In the winter of 1862, Union General Ambrose Burnside found himself faced with a dilemma: how to cross the 400-foot-wide Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and get at General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. Although General Edwin Sumner had had an opportunity to make an uncontested (albeit hasty) crossing on November 18, Burnside had denied him permission, preferring to wait for the arrival of a pontoon train. The equipment finally appeared November 25, but Burnside did not begin his bridges until December 11. After two days of work under heavy fire from the entrenched Confederates, five bridges were completed, and Burnside launched what what ultimately prove to be a disastrous attack. Almost 13,000 of the 106,000 Union troops who took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg were killed or wounded (as compared with 5,300 of the 72,500 Confederates).

This poem was taken from Boker's Poems of the War, published in 1864 by Ticknor and Fields (Boston).

"The Crossing at Fredericksburg"