On Wednesday, November 19, 1862, Confederate forces of General James Longstreet assumed defensive positions on the heights above the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. On Marye’s Heights and several other hills which dominated the area, Longstreet immediately began to concentrate his artillery so as to defend Fredericksburg from a possible Union assault.
On the same day, Union General Ambrose Burnside arrived at Sumner’s headquarters at Falmouth directly across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. Burnside was determined to attack Lee’s forces and bring victory to the Union. It was clear that a major confrontation would soon ensue between the rival forces. The essential question was whether Burnside, in his zeal to bring victory, could effectively cross the Rappahannock* and defeat the well-entrenched Confederate forces of the Army of Northern Virginia.