"fredericksburg and spotsylvania county battlefield" Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park by doug48

the fredericksburg and spotsylvania county national military park is a group of four major battlefields during the american civil war. the park covers the first and second battles of fredericksburg, the battle of chancellorsville, the battle of the wilderness, the battle of spotsylvania courthouse, and the thomas jackson shrine. the auto tour of the battlefields takes a full day and for serious students of civil war history you can easily spend a week here.
i suggest to understand these complex battles is to visit the fredericksburg battlefield visitors center first. at the visitor center you can get a map and information on the battlefields. my things to do tips is a tour of fredericksburg, (tips 1-12) chancellorsville, (tips 13-25) the wilderness, (tips 26-33) and spotsylvania county battlefields (tips 34-46) ending at the thomas jackson shrine.
fredericksburg was an important union target because fredericksburg is located half way between the union capital of washington. and the confederate capital of richmond. the first battle of fredericksburg was fought between december 11 th and 16 th 1862. the union forces of general ambrose burnside attacked the forces of confederate general robert e. lee. the union crossed the rappahannock river east of downtown fredericksburg and after a couple of days of urban fighting the union occupied the town. lee shelled fredericksburg from hills west of town and forced burnside to retreat back across the rappahannock. the second battle of fredericksburg was fought on may 1 st 1863 between the union forces of general john sedgwick and the confederate forces of general jubal early. the union captured marye's heights west of town and then were ordered to move west toward chancellorsville. early attacked sedgwick's troops at salem church a couple of miles west of federicksburg. after a two day battle sedgwick's forces were defeated by the confederates. both the first and second battle of fredericksburg were decisive confederate victories.

the battle of chancellorsville was fought between april 30 th and may 6 th 1863 in spotsylvania county near the village of chancellorsville. the battle of chancellorsville was fought between union general joseph hooker's army of the potomac and confederate general robert e. lee's army of northern virginia. the battle began with the crossing of the rappahannock river by the union army on the morning of april 27 th. hooker's forces occupied the area around chancellorsville and waited for the confederates to attack. on may 1 st confederate forces under the command of general thomas jackson moved west on the orange plank turnpike (VA 3) in the direction of chancellorsville. robert e. lee split his army in two and attacked hooker from two directions. after several days of fierce fighting hooker was forced to withdrawl and the battle of chancellorsville was considered robert e. lee's greatest victory. however lee lost generals thomas jackson and elisha f. paxton who were two of his most able generals. also the confederates casualities were over 13,000 which the confederacy could not afford to lose.
a year later the forces of union general ulysses s. grant returned to spotsylvania county to attack confederate general robert e. lee's army of northern virginia. grant attemped to move quickly through the underbrush in the wilderness area of spotsylvania county. lee launched two of his corps to intercept him. on the morning of may 5 th 1864 union general gouveneur k. warren attacked confederate general richard ewell's forces on the orange turnpike. that afternoon confederate general a. p. hill attacked general george getty's forces on the orange plank road. fighting was fierce but both sides found it difficult to maneuver in the dense woods. at dawn on may 6 th union general winfield s. hancock attacked a. p. hill's troops on the orange plank road. a. p. hill's forces were driven back until they were reinforced by general longstreet. during this battle longstreet was wounded by friendly fire. an evening attack by confederate general john gordon persuaded general grant to disengage from the battle. on may 7 th grant moved southeast to position his army between general lee and richmond. this maneuvor led to the bloody battle of spotsylvania courthouse.

after the inconclusive battle of the wilderness union general grant moved southeast in the direction of spotsylvania courthouse. the battle of spotsylvania courthouse was fought between may 8 th and may 21 st 1864. on may 8 th the forces of union generals gouveneur k. warren and john sedgwick unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the forces of confederate general richard anderson from laurel hill, a position that was blocking the union advance to spotsylvania courthouse. on may 10 th grant ordered atttacks on a confederate line of earthen works which included a prominent salient called the mule shoe. on may 12 th 15,000 union soldiers under the command of general winfield hancock attacked the mule shoe but were repulsed by the confederates. the mule shoe was also attacked by the forces of general horatio wright. after 24 hours of fierce hand to hand combat the confederates held the position. on may 18 th the forces of general hancock again tried to take the confederate line. hancock's attack also failed and on may 21 st grant disengaged from the battle and moved south towards richmond. in the battles of fredericksburg, chancellorsville, the wilderness, and spotsylvania courthouse over 46,000 union soldiers were killed or wounded compared to confederate causalties of 33,000. these combined battles were the bloodiest in u.s. history.

two excellent books about the battle of fredericksburg and the battle of chancellorsville are, "the fredericksburg campaign, winter war on the rappahannock" francis augustin o'reilly. pub: louisiana state university press. "chancellorsville" stephen w. sears. pub: houghton mifflin. also a good dramatic film about the the battles of fredericksburg and chancellorsville is "gods and generals" warner brothers productions.

an excellent source for information and maps of these battlefields is the civil war trust (http://www.civilwar.org/).

  • Last visit to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park: Nov 2011
  • Intro Updated Oct 11, 2012
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