Decisions at Fredericksburg

The Fourteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle

  • Author(s): Mackowski, Chris
  • Series: Command Decisions in America's Civil War
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2021-12-27
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now
  • Available in PDF: Price $29.95 | Buy Now


In the fall of 1862, after a leadership shake-up initiated by Lincoln, Gen. Ambrose Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac and developed an aggressive plan to attack the Confederate capital of Richmond. However, in order to reach Richmond, Burnside had to march through Fredericksburg, where Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was well entrenched. After crossing the Rappahannock River under enemy fire, Burnside and his troops engaged Lee’s army within the city, then launched a futile frontal assault against a heavily fortified ridge west of Fredericksburg. The end result was a decisive victory for the Confederacy, as the Union army suffered more than double the number of casualties as its foes. Burnside would resign a month later but would resurface as war in the Western Theater grew heated.

Decisions at Fredericksburg explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders during the battle and how these decisions shaped its outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battle, Chris Mackowski hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the contest to provide a blueprint of the Battle of Fredericksburg at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battle to progress from knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened.

Complete with maps and a driving tour, Decisions at Fredericksburg is an indispensable primer, and readers looking for a concise introduction to the battle can tour this sacred ground—or read about it at their leisure—with key insights into the campaign and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself.

Decisions at Fredericksburg is the twelfth in a series of books that will explore the critical decisions of major campaigns and battles of the Civil War.


CHRIS MACKOWSKI is a professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield. He is series editor for both Emerging Civil War and Engaging the Civil War and is cofounder of the Emerging Civil War blog.