The Battle Of Fredericksburg

In spite of his imposing appearance and courageous fighting record. Major General Ambrose K. Burnside (left) was a well-meaning incompetent who led the Union Army of the Potomac to its crudest defeat. On December 13, 1862, after a costly crossing of the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia, he ordered a frontal assault on Lee’s Confederate army, which was securely dug in along the low, wooded ridges behind the town. The main force of his attack struck the Rebel position at the foot of Mayre’s Heights—toward the right side of A. R. Wand’s eyewitness sketch of the battle—where a sunken road made a natural entrenchment. Throughout a bright, cold afternoon, wave upon wave of Union infantry advanced and was cut down; by nightfall, Burnside’s army had suffered some 12,600 casualties—one-tenth of his fighting force—and had accomplished nothing. As one soldier bitterly remarked. “We might as well have tried to take Hell.”