Fredericksburg National Battlefield -a photo essay

This week marks the 148th anniversary of the sanguinary Battle of Fredericksburg. Located approximately halfway between Washington City and Richmond, Fredericksburg would be the focal point of significant action during the American Civil War. In December 1862, US Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, after having recently taken command of the Army of the Potomac, planned to reach Fredericksburg, crossing the Rappahannock River, before CSA General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia could block his route. Burnside believed he could steal the march on Lee leaving the road open all the way to Richmond, Virginia – the Confederate capital. While he did reach Fredericksburg well ahead Lee, a mix up at the United States War Department caused the pontoons and bridging material to not reach him in time. By the time the materials arrived, Lee already had his army entrenched on Marye’s Heights, just behind the town, with his lines snaking several miles south along the ridge that formed Prospect Hill.

The upcoming battle, on December 13, 1862, would be unique in several ways. First, it was the first battle of the war that either belligerent had to build a bridgehead across a stream, all the while under enemy fire. Secondly, the battle would witness significant street-to-street fighting as the Confederate army retreated through the streets of Fredericksburg ahead of the Federal army. Homes would be looted, pantries robbed and furniture torn up. But the most significant physical damage to the town would be caused by the artillery of the opposing armies. Many buildings would be totally destroyed. The battle itself was one-sided. While experiencing some initial success on his left flank, Burnside’s Army of the Potomac would be turned back there by the tactically brilliant defense of Prospect Hill by CSA Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s 2d Corps. With the assaults on his left flank turned back, Burnside would order repeated attacks against CSA Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s 1st Corps which was defending Marye’s Heights – immediately beyond Fredericksburg proper. With the Rebels protected by a stone wall, which guarded a sunken road, the Confederate infantry and artillery had plenty of protection to pour a withering fire into the Federal infantry. Charge after charge from the Union troops resulted in the same outcome: wasted life with not one soldier reaching the Confederate lines. At the end of the day the carnage was significant. Federal soldiers lay scattered all over the field – many dead. Overnight the temperatures plummeted so many of the wounded would freeze to death.

I was able to visit Fredericksburg recently and created a photo essay on my Flickr site. For those of you that are interested in a more detailed narrative of the battle, click on the following link for my essay.

Battle of Fredericksburg – Ambrose Burnside’s First Foray

Mike’s Photo Essay on the Battle of Fredericksburg

Later this week I will publish my interview with Michael Aubrecht, co-producer of the recently released DVD, “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” Enjoy!


About Michael Noirot

I grew up in the Central Illinois farming community, of Dunlap. Growing up, I played sports, tinkered with cars and enjoyed photography. While I did well in school, I did not become passionate about history until my early 30's. I have built a large library, of books on early America, politics and the Civil War. I am an avid reader. Fortunately, I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, over the years, and have been to most of the Civil War battlefields. I work while I travel, so more often than not, I am up, in the middle of the night, to get sunrise pictures, or I will be out until well after dark, exploring Civil War battlefields. I have other hobbies, and passions, that I really enjoy. Number one on the list would be guitar. I play my guitars on a regular basis, and enjoy the Bluegrass, and Contemporary Christian (CCM) genres. I play a style of guitar, called FLATPICKING, where using a flat pick, you play lead solos, similar to the way a fiddle would have been played during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Laura, my wife, and I also enjoy scuba diving, travel and spending time at our property, in the country. Lastly, we spend as much time with our families, as possible. Thanks for stopping by.
This entry was posted in Battlefield Photo Essays, Significant Battles, This Day In The Civil War and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fredericksburg National Battlefield -a photo essay

  1. Roddy Horton says:

    I was born and raised in Camden, SC. Sgt. Kirkland is buried in Quaker Cemetery in a section named “Little Arlington.” His general (Gen. Joseph Brevard Kershaw) is buried nearby. Sgt. Kirkland is from Flat Rock Township from whence my dad came. They’re both my heroes.

  2. Roddy,
    Kirkland and Kershaw were very intriguing soldiers. Thanks for your comment.

Leave a Reply