Battle of Fredericksburg Lesson for Kids: Strategies & Victor

Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson, you will learn about the important strategies and outcome of a deadly Civil War fight: the Battle of Fredericksburg. The Union and Confederate armies clashed in Virginia as the North tried to capture the Southern capital.

Battle of Fredericksburg

From December 11th to December 15th, 1862, the Confederate Army fought the Union Army in and near the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The battle was one of the deadliest encounters of the American Civil War, with Union soldiers suffering three times as many causalities, or deaths, as the Confederate side. It was also one of the largest battles of the Civil War, with a total of 200,000 soldiers fighting.

An artist shows the fighting and death at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
battle painting

The Opposing Sides

The northern Union soldiers were represented by the Army of the Potomac, led for the first time by General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside had just taken command, after his appointment by President Abraham Lincoln on November 7th. He wanted to move his army to take the Confederate capital: Richmond, Virginia. Burnside moved his troops through Virginia towards the northern side of the Rappahannock River.

The Union Army crosses the Rappahannock River.
battle river crossing

Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee led the Confederate soldiers, representing the South. Lee moved his soldiers into position along the southern banks of the Rappahannock River. General Lee and his soldiers needed to defend their capital city of Richmond.

Important Strategies

While Burnside began to move troops towards the Rappahannock River, Lee was able to respond by moving his soldiers along the hills to prepare for battle. Burnside wanted to cross the river at Falmouth, but that section of the river was deep. The Union soldiers needed pontoon, or floating, bridges in order to make it across. But something went wrong when Burnside asked for the bridges, and they were delayed in arriving. Most of the soldiers did not cross the river until December 12.

Red lines show the movement of the Confederate troops, while blue shows where the Union armies were.
battle of fredericksburg

The delay gave Confederate soldiers time to get into a strong position on higher ground. They set up a strong defense on a ridge called Marye's Heights.

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