From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

Battle of Fredericksburg

How bad was the slaughter?

It was, and is, difficult to describe. There were sections of Union infantry that were practically blown from one side to another by the force of the artillery blasts, which created something like temporary gusts of wind. There were men down in all locations, and there were regiments without commanders. The Confederates, meanwhile, continued to pour in more powder and shot.

No order from General Burnside brought the men back. They returned because there was no alternative. Examining the field and the losses, some men proclaimed that it was nothing short of hell on earth. A calmer, but still accurate, portrait was provided by a Massachusetts sergeant. “Our forces were trying to carry Marye’s Heights, forming line after line of battle and sending them in all day long, but of no avail as they were cut down by the enemy posted behind stone walls on the heights, as fast as the lines could form and advance.” (War Diary, p. 9)


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