Fredericksburg, battle of

Fredericksburg, battle of, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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