The battle of fredricksburg Essay

This essay has a total of 1591 words and 8 pages.


The battle of fredricksburg





In the next pages I will explain why Fredericksburg was such a tragedy. Why it was a big
morale booster for the South, but a disappointment for the North?

It all started in the year 1862. General George McCellen currently controls the army of
the Potomac. When it was determined that McCellen was a bad general, in December of 1862
he was replaced with General Ambrose Burnside. Within a week, Burnside decided on a
campaign to the Southern capitol, Richmond. He told his plans to Lincoln and Lincoln
approved, but told Burnside the only way for a win was to move quickly. Burnside split his
group into three grand divisions, each with two corps. Burnside’s division arrives first
at Fredericksburg; when he arrived there weren’t many Confederates. After Burnside’s
arrival there was a swarm of Confederates who arrived. The problem was, that while the
Confederates moved into position, General Burnside had to wait for pontoon builders so
they could cross the Rappahannock River. (See Map1) He had requested pontoons from
Harper’s Ferry but they hadn’t arrived yet and came two weeks later. This gave the
Confederates time to get an advantageous position over the Union. While Burnside waited he
looked at the town from on top of a ridge.

While Burnside waited, Lee was positioning himself for the best way to attack. Lee also
had help from Stonewall; Stonewall was positioned down stream on the Rappahannock River.
Stonewall had two regiments by the creek and two regiments by the railroad. Lee also had
help from General Longstreet, who was positioned by the Rappahannock River and the
railroad. The position that Lee had set up was good because he was on higher ground
looking down on the Union. Lee, with the major advantage, just sat back and relaxed until
General Burnside was ready. (See Map 1)

When Burnside’s pontoons arrived, he went into position. Burnside had Generals Sumner and
Hooker as his help. Burnside, Sumner, and Hooker were on one side of the railroad with 10
regiments and on the other side of the railroad was General Franklin with eight regiments.
Burnside also had one regiment of engineers to build the pontoons to cross the river. (See
Map 1)

While Burnside had been waiting for two weeks he saw how the Confederates were positioned;
even though the Confederates had the advantage he still believed he could win. The night
before Burnside was going to start building the pontoons, he sent a message to Lincoln
saying, “We hope to succeed.” So, on the night of Wednesday, December 10, 1862, the
engineers started to build the pontoons. However, another general from the South, General
Will Barkslade, was right above the area where the engineers were and whenever a soldier
went to check on the progress of the pontoons, the Confederates would shoot at them.

Now that everything was off schedule, Burnside knew that the Confederate general was
getting ready to attack. So, Burnside ordered Brigadier General Henry to take 147 heavy
caliber guns and shoot at the Confederates at Stafford Heights. The shooting lasted for an
hour. During that hour, 70 solid shots were fired a minute and that firing destroyed the
town of Fredericksburg instead of the Confederates. General Barksdale was still there to
intercept the bridge builders and troops crossing the bridges. When Barksdale sent a
report to General Lee asking if he wanted a bridge of dead Yankees, the comment showed how
much trouble the Union was really in.

The hunt was on as Lee ordered more help from Stonewall to assist Longstreet at Port Royal
and Skiner’s Neck, which was where the pontoon builders and Bridgadier General Henery
were. (See Map 1) Burnside was pleased by the destruction that had been done by his army
and that six pontoons had been built. (See Map 3) Burnside learned from reports that
Stonewall was still in his original position, so Burnside decided to wait another day
before he moved. Burnside believed that if Jackson was so far away then there would be no
problem getting positioned on the other side of the river. (See Map 2)

On Thursday Fog shrouded the entire valley as Burnside began his march. To keep the
Confederates back, the Union shot blindly at the top of the height. Unfortunately, at noon
the fog lifted and Lee saw Burnside, and he told Jackson to come and help him immediately.
Even though Lee was outnumbered 3:2, and Burnside was going to run up the hill, Lee said,
“I shall try to do them all the damage in our power when they move forward.” While the
Union infantry was moving over the pontoon, their cavalry was raiding the town of
Fredericksburg by ripping pictures of families, raping women, burning things, stealing
clothes, and other destructive acts.

On Friday morning, the fog was very thick and Lee’s reunited army awaited the challenge at
hand. Longstreet was at the left of the height. (See Map 2) He had four of his five
divisions on the line in command by Major General Richard Anderson, and Generals
Lafayette, McLaws, Pickett, and Hood. The fifth division was under Brigadier General
Robert Ransom. Major General A.P. Hill was posted along the entire front line, backed by a
second line of two close-packed divisions under Brigadier Generals William Taliaferro and
Jubal Early. Major General D.H. Hill’s division was, their backup. Hamilton’s Crossing by
Massaponax Creek area was less guarded, so JEB Stuart was placed there. (See Map 2)

On Saturday at 10:00, as the fog lifted, Lee tested his guns: first on Longstreet’s side,
and then on Jackson’s side. The right side of the Confederates fired first and made the
Union bleed first. The fog lifted so quickly that all the Union troops were revealed and
so the Confederates started endless fire with two guns. The person leading the firing was
Major John Pelham. After that initial firing, the Union regrouped and started to fire at
Stonewall, but the Confederates didn’t answer with a shot, they kept quite until the Union
was in range. As soon as the Union got within 800 yards, Stonewall fired endlessly. As the
Confederates fired, so did the North.
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