This weekend marks the 148th anniversary of the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, specifically of its first two days. The commemoration includes an opportunity to tour the battlefield in an evocative, candlelit atmosphere and, the next day, understand the 1862 fighting and its later remembering, through the words of historian Frank A. O’Reilly, its foremost scholar. These events are free to the public:
December 11 (Saturday): Join National Park Service historians for a “Candlelit tour of the Sunken Road” on the Fredericksburg battlefield. The program will focus on how the people who lived along and fought in the Sunken Road confronted life-changing decisions, from secession to the life-and-death struggle on December 13, 1862. Three identical tours will begin at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center, 6:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.
December 12 (Sunday): Join National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly for a tour of “Clear the Way! In the Footsteps of the Irish Brigade.” Frank, accompanied by reenactors of the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, will lead a tour-tour walking tour that follows the route of attack of the Federal Irish Brigade through the streets of Fredericksburg and across the Bloody Plain below Marye’s Heights.
Frank’s tour begins at 12:00 p.m. at the Fredericksburg City Dock, located at the end of Sophia Street, and concludes at 2:00 p.m. at the Kirkland Memorial.
Immediately following the Irish Brigade tour on Sunday December 12th, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will hold its annual commemoration ceremony at the Kirkland Memorial, located on Sunken Road a block north of the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center. Frank O’Reilly, who is also author of The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, will then present the keynote address, “Remembering the Battle of Fredericksburg after 148 Years,” for this year’s ceremony. In addition to his remarks, the event will include color guards, living history soldiers, the laying of wreaths at the monument by various, history related organizations, and the playing of taps.
(For further information or in the event of inclement weather, call 373-6122.)
Speaking of evocative, the vast Civil War output of special artist Alfred R. Waud (pronounced “Wood”) includes this sketch of Fredericksburg during the December battle. The appearance of the sketch on this blog may represent its first-ever publication despite its status, at least in my opinion, as one of the most powerful artworks in Waud’s entire portfolio:
The specific date and location within Fredericksburg are not identified by the online catalog for the Library of Congress, where the sketch resides. Note, however, that the window- and door placements on the partially rendered building at left bear a faint resemblance to those of the Wallace House and Store. That once stood at the corner of Caroline and William streets (more recently the “Ben Franklin”-store corner) and appears in the right foreground of a different battle illustration from the Library of Congress collections–a frequently published sketch drawn by special artist Arthur Lumley on the night of December 12:
This night the city was in the wildest confusion sacked by the union troops = houses burned down furniture scattered in the streets = men pillaging in all directions – a fit scene for the French revolution and a discrace to the Union Arms – This is my view of what I saw.
Noel G. Harrison