Illinois Regiments in the Battle of Fredericksburg
(Fredericksburg, Virginia)
(December 11-15, 1862)


After the failure of Union Gen. McClellan to pursue and destroy the Confederate army after the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), President Lincoln replaced McClellan with Major General Ambrose Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. While he had previously distinguished himself as an able Division and Corps Commander, Burnside felt he might have been in over his head as the head af an army, as would soon be proved at Fredericksburg.

Burnside planned for a quick movement of the Union army with a forced crossing of the Rappahannock River at Fredericsburg. He felt that if he moved quickly enough he could get his forces across the river before significant numbers of confederate troops could be concentrated to oppose him (Link to Regional Map). While it was a bold and daring plan, it did not allow for delays in execution and Burnside proved unwilling to modify the plan after the initial conditions changed. The Army of the Potomac proved up to the plan by quickly marching to the north bank of the Rappahannock at Fredericsburg. Unfortunately, the pontoon bridges necessary for the crossing of the river were delayed and did not arrive for more than a week. This delay allowed Confederate General Lee to deploy his available forces along the south bank of the river.

After the arrival of the pontoon bridging equipment, but with Lee's troops in position to oppose his crossing, Burnside hesitated. Finally, early on the morning of Dec 11, 1862, Burnside ordered his troops across the river. The landing would have two prongs (Link to Map), a Southern diversionary landing approximately two miles below the city, and the main force through the town of Fredericksburg. Although his commanders warned that the element of surprise had been lost and that an attack against all of Lee's forces would be much more difficult that originally planned, Burnside stuck with his original plan.

The bridging crews began during the night, assembling the boats and planking of the temporary bridges. Confederate sentries in Frederickburg heard the noise of the engineers and the Brigade of Confederate Gen. William Barksdale was sent into the buildings in the town to harass the bridge-builders. The snipers made the work go extremely slowly and Burnside finally sent Union troops across the river in some of the pontoon boats to clear out the snipers. The bridges were finally completed later that day. December 12 was spent bringing the Union troops across the bridges and then organizing their formations on the south bank of the river.

The Union troops finally started up the hill from the town at 830 am on December 13th. The Confederate artillery had easy shots as the long lines of blue infantry plodded up the hill. When they came within range, the blue lines came under fire from Confederate infantry along Mayre's heights along a sunken road with a stone wall for protection. Wave after wave of Union troops pressed forward, but none reached the stone wall. The assaults finally ended at sunset with many of the wounded crawling back to their lines.

Meanwhile, Union troops of the left wing (southern diversion) had attacked at a hidden weak point in Confederate General Jackson's lines. His troops had been positioned along a line above a railroad through the woods. However, they had not been positioned behind a swamp that was considered impassible. As it was December, the ground had frozen and that was precisely the point at which a division of Pennsylvania troops under Major General Meade had attacked. Meade's troops enjoyed initial sucess but were thrown back during Confederate counterattacks due to a lack of further support from other Union troops.

The Union lost 12,600 troops during the attack and did not resume assaults against the reinforced heights above the town. On December 15th, the Union troops pulled back under cover of darkness and cut their pontoon boats loose. The Army returned to winter quarters to the north of the Rappahannock. Burnside was returned to command of a Corps and command of the Army of the Potomac fell to "Fighting" Joe Hooker.

The Illinois regiments which took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg are listed below. The links will take you to the regimental pages.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Dyer's Compendium

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