By the end of 1862 a total of 164,000 American had been killed or maimed over the decision of several Southern States to gain independence as the American founders had done. Given the carnage to that date, it is astonishing that an American president – who was encouraged by his predecessor to convene a constitutional convention to settle differences peacefully – chose to continue the slaughter of civilians and soldiers alike.
Fearing a severe public backlash after his army’s defeat at Fredericksburg in mid-December 1862, Lincoln ordered news reports of the loss suppressed.
“Victory Rested on Our Banners”
“On Wednesday, December 10th, , clothing was issued to the [Sixteenth Connecticut] regiment. Shoes were very much needed. In the evening a pontoon [wagon] train went down towards the Rappahannock River, but no unusual notice or remarks were made about it, and both officers and men went to sleep that night without suspecting the least that early on the morrow a heavy battle would be raging.
The next morning the troops were early aroused by the tremendous discharge of two mortars, and simultaneously the opening of our batteries of nearly two hundred pieces. Nearly the entire day the batteries poured incessantly their deadly fire of shot and shell into the city with terrible rapidity. During the afternoon the firing gradually ceased and at sundown victory rested on our banners.
During the day three days rations and sixty rounds of cartridges were issued to the men. The next day the Sixteenth advanced to the river early in the morning and lay on the banks all day, watching the fighting on the other side of the stream. In the evening they crossed the pontoon bridge and went into the city of Fredericksburg. After stacking arms on Main Street most of the men went into houses to sleep.
The effects of this short siege were awful to contemplate. Some portions of the city were completely battered down. Buildings in various parts of the city were burning, and during the night fresh fires were continually breaking out. Although the enemy had carried away most of their wounded and dead, still a few remained in the city.
Our men found ten women and a child, all dead, in a cellar; they had gone there for protection from our shells but one of them struck there, and bursting, killed them all.”
(History of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers, B.F. Blakeslee, Case, Lockwood and Brainard Printers, 1875, pp. 27-28)