On Tuesday, November 18, 1862, Union General Edwin Sumner’s Right Grand Division of the restructured Army of the Potomac arrived at Falmouth on the bluffs across the Rappahannock* River from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
A major conflict seemed inevitable as both Union and Confederate forces moved toward Fredericksburg. In other news, President Jefferson Davis, after the hasty resignation of George Randolph, appointed Major General Gustavus W. Smith temporary Secretary of War for the Confederate States of America.
The appointment of Ambrose Burnside seemed to be a good choice. He was handsome and, at six feet in height, big in build. His large face was surrounded by heavy whiskers or “sideburns,” in a play on his name. He seemed dashing and brave, and he was. He also seemed to be very intelligent, but he was not.
On Thursday, November 13, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly charged Attorney General Edward Bates with enforcement of the Federal Confiscation Act.
Congress in 1861 and 1862 passed laws permitting the Union government to seize all the real and personal property of anyone taking up arms against the government, anyone aiding the rebellion directly, or anyone offering aid or comfort to the rebellion.
On November 14, 1862, anxious to satisfy Lincoln, Army of the Potomac commander General Ambrose Burnside submitted a plan for driving on Richmond.
Burnside proposed reorganizing his command into three grand divisions: the Right Grand Division under General Edwin Sumner, the Center Grand Division under General Joseph Hooker, and the Left Grand Division under General William Franklin.
In mid- November 1862, on the day after General Ambrose Burnside had assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan said farewell to those long considered to be soldiers of “his” army.
One soldier later wrote that the “men were wild with excitement. They threw their hats into the air and cheered their old commander as long as his escort was in sight.” Although some officers and men recognized “Little Mac’s” shortcomings, most in his army idolized him, despite his propensity to procrastinate and his failures in battle.