On this day 150 years ago, having accepted command of the Army of the Potomac and having, at President Lincoln‘s insistence, developed an aggressive plan to attack Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia, Ambrose E. Burnside arrived on the north bank of the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg.
He’d moved quickly. He was raring to go. All he needed were the pontoon boats.
Wait, where were the pontoon boats?
As our entry notes, “Fortunately for Lee, mismanagement in Washington delayed the arrival of the pontoon bridges Burnside’s forces needed to cross the Rappahannock. As a result, Lee was able to reach Fredericksburg and establish a strong position on the hills just outside of town.” The result? Not good. (At least for Burnside.)
New Man Law: Move quickly but never depend on Washington for anything!
ALSO ON THIS DAY: Happy anniversary to Sir Walter Raleigh, who secretly married Bess Throckmorton on this day in 1591 (she was in the family way). The queen would send them both to the Tower for their trouble. And happy birthday to Fitzhugh Lee, who was born on this day in 1835.
IMAGE: Virginia, Fredericksburg, Pontoon Bridge across the Rappahannock river, May 1863, by Timothy H. O’Sullivan (National Archives)