"We were subject to fire from the canal all day."
—A Mississippi soldier describing his experience on December 14, 1862, the day after the battle of Fredericksburg. The Union army would withdraw that night.
On December 12, I862, the 82nd New York Infantry Regiment cleared Confederate pickets from a paper mill (in the area to the right of the dog park) where a lesser canal (sometimes called a canal ditch) branched off from the Rappahannock Canal. The soldiers closed at control gate to try to reduce the water flow, but the canal ditch remained a deep and muddy obstacle when Federal assault columns moved forward the next day.
On May 3, 1863, two batteries of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery took position neat the Mary Washington monument. Federal infantry crossed the canal at a nearby bridge (behind you) and moved west. One of the Rhode Island batteries pulled out of the line and followed in support. While the artillerymen were crossing the canal, Confederate guns on the hill now occupied by Mary Washington Hospital hit a caisson, knocking it off the bridge.
On December 13, 1862, the Confederate line extended across the hills behind Fredericksburg (1). In town, the Federal attacks were funneled towards Marye's Heights (2) by the Rappahannock Canal
(3) and Hazel Run (4). No major combat occurred in this area, but sharp skirmish fire punctuated the day across this valley. These maps are oriented to the direction you are facing and also show the modern road network to help relate the battle action to the ground.
This 1910 photo reveals the width of the canalditch and its generally wet condition. It has since been contained within a covered concrete flume that roughly follows Kenmore Avenue.
The Mary Washington monument (100 yards to your left) was far from complete when the Civil War swirled around its once quiet setting.
On May 3, 1863, while the main armies fought at Chancellorsville, the Federal Sixth Corps confronted a Confederate division in the second battle of Fredericksburg. Union troops maneuvered to cross the Rappahannock Canal (1), but the Confederates responded by repositioning cannons from William Street (2) and from Fall Hill (3). A Federal assault punched through the weakened Confederate line at William Street (4), while additional columns overran Marye's Heights (5), with the help of an enveloping assault (6).