Fredericksburg, Battle of

   A disastrous defeat of Union forces in the American Civil War. Although the Army of the Potomac had checked Robert E. Lee’s advance into the North at Antietam in Maryland in September, President Abraham Lincoln cashiered George McClellan for having allowed the Confederate army to reach the safety of Virginia. Ambrose Burnside assumed command of Union forces and marched to outflank Lee at Fredericksburg, hoping to force Lee out into the open for a battle that would favor the superior numbers in the Union Army. Burnside was delayed crossing the Rappahannock River awaiting pontoon bridges. The delay allowed Lee the time to set up a powerful defense on high ground south and west of Fredericksburg. On the morning of December 13, 1862, Burnside launched a series of fruitless frontal assaults against well-defended Confederate positions under James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson. Only the early darkness halted the massacre of Union troops. Burnside planned to renew the frontal attacks the next day, but was talked out of it by his subordinates. After Burnside ordered new movements against Lee in January, mockingly called the “mud marches” by the Union troops, Lincoln removed him from army command in favor of Joseph Hooker.
    O’Reilly, Francis Augustin. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War of the Rappahannock. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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