10 Facts About the Battle of Fredericksburg

The Battle of Fredericksburg took place on December 13, 1862, during the American Civil War.

It was fought between the Union Army of the Potomac, led by Major General Ambrose Burnside, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee.

The battle was fought in and around the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is located on the Rappahannock River.

Battle of Fredericksburg Facts

1. The Union Suffered Big Losses

Approximately 12,653 soldiers from the Union were killed in action, whereas only 4,201 soldiers from the Confederacy were killed.

The well-entrenched Confederate forces were the target of a succession of fruitless and bloody attacks by the Union army, which ultimately led to the Union army suffering a crushing defeat.

The Union suffered significant losses in both military and civilian morale as a result of the Battle of Fredericksburg, which was a significant defeat for the Union overall.

2. The Union Army’s defeat was largely due to their inability to effectively coordinate their attack.

The Union Army was unable to properly coordinate their attack and overcome the strong defensive positions maintained by the Confederate Army, which led to their defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. This was a major contributing factor in the Union Army’s loss.

Also Read: Major Battles of the Civil War

The military commanders of the Union army missed the opportunity to seize one of the few windows of vulnerability they had to penetrate the Confederate lines.

The soldiers of the Union were given the order to undertake repeated frontal assaults on well entrenched Confederate positions, which resulted in a large number of casualties and very little advancement in the battle.

In addition, the Union forces had a tough time making any progress since the Confederate soldiers were well-entrenched and had a clear line of sight to the oncoming Union soldiers. This made it impossible for the Union to make any progress.

3. The Union Army tried to use ironclad ships.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union army sought to utilize ironclad ships to bombard Confederate defenses.

The USS Monitor and USS Galena were two of the Union Navy’s armored vessels, and they were utilized to bombard Confederate river defenses and artillery.

Also Read: Facts About the Battle of Gettysburg

The ironclads advanced up the river and engaged the Confederate batteries, but they were not successful in silencing the guns. Insufficient depth in the water prevented the ironclads from approaching the Confederate defenses, leaving them open to artillery fire.

The ironclads used by the Union army did little to penetrate the Confederate lines or change the course of the conflict.

4. Solidified the control of the Rappahannock River by the Confederacy

The Confederacy scored a major victory at Fredericksburg. Despite facing a much bigger and better-equipped Union force led by General Ambrose Burnside, the Confederate army under the command of General Robert E. Lee was able to maintain its ground.

As a result of the Union army’s significant losses and subsequent retreat, the Confederacy’s control of the Rappahannock River was consolidated, and future Union advances into Virginia were thwarted.

Also Read: Battle of Bull Run Facts

The battle also had a huge impact on the morale of both the Union and Confederate troops, as it was a great triumph for the Confederacy and a major setback for the Union.

The victory at Fredericksburg was a huge morale booster for the Confederate army and helped to reinforce the widespread view in the South that the Confederate army was unbeatable.

5. The Battle of Fredericksburg was the final battle of the year.

After the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union and Confederate troops called it quits for the year because to the severe winter weather.

After the Union army was defeated in the combat on December 13, 1862, both sides withdrew to their respective winter quarters. The Union army fled back over the Rappahannock River and the Confederate army stayed in their fortifications.

There was a lot of snow and muck on the roads, so it was hard to transfer troops and supplies. The cold and damp weather also contributed to a large proportion of soldiers falling ill with diseases such as pneumonia and dysentery.

Both forces had to suspend their combat operations until the weather improved in the spring of 1863, at which point the campaign could restart.

6. The town of Fredericksburg was used as a hospital and burial ground for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Union and Confederate soldiers alike were treated and buried in Fredericksburg in the years following the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Throughout the duration of the Civil War, Union troops exploited the town as a vital supply and hospital hub.

Many of the town’s buildings were transformed into temporary hospitals by the Union army to treat its men’ wounds after the war. As a result of the conflict, the village became a cemetery for Union soldiers.

Similarly, Confederate soldiers who were killed in the conflict were also buried in the region. Confederate soldiers’ graves were marked with wooden headboards, although many of these markings were eventually removed or destroyed after the war.

The Confederate Cemetery of Fredericksburg, one of the earliest Confederate cemeteries, was founded in 1866 to house the remains of Confederate soldiers who had been killed in action.

In the years following the war, both the Union and Confederate troops’ bones were reinterred in the national cemeteries, and the town of Fredericksburg became a pilgrimage place for veterans and their families.

7. The defeat led to the removal of Major General Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Union commanders were profoundly affected by their army’s loss at Fredericksburg. It was widely viewed as a failure on the part of Army of the Potomac commander Major General Ambrose Burnside, and the defeat ultimately led to his removal.

Heavy deaths and little success were the results of General Burnside’s poorly planned and executed strategy of repeatedly attacking well entrenched Confederate positions from the front. Both the military and public voiced disapproval of his leadership and wanted him gone.

Both President Lincoln and Burnside were dissatisfied with the outcome of the engagement, and on January 25, 1863, Burnside was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac and replaced by General Joseph Hooker.

Despite being demoted, General Burnside remained a valuable asset to the Union cause, particularly in the defense of Knoxville, Tennessee, in the last months of the war.

8. Union troops lost morale.

The Union’s crushing defeat at Fredericksburg had a devastating effect on the spirit of the Northern army. Union army losses left many Northerners feeling hopeless and disheartened.

Union troops lost morale due to massive fatalities and ineffectiveness against the Confederate army.

Moreover, many Northerners started to wonder if the war could really be won after the defeat cast severe concerns on the leadership and ability of the Union army’s commanders.

9. The Union army attempted to cross the Rappahannock River using pontoon bridges.

The Union forces tried to use pontoon bridges to ford the Rappahannock River. On the morning of December 11, Union engineers began assembling six pontoon bridges at two locations immediately north of the town center, a third location on the southern edge of town, and three locations farther south, near the confluence of the Rappahannock and Deep Run.

The Confederate army had carefully defended the town and the surrounding heights with artillery and soldiers, making it impossible for the Union force to cross the river and attack their position.

As a consequence of fierce resistance from Confederate artillery and troops, the Union army was forced to retreat after suffering considerable casualties in an attempt to cross the pontoon bridges.

10. The Slaughter Pen Farm was considered to be the largest remaining unprotected part of the Fredericksburg battlefield. 

The Slaughter Pen Farm, or the “Farm at the Foot of Marye’s Heights,” was a pivotal location on the Fredericksburg battlefield. Located at the foot of Marye’s Heights, where the Union army tried and failed to break past the Confederate lines, this was a key location in the war.

As far as the defenders of Fredericksburg were concerned, the farm was the last major unoccupied area. Battleground where many Union soldiers were killed or injured. Soldiers who were injured in the conflict were sent to the farm, which served as a makeshift field hospital.

After the war, not much changed in the area, and the farm looked very similar to how it had throughout the conflict. The Civil War Trust did not purchase and dedicate the area as a historical site until the early 21st century.

As a component of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, the Slaughter Pen Farm is now accessible to those interested in the battle’s historical significance and the development of the United States.