Fredericksburg had enjoyed more than a century of comfortable prosperity by 1860. Although its economic heydey was past, the town's elegant houses, numerous churches, and shady, tree-lined streets bespoke lingering wealth and refinement.
The Civil War shattered the town's stately tranquility. On December 11, 1862, some 150 Union cannon fired on Fredericksburg, toppling walls and setting fire to buildings. Confederate artillery added to the destruction, targeting Union soldiers who occupied, then looted, the doomed town.
Terrified citizens fled Fredericksburg, taking whatever they could carry. When they returned, their lives—like the town itself—were in shambles. It would take decades to recover.
The once beautiful city of Fredericksburg is almost in ruins. There [is] hardly a house that is not torn to pieces by shell & shot from cannon & a great many burnt to ashes."
William R. Montgomery,
Phillips' Legion Infantry