1862 : Battle of Fredericksburg

When:
December 11, 2021 all-day
2021-12-11T00:00:00-05:00
2021-12-12T00:00:00-05:00

Crossing the River at the Battle of Fredericksburg

December 11-15, 1862

President Lincoln had fired Gen. George McClellan after the battle of Antietam, replacing him with Ambrose Burnside. Gen. Burnside hoped to outflank the Confederate forces of Gen. Robert E. Lee and move aggressively on Richmond.

Things got tricky at Fredericksburg, where Burnside was forced to wait for construction of a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River. The wait gave Lee time to recover.

Confederate infantrymen fired on the unarmed pontooneers, and they fled.

The Michigan 7th Infantry led the attempt to cross the river without the pontoon bridge, using their rifle butts to paddle while under fire, the first successful amphibious attack in US Army history.  Their commanding general said if they could do it, it would be one of the greatest feats of the war.  They successfully established a foothold and helped build a pontoon bridge to bring the rest of the army over and into the city.  They got the nickname the “forlorn hope regiment” for the willingness to take the toughest tasks.

Gen. Henry Baxter of Jonesville commanded the Michigan 7th Infantry at Fredericksburg. He was seriously wounded during the battle.

The Union forces took big losses over the next several days, with three casualties for every Confederate casualty.

 

Sources:

Michigan in the Civil War : Fredericksburg, WKAR, December 11, 2012.

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