richmond, where it was placed for public viewing at the Capitol on the 12th. City businesses closed. A funeral service took place the next day, attended by many mourners. Several other soldiers who had died at Chancellorsville were also being interred in Richmond or sent to their homes. Jackson’s family accompanied his body on a canal barge taking them to Lynchburg, en route to Lexington, where Jackson had taught at the Virginia Military Institute.

The casket arrived at Lynchburg on the 14th, where an escort of V.M.I. cadets brought it to Lexington and placed it in Jackson’s old lecture hall. A short funeral service was held at the Presbyterian Church the next day, where Jackson’s casket was draped with the first Confederate flag ever made. The casket was then taken to the cemetery south of town for burial under the shade of trees. As a popular song went, “The Gallant Stonewall was no more.”

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 360-61; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 282, 284-85; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 313, 316-18, 430; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 294; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5525, 5560-71; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 138-39, 160-61; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 391-92; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 351; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 210-11

The Battle of Chancellorsville: Jackson Attacks

May 2, 1863 – Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates attacked the unsuspecting Federal right flank, but Jackson was seriously wounded in the aftermath.

After the previous day’s engagement, Major General Joseph Hooker placed five Federal corps across a three-and-a-quarter-mile front near Chancellorsville:

  • Major General George G. Meade’s V Corps held the left
  • Three corps (Major General Darius N. Couch’s II, Major General Daniel Sickles’s III, and Major General Henry W. Slocum’s XII) held the center
  • Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps held the right

Hooker placed three corps in the center because he expected the bulk of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to attack there.

Lee held Hooker’s front in place all day with just two divisions under Generals Richard Anderson and Lafayette McLaws. A division of just 10,000 men under Major General Jubal Early held the Confederate defenses at Fredericksburg to the east against a Federal diversionary force. Two Confederate cavalry regiments held Major General George Stoneman’s Federal troopers in check, while Jackson’s corps marched west, around to the Federal right flank.

Movements on May 2 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

A movement across an enemy’s front was one of the most hazardous maneuvers in warfare because it left his long column highly vulnerable to easy attack. Hooker could have destroyed Lee in his front, Early at Fredericksburg, or Jackson moving toward his right if he attacked any of these three forces with superior numbers. But Hooker, whose cavalry was wrapping up its failed raid instead of providing intelligence, chose not to do so, just as Lee hoped.

Although Jackson tried moving undetected, Sickles’s Federals observed the enemy column’s rear and fired on it through a clearing. After an hour, Sickles reported that the Confederates “hurried past in great confusion, vainly endeavoring to escape our well-directed and destructive fire.” But Sickles did not try to find out where the Confederates were going.

After inspecting his forces and receiving reports of Sickles’s supposed victory, Hooker determined that the Confederates were retreating. Even so, he alerted Howard to stay on guard to the right. Hooker wrote, “We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe in order to obtain timely information of their approach.” Howard answered, “I am taking measures to resist an attack from the west.”

Hooker then directed the 40,000 Federals outside Fredericksburg under Major General John Sedgwick to push west through Early’s defenders at Fredericksburg and join the main army. Hooker planned to pursue Lee, whom he thought was now in full retreat. Since Hooker’s orders to attack Early were discretionary, Sedgwick chose not to follow them.

Meanwhile, Sickles continued receiving word that Confederates were moving around to the Federal right, and he asked Hooker for permission to attack. Hooker finally complied in early afternoon, but he only permitted a probing action, not a full-scale assault. Sickles’s men moved up from Hazel Grove to hit the rear of the Confederate column near Catharine Furnace; they took several hundred prisoners before the Confederates repelled the attack and resumed their march.

When Sickles received word that the Confederates had been caught marching south, not west, he reported to Hooker, “I think it is a retreat. Sometimes a regiment then a few wagons–then troops then wagons.” Hooker issued orders for the entire Army of the Potomac to be ready to pursue Lee’s army the next day. When pickets from one of Howard’s brigades reported “a queer jumble of sounds” coming from the woods, Howard told them they “must not be scared of a few bushwhackers.” Other reports from XI Corps pickets about possible enemy activity went largely ignored.

Jackson’s march took longer than expected, with the Confederates finally getting into attack position on the Orange Turnpike around 5 p.m. Deer, rabbits, and other wildlife sprang from the woods and rushed through the Federal camps, signaling that an unseen enemy force was approaching. The Confederates charged through the woods along a two-mile front, screaming the “Rebel yell.”

