2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Battle of 1st Fredericksburg - Saturday, December 13, 1862
Crossing the Canal Ditch

The fields and canal ditch beyond the town of Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg canalAs the men in blue emerged from town and began the move across the open field towards their well protected foes along Marye's Heights, the savage storm of raining artillery let them know that the maneuver would not be a simple one. After progressing some distance, another obstacle thrust itself upon the Union soldiers. Running almost parallel in between the two lines, a canal ditch slowed their progress further. Union Major General Darius Couch described somewhat laconically the significance of this additional hurdle. "On the outskirts of the town the troops encountered a ditch, or canal, so deep as to be almost impassable except at the street bridges, and, one of the latter being partly torn up, the troops had to cross single file on the stringers. Once across the canal, the attacking forces deployed under the bank bordering the plain over which they were to charge. [59]  The ditch, about 15 feet wide, five deep, and filled with cold water, not only impeded progress but made the Federals easier targets as they filed in to cross at the few available bridges.

Union Brigadier General O. B. Willcox also added to the vision of this scene. "Thus forming in two brigade lines, Getty's division marched gallantly over the broken field, crossed the railroad cutting, then an old canal ditch and some marshy ground, under an artillery fire which increased every moment..." [59]