Battle of Fredericksburg Facts & Summary | American Battlefield Trust
Fredericksburg in Wartime
Library of Congress

Fredericksburg

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In early November, 1862, Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside took command of the Army of the Potomac and made immediate plans to move toward Richmond, hoping to quickly cross the Rappahannock River before Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia could block his route. On November 17, Burnside reached Stafford Heights on the river opposite Fredericksburg. Lee reacted by moving James Longstreet’s wing toward Fredericksburg from Culpeper; Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men followed from the Shenandoah Valley. Burnside was delayed on the north bank awaiting the pontoon bridges he needed to cross the river. A week later, the overdue bridges finally arrived but Burnside failed to adjust his plan with Lee now entrenched behind the town. On December 11, Union engineers attempted to lay bridges across the Rappahannock but were slowed by Confederate rifle fire. Artillery bombardment of the town and an infantry crossing in small boats secured a bridgehead. The next day, the remainder of the Federal army crossed over, and on December 13, Burnside mounted a series of frontal assaults that resulted in staggering casualties. Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s division on the Union left briefly penetrated Jackson’s line, but was driven back by a counterattack. On December 15, Burnside called off the attacks and recrossed the river, ending the battle.

Battle Facts

Result

Confederate Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
172,500

Union

100,000

Confederate

72,500
Total Estimated Casualties
18,500

Union

12,500

Confederate

6,000