Sunday May 05, 2013


tombstoneOn December 11-13, 1862 a great civil war battle was fought in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Together the Union and Confederate forces suffered 104,000 casualties.    The confederate side had Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, the Union forces had Burnside, Hooker, Meade and Grant. 

Listening to the dissertations of how the battle unfolded and the maneuvers each side did to position their forces, it appears logistics played a significant part in the outcome.  The Union forces had the numbers and firepower but had to cross the Rappahannock River to deploy their forces in the town of Fredericksburg. 

The Unions Combat Engineers were promised the pontoons to construct a Pontoon Bridge, and had the pontoons arrived on time, they could have had their Union forces in Fredericksburg and overwhelmed the Confederates.  As it happened the Pontoons were two weeks late and General Robert E. Lee had the time to position his forces on the high ground and dig in his cannons.  The end result was a devastating loss for the Union forces.  There is a tongue and cheek saying in the military that says "The amateurs discuss strategy and the professionals discuss logistics".

I found it especially intriguing  as I spent two weeks, in the 1960's, with the Iowa National Guards; Combat Engineers.stonewall  Among the many exercises we did for our training was building a Pontoon bridge across the Mississippi River.  With a seven knot current we needed a tug boat to hold the pontoons in position while we laid the I beams and panels to construct the bridge.  The bridge, when completed, was a class six and could transport tanks.

The killing fields of the civil war show little resemblance today to what they were 150 years ago.  Home building progressed after the war, and many of the civil war buildings were torn down.  Our National Park Service has done what they could to re-create what has long since passed into time.  In the 1930's NPS began to reconstruct the "Sunken Road" and rebuild the stone wall.

Today the stone wall looks the same as it did during the Civil War.  A portion of the original wall still exists and there is a photograph of it in the slideshow.  Hamilton's Crossing is a good example of erasure by time; it was a railhead outside of Fredericksburg, used during the civil war.  Union forces controlled the railway into Fredericksburg so the Confederates used Hamilton's Crossing four miles from Fredericksburg.  Today, no evidence of it remains.


We found it a moving experience to stand on the ground where one of the historic battles of the civil war was fought, to see the artifacts in person, and to imagine what it must have been like to have fought in the war.  The carnage was appalling. There are 15,000 civil war soldiers buried in Fredericksburg; only 3,000 identified. 



Alexandria Virginia is a tourist town with an "Old Town" section similar to the one in Chicago.  It's a short drive from Mount Vernon and a pleasant place to have dinner. We had dinner at Murphy Grand Irish Pub, 713 King St., Alexandria Virginia.  The Crab stuffed Flounder was delicious.  To view the slideshow click here.