“It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day.”
Cincinnati Commercial in a report on the battle of Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg I think is the absolute nadir of Union fortunes in the Civil War. After the sacking of McClellan, Major General Ambrose Burnside came up with a plan that wasn’t bad. Burnside would take the Confederates by surprise by crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg and then racing the Army of Northern Virgnia to Richmond. Burnside arrived opposite Fredericksburg on November 17 and he had stolen a March on Lee. Unbelievably the pontoon bridges were nowhere to be found, bungling of an almost preternatural nature being responsible for not placing them at the front of the Union advance. Burnside sat on the river across from Fredericksburg for almost a month while Lee fortified the heights outside Fredericksburg. The key for the success of the plan, surprise, had vanished. Lee was present and in an immensely strong position. It made absolutely no sense for Burnside now to cross at Fredericksburg and initiate a battle and yet that is what he did.