Posted: February 17th, 2022
THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG
The battle of Fredricksburg.
The battle of Fredericksburg was fought on December 11-15 in the year 1862, around Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the eastern theatre of the American civil war.
The combat between the union army of the Potomac commanded by major general Ambrose Burnside and the confederate army of northern Virginia, which was under general Robert e lee. This included the attacks which involved the union army on December 13 against enriched confederate defenders. The sunken wall on the height behind the city is remembered to be one of the most sided battles of the war (Bayard, 1874).
The battle of Fredericksburg was a decisive Confederate victory. Infuriated with the effectiveness of major general George McClellan’s defensive tactics, President Lincoln chose a different commander to lead the army of the Potomac, major general Ambrose Burnside. The offensive military approach of the latter had led to union victories in the battle of New Bern and Roanoke Island. After his appointment, Burnside quickly drafted a plan. Burnside intended to surprise the confederates by suddenly abandoning his march southwest, then rushing southeast, crossing the Rappahannock River, and cutting off General Robert lee retreat to Richmond (Loges, 2002).
Burnside plan showed great promise and appeased President Lincoln, who’d been trying with little success to get the union on the offensive for the better part of a year. However, for the plan to be successful, it required great speed. Luckily, Burnside moved his army of over 100,000 men southeast at a blistering pace, arriving at Falmouth in just two days. Unfortunately, that was where his luck ran out. Upon arrival, he was notified that the pontoon bridges began to arrive. However, confederate snipers had taken up positions in buildings near the riverbank, making construction night impossible. After unsuccessful artillery bombardment, Burnside and his officer were forced to send a small landing force across the river to secure a bridgehead in Fredericksburg. However, as the battle stretched on, the tides began to turn. Unexpectedly strong counter-attack sides and Burnside force suffered increasing causalities and no territorial gains for both sides. Burnside force suffered increasing causalities to Longstreet riflemen and artillery fire. Lee was allegedly devastated by the carnage that they wept and remarked (Hotchkiss, 1867).
The union, for most, lost the battle to the Fredericksburg. This is because most of the war, the union was fighting against an opponent that was entrenched using modern weapons against outdated tactics and formations. When the confederate went on offence, like at Gettysburg, they were fighting against the same tactics that the union faced for much of the war. Fredericksburg was for the union what Gettysburg was to the confederates.
Ambrose Burnside was defeated in the battle of Fredericksburg because he had the dubious honour of being one of the most incompetent top commanders of the civil war on either side. He was a classic victim of the Peter Principle continuously being kicked up the chain of command for the post he neither had the ability nor the desire for. He lacked the talents required for an effective high command, which showed severely in his performances.
The battle of Fredericksburg was a crushing defeat for the union, whose soldiers fought courageously and well but fell victim to mismanagement by their generals, including confused orders from Burnside to franklin.
Bayard, S. J. (1874). The Life of George Dashiell Bayard: Late Captain, USA, and Brigadier-general of Volunteers, Killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 1862. Putnam.
Hotchkiss, J. (1867). The Battle-Fields of Virginia, Chancellorsville; Embracing the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia, from the First Battle of Fredericksburg to the Death of Lieutenant-General Jackson. (The Last Days of Jackson [by H. MacGuire]). Illustrated by Five Maps and a… The likeness of Lieut. Gen. TJ Jackson.
Loges, M. L. (2002). General Burnside and his orders for the Battle of Fredericksburg: Lessons in communicating. Journal of technical writing and communication, 32(3), 267-277.
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