CVBT has negotiated the preservation of a nearly forgotten artifact of battle. North of the long ridge of Marye’s Heights Confederates used a string of steep hilltops to situate artillery units and interconnecting infantry works. Near Mary Washington Hospital CVBT has acquired one of these, an artillery lunette occupied by the Norfolk Artillery during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Protected by the nearby Rappahannock River and the industrial canal that ran behind Fredericksburg, the position attracted considerable counter-battery fire but was never directly assaulted. The Confederates had plenty of time to prepare. The commander of a nearby battery reported that his men “commenced throwing up earthworks to protect the guns and cannoneers” on November 23, a full three weeks before the battle. Its hilltop position on the west side of Fredericksburg provided its artillerists an opportunity to enfilade the Union attacks against the Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights, adding more deadly iron to the maelstrom of that assault. One of the Norfolk artillerists kept a diary and recorded of the battle on December 13th “One of our rifled pieces bursted and was ordered to the rear…. Shells from the enemy killed three of our horses, wounded five others, and dismounted one of our howitzers…. One of our young fellows had a most narrow escape, for the shell… passed between his legs, tearing away a portion of the bottom of his coat…. The enemy… were driven back with great slaughter”.
Most of the Confederate force remained in these fortifications for another five months, until winter’s end brought the resumption of active campaigning. Historian Robert K. Krick writes of this period, “The Confederate position from which Lee’s army won the Battle of Fredericksburg evolved over the next five months into an elaborate, heavily entrenched front that ran downstream from Fredericksburg for many miles. It was, in essence, the military frontier between the Confederate States and the United States.”
Today this end of the battlefield has mostly succumbed to new invaders -- medical office parks and town homes. In spite of the challenging terrain and limited road access developers were still attracted to the area and development plans had been drawn up to site 38 town homes on this four-and-a-half acre parcel. After years of discussion with the owners, extensive legal work, and finally a long wait for the economic circumstances to improve, CVBT received this site as a gift from the Janney family of Fredericksburg in April 2016.
This steep site presents challenges for public access but it is a rare chance to preserve surviving field works west of Marye’s Heights and within the Fredericksburg city limits.