2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Battle of 1st Fredericksburg - Wednesday, December 17, 1862
Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside
"...For the failure in the attack I am responsible"

General Ambrose E Burnside
As a new day dawned, General Burnside knew the enormity of the slaughter which occurred under his command. Those close to him would report that he responded, "Oh, those men! Those men over there!...I am thinking of them all the time." The distraught General then announced his plan to renew the assaults and this time, he would personally lead the charge. His immediate subordinates convinced him otherwise and, under the cover of a hard storm, his forces re-crossed the Rappahannock River the following day. [3]

In his book "Stonewall Jackson", Lt. Colonel G. F. R. Henderson noted of the Union withdrawal, "The retreat was effected with a skill which did much credit to the Federal staff. Within fourteen hours 100,000 troops, with the whole of their guns, ambulances, and ammunition wagons, were conveyed across the Rappahannock; but there remained on the south bank sufficient evidence to show that the Army of the Potomac had not escaped unscathed. When the morning broke the dead lay thick upon the field; arms and accoutrements, the debris of defeat, were strewed in profusion on every hand, and the ruined houses of Fredericksburg were filled with wounded. Burnside lost in the battle 12,647 men." [47]

The Commanding General summarized the events of the campaign for his superiors in Washington and, as would Robert E. Lee after the Battle of Gettysburg, accepted full responsibility for the tragic loss. In his official report, General Burnside would state, "As the day broke, our long lines of troops were seen marching to their different positions as if going on parade; not the least demoralization or disorganization existed. To the brave officers and soldiers who accomplished the feat of this recrossing in the face of the enemy I owe everything. For the failure in the attack I am responsible, as the extreme gallantry, courage, and endurance shown by them was never excelled, and would have carried the points, had it been possible. To the families and friends of the dead I can only offer my heartfelt sympathy, but for the wounded I can offer my earnest prayers for their comfort and final recovery. The fact that I decided to move from Warrenton onto this line rather against the opinion of the President, Secretary, and yourself, and that you have left the whole management in my hands, without giving me orders, makes me the more responsible...

Our killed amounted to 1,152; our wounded, about 9,000; our prisoners, about 700, which have been paroled and exchanged for about the same number taken by us. The wounded were all removed to this side of the river before the evacuation, and are being well cared for, and the dead were all buried under a flag of truce." [20]

-- Major General Ambrose E. Burnside
Official Report
December 17, 1862