December 13, 1862: Am Thankful I Escaped So Well
Firing commenced early about 9 A.M. Our Regt. was sent out on Picket, but was soon relieved, while out, one of Co. D. and one of Co. E. were wounded by Reb. sharpshooters. Soon afterward, Frenches Division opened the battle and at 1 P.M. our Division was ordered out to relieve them. We had to go double-quick through mud and being encumbered with blankets, were were exhausted when we got to the front. we were exposed for a quarter mile to a murderous fire of Grape, Canister, Solid Shot and Shell. our Infantry was unsupported, Artillery not being able to obtain a position. the firing of the Rebs was the worst ever our troops yet had to encounter. Our Regt. was relieved in an hour and in that time had lost over 50 men. Cotton, Fryer, Rowe, and McCallan of “A” co. were wounded. I was struck by a spent ball. am thankful I escaped so well.
Our division went into the field with 5500 men and came out with 1900. Col. Bailey, Major Ricketts, Cap. Wenie, Lieuts. Reynolds, Bird and Jones were wounded.
General Burnside issued attack orders on Fredericksburg on the morning of December 13. His plan involved first attacking Lt. Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps on Prospect Hill to divide the Confederate forces, followed by an advance on Marye’s Heights to finish them off. The first advance, led by Major General George Meade, initially seemed successful, but his troops were soon repelled by artillery and they were forced to retreat. In general, poor roads, ambiguous directives and general confusion favored the Confederates.
Sumner’s Grand Division (of which Cyrus and the 2nd Delaware were a part) then were directed to advance on Marye’s Heights. The landmark was closest to Fredericksburg and the hills were not as steep as on other nearby hills surrounding the town. Sumner’s attacks began around noon. Troops emerged from town, crossed a ditch or millrace and continued towards Marye’s Heights with very little protection. Confederate troops were stationed at a stone wall along a sunken road at the base of Marye’s Heights. Wave after wave of Federal soldiers unsuccessfully faced the “sheet of flame.” The seventeenth and final Union brigade to charge began after sunset; none reached the stone wall. Some estimates suggest that of the 12,600 Union casualties (1284 dead), nearly 2/3 of them fell trying to overtake the stone wall. Confederates suffered 5300 causalties (595 dead).
General Humphreys charging at the head of his division after sunset on the 13th of December
Alfred R. Waud
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Sources: Battle of Fredericksburg History-National Park Service, Fredericksburg: Confederate Victory, Union Story by George C. Rable, December 16, 1862 edition of the Delaware State Journal and Statesman, and Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division