Vignette of the Passage of the Rappahannock by the Grand Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia, Midnight, December 10, 1862

Object Number: 
1945.580.59
Date: 
December 10, 1862
Medium: 
Graphite on paper with annotations in brown ink
Dimensions: 
Overall: 8 1/2 x 13 in. (21.6 x 33 cm)
Inscriptions: 
Lengthy text in graphite (with brown ink annotations) beginning: "The shore is crowded with troops in 2 distinct masses..."
Description: 
Civil War Drawings Collection. A scene of the Federal army moving into position to begin the Bombardment of Fredericksburg. Engraved for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 27 December 1862 (XV:378):214, 220, under the title: "The Passage of the Rappahannock by the Grand Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, VA., Midnight, Wednesday December 10." The accompanying article, on page 214, was titled: "Bombardment of Fredericksburg". Condensed from: Harper's Weekly, December 27, 1862, pg. 830-831 THE BOMBARDMENT OF FREDERICKSBURG, December 11, 1862 Last evening, at sundown, the movement commenced… Artillery never seemed to rumble so noisily before…. At two o'clock our pickets were withdrawn, and at three the pontoon train drove down to the water. Lumber was noiselessly piled upon the ground, and the huge boats slid from off their trucks…. Suddenly, Crack! crack! crack! from a hundred muskets tells us the ball is opened. A cry of pain comes up the bank from the gallant engineers, mules dash off, with pontoons thundering after, across the plot; the musketry grows louder and the whiz of bullets more frequent; frightened teamsters fly, panic-stricken, and the artillery horses plunge at the caissons. Suddenly, boom! goes a gun-another and another, until thirty pieces are pouring shot and shell upon the devoted city. Gradually the fire slackens, and the engineers again attempt the completion of the bridge, but in vain; and after a third trial they fall back, bearing in their arms their wounded, dead, and dying. It was designed to lay down two bridges at once, one at the lower and the other at the upper end of the city. The enemy, posted in the houses and cellars, upon the bank of the river, were safe from our infantry, and maintained a continuous fire. Our infantry returned the fire spiritedly, but finding it impossible to drive the rebels from their cover, finally withdrew, leaving the disposition of the enemy to our artillery. By this time it was sunrise. The engineers (Fiftieth New York) and the Fifty-seventh and Sixty-sixth New York regiments had suffered heavily….About eight o'clock the artillery fire ceased….Again the engineers advance, and again the enemy drive them back, orderlies gallop to the different batteries with instructions; a message orders from Aquia a special train with solid shot; and again the thunder breaks out anew. For a time the roar is indescribably awful…The guns renew their roar, and we see the solid shot plunge through the masonry as though it were pasteboard; other buildings are fired, and before sundown a score of houses are in ashes, while not one seems to have escaped the pitiless storm of iron. Our artillery would drive the enemy from their cover upon the bank of the river, but when compelled to cease, in order not to endanger the lives of the regiments, the rebels would immediately steal back and pick off our men with the rifle…
Credit Line: 
James B. Wilbur Fund
Provenance: 
John T. Kavanaugh Collection, Rutherford, New Jersey, 1945
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group