They shocked the unsuspecting XI Corps, sending most of the men fleeing into the one-mile gap that Sickles had caused by moving his men up to attack the marching column. This crumbled Hooker’s right flank. Meanwhile, Lee directed Confederates to fire into the defenses on the Federal front and left to divert Hooker’s attention.

Hooker ordered Sickles’s corps and some cavalry to try stemming the Confederate tide; he then sent in parts of Meade’s corps and Major General John F. Reynolds’s I Corps as well. All these forces joined to defend the area around Wilderness Church and Dowdall’s Tavern before breaking and falling back to join the main army. Sickles fell back to Hazel Grove, where Federal artillery kept the Confederates at bay for now.

Other Federal guns at Fairview Cemetery stopped the Confederate advance for the night. The Federal right had been knocked back two miles into the center and left flanks. Fighting continued sporadically into the night, marking one of the few night battles of the war.

Jackson planned to renew the attack the next day, hoping to cut off Hooker’s potential line of retreat to the Rapidan River. As Jackson and his aides returned from scouting the Federal lines around 9 p.m., Confederate pickets of the 18th North Carolina mistook them for Federal cavalry and fired on them. Several aides were shot from their horses. Jackson was shot through his right hand and twice in his left shoulder, which shattered his arm. Bleeding heavily, he was helped from his horse and laid on a litter, which litter-bearers dropped when a Federal shell exploded nearby, throwing Jackson onto his broken arm.

The men put Jackson back on the litter and brought him to a nearby ambulance, which conveyed him to a field hospital at Wilderness Tavern. Dr. Hunter Maguire, Jackson’s medical director, received Jackson’s permission to amputate his arm, just below the shoulder. Command of his corps initially passed to Major General A.P. Hill, his most senior subordinate, but Hill had been wounded in both legs by shell fragments. So it went to Major General Jeb Stuart, the Confederate cavalry commander.

The Confederate attack on this day involved one of the most daring gambles in military history, resulting in a stunning victory for Lee from which Hooker would never recover. However, the right of Jackson’s attack wave had not advanced enough to link with Lee’s left as hoped, and Jackson’s left had not seized the high ground at Chandler’s Farm. And Jackson no longer commanded the attacking force. All this helped Hooker to strengthen his defenses and save his army from complete destruction.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 358; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 302-03; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 280; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 286-97; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 289; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5395-5407; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 126-40; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 391-92; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 62-64; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 346-47; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 640-43; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 203-10; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 126-27

The Battle of Chancellorsville: Hooker Pulls Back

May 1, 1863 – General Robert E. Lee rushed to trap the Federal Army of the Potomac in the Wilderness, while portions of the two armies clashed outside Fredericksburg to the east.

By this time, Lee had correctly guessed that the 40,000 Federals at Fredericksburg were merely a diversion to Major General Joseph Hooker’s main attack to the west, near Chancellorsville. Lee left just 10,000 men to defend Fredericksburg and sent his remaining 46,000 troops west to confront Hooker’s 75,000 Federals.

As Lee supervised artillery emplacements at Fredericksburg, Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson began assembling the Confederate divisions under Generals Lafayette McLaws and Richard H. Anderson. By 11 a.m., their men were moving west on the Orange Turnpike and Plank Road to face Hooker’s Federals heading east from Chancellorsville.

Artillery opened around 11:20 a.m., and heavy skirmishing began between Chancellorsville and the Tabernacle Church. The Federals surged forward into a clearing outside the Wilderness and seized high ground, from which they could launch a strong counterattack.

Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, the Federal army aeronautics chief, reported from an observation balloon that Lee’s entire army was coming from Fredericksburg to stop the Federal advance. At 2 p.m., Hooker, who had sworn that God Almighty could not save Lee from destruction, ordered his men to immediately disengage and fall back to their previous positions around the Chancellorsville crossroads.

Brigadier General Gouverneur K. Warren, the Federal army chief engineer, saw that the Federals had gained a major advantage and pleaded with Hooker to reconsider. Major General Darius N. Couch, commanding II Corps, also sent a messenger to headquarters saying, “In no event should we give up our ground.” Hooker revised his order to, “Hold on until 5 o’clock.” But by the time the message reached Couch, he told the courier, “Tell General Hooker he is too late. The enemy are already on my right and rear. I am in full retreat.”

