Was Burnside at fault for Fredricksburg or was he Pushed into early Action by Washington

Specster

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#1
I tried to make sure this was not an OP, but I couldnt find evidence that it was. Was Burnside pushed into action way beyond campaigning season and did he feel compelled to act of his own volition or was it at the beckoning of Lincoln, Halleck and Stanton?

Should he have stopped the campaign when Halleck was indifferent to the pontoon problem? I once thought that the entire problem at Fredricksburg was caused by Burnside - who said from the get go that he was not up to the task. But Washington has to bear an extreme responsibility for initiating the disaster. Burnside could have and should have called it off, but didnt.

Am I wrong? Where does the bulk of responsibility lie?
 

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civilken

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#2
there Is No Way, Burnside can get away with it. Simply stated it was his fault. Yes Washington was pushing him he wasn't ready for command but once he realized the boats were not going to be there in time he should have moved his army into position on the heights he had nearly 2 weeks to find a crossing. That's all his fault his decision.. If he couldn't get over he should have removed his army or went to defensive positions.
 

dlofting

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#3
I've often wondered if Burnside was a poor general, or a competent commander who just had bad luck. If you read about him in the overland campaign it often seems that he had the skills but just came up a bit short for one reason or another.

I think he was over his head as an army commander at Fredericksburg.....but that's what he told Stanton and Lincoln. Sometimes you get the result that you expect.
 

jackt62

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#4
No doubt, Burnside was pushed by the Lincoln administration into undertaking prompt offensive actions. That being said, the operational aspects of the Fredricksburg fiasco were totally mishandled by Burnside, who was remiss in 1) not ensuring that the logistics (pontoon bridges) were getting to where they needed to be on time; and 2) that once it became apparent that the element of surprise was lost, the battle plan needed to be revised or abandoned. But Burnside lacked those important command traits, imagination and the ability to improvise when facts on the ground became altered.
 

kel1985

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#5
I think Burnside peaked as a corps commander and was in over his head as command of AOP. I think he was hindered at least partially for the failure of Halleck in not getting the pontoons to him in a prompt manner, however, a true leader would have been able to adapt his tactics to the changing situation. He failed to adapt prior to the battle and again during the battle resulting in too many good men dying.
 

Specster

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#6
there Is No Way, Burnside can get away with it. Simply stated it was his fault. Yes Washington was pushing him he wasn't ready for command but once he realized the boats were not going to be there in time he should have moved his army into position on the heights he had nearly 2 weeks to find a crossing. That's all his fault his decision.. If he couldn't get over he should have removed his army or went to defensive positions.
Im not necessarily disagreeing with you but he said from the moment assigned that he was not up to the task. I for one can no longer put all the blame on him.
 

Specster

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#7
I've often wondered if Burnside was a poor general, or a competent commander who just had bad luck. If you read about him in the overland campaign it often seems that he had the skills but just came up a bit short for one reason or another.

I think he was over his head as an army commander at Fredericksburg.....but that's what he told Stanton and Lincoln. Sometimes you get the result that you expect.
I think as you look at his record beyond Fredricksburg, you see that he was not a competent corp commander. I dont know if Fredricksburg caused him serious mental damage or he never had it in him. There were several minor issues that seemed to cause him great distress - like Mac's rebuke after Antietam. They had been close friends, he took that hard.
 
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#8
I like Bruce Catton's take on the situation in Glory Road:
"On November 12, a few days after he had taken command, Burnside submitted [his] plan to higher authority. General Halleck was not in favor of it. He was rarely in favor of any plan devised by a subordinate, and he knew perfectly how to qualify any approval he did express so that if disaster came his own record would contain no stain. President Lincoln, who was beginning to catch onto this trait of the general-in-chief, examined Burnside's proposal for himself and on November 14 he telegraphed his approval, remarking that the plan would succeed if Burnside moved fast - otherwise not. On the next day Burnside put the army in motion."

I think Burnside was operating under tremendous pressure, both militarily and politically, to succeed. He had it in writing from Lincoln that he was going to have to be fast and decisive to do this, and when the big moment came, when his plan met an obstacle, he unfortunately didn't know how to overcome it creatively. Ok, the pontoons aren't there - now what? Every leader, whether in the military or in business or in any field you choose, eventually faces the same question. Things aren't going as planned, so do I sit in a funk and wait, or do I work to overcome this problem? Sadly, Burnside, a man of many admirable qualities, wasn't the decisive type who could create his own solutions and ended up his own worst enemy.
 

Specster

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#9
No doubt, Burnside was pushed by the Lincoln administration into undertaking prompt offensive actions. That being said, the operational aspects of the Fredricksburg fiasco were totally mishandled by Burnside, who was remiss in 1) not ensuring that the logistics (pontoon bridges) were getting to where they needed to be on time; and 2) that once it became apparent that the element of surprise was lost, the battle plan needed to be revised or abandoned. But Burnside lacked those important command traits, imagination and the ability to improvise when facts on the ground became altered.

Agree with you on all except the late delivery of the bridges were not his fault.

Just an aside, because you mention logistics, after the battle he basically forgot about the need to provision the AotP, they were basically starving and disintegrating due to desertion and disease.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#10
I believe he was under pressure to do something. A frontal assault on a nearly impregnable position was not his only option.

I also believe one of Burnside's major problems was an inability to articulate his attack plans in a clear & understandable way. If, as O'Reilly contends, Franklin's was to be the major attack (it certainly was the only area where there was any chance of success), his inability to write clear orders allowed Franklin to justify attacking with what amounted to only 2 divisions. That failure rests with Burnside.
 

Specster

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#11
I think Burnside peaked as a corps commander and was in over his head as command of AOP. I think he was hindered at least partially for the failure of Halleck in not getting the pontoons to him in a prompt manner, however, a true leader would have been able to adapt his tactics to the changing situation. He failed to adapt prior to the battle and again during the battle resulting in too many good men dying.

Agree, plus he was goaded right from the get go by his generals to make the right moves.....he wasnt doing this in a vaccuum.
 

Jamieva

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#13
Burnside felt pressure to move due to how he was put in command of the AotP. Mac was relieved due to what Washington perceived as his lack of action. So of course Washington is not going to sit around and let Burnside camp all winter and wait for the spring campaign season to do something. Burnside was put in place to do something...now.
 
#16
No doubt, Burnside was pushed by the Lincoln administration into undertaking prompt offensive actions. That being said, the operational aspects of the Fredricksburg fiasco were totally mishandled by Burnside, who was remiss in 1) not ensuring that the logistics (pontoon bridges) were getting to where they needed to be on time; and 2) that once it became apparent that the element of surprise was lost, the battle plan needed to be revised or abandoned. But Burnside lacked those important command traits, imagination and the ability to improvise when facts on the ground became altered.

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jackt62

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#19
The initial plan was dependent on the element of surprise; that is, it required that Burnside get the AOTP over the Rappahanock at the Fredricksburg crossings before Lee and the ANV were in position. Although a capbable plan, it was not as innovative as Hooker's May 1863 offensive which was also based on successfully crossing the rivers but then enveloping the ANV on its flanks.
 

civilken

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#20
Im not necessarily disagreeing with you but he said from the moment assigned that he was not up to the task. I for one can no longer put all the blame on him.
of course you are correct but once he took a job. He also takes the responsibility and honestly there was a lot of blame to go around his generals did not follow their orders I know. But in the end the buck stops here.
 



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