The sulfurous smoke of battle had cleared, carrying into eternity the souls of those who would never again feel the
familiar soil of home. With the surviving men in blue once more safely across the Rappahannock River, the Union's reluctant commanding
general completed his account of the fighting at Fredericksburg, sending
it to his superiors in Washington DC. In response to
Major General Burnside's official report
which he nobly shouldered the blame for the failure at Fredericksburg, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the Grand Army of the Potomac a
conciliatory letter to be read to the troops.
December 22, 1862.
To the Army of the Potomac:
I have just read your commanding general's report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was
not an error, nor the failure other than accident. The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an
intrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and recrossed the river, in the face of the enemy, show
that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government.
Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is
comparatively so small.
I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
In response, General Burnside would write to Washington:
"Headquarters Army of the Potomac, December 26, 1862.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington:
I have the honor to acknowledge your kind letter of the 23d, together with the late order of the President.
In the name of the Army of the Potomac, I beg leave to thank the President for his kind expressions of approbation and confidence in us.
This assurance of support and appreciation by the Government of their labors is a source of great strength to the officers and men, and
we hope, by our constant and unwearied efforts to sustain the cause for which we are laboring, ever to merit the esteem and confidence
of the American people.
The address will be published to all the troops, accompanied by a general order, a copy of which will be duly transmitted to you.
I have the honor, &c.,
A. E. BURNSIDE,
Revised casualty figures for the Battle of Fredericksburg reveal the degree of Union loss during that cold December of 1862 which
President Lincoln had judged "comparatively small".
Grand total of casualties for the Union Army of the Potomac:
Officers Killed- 124
Men Killed - 1,160
Officers Wounded - 654
Men Wounded - 8,946
Officers Missing - 20
Men Missing - 1,749
Total casualties - 12,653
Total Confederate casualties (killed, wounded, and captured/missing) are estimated at about 4,576, a difference of 8,077.