Federal Major General Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: Sonofthesouth.net

Hooker’s decision to surrender the initiative dumbfounded his subordinates and gave Lee the opportunity to launch an offensive of his own. The decision may have been prompted by the fact that Lee had used Major General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry to command all roads leading out of Chancellorsville. This prevented Hooker from getting an accurate idea of where Lee’s army truly was.

Some officers thought that Hooker might have been drunk, but others later testified before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War that he had not been drinking that day. Some even believed that alcohol might have actually improved Hooker’s performance. Hooker later explained his decision by saying, “For once, I lost confidence in Hooker.”

Nevertheless, Hooker’s confidence seemed restored by day’s end, when he sent a message to his subordinates: “The major general commanding trusts that a suspension in the attack today will embolden the enemy to attack him.” But his troops were back where they started that morning, in the woods and not the clearing where the Confederates had stopped them. The heavy brush of the Wilderness offset Hooker’s advantage in both numbers and artillery.

Lee, who had arrived from Fredericksburg that afternoon, met with Jackson just after nightfall southeast of Chancellorsville. They sat on hardtack boxes in front of a fire and discussed upcoming strategy. Jackson reported that the Federals had stopped withdrawing and were now stationed behind defenses.

Stuart reported that General Fitzhugh Lee, one of his cavalry commanders who had scouted the Orange Turnpike, found that the Federal right flank was “in the air” and vulnerable to attack. The troops on the Federal right consisted of Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps, which was largely disliked by the rest of the army because its men were predominantly German immigrants who spoke little English. Having not yet proved themselves in battle, they were placed on the right, believed to be farthest from any upcoming action.

With Lee’s army already divided between Fredericksburg and the Wilderness outside Chancellorsville, Jackson proposed splitting it a third time by moving his corps on a 14-mile march around to attack the Federal right flank. A local resident showed one of Jackson’s aides a path that could be used, off the main road, to get to the Federal flank without detection.

Lee told Jackson, “General Stuart will cover your movement with his cavalry.” Jackson said, “My troops will move at 4 o’clock.” While Jackson led his corps around Hooker’s right, Lee would demonstrate against Hooker’s front with the divisions of Anderson and McLaws.

This defied all military logic and was the greatest gamble ever yet attempted by Lee. Facing an army of nearly 130,000 men, Lee would send 28,000 to assail the right while holding the front with 18,000 and Fredericksburg with just 10,000. But believing that Hooker had lost his nerve by withdrawing, Lee told Jackson, “Well, go on.”

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 357; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 292, 299; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 279; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 276-81, 281-83; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 288; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5360-95; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124-26; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 62-64; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 344-46; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 639-40; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 203-210; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 126-27

The Battle of Fredericksburg: Aftermath

December 14, 1862 – Major General Ambrose E. Burnside planned to renew the Federal attacks following yesterday’s terrible defeat, but his subordinates strongly objected.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee strengthened his defenses even more throughout the night and early morning of the 14th. Since yesterday’s charges had been so easily repulsed, Lee feared that another, larger attack was forthcoming. Just after midnight on the 14th, Confederates obtained a dispatch from a captured Federal messenger confirming that Burnside planned to renew the assault.

Gen. Ambrose Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Burnside wired his superiors at 4 a.m., “I have just returned from the field. Our troops are all over the river. We hold the first ridge outside the town, and 3 miles below. We hope to carry the rest today.” Despite 14 futile charges against Marye’s Heights, Burnside planned to personally lead his old IX Corps in another attack on the position at dawn, with V Corps in support.

Heavy fog covered the field, hiding the thousands of Federal soldiers (either wounded or pinned down by Confederates) still laying in the freezing cold in front of Marye’s Heights. As word of Burnside’s plan circulated, many commanders refused to obey. Major General Edwin V. Sumner pleaded with Burnside to reconsider. Burnside responded by calling a council of war with his three Grand Division commanders (Sumner, Joseph Hooker, and William B. Franklin).

Hooker voiced such strong opposition to this plan that some witnesses considered him insubordinate. Franklin suggested they attack Lee’s extreme right flank as he had previously recommended. Burnside finally agreed to abort his planned assault, but instead of trying to attack at another point on Lee’s line, he would withdraw the Army of the Potomac back across the Rappahannock River.

Lee had accomplished his initial goal of stopping the Federal drive on Richmond. But when the Federals showed no signs of renewing the contest, Lee tried to coax them into a fight so he could achieve his overall goal of destroying the Federal army. He opened a visible gap in his line that he hoped Burnside would try charging through, but the Federals would not take the bait.

Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson urged Lee to counterattack, and Lee later faced southern criticism for not charging into the demoralized Federals. But the Confederates were still vastly outnumbered, and the Federals were under the protection of massed artillery on Stafford Heights across the river. Moreover, Lee discovered that the Federals had dug entrenchments outside Fredericksburg, which would be very difficult to overtake. A counterattack could have been easily repulsed, or the Federals could have easily withdrawn across the river and dismantled their pontoon bridges before the Confederates could use them.

As the sun set on the 14th, the Federals still living on the ground in front of Marye’s Heights had to endure a second night of exposure to freezing cold. The aurora borealis appeared in the evening sky, which was an unusual sight so far south. Confederates who had never seen them before claimed that the dancing lights represented God celebrating their victory.

The Federal withdrawal back to Falmouth began during the night. Lee granted Burnside’s request for a truce to collect the wounded and bury the dead on the battlefield. Over a thousand Federals lay dead in one square acre in front of Marye’s Heights. Most died in combat, but some died of exposure, having been lying in freezing cold for two days.

Burnside spent most of the 15th consulting with officers on what he should do. He also considered resigning, but Sumner thought that was an overreaction. As news of the defeat reached Washington, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck urged Burnside to hold his ground and renew the attack. But then he relented and told Burnside to use his own discretion. Burnside decided to leave 12,000 men to hold Fredericksburg, but when Hooker informed him that the army could not hold both the town and the pontoon crossings, Burnside pulled all his men out of Fredericksburg.

The Army of the Potomac returned to Falmouth by the night of the 15th, crossing the river in a terrible thunderstorm. The Federals were humiliated and demoralized by their latest defeat. Many officers and men openly questioned not only Burnside’s judgment but his competence. Hooker became the most vocal of Burnside’s critics in the army by openly denouncing his leadership.

Confederate Major General D.H. Hill informed Lee that the Federals had escaped. The Confederates did not celebrate their victory; they only wondered whether they let an opportunity slip away. Lee did not pursue the retreating enemy. He and most southerners knew that the Federals would soon regroup and reequip themselves for another drive against Lee’s army and Richmond.

The Confederates entered Fredericksburg on the 16th and were horrified to see that the entire town had been looted and pillaged. Even some Federals wrote home complaining about their comrades’ behavior. Lee and Jackson expressed outrage, with Lee writing:

“Yesterday evening I had my suspicions that they might retire during the night, but could not believe they would relinquish their purpose after all their boasting & preparations, & when I say the latter is equal to the former, you will have some idea of its magnitude. This morning they were all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock. Those people delight to destroy the weak & those who can make no defense; it just suits them.”

Some Confederate soldiers organized a relief fund for those who lost their homes and belongings at the hands of the Federal marauders. The Federals took up winter quarters at Falmouth and on Stafford Heights. They stripped the region of its vegetation and wood, making it a wasteland for many years after the war.

Although Lee faced some criticism for refusing to pursue the Federals, most southerners celebrated the Battle of Fredericksburg as a tremendous victory. The Richmond Examiner proclaimed a “stunning defeat to the invader, a splendid victory to the defender of the sacred soil.” The Charleston Mercury wrote that “General Lee knows his business and the army has yet known no such word as fail.”

Conversely, northerners were horrified to learn of this disaster. The Cincinnati Commercial stated, “It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day.” Federal soldiers had displayed tremendous bravery for no gain, leading officers and soldiers to openly question Burnside’s decisions.

In Burnside’s report to Halleck, he complained about the late arrival of the pontoons but ultimately accepted full blame for the disaster:

“The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton onto this line, rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary of War, and yourself, and that you left the whole movement in my hands without giving me orders, makes me responsible.”

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 337-38; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 87-88; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 266; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 58-61; Cullen, Joseph P., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 287; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17718; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 242-43; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 40-45; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 240; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5194-5207; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 63-91; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 111-12; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 296-97; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 573; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 545; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 288-90

The Battle of Fredericksburg

December 13, 1862 – Major General Ambrose E. Burnside launched a doomed Federal assault on General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate defenses south and west of Fredericksburg.

By this date, the two corps of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia held a line seven miles long on high ground overlooking the town. Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s corps held the Confederate left, west of town, which included Marye’s Heights, a sunken road, and a stone wall. Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps held the Confederate right, south of town, which included Prospect Hill and other ridges. Major General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry covered Jackson’s right flank.

