National Cemetery (Part 3) – Swale Trench and Wallace’s Ice House

This is the third in a series on the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. I return to the Anderson sketch of the Union burial trenches used in the previous post. These trenches were created to accommodate the large number of Union dead that remained exposed on the open fields in and around Mercer Square following the Battle of Fredericksburg. Now let’s jump to the ‘big’ trench. I call this one the ‘SWALE Trench’. Based upon the work I did finding the Swale in Mercer Square (click here), and reading participant accounts of the battle, I am convinced the location of this trench was along a portion of the Swale Continue reading

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National Cemetery (Part 2) – Stratton Burial Trench

The purpose of this post is to honor the memory of the fallen, and to identify some of the prominent locations of the temporary Union war-time burials, prior to their being gathered into the Fredericksburg National Cemetery on Willis Hill.

During my initial research on the Swale in Mercer Square, I came across references concerning the burial of Union dead. There was a map related to these burials which intrigued me, and it closely matched my Swale findings. I knew that someday I would look further into this part of the history of the battle.

The Anderson Burial Trench map. The Stratton burial trench was located between the Stratton house and his wheelwright shops

You can see that the author of the burial sketch was clearly attempting to convey what he remembered from his time during the battle and at the burials. While the author’s map is Continue reading

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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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