The Union assault on the critical Confederate stronghold of Fredericksburg, Virginia, along the Rappahannock River in December 1862 was one of the most significant and storied battles of the Civil War. It was fought in order to secure confidence in the North for Lincoln’s administration after 18 months of Confederate victories, Union setbacks and directionless Northern leadership. The result was a stunning Confederate victory and one of the bloodiest losses for the Union Army. Federal General Ambrose E. Burnside and his Army of the Potomac planned to overrun Fredericksburg and move on to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The opposing general, Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia prepared Fredericksburg’s defense. Thousands of Union troops were able to successfully cross the Rappahannock despite withering small arms fire and proceeded to brutally sack the city, terrorizing its remaining civilian inhabitants while the Confederates fell back to a line of heights to the west. Burnside soon ordered his generals to attack with the intention of flanking the Confederate defenders. Unable to dislodge or go around the enemy, Burnside was forced to withdraw without a victory after suffering appalling casualties.
In The Fate of War: Fredericksburg, 1862, Duane Schultz uses this key moment in Civil War history to address how soldiers and civilians react to the stress of war. Going beyond a traditional military history, The Fate of War explores the human element in battle; the motivations, passions and emotions of the people who fought on both sides. Using letters, diaries and memoirs, including those of Clara Barton and Walt Whitman, Schultz reveals what individuals can force themselves to do in the name of duty, patriotism and dedication to a cause, or in the face of the ultimate fear—letting down their comrades-in-arms.
The accounts Schultz offers are vivid, harrowing and immensely moving. He tells of enterprising representatives of local undertakers walking through Union lines passing out business cards and offering to have bodies shipped home; of Irish soldiers of General Cobb’s Georgia Brigade despairing at having to fire upon their own countrymen in the Union Irish Brigade; of Union General Darius Couch, watching from a courthouse steeple as Confederate fire tore apart wave after wave of advancing troops; and of Sgt. Thomas Plunkett of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry, who refused to drop his regimental banner even after both his arms had been shattered by a Confederate shell.
Schultz’s account, grounded in careful research, is a record of the triumph and failure, courage and cowardice, compassion and cruelty of the people—ordinary and high-ranking, soldiers and civilians, men and women—who came together one terrible day.
Hardcover Book : 320 pages
Publisher: Westholme Publishing ( October 20, 2011 )
Item #: 13-533022
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.25 x 0.8inches
Product Weight: 17.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)