December 13 - 1862 - The Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was perhaps the worst defeat for the Union Army in the Virginia Theater of the Civil War, which is saying quite a bit. Certainly, it was one of the worst performances by a Union General, as the day saw a series of odd strategic choices from General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside had been named commander of the Army of Northern Virginia after General George B. McClellan refused to follow-up his victory at Antietam with a pursuit of General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Forces. So Burnside began his command by trying to outmarch Lee and cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Instead, he was stalled out waiting for pontoon bridges to make his crossing, and Lee fortified on heights above the town. In a series of charges, the Union continually faced an army on superior ground, with heavy guns, and in position to fire on them. The Union troops stood little chance, and most of the Battle of Fredericksburg was a slaughter. Although it was an embarrassing and overwhelming defeat for the Union, it would also prove the lowpoint from which the Union would begin to move on from to eventual victory.