Plate 30. Fredericksburg, Virginia

Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
Just below the falls of the Rappahannock, and midway between Washington and Richmond, is the city of Fredericksburg, the scene of some of the most thrilling events of the war. Nestled in a valley of unsurpassed fertility, its people had surrounded their homes with elegance, and enjoyed all that affluence could secure. The citizens were zealous advocates of secession, and, in 1861, the city was made a rendezvous for Confederate troops; but the first year of the war passed without a blow to mar its peaceful beauty. General Augur, in April, 1862, surprised and captured the place, which remained in our possession till the middle of summer, when Pope's retreat from Cedar Mountain necessitated its abandonment. In November, the Army of the Potomac marched down from the Antietam campaign, but owing to delay in occupying the heights commanding the city; failed in capturing it, and encamped upon the hills north of the river, where the troops went into winter quarters, the Confederates, meanwhile fortifying the Fredericksburg heights, and rendering the position impregnable to assault. On the night of the 10th of December, the movements for an attack commenced. The artillery was planted along the river bank opposite the city, and about three o'clock on the morning of the 11th the pontoon train came down to the river. The engineers had constructed bridges about half way across the stream, when the Confederate sharpshooters opened a severe fire from the houses and rifle pits, which was returned by our artillery, numbering about seventy guns.
The bombardment lasted throughout the day, with frequent intervals to, enable the engineers to resume work, but who were invariably driven off with considerable loss, until late in the afternoon, when a storming party crossed in boats and drove out the riflemen. A small portion of the troops occupied the town that night, and next day was followed by the whole army, the Confederates offering no resistance except by occasional shots from their artillery on the heights. The troops were formed for assault, with the right resting on the Rappahannock, one mile above the city, the lines extending in a semi circle around the town, to a point three miles below, where the left also joined the river. Early on the morning of the 13th, the battle commenced; lasting all day, with fearful loss on our side, and night closing the struggle with both armies occupying the same positions taken in the morning. Sunday and Monday passed without anything transpiring except skirmishing along the lines, and Monday night, under cover of a pitiless storm of rain and sleet, our troops returned to their camps. During the Wilderness campaign the city was again occupied by the Union army for a short time. The ruin, commenced in the battle of December, was complete before the close of the war, and at the termination of hostilities little remained of the city but deserted houses and tottering walls; but now business is resumed with an activity that betokens a brilliant future.
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 22.86 cm
place made
United States: Virginia, Fredericksburg
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Gardner's Sketchbook
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.