Shortly after Union General Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, he launched an attack on Fredericksburg. Moving his army of 120,000 across the Rappahannock River, his plan was to seize Marye’s Heights, a hill to the west of the city. Below the hill were a sunken road and stone wall. Union forces assaulted Marye’s Heights 14 times, coming within 25 yards of the wall. On December 15, Burnside ended the campaign and retreated back north across the river. Total Estimated Casualties: 17,929 (United States 13,353; Confederate States 4,576)
This painting by Sidney King depicts the scene on December 13th, 1862, showing the defense of Marye’s Heights by Lee’s Confederate Army. In the background is shown one of the charges of Army of the Potomac.”
December 13, 1862. On this ridge, called Marye’s Heights, blazed the cannon of Col. J. B. Walton’s Louisiana battalion, the Washington Artillery. Late in the day, out of ammunition, it yielded the post to Col. E. P. Alexander’s Reserve Artillery. Gen. Robert Ransom’s North Carolina infantrymen supported the guns and reinforced Cobb’s Georgians and attach was raked “as with a fine-tooth comb.” Alexander assured corps commander James Longstreet. “A chicken could not live on that field”.
“In December 1862 Confederate artillery on this hill rained shot and shell on attacking Union soldiers advancing out of Fredericksburg. Next to the guns was a small brick building, one of three that then occupied this part of the heights. “The little brick house, which was white at the beginning of the battle, was perfectly red with bullet-marks at its close,” wrote on Confederate. “There was an old cooking-stove in front of the house. The balls striking it up a perpetual ‘bing, bing,’ equalling the varied notes of a hand-organ.”
This 1864 photograph, taken from about this spot, shows the Willis Hill buildings in ruins – wrecked by Union artillery during the fighting here. Confederate earth-works, now gone, creased the heights.”