The fighting of December 13, 1862 left thousands of men broken and battered. Ferocious, frightening, and confusing,
men on both sides withstood a hailstorm of lead while trying to load and fire their weapons as quickly as possible. Despite the solid
cover of the stone wall, the Southerners along the sunken road still had to brave the thousands of minie balls raining in their
direction in order to get off a shot at the oncoming Federals. Of course, the men in blue had little or no cover often standing in the
open, loading and firing, men collapsing at every moment, some in agony, some in death, until they received orders to do otherwise.
To load and fire a musket like those used during this battle, the soldier needed to remove a cartridge from his cartridge box, tear the
end of the paper cartridge containing the powder and minie ball, pour the power down the muzzle of the barrel, ram the minie ball down
the muzzle with the ramrod, replace the ramrod, half cock the hammer, place a copper percussion cap on the nipple, fully cock the hammer,
aim, and fire. He must do so while numerous others do likewise aiming in his general direction. In the attempt to fire their muskets as
fast as they could, the men at times, due to the confusion of battle or simple inattention, accidentally skipped a step or two. At least
one Fredericksburg soldier apparently rammed home his bullet and then fired, forgetting to remove the ramrod. The section of a ramrod
shown above was found shot through a section of wood.