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Union Messenger Describes Battle of Fredericksburg
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I had to ride among the flying of Shells and Balls…

UNION SOLDIER. Fragment of Autograph Letter, December 6-16, 1862, 3 pp.

Inventory #21265.18       Price: $175

Complete Transcript

                                         Saturday Dec 6 62

            I will a gain resume my story of to days affair. We arose at daylight ate breakfast which consisted of hard crackers fresh beef pork & coffee. we then saddled up and made out, at 7 the Rebles opened fire on us our musketry replying then our Artillery as soon as they commenced firing we ran down and the hill as usual out of danger, and stayed there all day. at dusk we rode across the field to water our horses we came back and stayed there all night, the fireing was kept up all day one of the heaviest battles that has ever been the shells would fly over our heads

                                         Sunday Dec 14 62

This morning I was detailed to <2> go as Orderly for Gen. Russell to carry dispatches and messages on the field it is not very bad business but a fellow must be on hand I had to ride among the flying of Shells and Balls I saw one fellow shot within 6 feet of me to day I shall stay at Gen Headquarters to night the fireing has ceased

                                         Monday Dec 15th 62

This was a pleasant morning I did not have much to do today. No fireing

                                         Tuesday 16 ?S?

Well last night about 2 oclock we wer called up the whole army was in motion we all crossed the river and are now encamped this side. I canot think what the move is for. we certainly are defeated I should say for we have lost a good many men and have gained nothing, well so much for that I am as healthy as I have been since I enlisted and I hope to continue so <3>

I should not be surprised if we stayed here some time. While the battle was in progress our men had a Balloon up to see both Armys. Our boys are all acting as Orderlys I believe they are all well

I have not time to write any more. Write soon, it is warm and pleasant here now [Conclusion and signature have been torn off.]

Historical Background

The Battle of Fredericksburg was one of the most lopsided Confederate victories of the Civil War. General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding the Army of the Potomac, hoped to reach Richmond before General Robert E. Lee’s Army of North Virginia could intercept him. However, delays in obtaining pontoon bridges prevented the Army of the Potomac’s crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia, before Lee’s forces could move to block his path. After two days of urban fighting in Fredericksburg on December 11 and 12, 1862, the Union Army executed a series of frontal assaults on entrenched Confederates on Marye’s Heights just west of Fredericksburg. The result was more than 12,000 Union casualties, compared to just over 4,000 for the Confederates.

Also on December 12, Union aeronaut Thaddeus S. C. Lowe (1832-1913) inflated his smallest balloon, the Eagle, near General Burnsides’ headquarters at the Phillips House, but the officer who ascended was too fascinated by the perspective and offered too little intelligence too late to have an impact on the battle.

After a lull on December 14 and a truce to care for the wounded, the Army of the Potomac retreated across the Rappahannock River on December 15. The 120,000 men of the Army of the Potomac remained in Stafford County, Virginia, between the Rappahannock and the Potomac Rivers during the winter of 1862-1863.

David A. Russell (1820-1864) was born in New York and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1845. After service in the Mexican War, he was stationed in the Pacific Northwest. In 1861, he became colonel of a Massachusetts regiment. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign in the spring and summer of 1862 and in the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Promoted to brigadier general, he commanded the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, of the VI Corps at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, which consisted of the 18th New York, the 31st New York, the 32nd New York, and the 95th Pennsylvania. He was mortally wounded in the Shenandoah Valley at the Battle of Opequon in September 1864.


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