September 1, 1862 – Fredericksburg

Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
– Sun Tzu

 

Morning             

Robert E. Lee directs Stonewall Jackson in an attempt to interpose his force between Pope and the capital at the Battle of Chantilly. Meanwhile, Union forces to include the 8th CVI continue to evacuate Fredericksburg and return to Washington, DC to prepare for its defense. The federal capital begins to panic and Union forces are recalled to man the defenses. The 8th begins the evacuation in the morning.[1]

As the evacuation proceeds, orders are given to lighten the load of baggage to the maximum extent possible. Officers prepare their trunks for shipment to Washington. Even the Chaplain has to abandon his chapel tent and the extensive library that he has compiled for the regiment.[2]

Oliver Case and his fellow soldiers awake to a scene in Fredericksburg of finality as nothing is left behind for possible use by the Confederates. One regimental historian describes it:

Vast piles of rations and other stores, together with the government buildings, were set on fire and consumed. The two large bridges crossing the river were also destroyed, and clouds of black smoke rolled up into the heavens, as the flames darted to and fro among the dry buildings, and their valuable contents.[3]

Many slaves have flocked to the Union army while they occupy Fredericksburg seeking freedom and the protection of the Federal Army. Now, the former slaves are concerned about their fate as they witness the federal troops preparing to leave the city. Despite the prohibition on excess baggage, Burnside agrees to take along the former slaves with their families to Washington.[4]

Slaves flee Fredericksburg with the Union Army in September 1862

 

1:00pm

With the sounds of battle from the direction of Washington in their ears, the 8th and the 11th reach Brooks Station on the Acquia Creek and prepare defensive positions likely to protect the withdrawal of Burnside’s force via water. As the common foot soldier, Olvier likely has no idea what the hours ahead may hold in store. He can only follow orders and prepare for a possible Confederate attack.

This is a place of easy defense, the road winding along between high hills. Col. Kingsbury of the Eleventh, now in command of the brigade, disposed his forces along the slopes; and a beautiful stream with a dilapidated dam afforded nearly all the men, by turns, a refreshing bath. Some families of negroes volunteered to bake hot corn dodgers till sundown for the hungry men, and joined the column, when, in the cool evening, it proceeded to Acquia Creek.[5]

After a defeat at Manassas, General Pope has withdrawn his army to Centreville and is engaged with Jackson at Chantilly. Due to Jackson’s aggressive attempts to cut off his retreat, Pope is now moving his army to prepare to defend Washington from Confederate attack and prevent its destruction.

The retreat from Fredericksburg to Acquia Creek


[1] History of the Eighth Regiment C. V. Infantry, J.H.Vaill, Case, Lockwood, and Brainard Co, Hartford, 1889.

[2] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[3] Forty-Six Months with the Fourth R. I. Volunteers, George H. Allen, Reid, Providence, 1887.

[4] IBID

[5] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

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