Saturday, March 27, 2010

Time Travelers: Battle of Fredericksburg 1862

In my Time Travelers Series, I share some of my favorite historical sites from my travels with my fellow history adventurer, my husband Erin.

Destination: Fredericksburg, Virginia

OK, so technically there was no traveling involved for this excursion, since I live in the Fredericksburg area. But Fredericksburg is a history lover's dream and a lot of my posts in this series will come from some of my favorite historical sites right here in my hometown. I consider myself very fortunate to live in a place where history is preserved and celebrated, and where I can literally walk through history everyday.

My husband, Erin, is also a history lover. While my favorite era is Early American/Revolutionary, his favorite is the Civil War and he is a member of a reenactment unit, the 47th Virginia Company I, part of Longstreet's Corps. Every December the 47th, in collaboration with various other Confederate and Federal reenactment groups, plans historical events to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The battle actually consisted of several battles fought over a five-day period in various locations, and these photos are from 2007, when they recreated the battle at Marye's Heights and the famous stone wall.

My husband was excited to play a starring role in this production, portraying Confederate soldier Richard Kirkland, who braved the battlefield to bring water to the wounded and dying Union soldiers, earning himself the title: The Angel of Marye's Heights.

I took the pictures of the reenactment in this slideshow and I've also included pictures of the Kirkland Memorial at the battlefield along with artist Mort Kuntsler's depiction, historical pictures taken after the actual battle and additional artists' renderings.

The Battle of Fredericksburg took place over five days, December 11-15, in 1862. Here, 120,000 men of the Army of the Potomac under General Ambrose Burnside met 72,500 men of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Here is a brief description of the battle, the scope of which is far too large to cover in detail in one blog post. Numerous books have been written on the subject, but a good starting point for further information is the National Park Service's Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park website.

On December 11, while Union engineers laid five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River under Confederate fire, 150 Union artillery guns blasted Fredericksburg from Stafford Heights on the opposite side of the river. On the 12th, the Federal army crossed over into Fredericksburg, and on December 13, Burnside mounted a series of futile frontal assaults on Prospect Hill and Marye’s Heights that resulted in staggering casualties. Meade’s division, on the Union left flank, briefly penetrated General "Stonewall" Jackson’s line but was driven back by a counterattack. Union Generals C. Feger Jackson and George Bayard, and Confederate Generals Thomas R.R. Cobb and Maxey Gregg were killed. On December 15, Burnside called off the offensive and recrossed the river, ending the campaign. The Battle of Fredericksburg was a stunning Confederate victory. The Confederates suffered 5,300 casualties to the Union's 12,600 casualties.

In my next Time Travelers post, I'll be sharing my photos of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, where more than 15,000 Union soldiers were laid to rest.


  1. Fantastic. I love re-enactments. Once I re-enacted the celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday celebration at a "British" fort in the Pacific Northwest.

  2. I've never been to a re-enactment, but your pictures make me think it must be at least a little bit eerie.

    I keep saying it, but I really do enjoy seeing your pictures in this series.


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