Following McClellan’s failure to follow up after Antietam, President Lincoln turned to General Ambrose E. Burnside. The Union army, some 113,000 strong, sought out the Confederate forces in the Virginia town of Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. Lee had taken a position in the heavily wooded hills outside of the community.

On December 13, wave after wave of Union soldiers threw themselves against the deeply entrenched Confederate lines. The toll was tremendous with Burnside absorbing more than 12,000 casualties, and Lee less than half that number. The Union forces withdrew and Burnside asked to be relieved of his command; Lincoln consented.

Wounded troops at Fredericksburg

The opposing armies spent the winter of 1862-63 on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River.

The loss at Fredericksburg was a matter of grave concern in the North, especially when many believed that a final victory had been so close at Antietam. Northern weakness was noted not only in the South, but also in Europe. French forces, realizing the Monroe Doctrine would not be enforced, took Mexico City several months later.

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The Battle of Fredericksburg We Cannot Escape History by James K. Bryant II.
The Battle of Fredericksburg is known as the most disastrous defeat the Federal Army of the Potomac experienced in the American Civil War. The futile ...
The Confederacy’s Secret Weapon, The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly by Douglas W. Bostick.
Sent to the United States as a war correspondent for the Illustrated London News, Frank Vizetelly quickly found himself in hot water with the Federal ...
Glory Road by Bruce Catton.
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Irish Brigade In The Civil War: The 69th New York And Other Irish Regiments Of The Army Of The Potomac by Joseph G. Bilby.
The unveiling of the Irish Brigade Memorial at Antietam has focused attention on one of the most colorful units of the American Civil War. Despite its...