Military operations were extremely difficult in the winter in northern Virginia, but Union General Ambrose Burnside had orders to cause hostilities against the forces of Robert E. Lee. In prior years, since the war began, the Army of the Potomac went into winter quarters to wait out the inclement, and impossible to move troops in, weather. But in the winter of 1862, they took a trip to the Rappahnnock River on the heights of Falmouth.
James Longstreet’s army corp faced then on the high bluff named Marye’s Heights.
Between these two armies, lay the town of Fredericksburg, where the frightened residents awaited the start of the conflict. Burnside ordered the town to surrender, with threats of firing cannon on the town.
The town’s major, unable to surrender, asked for time to take the young, old, sick and female residents from the town. This was agreed to by the Union army, so long as no “hostile demonstrations” occurred.
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