Four More Battles Before Alexander Bennett’s Desertion

3 May 1863, Marye’s Heights, Virginia

Confederate Artillerists on Marye’s Heights

The Sunken Road at Fredericksburg. Confederate troops from Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Caronlina held the road throughout December 13th, 1862. No Union soldiers touched the wall or made it into the road. Mac Wyckoff

The Battles for Marye’s Heights

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.

4 May 1863, Salem Heights, Virginia 

The fighting at 2nd Fredericksburg and Salem Church comprises an important if often overlooked, phase of the Chancellorsville Campaign. Major General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Union army, began the campaign by splitting his forces. { Read General Hooker’s Report} While Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps crossed the Rappahannock River below Fredericksburg to hold the Confederates’ attention, Hooker sent three corps (later reinforced to six)across the river above Fredericksburg, turning the Confederate’ left flank. General Robert E. Lee responded by diving his army as well. {Read General Lee’s Report}While Lee led 45,000 men west to engage Hooker’s main force at Chancellorsville, Major General Jubal A. Early remained at Fredericksburg with 12,000 men to block Sedgwick. { Read General Early’s Report,} After two days of fighting, Hooker ordered Sedgwick to seize the heights behind Fredericksburg and march to his assistance at Chancellorsville.{ Read General Sedgwick’s Report}

Daybreak, May 3, 1863, found Sedgwick’s 25,000 troops facing Early’s 12,000 across a seven-mile front. Early concentrated his strength near Prospect Hill, where Union troops had enjoyed brief success during the Battle of Fredericksburg the previous year. Sedgwick, however, attacked Marye’s Heights, five miles further north. Although Marye’s Heights was a strong position, fewer than 1,000 men of the 18th and 21st Mississippi Infantry regiments of Barksdale’s brigade and seven guns of the Washington Artillery the ground defended it. { Read General Barksdale’s Report} 8,000 Confederates had successfully defended the previous December.

Despite the paucity of Confederate defenders, Sedgwick’s first two attacks against Marye’s Heights failed, recalling images of the December 1862 slaughter. During a truce to remove the wounded, Union soldiers discovered how few Southerners held the ridge. Confident of success, they renewed their attack and on the next try succeeded in capturing the heights. Early rallied his troops and retreated down the Telegraph Road (modern Lafayette Boulevard), thus blocking any direct advance by Sedgwick on Richmond.

Sedgwick instead headed for Chancellorsville. In his path were 10,000 Confederates led by Major General Lafayette McLaws and Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox. These Southern troops held Salem Church ridge, four miles west of town. The sun was low in the sky when Sedgwick reached Salem Church and deployed his corps for the attack. Utilizing just one of his three divisions (Brooks’), he made a costly and unsuccessful frontal assault against the center of the Confederate line. Nightfall put an end to what Sedgwick termed a “sharp and prolonged attack.”

On May 4 Lee took the offensive against Sedgwick. Jubal Early reoccupied Marye’s heights at dawn, cutting off the Union general’s escape via Fredericksburg.

Later in the day, Lee brought General Richard Anderson’s division from Chancellorsville to fill the gap between Early and McLaws. { Read General Anderson’s Report,} By sunset, Sedgwick found himself confronted by Confederates on three sides. When Lee attacked at 6 p.m., Sedgwick was forced to retire across Scott’s Ford. The following day, as Sedgwick’s soldiers returned to their winter camps, Lee hurried west to resume assaults on Hooker. Before he could attack, however, Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock, bringing the campaign to an end.

The fighting at 2nd Fredericksburg and Salem Church prevented Sedgwick from striking the main Confederate army at Chancellorsville while it was engaged with Hooker. By forcing Lee to divert two divisions to Chancellorsville at a critical juncture of the battle, however, Sedgwick may have spared the Union army a much greater defeat.

Two more battles to go?

5 June 1863, Fredericksburg, Virginia

3 July 1863, Gettysburg, Pennylvania 

I think I am going to desert from my posts about the Civil War and the reason why Alexander Bennett deserted the Union Army after the riotings that took place in New York City in 1863.

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I think I got the message across. We don’t have to pass judgement on someone’s actions.

After all these battles I think I need a rest from Our Ancestors especially since I am looking for this man’s relatives.

journal10Lawrence Walton Montague

 I will let you do a little Google research… or you can click here and save yourself a lot of trouble. This is part one.

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