Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fredericksburg Revisited

Like many visitors to Fredericksburg, my previous visit began and ended at Marye's Heights. I walked along the sunken road, saw the film and viewed the exhibits. Then I got in my car and drove to another battlefield.

What a monumental mistake. It is impossible to really understand the battle without visiting Lee's Drive and the Slaughter Pen Farm. On my visit this October, I skipped Marye's Heights and navigated very carefully across the road to, a not well marked, Lee's Drive. There I really understood Edward Porter Alexander's remark to Lee that "A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it." The drive takes the curious visitor from Lee's command post on Telegraph Hill down along Jackson's line to Henson Hill and finally to Prospect Hill. You have a compelling view of the field where the Union breakthrough occurred and the railroad tracks. This perspective, like all battlefield visits, helps explain the disaster that befell Burnside's troops.

Then, I drove down the road to the Slaughter Pen Farm. The CWPT recently gave this land to the NPS. I had to ask a Ranger at the Visitor Center for directions because it's not on the park brochures. I walked around the field which features a number of trail guides. I crossed the irrigation ditches and saw where Meade's forces broke through Jackson's line. I had seen where General Gregg was killed on my walk along Lee Drive.

Please see the Battle of Fredericksburg for more pictures.

On your next trip or first trip, be sure to venture beyond the visitor center and walk these two areas to really understand this battle.

No comments: