Battle of Fredricksburg (December 11th-15th, 1862)

At the Battle of Fredericksburg, the town was destroyed, the Confederates won a important battle and Union leaders were greatly embarrassed. On December 11, the Union bombarded the city from across the Rappahannock River then lay pontoons to get across the river. While the engineers were putting the pontoons in place a brigade of Mississippi riflemen took position in the town and began to fire on the engineers killing many and forcing others to retreat back across the river. The Union opened artillery fire on the city trying to drive the Mississippians out of the town, with no success. Finally, Union soldiers boarded row boats and crossed the river underfire, landing and then fighting building-to-building and hand-to-hand to drive the Confederates out of the town. Once successful they began building the pontoons to get the rest of the army across the Rappahannock. This was the first urban warfare in the Civil War and like on D-Day Union soldiers took fire during their amphibious assualt on the town.

After securing the crossing the Union took positions in the town and south between the river and Prospect Hill which was well defended by Confederate brigades. On the 13th, Burnside's troops launched a two-pronged attack . On the South end of the line, the Union breifly broke through the Confederate lines at Prospect Hill before being pushed back. To the North, behind the town wave after wave of Union attackers were repelled by well entrenched Confederates in the Sunken Road on Marye's Hieghts. Six deep in places and behind a stonewall, Confederate soldiers would load weapons and pass them forward to create continous fire against the lines of attacking Union soldiers. The field between Marye's Heights and the town was covered with Union dead and wounded. Confederate soldier Edward Porter Alexander said of the killing field, "A chicken could not survive on that field." You shoud read more about this part of the battle, as some say it was suppose to be a diversion, but wave after wave of soldiers were ordered to assualt the hill with nearly 9,000 dying at Marye's Heights. As the Union troops took Fredericksburg they also looted the town, which means stole property and destroyed buildings. The destruction of Fredericksburg would be a rallying cry for Confederates for the remainder of the war.

The battle south of the town began in the Slaughter Pen, which thanks to Civil War Trust and other preservationists is now protected. There is an empty automobile plant that Civil War Trust is now trying to buy that was the site of the Union headquarters during the battle.