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150 Years Ago: Saturday, November 22, 1862


Example of a Pontoon BoatSource: Library of Congress

Example of a Pontoon Boat
Source: Library of Congress

Though Union General Ambrose Burnside had reached the Fredericksburg, Virginia area first, he has been stuck looking at the small town from across the Rappahannock River. The pontoon boats necessary for his men to cross the river have yet to arrive, though they should have already been assembled and ready for use. Burnside and his men watch helplessly as Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s once small gathering of troops turn into thousands of men who have obtained the best ground for a battlefield advantage: the high ground south of the city.

Burnside’s main objective at this time is to find the location of the missing pontoon boats. He finally receives communication from Aquia Creek, Virginia, approximately 28 miles north of his position; it is not the news Burnside is hoping for.

I have found General Woodbury here. He says the pontoon train left Washington last Wednesday; that it had orders to come up as rapidly as possible. It has 20 pontoons on the train, and wagons to carry 20 more, which are at Belle Plain. I sent out from the latter place to turn in the empty pontoon wagons. I ordered Major Magruder, at Belle Plain, to land his wagons, and load up his pontoons. He has about 50 pontoons, and some 26 wagons. The quartermaster will furnish teams; common wagons cannot carry pontoons. I see no way of having enough at Fredericksburg before to-morrow evening.

Rufas Ingalls, Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief Quartermaster

While many of Lee’s key men have already arrived in Fredericksburg, one corp is just leaving today. That corp belongs to Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They have over 150 miles to travel eastward before they reach their destination, but Jackson’s troops are well trained to keep up a good pace and will likely make good time during their journey.

Though U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s plan south into Mississippi had included the use of railroads to transport men & supplies, his request for additional railroad cars is denied by General-in-Chief Henry Halleck. Grant is not to take any rail cars south of Memphis, Tennessee. While Halleck’s reasoning is unclear, the bureaucracy is nothing new to Grant; he will have to come up with another plan that meets his needs but one that can also get approval from those that sit behind a desk.

The use of railroads for troop and supply movements is starting to become more prominent in both the North and South. The North has over 22,000 miles of rail, with the South having just over 9,000 miles. However, even the South realizes that the railroads are a great resource that might have to be converted from personal and military use to strictly military if they are to win the war. An editorial in The Southern Confederacy tries to prepare citizens for this likely change:

The Southern ConfederacyEditorial, November 22, 1862

The Southern Confederacy
Editorial, November 22, 1862

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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