Union soldiers and officers gazing upon Fredericksburg from this spot in 1862 saw many of the same landmarks visible today. The skyline of this peaceful river town, population 5,000 in 1860, is still dominated by the three steeples of City Hall and the Episcopal and Baptist churches. The Rappahannock River, which was a source of power, a transportation artery, and a military obstacle in the 1800s, flows from right to left along its journey from the Blue Ridge to the Chesapeake Bay.
To the west of Fredericksburg lies the high ground known as Marye's Heights upon which Robert E. Lee posted his gray-clad forces, eager to meet the Union army on the battlefield Burnside had chosen. Following reckless and unsuccessful assaults at the base of those heights on December 13, many hundreds of soldiers from both sides would never gaze upon this or any other earthly vista again.