Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Battle of Fredericksburg – Plan of Attack

On December 12th, 150 year ago today, the Federals, as on the previous day, began with a bombardment. They crossed the river on the pontoon bridges they had built, and began digging rifle pits. Examining the Federal movements, Lee decided that this was indeed the real attack. He had been slow to arrive at that conclusion because he did not think Burnside would be foolish enough to attack Fredericksburg directly. But now he finally resolved to order up Stonewall Jackson's forces, which had been scattered to guard a large area. The two days Burnside had spent in preparing for the attack had thrown his plans into disarray and given Lee time to bring up his entire army. If he had attacked immediately, he may have caught Lee more off guard and had a better chance of success.
Battle overview

Burnside examined Lee's 8 mile long line and saw that it bowed inwards in the center. He could not attack there without coming under crossfire from the flanks. That left the two flanks, and he decided to attack both. However, his orders were not for the forceful attack his subordinates expected. Franklin, on the Union left, was instructed to send forward at least one division to seize the high ground, as was Sumner, supported by Hooker, on the right. Burnside thought that he would simply be able to brush Lee off without committing all of his forces. He would find out the next day how wrong he was.


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