"A group of soldiers detached from the main group for a very dangerous mission."
On December 11, 1862, from the north side of the Rappahannock River in Stafford County, the 7th Michigan Infantry led an amphibious assault against the City of Fredericksburg's tenacious Confederate defenders. The mid-day attack across the river successfully dislodged the Confederate sharpshooters, gave the Union army a foothold on the opposite bank, and most importantly, allowed Union engineers to complete the vital pontoon bridges needed to carry the rest of the Army of the Potomac safely across the water. The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought two days later.
In the aftermath of the battle, the defeated Union army set up winter quarters at Falmouth. Three companies of the 7th Michigan quartered inside the Union Church, a Falmouth landmark since its construction around 1819. Private Edward Wise, of Calhoun County, Michigan, etched his name on one of the church walls: "7 M Edward Wise Co I."
In the spring of 1863, when the Army of the Potomac marched toward another major battle at Chancellorsville, Company B of the 7th Michigan remained at the Union Church and on picket duty in Falmouth along the river. A secret "submarine telegraph" was discovered at the Conway House below. Concealed under the river the device was used to pass messages about troop movements and other military information to the Confederates in Fredericksburg.
The Union Church also served as a Union hospital at various times during the war. The structure, abandoned in 1935, suffered severely from a major storm in 1950.