Burnside ordered Major General William B. Franklin to lead his Grand Division in an attack on Jackson’s positions before dawn, using the darkness to hide their advance across the open plain. Major General Joseph Hooker’s Grand Division would come up in support. Burnside expected Franklin’s assault to force Longstreet to reinforce Jackson, thus leaving the Confederate left vulnerable. Major General Edwin V. Sumner’s Grand Division was to exploit this weakness by attacking Longstreet’s positions.

Franklin’s pre-dawn assault did not happen because Franklin did not receive the order until after sunrise. By that time, Burnside had changed the plan so that Hooker would support Sumner and not Franklin. The early morning fog lifted around 10 a.m., and artillery opened on both sides before Franklin’s Federals marched toward the hills south of Fredericksburg.

The Federals advanced on the Old Richmond Stage road and onto the plain to attack Jackson’s defenders at Hamilton’s Crossing. The fighting intensified and the Confederate line wavered, but Jackson assured an aide, “My men have sometimes failed to take a position, but to defend one–never.”

On the Confederate right, Stuart announced that he was “going to crowd ‘em with artillery.” Major John Pelham, Stuart’s promising young artillery chief, expertly placed his cannons so their fire enfiladed the Federals’ left and stalled their advance for nearly two hours. Lee complimented Pelham, “It is glorious to see such courage in one so young.”

Around 1 p.m., Major General George G. Meade’s Federal division broke through the enemy line and separated two brigades in thick woods; Confederate Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg was killed and his South Carolinians routed during the action. However, Franklin did not send reinforcements to follow up his advantage; of the two corps under his command, a division of I Corps and the entire VI Corps did not get into the fight at all.

Meanwhile, Confederates under Generals Jubal Early and William Taliaferro hurried forward to knock the Federals back and shore up the line. More Confederates under Major General D.H. Hill also hurried from their positions further south along the Rappahannock to reinforce Jackson. Fighting ended when the Confederates finally pushed the Federals back to their original positions.

A mile northwest, Sumner’s II and IX corps began moving west out of Fredericksburg around noon to attack Longstreet’s corps holding Marye’s Heights and other high ground. The only way to take the enemy positions was to advance across open ground, exposed to the Confederate guns. As the Federals approached, a Confederate artilleryman told Longstreet, “General, a chicken could not live in that field when we open on it.”

The Confederate fire cut down rows of Federal soldiers as they tried coming forward. Survivors struggled for two hours to take the heights before either falling back or seeking cover on the field. Every Federal charge was repelled at a terrible cost of human life. Lee watched the carnage from atop Marye’s Heights and said, “It is well that war is so terrible; we should grow too fond of it.”

Federals charge Marye’s Heights | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Hooker’s III and IV corps began another advance near nightfall, but this was repulsed in a similarly murderous fashion. The Confederates easily fought off 14 assaults, with no Federals coming within 20 yards of their line. When word spread that Burnside might order another attack, many officers announced that they would not obey. Burnside then planned to personally lead one more assault, but his subordinates talked him out of it.

This was the worst defeat ever sustained by the U.S. army, as the Federals lost 12,653 men (1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded, and 1,769 missing). The Confederates reportedly lost 5,309 men, but this was later adjusted to 4,201 when it was discovered that the figure included over 1,000 soldiers who went home for Christmas just after the battle. Most of the Confederate casualties were sustained in Franklin’s attack. This stunning and decisive Confederate victory solidified the reputation of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia as the premier fighting force of the war.

Jackson tried counterattacking near dusk, but Federal artillery on Stafford Heights across the Rappahannock stopped him. The Federal troops in front of Marye’s Heights were pinned down on the battlefield, unable to retreat without being exposed to Confederate sharpshooters above them. Many men remained there overnight with no shelter in the freezing cold. Some froze to death.

Journalist Henry Villard rushed from the battlefield to relay news of the battle to President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. Arriving late that night, Villard warned Lincoln that nearly every officer believed the army could be destroyed if the troops were not pulled back across the Rappahannock. Lincoln, not yet aware of the defeat’s magnitude, said, “I hope it is not so bad as all that.”

