From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

Battle of Fredericksburg

When did the federal attack commence?

On the morning of December 13, 1862, thousands of men from three different corps of the Army of the Potomac began to ascend from the village of Fredericksburg, moving toward the heights. There were many in the Union ranks who sensed the hopelessness of the endeavor, but no one turned back.

The Confederates waited till the Federals were within three hundred yards, then unleashed the most ferocious artillery bombardment yet seen in the war. Colonel Porter, commanding the artillery, had assured General Longstreet a week earlier that once his guns opened up, a chicken could not survive on that open field. Lee and Longstreet were at the former’s headquarters, more than a mile away, but they could see all that transpired. It was sometime that morning that Lee made one of his most famous statements. “It is well that war is so terrible,” he said, “otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

An illustration from the Parisien Journal Universel shows Confederate soldiers preparing themselves for battle near the Rappahannock River.


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