National Cemetery (Part 1) – The Fallen

A year ago, I posted three items concerning the Confederate Cemetery (click here). This year I deal with war casualties and the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg. This is the first of five in this series.

The American Civil War was our first national experience with casualties of war, both civilian and military, on an “Industrial scale”.  Overall, the nation’s armies suffered more than 618,000 deaths. Reliable information on military losses is very hard to come by and accurate civilian losses are almost impossible to determine.

How does this tally of death correspond to other wars in which the nation has been involved? In the first graph, we see how all other wars pale with the civil war in comparison. Interestingly, the author of the American War Deaths table records the figure of Civil War deaths to be 618,000. When you add in wounded in action and prisoners of war we see Continue reading

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Thompson’s Hill

In 1885 S. Millett Thompson, former lieutenant of the 13th New Hampshire (NH) Volunteer Regiment, revisited Fredericksburg and other sites in Virginia that he and the 13th NH marched and fought through during the Civil War. He had last been there during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13th, 1862.  His regiment had been part of General Burnside’s last assault against Marye’s Heights. This assault had been undertaken by five regiments of Colonel Rush C. Hawkins’ 1st Brigade part of Brigadier General George W. Getty’s 3rd Division. Upon Thompson’s return home from this memorable trip to Fredericksburg he began to write a book based upon his wartime  diary and letters writing to family members in the late 1870’s. During the writing, he made use of many published Continue reading

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Railroad Development in Fredericksburg

The following is a short but incomplete history of the railroads of Fredericksburg and how they impacted the terrain of the Battle of Fredericksburg of 1862.  In the years between 1834 and today there have been two railroads in Fredericksburg. The first was the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac (RF&P) railroad, chartered in 1834. It thrived by providing reliable transportation between Richmond, the capital of Virginia, and Washington DC. Building northward from Richmond, it reached Fredericksburg by 1837 and Aquia Creek by 1842. From there the passengers transferred to a boat on the Potomac River for the two-hour cruise to Washington DC and points beyond.  The railroad replaced the slow, bumpy coaches and wagons that had previously plied the dirt roads. In 1842, the English author Charles Dickens spent five months in America. He collected his experiences in a book titled ‘American Notes’. He wrote of the tortured experience Continue reading

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Union Action at the Poor House

On the day of the Union attack against Marye’s Heights, two batteries of Union artillery supported these attacks from lower Fredericksburg. They were Lieutenant George Dickinson’s Battery E, 4th US Light Artillery and Captain Charles A. Phillips 5th Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery; alternatively known as Battery E of the Massachusetts Light Artillery (I will use the former designation for simplicity). Choice in placement of these batteries quite literally meant the difference between life and death. Both batteries are described using as landmarks high ground near the Poor House and a Continue reading

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The Poor House

This post is a continuation of my previous post on the area of lower Fredericksburg (click here). One location of interest in my previous post was the John L. Knight’s Poor House and nearby brick yard. Both the Poor House and the brick yard and kilns feature prominently as land marks in some Union official reports, letters home and personal accounts of the Battle of Fredericksburg.  As a researcher, my problem is that both the Poor House and the brick yard and kilns disappeared years ago! We have a general idea as to their location, but to understand their true place in history, it is important to locate them. The following is what I have come to understand about them. Continue reading

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