Dec 13, 2012

Appointment at Fredericksburg

Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Va., Confederate fortifications (LoC)
(NYTimes) When Gen. Ambrose Burnside took over the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, the Republicans had suffered major losses in the mid-term elections, and the pressure was on to strike the Confederacy hard and end the rebellion. But Burnside took over a command as divided as the Union itself: many soldiers, particularly in the lower ranks, were angry over the recent dismissal of their beloved but controversial leader, Gen. George B. McClellan, and had serious doubts about both Burnside’s competence and the North’s shifting war aims.
And yet the country rallied behind the bewhiskered new commander as someone who could win on the battlefield. The New York Times hailed him as “just the man, of all men now in the field, likely to illustrate by some daring act of war in which he has thrown all the energies of his chivalric soul.” Unexamined were his penchant for gambling, his failures to make his own reconnaissance of the terrain his soldiers were to fight on, and his publicly expressed doubts about his own abilities. Continued