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American Civil War

Battle of Fredericksburg

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The Battle of Fredericksburg was a Major Civil War battle that took place around the city of Fredericksburg in northern Virginia. It was one of the most decisive victories for the South during the war.

Battle of Fredericksburg
by Kurz & Allison
When did it take place?

The battle took place over the course of several days from December 11-15, 1862.

Who were the commanders?

The Union Army of the Potomac was commanded by General Ambrose Burnside. General Burnside had been recently appointed commander by President Lincoln. He was a reluctant commander who had turned down the post twice before. Other Union generals included Joseph Hooker and Edwin Sumner.

The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was led by General Robert E. Lee. Other Confederate commanders included Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and Jeb Stuart.

Before the Battle

After appointing General Burnside as commander of the Union Army, President Lincoln urged his new general to launch a major attack on the Confederate forces in Virginia. General Burnside put together a battle plan. He would fake out Confederate General Robert E. Lee by crossing the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg. The river was wide here and the bridges had been destroyed, but Burnside would use floating pontoon bridges to move his army quickly across the river and surprise Lee.

Unfortunately, Burnside's plan was doomed from the start. The soldiers arrived weeks before the pontoon bridges arrived. While Burnside waited on his bridges, The Confederates rushed their army to Fredericksburg. They dug in on the hills overlooking Fredericksburg and were waiting for the Union soldiers to cross.

The Battle

On December 11, 1862, the Union began to assemble the pontoon bridges. They came under heavy fire from the Confederates, but eventually the brave engineers and soldiers completed the bridge. Throughout the next day the Union army crossed the bridge and entered the city of Fredericksburg.

The Confederate Army was still dug into the hills outside of the city. On December 13, 1862, General Burnside and the Union Army were ready to attack. Burnside thought he would surprise the Confederates by attacking them head on at their strength.

Although the Confederates were surprised at the strategy of the Union Army, they were very ready for them. The frontal attack turned out to be a foolish plan as the Union soldiers were mowed down by Confederate fire. By the end of the day the Union had suffered so many losses, they were forced to retreat.


The Battle of Fredericksburg was a major defeat for the Union Army. Although the Union vastly outnumbered the Confederates (120,000 Union men to 85,000 Confederate men) they suffered over twice as many casualties (12,653 to 5,377). This battle signaled the low-point of the war for the Union. The South celebrated their victory while President Lincoln came under increasing political pressure for not ending the war quickly.

Interesting Facts about the Battle of Fredericksburg
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Works Cited

History >> Civil War

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