Historic America

Fredericksburg Battlefield

The Fredericksburg battlefield is part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Fought between December 11–13, 1862 in and around Fredericksburg, the battle pitted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 16,800 total casualties.

The Battle of Fredericksburg is mostly known for a futile Union charge against a formidable Confederate position on Marye’s Heights. The Confederates stood behind a stone wall, with cannon positioned on the heights above. From there, they swept the open field with musket and cannon fire.

Today, Marye’s Heights is located near the Visitors Center. There is a walking trail that follows former Confederate positions up to Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

Fredericksburg National Cemetery was established after the war to honor Union dead. There are 15,243 Civil War soldiers interned here, but only 2,473 are identified.

While most attention is focused on the slaughter in front of Marye’s Heights, as depicted in the movie Gods and Generals (2003), a larger portion of the battlefield extends down Lee Drive south of Fredericksburg. This was the Union army’s main attack.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Corps defended a wooded area south of town. The Union army initially achieved a breakthrough in marshy terrain, but a fierce counterattack drove them back. Traveling along Lee Drive, you get a sense of just how long the battle lines stretched.

The battlefield ends at Prospect Hill on the Confederate army’s extreme right flank. It is also called “Dead Horse Hill” because so many horses were killed in a vicious artillery duel. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is open from dawn to dusk. The Fredericksburg Visitors Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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