YOUR TOWN:  Caroline | Culpeper | King George | Fredericksburg | Orange | Spotsylvania | Stafford | Westmoreland     TODAY: 11.22.2014 | 

Brig. Gen. William Barksdale

The job of Barksdale's Missippi brigade was to delay any Federal attempt to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg.

"Nine distinct and desperate attempts were made to complete the bridge[s]," reported one Confederate soldier, "but every one was attended by such heavy loss from our fire that the efforts were abandoned ..."

Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside now turned to his artillery chief, Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, and ordered him to blast Fredericksburg into submission with some 150 guns trained on the city from Stafford Heights.

The bombardment continued for nearly two hours, during wich time 8,000 projectiles rained destruction on Fredericksburg.Once again, Union engineers ventured warily to the ends of their unfinished bridges.

Suddenly - impossibly - muzzles flashed again from the rubble-strewn streets and more pontoniers tumbled into the cold waters of the Rappahannock.Burnside now authorized volunteers to ferry themselves across the river in the clumsy pontoon boats and drive the Confederates out.

Once on shore, the Federals charged Barksdale's marksmen who, despite orders to fall back, fiercely contested each block in a rare example of street fighting during the Civil War.

After dusk, the brave Mississippians finally withdrew to their main line, the bridge-builders completed their work, and the Army of the Potomac entered Fredericksburg.

Barksdale kept his headquarters on Princess Anne Street in Fredericksburg, in the building that now serves as the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center.

-The National Park Service