Fredericksburg: What was Burnside thinking?

infomanpa

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#1
After reading about this battle in December of 1862, I can't figure out why Burnside thought that the disastrous repetitious assaults of Marye's Heights would result in victory. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, right? Everyone in the AOP seemed to understand the futility of this, except the commanding general. Could someone help me with this?
 

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Yankeedave

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#4
He is a bit like Pope in that given him a smaller seperate command they doe ok. Not brilliant, but tends to get the idea of the movement and competently gets the job done. Give either one a legitimate army or center stage and oh my lord what a disaster. Bragg comes close to falling in this catagory also. imho
 
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#7
Fredericksburg..in my opinon..was Lincolns fault as much as anyones..alot of pressure..and Halleck was slow with the pontoons..
 

Yankeedave

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#9
Fredericksburg..in my opinon..was Lincolns fault as much as anyones..alot of pressure..and Halleck was slow with the pontoons..
I don't know to blame Halleck for something Burnsides didn't need. Burnsides was slow to see he did not need pontoons, at least at first. A lack of planning on Burnside's part becomes an emergency on the government.
And knowing that the assault on the Hights is a feint he planned the thing, Burnside's elects to dawdle in that area, instead of going to Franklin on the left and do what he can to aid on the proper front.
 
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#10
Wasn't the assault on Mayre's Heights supposed to be a feint anyway?
The assault on the heights was supposed to hold Longstreet in place while the main assault of the army took place by Franklin against Jackson. That seems to be what the plan would have been but the execution did not match it at all
Exactly. The assaults on Marye's Heights were to distract eyes from the main assault, conducted by William Franklin. Unfortunately, Franklin was not up to the independent responsibility and he couldn't muster much more than Meade's attack which he failed to support properly. Where Burnside can be faulted is in continuing the attacks after he was aware that Franklin had stopped his assault.

Ryan
 

Yankeedave

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#11
Exactly. The assaults on Marye's Heights were to distract eyes from the main assault, conducted by William Franklin. Unfortunately, Franklin was not up to the independent responsibility and he couldn't muster much more than Meade's attack which he failed to support properly. Where Burnside can be faulted is in continuing the attacks after he was aware that Franklin had stopped his assault.

Ryan
All the more astonishing, because the view from Stafford Hights covers the entire battlefield.
 

Northern Light

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#13
It seems as if he had a plan in his head, and when it didn't work, he was not able to devise an alternative, just keep on trying. It really is very tragic that he was forced into a position in which he did not feel confident and that so many people suffered and died for that forcing.
 

infomanpa

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#15
He was drinking the same kool-aid that Lee would later at Gettysburg
After the Pickett charge was repulsed, at least Lee didn't try it again and again and again......

After all, his aides had to talk him out of personally leading another attack against Marye's Heights.
I found that even more astonishing that the next day Burnside wanted to try it again!
 

Northern Light

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#16
After the Pickett charge was repulsed, at least Lee didn't try it again and again and again......



I found that even more astonishing that the next day Burnside wanted to try it again!
I don't think he knew anything else to do. He didn't want the job, and he was being pushed by Washington for results. Unlike Lee or Grant, he was unable to adapt his plan.
 

Yankeedave

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#17
Burnside had a stubborn streak. He would cut off his own nose to spite his face. At times he could be innovative and imaginative. See his carbine, see his actions along the North Carolina coast. To a degree, see Knoxville. He should have never won that one.
But tempered with Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg...
 
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#18
Fredericksburg..in my opinon..was Lincolns fault as much as anyones..alot of pressure..and Halleck was slow with the pontoons..
True, but Burnside would have been able to cross the Rappahannock without the pontoons early on. It's astounding to me that Burnside was unwilling to take this small risk that would have reaped an enormous reward (an undefended Marye's Heights) but then proceeded to take an enormous, and ultimately fruitless, risk in repeatedly charging a well-defended Marye's Heights on December 13th. He paradoxically combined the worst qualities of his predecessor McClellan (paranoia and unwillingness to take risks) and his adversary Lee (risk-taking in the face of certain defeat; i.e., Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd) in one single campaign. It's not a coincidence that Federal fortunes in the East only started to improve when Meade took the helm.
 

Northern Light

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#19
True, but Burnside would have been able to cross the Rappahannock without the pontoons early on. It's astounding to me that Burnside was unwilling to take this small risk that would have reaped an enormous reward (an undefended Marye's Heights) but then proceeded to take an enormous, and ultimately fruitless, risk in repeatedly charging a well-defended Marye's Heights on December 13th. He paradoxically combined the worst qualities of his predecessor McClellan (paranoia and unwillingness to take risks) and his adversary Lee (risk-taking in the face of certain defeat; i.e., Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd) in one single campaign. It's not a coincidence that Federal fortunes in the East only started to improve when Meade took the helm.
How was he supposd to cross the river without the pontoon boats?
 

Yankeedave

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#20
The story of the pontoons themselves is involved. Burnsides, knowing he is going to invest Fredericksburg, elects not to keep even a small pontonier force. When he finally does order them, the ones order can not get to d.c. because of logistics. They are river, and iirc can't fit the lower locks of the canal. Something odd like that. Finally the job is dumped on some junior officer who quickly pulls together the force needed. Starting south, very late, they begin to make good time. Then it begins to rain, and rain, and rain. Through totally heroic efforts this young man gets the pontoons to Brunsides. how many more signs does the man need to Not to cross the river...
 



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