The Battle of Fredericksburg
The battle of Fredericksburg was easily one of the best victories for the South in the Civil War. The Confederate army had only 4,576 casualties compare to the Union’s 13,353 casualties . Even though the Union Army outnumber the confederates at Fredericksburg, they lost nearly three times as many troops. With nearly 200,000 combatants from the combined sides, this was the greatest concentration of troops in one battle for the entire war . This massive defeat can be mostly accredited to the failed strategy of Ambrose Burnside, the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac at the time. He replaced the indecisive George McClellan, and knew that he must act with swiftness to avoid the same fate as his predecessor. He planned to take Fredericksburg to get a foothold for the campaign to Richmond.
He planned to out maneuver Lee by crossing the Rappahannock river and flanking Fredericksburg by surprise. If he did this, he could push Lee’s army out of the town and into the open against a much larger army. As reported to him by officers that scouted the river, there were no bridges left to cross, so he would need to fashion a bridge. He decided that using a pontoon bridge would be his best course of action, so he put in an order for them, in hopes that they would arrive soon and he could maintain his element of surprise. The pontoons needed to build the bridge did not arrive on time, which gave Lee plenty of time to strategize a defense and fortify his position .
By the time that Burnside’s army arrived on the south shore of the Rappahannock, it was too late. Lee had already entrenched and gained the upper ground and the upper hand. Lee entrenched on a hill behind the town near a broken wall and sunken road, so he had all the advantages of the battlefield. Burnside refused to call retreat and admit the superior tactical advantages that Lee’s army had.
This battle is often overlooked, even though it is one of the South’s most commanding victories. This battle was the first major battle that the South won since the catastrophe of Antietam . It not only fended off the North from gaining ground towards Richmond, but also provided a bit of a moral victory for soldiers. Antietam caused many Confederate soldiers to lose faith in the cause or in their ability to win the war. Fredericksburg provided a reason for the soldiers of the South to be motivated to fight again.
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2. Civil War Trust. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/fredericksburg.html?tab=facts (accessed October 14, 2014).
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5. PBS: Timeline of Civil War Battles. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/death/ (accessed October 14, 2014).