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 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.