American Civil War

The Stone Wall at Marye’s Heights

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The last sight some 8,000 Union Soldiers ever had on December 13, 1862.

On December 13, 1862, Union General Ambrose Burnside launched a furious, frontal assault against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia as he sought to widen his bridgehead across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. Lee’s troops held a formidable defensive position on a ridge outside of town known as Marye’s Heights. With artillery atop the ridge, and his infantry deployed along its slope behind a waist-high stone wall, the Confederates had a clear field of fire for hundreds of yards in Lee’s front.

Burnside’s troops marched right into that killing zone, and despite extraordinary bravery failed to even reach the stone wall. Wave after wave of blue clad Soldiers swept up the slopes, only to be mowed down by close-range artillery and rifle fire. The attack was pressed for hours with the same result after every charge. The dead and wounded carpeted the soft ground before the stone wall, while the Confederates suffered minimal casualties. Legendary Maine professor, General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, spent the night on the slope with the rest of the 20th Maine Volunteers using the bodies of the fallen to shield them from the elements and Confederate sharpshooters.G86A4526

As he watched the carnage unfold, General Robert E. Lee is supposed to have uttered, “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”

The following spring, during the Chancelorsville Campaign, Union troops seized Marye’s Heights, only to be driven off by a Confederate counter-attack the following day.

 

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Hallowed Ground.

 

 

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Twilight at Shiloh

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Twilight in late summer 2014, Shiloh Battlefield. This was the site of one of the critical battles of the Civil War’s Western Theater. The evening I was there, I was the only human on the battlefield. White tailed deer played among the unit markers, and a rogue bull showed up at the Hornet’s Nest.

The rail fence at the Hornet’s Nest. Contrary to many post-war accounts, the “sunken road” at the Hornet’s Nest was not sunken at all, but rather a little used farm path through the woods.

Standing at the Hornet’s Nest, watching the sun go down, I turned to see this guy staring at me from across the field where so many Confederate Soldiers perished. We gazed at each other for a long moment, and I was a bit afraid he’d charge me. (I was charged by a Moose in Colorado while working “Level Zero Heroes with Michael Golembesky). But right after I lifted my Canon to my face and snapped this photo, he lit off into the underbrush behind him. The park rangers had received several reports of him on the loose, and the next day they were out searching for him. I hope he got away. The world has enough steak out there.

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Photo of the Day: Vicksburg, Mississippi

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