Lee met with his top commanders that night, and nearly all of them expected Burnside to attack again. Lee telegraphed Richmond at 9 p.m.: “I expect the battle to be renewed at daylight.” Around midnight, this seemed confirmed when Confederates captured one of the Federal messengers delivering Burnside’s order to attack in the morning. Lee hoped to repel these assaults and then launch a counterattack that would destroy the Army of the Potomac once and for all.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 278-79; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 58-61; Cullen, Joseph P., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 287; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17718-27; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 241; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8443-54; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 33-39, 41, 44; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 238-39; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5159-71; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 58-59, 66-67, 80, 86-91; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 111-12; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 295-96; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 573; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 543, 546; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 168-74; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 288-90

Fredericksburg: Federals Cross the Rappahannock

December 12, 1862 – The Federal Army of the Potomac crossed pontoon bridges and looted Fredericksburg, while the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia awaited the enemy’s advance from the heights west of town.

Federal teamsters began building the pontoon bridges at 2 a.m. on the 11th. The plan was to lay six bridges in three pairs, with one pair north of Fredericksburg, one south, and one farther downstream. This had to be done by mooring flat-bottomed boats in a line and securing pontoons on top of them across the freezing 400-foot-wide Rappahannock River.

Maj Gen A.E. Burnside | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

General John Bell Hood’s Confederates contested bridge construction downstream, but Federal artillery drove them off. These bridges were completed by 11 a.m., to be used by Major General William B. Franklin’s Grand Division. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding the Federal army, had ordered Franklin earlier, “After your command has crossed, you will move down the Old Richmond Road, in the direction of the railroad, being governed by circumstances as to the extent of your movements.”

When Franklin informed headquarters that the bridges had been built, Burnside seemingly contradicted himself by ordering him to stay put and await further orders. Burnside did not order Franklin to begin crossing until 4 p.m., five hours after the bridges were ready. By that time, Franklin’s troops could have easily been across the river and ready to confront the Confederates.

Meanwhile, General Henry Hunt, commanding the Federal artillery, positioned 147 guns on Stafford Heights to protect the engineers as they worked on the four bridges in front of Fredericksburg. Heavy fog initially hid the workers, but the Confederates finally realized what was happening and fired artillery rounds from Marye’s Heights at 4:45 a.m. to signal that the enemy was forcing a river crossing.

Sharpshooters from General William Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade hurried into position to fire on the pontoniers once they came within range. The Confederates took up positions in rifle pits, houses, and brick buildings along the riverside to stop the four crossings north and south of Fredericksburg.

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate army, watched the action from a ridge that became known as Lee’s Hill. The rising sun enabled the Confederates to see the bridge workers through the fog and drive them off under fire. The workers then returned to the bridges under Federal covering fire. Three more times the Confederates drove them off, and they came back after each time.

As the fog lifted around 10 a.m., Burnside ordered the artillerists on Stafford Heights to bombard Fredericksburg. The guns hurled 5,000 rounds into the town in two hours, demolishing buildings, churches, and houses, and setting much of Fredericksburg on fire.

A correspondent witnessing the action wrote that “the earth shook beneath the terrific explosions of the shells, which went howling over the river, crashing into houses, battering down walls, splintering doors, ripping up floors.” Civilians who had not already evacuated hurried out of town; many left their homes in ruins. Some who could not flee huddled in cellars or any other shelter they could find.

Following the bombardment, the Confederate sharpshooters returned and continued firing on the teamsters. Federal troops from three regiments finally crossed in boats and drove the Confederates out of town, fighting from block to block, street to street, and house to house. The first bridge was finally completed by 4:30 p.m., allowing more Federal troops to cross and join the fray. The Confederates put up a fight before falling back to their defenses on the hills west of Fredericksburg around 7 p.m.

Barksdale’s Confederates had held the Federals off for over 15 hours, stopping nine attempts to span the river. This gave Lee more than enough time to finalize preparations to defend against the general Federal advance coming soon. Lee directed two of Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s nearby divisions to move closer to Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s corps on the ridges west of town.

Burnside remained unaware that four of his six crossings were at the Confederates’ strongest point. He received information from scouts in observation balloons that the Confederates downriver were making no effort to reinforce those at Fredericksburg. This convinced Burnside that the Confederate defenses outside town were weak and emboldened him to spend another day organizing his forces for an attack.

As his Grand Divisions began crossing the river and entering Fredericksburg, one soldier wondered aloud why it had been so easy getting into the town. Another replied, “They want to get us in. Getting out won’t be quite so smart and easy. You’ll see if it will.”

