Paper No. 44-0
THE ROLE OF GEOMORPHIC FEATURES IN THE 1862 CIVIL WAR BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG
SHERWOOD, W. Cullen and FLORA, Stephen, Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison Univ, MSC 7703, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, sherwowc@jmu.edu

During the American Civil War one of the great battles of the war was fought on December 13, 1862 at Fredericksburg, VA. The battlefield is located just east of the Fall Line on the west edge of the Coastal Plain. A short distance to the west, the Cretaceous sandstones of the Potomac Group, that underlie the battlefield, are in fault contact with the crystalline rocks of the eastern Piedmont. At Fredericksburg, the Rappahannock River flows eastward from the Piedmont then swings in a generally southward direction. The river is incised in a valley approximately 1.5 kilometers wide with bluffs reaching as much as 20 meters on either side. At Fredericksburg, the river flows at the foot of the bluffs on the northeast side of the valley, leaving a broad plain composed of the flood plain and low terraces on the southeast side of the river. Located at the base of the bluffs on the southeast side, is the famous Sunken Road. The road is depressed approximately one meter with stone walls along both sides. Immediately behind the Sunken Road, the bluffs extend upward to Willis Hill and Marye's Heights. On the morning of December 13, Confederate General Thomas R.R. Cobb's Brigade occupied the Sunken Road, with the Washington Artillery (9 guns) and Maurin's Battery (4 guns) dug in along the crest of Willis Hill and Marye's Heights. It was against this position that Gen. Burnside decided to focus the illfated Union attack. In one of the most bloody repulses of the war tens of thousands of Union infantrymen were sent against the Confederate position and thousands were killed and wounded. Military historians agree that the combination of geomorphic features and human alterations of the landscape rendered the position nearly impregnable to frontal attack.

North-Central Section (36th) and Southeastern Section (51st), GSA Joint Annual Meeting (April 35, 2002)
Session No. 44
Geology and Human History I: Geological and Regional Perspectives
Hyatt Regency Hotel: Patterson Ballroom D
8:00 AM-11:40 AM, Friday, April 5, 2002
 

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