2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Battle of 1st Fredericksburg - Friday, December 12, 1862
The Taking and Sacking of Fredericksburg

Fighting throught the streets of Fredericksburg.
Once the Union soldiers crossed the river, they would find a hard fight ahead of them to take the town from the determined southerners. Civilians were still present as the two adversaries battled for possession of their homes. Major Robert Stiles, CSA, relayed one incident as the Southern troops grudgingly fell back.

"Buck Denman,--our old friend Buck, of Leesburg and Fort Johnston fame,--a Mississippi bear hunter and a superb specimen of manhood, was color sergeant of the Twenty-first and a member of Brandon's company. He was tall and straight, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, had an eye like an eagle and a voice like a bull of Bashan, and was full of pluck and power as a panther. He was rough as a bear in manner, but withal a noble, tenderhearted fellow, and a splendid soldier.

The enemy, finding the way now clear, were coming up the street, full company front, with flags flying and bands playing, while the great shells from the siege guns were bursting over their heads and dashing their hurtling fragments after our retreating skirmishers.

Buck was behind the corner of a house taking sight for a last shot. Just as his fingers trembled on the trigger, a little three-year-old, fair-haired, baby girl toddled out of an alley, accompanied by a Newfoundland dog, and gave chase to a big shell that was rolling lazily along the pavement, she clapping her little hands and the dog snapping and barking furiously at the shell.

Buck's hand dropped from the trigger. He dashed it across his eyes to dispel the mist and make sure he hadn't passed over the river and wasn't seeing his own baby girl in a vision. No, there is the baby, amid the hell of shot and shell, and here come the enemy. A moment and he has grounded his gun, dashed out into the storm, swept his great right arm around the baby, gained cover again, and, baby clasped to his breast and musket trailed in his left hand, is trotting after the boys up to Marye's Heights." * [3]

The sacking of Fredericksburg.After the Union forces took the town, many spent the remainder of the day looting and ransacking the now undefended homes of Fredericksburg's citizens. Senseless property destruction was rampant as seen in the drawing to the right depicting a small portion of the scene. Union Major General Darius Couch described the scene by saying, "There was considerable looting. I placed a provost-guard at the bridges, with orders that nobody should go back with plunder. An enormous pile of booty was collected there by evening. But there came a time when we were too busy to guard it, and I suppose it was finally carried off by another set of spoilers." [59] Despite the widespread destruction, lawlessness, and lack of displayed discipline, the following day, they would form ranks on the hard won ground and brigade after brigade, repeatedly charge the enemy's heavily fortified line.


* Concerning the fate of the little girl, Major Stiles would write, "When the struggle was over and the enemy had withdrawn to his strongholds across the river, and Barksdale was ordered to reoccupy the town, the Twenty-first Mississippi, having held the post of danger in the rear, was given the place of honor in the van and led the column. There was a long halt, the brigade and regimental staff hurrying to and fro. The regimental colors could not be found.

Denman stood about the middle of the regiment, baby in arms. Suddenly he sprang to the front. Swinging her aloft above his head, her little garments fluttering like the folds of a banner, he shouted, "Forward, Twenty-first, here are your colors!" and without further order, off started the brigade toward the town, yelling as only Barksdale's men could yell. They were passing through a street fearfully shattered by the enemy's fire, and were shouting their very souls out--but let Buck himself describe the last scene in the drama:

'I was holding the baby high, Adjutant, with both arms, when above all the racket I heard a woman's scream. The next thing I knew I was covered with calico and she fainted on my breast. I caught her before she fell, and laying her down gently, put her baby on her bosom. She was most the prettiest thing I ever looked at, and her eyes were shut; and--and--I hope God'll forgive me, but I kissed her just once.' " [3]