December 13, 1862
The fight for Fredericksburg did not go as planned for Ambrose Burnside had ways of getting on higher ground before the enemy came. Unfortunately, the pontoon bridges that Burnside had planned for earlier, knowing that the bridges would be knocked out, did not arrive due to General Halleck. Halleck never thought that the battle should have been fought and therefore did not take Burnside's request too seriously. To the south and southwest of Fredericksburg was some high ground that Burnside was planning on taking, with Lee more than a day away from the battle site. Unfortunately, Halleck stalled the whole plan, by not delivering the bridges until Lee had already taken the high ground. It would have been wise for Burnside to abort the mission, but many had fought there way across Burnside's Bridge in Antietam and were not about to give up now.
After two weeks of building, the pontoon boats were finished. The long delay was due mostly to the sharpshooters on the banks who continually harassed the workers. Finally, a boat was sent over to the other side of the Rappahannock and chased them away. On December 13th, Burnside began to move his men into position. Burnside planned to launch two simultaneous attacks. One was up Marye's Heights, where Longstreet's men were backed by Confederate artillery guns, and had a stonewall in front of them. The result was devastating for the attackers. More than 10,000 Union soldiers were injured trying to climb the hill and penetrate the Confederate wall. Not one Union man made it within a hundred yards of the wall, from daylight to dusk.
To the south Major General William B. Franklin had also crossed the river and was launching a cautious attack on Jackson. As Franklin moved into position he allowed himself to be pelted by the enemy's fire until he sent Major General George Gordon Meade into a tree line. Amazingly the area he attacked had no Confederates anywhere and soon Meade was on the other side of Jackson's force. The attack seemed to be going well, until Franklin forgot to send any reinforcements and a counterattack drove Meade out with ease.
Overall the Confederate casualties amounted to about 5,000 while the Union casualties amounted to over 12,000 men. It was truly bad judgment on Burnside's part to ever send his men in there, but even worse to keep sending them up the hill. The disappointing display by Franklin also cost the Union thousands of lives, and the battle became a Union slaughterhouse.