After his disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg in December, Burnside looked for a new way launch an offensive. He did not plan to put his army in winter quarters, as would normally be done, but instead strike to restore his reputation and the morale of the army and the nation. He planned to move in the first days of January. Feinting at the fords upstream of Fredericksburg, the main army would cross seven miles downstream. At the same time, he would send the cavalry on a large scale raid. Up to this point in the war, the Confederate cavalry under JEB Stuart literally rode circles around the Union cavalry, which was of a much lesser quality. However, as soon as Burnside was prepared to move, he received a message from Lincoln, saying that “no major army movements are to be made without first informing the White House."
Now I lay me down to sleep
In mud that's many fathoms deep.
If I'm not here when you awake
Just hunt me up with an oyster rake