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Civil War Site Marye's Heights

  • 120 Chatham Lane Fredericksburg, VA 22405

NATIONAL MILITARY CEMETERY on MARYE'S HEIGHTS, where are buried 1 5,296 victims of the Civil War, only 3,000 of them identified.Fredericksburg and Petersburg, N. and S. of Richmond, received the brunt of the four-year drive of the Federal armies to capture the Confederate capital. The 100-mile stretch of US 1 S. of Fredericks- burg runs through the heart of an area that has seen more bloodshed than has any other on the continent of North America; here were fought some of the battles that helped to decide whether the land between Canada and Mexico should remain under one powerful government or should be broken up into two or more governments. Had the Federal Government not prevailed, it is possible that America would have become another constantly embattled Europe. The first major drive for the capture of Richmond came in the early winter of 1862 when Federal troops moved S. under Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside; General Lee had come rapidly E. to block the advance, and a delay in the arrival of pontoon bridges needed by the Federal forces for crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg enabled him to concentrate two corps on the heights to the S.and W. of the town. On December 12 the Federal troops had crossed the river. The following day two attacks were ordered, one at Hamilton's Crossing, 3 miles S. of Fredericksburg, and one on Marye's Heights. The Hamilton Crossing attack was repulsed and the Federal troops retired. Behind the Sunken Road at the foot of Marye's Heights ran a stone wall forming a parapet behind which the Confederate troops successfully repulsed seven major attacks. Two days later the Federal troops withdrew across the river. The Federal force numbered 142,551 and the Confederate 91,760 in this battle; the Federal loss was 12,653 and the Confederate 5,309. Twice the focal point of major attacks by the Union army, Marye's Heights ranks among the foremost landmarks in American military history. On December 13, 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside assailed the ridge with nine divisions totaling 30,000 men. Confederate William Miller Owen watched as line after line of Union soldiers surged toward the ridge. "What a magnificent sight it is!" he marveled."We have never witnessed such a battle-array before; long lines following one another, of brigade front. It seemed like a huge blue serpent about to encompass and crush us in its folds. . . ." Miller's fears were unfounded. Not a single Union soldier reached the heights, though 8,000 fell in the attempt. Five months later, Union troops again stormed the heights. General Robert E. Lee had taken most of the Confederate army west to Chancellorsville, leaving only a skeleton force to hold the high ground behind Fredericksburg. In a brief but fierce struggle, Major General John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps carried the heights on May 3, 1863, only to have the Confederates retake them the following day. Click Tour of 2nd Fredericksburg & Salem Church for a folder that provides more information on this fighting and describes a driving tour that includes a visit to Marye's Heights.