|Fredericksburg from Chatham Manor.|
While the National Park Service preserves the Confederate positions along the sunken road, development took over the open fields through which the Army of the Potomac advanced against the heights long ago. I remember feeling disappointed on my first few visits by how little you could visualize standing along the stonewall. As a result, I spent most of my time elsewhere, studying the ground along Jackson's lines, or moving on to Chancellorsville.
Getting a good sense of the assault on Marye's Heights takes some work, but it can be done. You can find interpretive signage throughout the town, and the NPS has developed two excellent walking tour scripts, "Fire in the Streets" and "Assault on Marye's Heights," which you can download for free online. We however decided to make use of the Civil War Preservation Trust's Fredericksburg Battle App. The App has four tours total; we focused our attention on tour (1), "The Fight for the Town," and tour (3), "Marye's Heights." Each tour features excellent, GPS enabled maps that help you move from stop to stop, while each stop has a detailed description of what happened there, often including audio clips of first-hand accounts and videos of Park Rangers interpreting the combat. The Trust's Battle Apps are free to download, and an excellent resource to have with you if you own a smart phone.
After spending a good 45 minutes at Chatham, we jumped into our car, took a short drive over the Chatham Bridge into the historic downtown and parked our car in a public parking lot along Sophia Street. We spent the rest of the day on foot. We strolled down Sophia Street to the site of the upper crossing site, and learned about the river assault of the 7th Michigan. Our path then turned left, up Hawke Street, following the soldiers of the 7th Michigan, along with the 19th and 20th Massachusetts. In the intersection of Hawke and Caroline Streets, we paused to hear NPS Ranger Frank O'Reilly recount the 20th Massachusetts' bloody encounter with William Barksdale's Missippians.
|Photo taken at the upper crossing site, utilizing the Fredericksburg App's augmented reality "Field Glasses" feature.|
|The Sunken Road.|
While you have to use your imagination along the way, you can still get a sense of the terrain and obstacles that made the assault against Marye's Heights such a disastrous undertaking. If you have the time to spend, and feel up for a walk of two to three miles, it will give you a better appreciation for the assault on Marye's Heights from Union perspective.