The Left and Right Grand Divisions under Major Generals Edwin V. Sumner and Franklin continued crossing the Rappahannock on the morning of the 12th. They took up positions both in and southeast of town. The area was shrouded in heavy fog until around noon, making it too late for Burnside to launch his attack. He instead spent the day planning to attack tomorrow. Both sides exchanged sporadic artillery fire.

Federal troops looted what was left of Fredericksburg, taking artwork, furniture, pianos, china, jewelry, and anything else they could find. They vandalized nearly every private residence and destroyed whatever they did not want. This marked the first instance of urban warfare in America, and the first time an American town had been looted since the British plundered Washington in the War of 1812. A correspondent from the New York Tribune wrote of the spectacle:

“We destroyed by fire nearly two whole squares of buildings, chiefly used for business purposes, together with the fine residences of O. McDowell, Dr. Smith, J.H. Kelly, A.S. Cott, William Slaughter, and many other smaller dwellings. Every store, I think, without exception, was pillaged of every valuable article. A fine drug-store, which would not have looked badly on Broadway, was literally one mass of broken glass and jars.”

Most officers seemed unable or unwilling to stop the destruction. Some even joined in the ransacking with their men. Only Major General Darius N. Couch, commanding II Corps, posted guards at the bridges to stop troops from trying to bring their loot back across the river to their camps.

Lee called on Jackson’s last two divisions at Port Royal and Skinker’s Neck to come support the rest of the army outside Fredericksburg. Longstreet held Marye’s Heights with his corps, which covered five miles. To his right, Jackson’s corps took positions on Prospect Hill and along the wooded ridges south of town. A swampy region caused a 1,000-yard gap in Jackson’s line, but the Confederates did not expect the Federals to test it.

The Confederate line stretched seven miles. Lee’s ranks had swelled to over 75,000 effectives in nine divisions grouped into two corps (five in one and four in another), along with 275 guns. Lee said, “I shall try to do them all the damage in our power when they move forward.”

Burnside set up headquarters in Chatham Mansion, where Lee had courted his future wife 30 years before. Burnside next inspected Sumner’s lines, which faced Longstreet, and then Franklin’s, which faced Jackson. Franklin persuaded Burnside to begin the attack in his front because the Confederates seemed weakest at that point. Part of Major General Joseph Hooker’s Grand Division, which was still crossing the river, would reinforce Franklin.

By nightfall, Burnside had nearly 120,000 effectives in three Grand Divisions of two corps each, and three divisions within each corps; he also had 312 guns. He planned to attack at dawn.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 87; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 278-79; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 58-61; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17663; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 240; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 21-22, 26-30; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 237-38; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5030-63; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 51-58; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 111-12; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 294-95; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 571; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 539-40, 548; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 169; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 288-90

Fredericksburg: Confederates Strengthen Defenses

December 2, 1862 – Major General Ambrose E. Burnside proposed a plan to move his Federal Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock River, while General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia continued strengthening its defenses west of Fredericksburg.

Gen Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

As December began, Lee now had his entire army at his disposal, with Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps massing to Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s right. Jackson’s men had endured one of the most grueling marches of the war, moving 175 miles from Winchester to Fredericksburg in 12 days. Many men lacked adequate clothing or footwear; one in six were barefoot. Nevertheless, morale in the Confederate army was high.

Jackson complained about the army’s position to Lee. He argued that while the Confederates could easily repel the Federals when they tried crossing the river, nothing could be gained from such a victory. The Confederates could not counterattack from where they were, leaving them in a purely defensive posture while the Federals could regroup and try attacking again and again. As Jackson told Major General D.H. Hill, “We will whip the enemy but gain no fruits of victory.”

Lee rejected Jackson’s urgings to move to the North Anna River, where they had a better chance to counterattack. Lee reasoned that merely stopping Burnside’s superior army would be enough of a victory for the time being. He had 78,511 officers and men to face Burnside’s 116,683 Federals across the Rappahannock. This threatened to become the largest confrontation of the war to date.

Fredericksburg residents who had not already left town began rushing to do so. They took trains to Richmond and sent their slaves farther south to prevent either escape or Federal confiscation. On the 4th, skirmishing broke out between Federals and D.H. Hill’s men near Port Royal, about 20 miles downriver (east) from Fredericksburg. This marked the Confederates’ easternmost position.

Burnside met with his top commanders and shared his plan to cross the army at Skinker’s Neck, about 15 miles downstream from Fredericksburg. Burnside contended that the Confederates were not guarding that ford, and if the Federals could secure it, they could set up a supply base at Port Royal and enjoy gunboat support from the Potomac Flotilla. All but Major General Joseph Hooker supported the plan.

