Mount Vernon News

By Mount Vernon News
December 19, 2012 8:32 am EST


Democratic Banner readers undoubtedly knew about the Dec. 13, 1862, debacle at Fredericksburg well before they read the accounts published in the Dec. 20 edition.


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The Newark and Columbus papers had probably been read already by everyone who could get their hands on one, and if either of the Republican papers in town published earlier in the week, they had the chance to tell the story.

It wasn’t a pretty story. Gen. Ambrose Burnside had a simple, but potentially effective, plan. He would cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg and advance on Richmond, forcing Robert E. Lee to defend someplace in between.

However, he had lost his advantage by twiddling his thumbs at Fredricksburg, waiting for pontoons to arrive. Meanwhile, Lee took advantage of the delay and fortified the heights behind Fredericksburg.

Banner readers on Dec. 13, had read dispatches, dated Dec. 11, about how the initial attempts to place pontoon bridges across the river at Fredericksburg had been stymied by infantry fire from the town and how a massive artillery bombardment failed to displace the defenders, which were finally driven out or captured by a force that crossed in boats.

Downstream, Union forces under Gen. William Franklin bridged the river with no problems, but waited to cross until the bridges at the city were finished. The writers described the forces moving across the river and into position, and said a battle was expected the next day.

But Burnside didn’t attack on the 12th. He waited until Dec. 13. Franklin’s Left Grand Division, which included about half the army, was to attack Jackson’s positions south of Fredericksburg, then, as Jackson was being rolled up, Gen. Edwin V. Sumner’s Right Grand Division would attack Gen. Longstreet’s position on the right.

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