Throughout December 1862, Nathan Bedford Forrest led a successful Confederate cavalry raid into west Tennessee to disrupt the communication of the Union forces under Ulysses Grant, who was driving toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. Forrest led thousands of Union soldiers in west Tennessee on a "wild goose chase" to try to locate his fast-moving forces.
Even in the worst of wartime situations soldiers often reveal compassion for the enemy. Such was the case at Fredericksburg for Confederate Sergeant Richard Kirkland. On the morning of December 14 in front of the stone wall at Marye's Heights where thousands of Union troops had been shot, hundreds remaining on the battlefield alive but suffering terribly from their wounds and a lack of water.
Fredericksburg, Virginia was one of the most lopsided Confederate victories of the Civil War. Even with a superior number of forces it was virtually suicidal for the Union to attack Lee in a strong defensive position.
Marye’s Heights dominated the battlefield and was protected against Union assault at the foot of the heights by Georgia sharpshooters who helped repulse as many as fourteen separate, piecemeal Union assaults on December 13, 1862.
Before the battle of Fredericksburg, Robert E. Lee asked General James Longstreet if the Confederate artillery was prepared to fight off the anticipated assault of 114,000 Federals. Longstreet replied, “General, we cover that ground now so well… a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.”
At 4:45 am, Thursday, December 11, 1862, Union engineers began constructing five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock, while under intense fire from a brigade of Mississippi sharpshooters stationed in Fredericksburg. After hours of delay, Burnside ordered his artillery to shell the town in order to silence the Confederate sharpshooters.
On Tuesday, December 9, 1862 General Ambrose Burnside ordered his Union commanders to report to army headquarters at noon, by which time they would have alerted their troops, supplied each man with sixty rounds of ammunition, and started to issue three days’ cooked rations.