Burnside issued orders for the plan to proceed, unaware that Jackson’s corps had arrived and D.H. Hill now held both Port Royal and Skinker’s Neck. Hill’s Confederates waited in rifle pits supported by artillery to stop gunboats from moving upriver to aid the Federal army. The Confederates exchanged fire with the gunboats on the 4th and forced them to withdraw that night.

Federal infantry moved out on the morning of the 5th, marching through rain that turned to sleet and snow. As they struggled to advance through freezing winds, Burnside finally realized that the Confederate line extended from Fredericksburg to Port Royal. He now saw no alternative other than crossing the river directly in front of Fredericksburg in the hopes that Lee would not expect such a bold move.

Burnside’s Grand Division commanders (Major Generals Hooker, Edwin V. Sumner, and William B. Franklin) received orders on the 9th to supply their men with three days’ cooked rations and 60 rounds of ammunition. The pontoons would be brought up, and engineers would build six bridges across the river on the 11th. The troops would then cross, landing in front of and below Fredericksburg. They were not to stop to aid wounded comrades. Musicians were to be armed as well.

Burnside explained the plan to his commanders at a 12 p.m. council of war. He said that since Confederates were lined up all the way to Port Royal, Lee must have divided his forces, leaving him vulnerable at Fredericksburg. Burnside believed the town could be taken because Lee “did not expect us to cross here.” Once the Federals crossed the river, they could defeat the small portion of Lee’s army outside the town and then turn to defeat what Burnside thought was the main Confederate force downriver.

The commanders had reservations, but Burnside declared that “all the influence on the face of the earth” would not change his mind. They all finally agreed to the plan after five hours of discussion. When the Grand Division commanders imparted the orders to their subordinates, many openly questioned the plan. Major General Darius N. Couch told Sumner that it would not work, and when Burnside learned of this, he directed Sumner to “say to General Couch that he is mistaken.”

Burnside wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck late that night:

“I think now that the enemy will be more surprised by a crossing immediately in our front than in any other part of the river. The commanders of Grand Divisions coincide with me in this opinion, and I have accordingly ordered the movement… We hope to succeed.”

Burnside sought President Abraham Lincoln’s endorsement, writing Halleck, “The movement is so important that I feel anxious to be fortified by his approval. Please answer.” Lincoln did not respond.

West of Fredericksburg, Lee continued strengthening his defenses. This included building a road to connect all the troops on the various hills overlooking the town and installing telegraphic communications. President Jefferson Davis wrote Lee, “You will know best when it will be proper to make a masked movement to the rear, should circumstances require you to move nearer to Richmond.”

Burnside called a meeting with Sumner and all his corps and division commanders to confront those who opposed his plan. Many objected to the idea of crossing a river in the face of the enemy, entering a hostile town, and then charging up steep hills to attack defenses. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, commanding a division in Couch’s corps, was particularly vocal.

Burnside singled out Hancock for his criticisms and demanded obedience. Hancock explained that his dissent was not personal and pledged to obey Burnside’s orders to the death. Couch then declared that he would put forth twice the effort he had ever given in combat before. Major General William French, commanding another division in Couch’s corps, broke the tension with some light humor.

Burnside reiterated that he had not wanted to be army commander, but since he was in charge, “Your duty is not to throw cold water, but to aid me loyally with your advice and hearty service.” Burnside explained that there was more to the plan than simply storming into the town and up the hills. Federal gunboats were firing on Confederates at Port Royal while Federal troops built a false road to Skinker’s Neck to deceive the Confederates into thinking they would cross there. All commanders agreed to do their duty as ordered.

Officers confirmed that everything was ready for the advance. An enormous Federal supply train assembled on Stafford Heights, ready to cross with the army and supply the men once they secured the town and drove the Confederates off.

A lady from Falmouth relayed to the Confederates that the Federals were collecting large quantities of rations and ammunition, indicating that they would be moving very soon. The Confederates placed artillery on the hills beyond Fredericksburg, and sharpshooters came up to fire on the engineers as soon as they started building the pontoon bridges. Lee’s telegraph network could relay orders to move his men to wherever needed.

That night, a Federal band set up on the banks of the Rappahannock and played music for both armies. Songs included “Hail, Columbia,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” and even “Dixie.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17727; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 237-39; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 782; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 5-6, 25-26; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 234; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5018; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 39-41; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 292, 294; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 539