Battle of Frediericksburg Analysis

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  • Topic: Battle of Fredericksburg, American Civil War, Confederate States of America
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  • Published : April 12, 2010
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The Battle of Fredericksburg

David P. Wrighten, CPT, MS
Class 09-002
Small Group 6, MAJ Sims
03 April 2009

In early December 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac had massed on the northern bank of the Rappahannock River as it was in position to strike the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. The Union also position themselves to cut off the Confederate Army’s main supply route for the import and export of goods in the south. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia confronted the Union Army’s attempted strike on the south side of the Rappahannock by occupying the high ground overlooking the riverside town of Fredericksburg. Caught between the two opposing armies, Fredericksburg was destined to the battleground for a bloody prelude of major battles between the Union and Confederate armies in the open fields of the south.

The Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg occurred on 11 December 1862 on the banks of the Rappahannock River near the small town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pitting three divisions of the Union Forces commanded by MG Edwin V. Sumner, MG Joseph Hooker, and MG William B. Franklin, approximately 120,000 Soldiers against the two Confederate Forces Corps of Northern Virginia commanded by LTG James Longstreet and LTG Thomas L. Jackson approximately 90,000 Soldiers. This battle emphasized the effective use of Weather, Maneuver, Observation Fields of Fire, Cover, and concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, and Avenues of Approach. The use of the Battlefield Operating Systems was instrumental in the success of the mission. The primary source used to gather information was, Decisive Battles of the Civil War: the Battle of Fredericksburg by LT. COL. Joseph B. MitchellDrama on the Rappahannock: the Fredericksburg Campaign by Edward J. Stackpole. Secondary sources used were The Battle of Fredericksburg a Special Edition of: Civil War Times by Edward J. Stackpole and Guide to the Battles of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg by Jay Luvaas and Harold W. Nelson.

Strategic Setting

Fredericksburg, Virginia during the 1860s had developed into a family oriented community. This town happened to be the farthest point to navigate up the Rappahannock River. It was a very important site for trading for imported and exported goods. However, the larger, newer sailing vessels had difficulties in navigating the Rappahannock, which greatly hinder the international trade with other less modern customers of trade. This allowed members of Fredericksburg to live a more normal or less congested big city lifestyle. Militarily, this river is important for resupplying Soldiers critical supplies in order to fight effectively.

The town of Fredericksburg changed hands many times throughout the war. Being located so closely to Richmond and Washington, it can greatly assist or resist in a potential attack on Richmond or Washington. In addition, this town could act as a staging area prior to launching an attack on the nation’s capital. Furthermore, four major battles fought within a seventeen-mile radius of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The major encounter during the Battle of Fredericksburg took place in Virginia. MG Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac tried to countermine Gen Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and capture Richmond. However, this would be a difficult task, since the Confederates were deeply entrenched into a defensive position west of town.

Tactical Situation
1. Mission: Gen Burnside’s was to cross the Rappahannock River and seize the heights behind Fredericksburg, Virginia before Gen Lee’s army arrived. After seizing the town of Fredericksburg, the Army of the Potomac would then advance south to Richmond. In order to cross the Rappahannock Burnside had to build multiple bridges; for this purpose, support elements sent pontoon bridge equipment to Fredericksburg. The Union Forces arrived to the northern banks of the Rappahannock; there were no...
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