The Second Battle of Fredericksburg, also known as the Second Battle of Marye's Heights, took place on May 3, 1863, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as part of the Chancellorsville Campaign of the American Civil War.
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee left portions of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division to hold Fredericksburg on May 1, while he marched west with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia to deal with Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's main thrust at Chancellorsville with four corps of the Army of the Potomac. On May 3, the Union VI Corps under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, reinforced by the II Corps division of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, crossed the Rappahannock River to try and reunite with the rest of Hooker's army.
Although Sedgwick had almost 25,000 men in his command, the memory of the previous fight on this ground in December 1862 made him proceed with care, and consequently he moved slowly and cautiously.
Early was defending Marye's Heights with the Confederate army's reserve artillery and a small infantry force of about 10,000 men from his own division and Barkdale's Brigade. Much of his force was spread out thinly to the north and south of the Heights. Sedgwick moved his soldiers through Fredericksburg and towards the plain below the Heights, then stopped and engaged in long range artillery fire with the Confederates for most of the morning. At about noon, after failing twice in previous attacks, he sent ten Federal regiments against Early's defenses, the 5th Wisconsin in front as skirmishers. Colonel Allen, the commander of the 5th, gave his men this address prior to the assault:
When the signal forward is given you will advance at double-quick. You will not fire a gun, and you will not stop until you get the order to halt. You will never get that order.
The 5th went forward with a cheer, the other regiments close behind, and they were met with rapid fire from the Confederates behind a four foot stone wall. The charge stalled there for a time, then portions of the Union right found their way through gardens and fences and got over a part of the stone wall, getting the thin Confederate line in enfilade fire on their left flank. The Federals charged in, bayoneted the closest defenders, and captured several enemy guns. The greatly outnumbered Confederates withdrew and regrouped to the west and southeast of Fredericksburg, and though it took three charges, Sedgwick's men finally captured Marye's Heights.
Sedgwick moved cautiously to the west, not pursuing Early due to his orders to go straight to Chancellorsville and for lack of any cavalry to give proper chase with, toward defeat at the Battle of Salem Church. Early's force then reoccupied their former positions.
- NPS battle description
- Catton, Bruce, Glory Road, Doubleday and Company, 1952, ISBN 0-385-04167-5.
- National Park Service Battle Summary
- NPS battle description
- Catton, p. 204.
- Catton, pp. 204-5.
- Catton, p. 205.
- NPS Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania County Battlefield site
- Second Battle of Fredericksburg in Encyclopedia Virginia
nl:Tweede slag bij Fredericksburg pl:Druga bitwa pod Fredericksburgiem sv:Andra slaget vid Fredericksburg