Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lee Hill and Howison Hill

This afternoon I embarked on another battlefield excursion.  The rain had cleared and I had finished my radio show interview.  Since it was late in the afternoon by the time I left home with my parents and two poodles, we decided to just go to the Fredericksburg battlefield.  Instead of taking the dogs for a walk on the Sunken Road, we decided to be adventurous and visit Lee Hill--which we had not had a chance to visit yet.

Before the Battle of Fredericksburg, Lee Hill was known as Telegraph Hill.  The battle forever altered the city of Fredericksburg, and this hill was renamed Lee Hill because it was from this vantage point Gen. Robert E. Lee witnessed the battle with Gen. James Longstreet on December 13, 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The hill is naturally commanding and made a perfect spot to observe the battle and place heavy artillery.  The hill is step, but the National Park Service has laid a nice, easy path to take you to the summit.  Be prepared for a twenty minute hike.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton

A view while walking up Lee Hill.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The summit at last!  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Beside using the spot for observation, Confederate forces also placed heavy artillery on the hill.  From this spot the Confederates heavily shelled Union forces as they crossed the Rappahannock River on pontoon boats.  Once the Union forces crossed and entered Fredericksburg, the Confederate artillery continued its barrage.  Union forces answered back and shelled the Confederates from their position on Stafford Heights.  Leaving the citizens of Fredericksburg stuck in the middle.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The city of Fredericksburg as viewed from Lee Hill.  Confederate pioneer's cleared the land of trees before the battle to give Confederate artillery a clear line of view.  On December 13, 1862, Gen. Lee had a panoramic view of the city and terrain.  From this vantage point Lee easily viewed Chatham Manor on Stafford Heights.  In the 150 years since the battle, the trees have grown back.  The church stepple in the middle of the photograph was there in 1862 and was used by Union forces to direct their artillery fire into Fredericksburg.  Photograph by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Two 30 pound Parrott guns were used on December 13, 1862.  Both guns had been made in Richmond at the Tredegar Iron Works.  The one positioned on Lee Hill blew up after its 39th firing showering Gen. Lee and Gen. Longstreet in gun fragments.  The event is dramatized in the 2003 movie Gods and Generals, though the scene was fictionalized as it showed the gun crew dying in the explosion--in actuality the gun crew escaped the explosion unharmed.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The explosion of the Parrott gun was not the only incident on the hill to put Lee's life in danger.  During the shelling, a Union shell buried itself into Confederate earthworks near this location where Lee was standing.  Fortunately for Lee the shell did not explode.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Confederate earthworks that protected Gen. Lee from Union shells.  Earthworks were designed to protect a standing soldier, erosion has diminished there original size.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Monument commemorating Gen. Lee's position.  It was from this position that Lee declared "It is well that war is so terrible--we should grow to fond of it."  Lee made this statement to Gen. Longstreet after watching a Confederate countercharge down the Deep Run valley on his right.     Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Lee Hill interpretation shelter.  The Battle of Fredericksburg would not be the only conflict to envelope Lee Hill.  On May 3, 1863, war returned during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg which was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign.  While the first battle in December 1862 had been an unmitigated disaster for the Union army, the second battle was a Union victory with Lee Hill falling into Union hands.  The disaster at the Battle of Chancellorsville, fought during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, nuterlized the Army of the Potomac's achievements on May 3.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Getting back in the car, we followed the road and stopped at the next marker for Howison Hill.  Like Lee Hill, Howison Hill was used by Confederate artillery.  The delay of the arrival of Union pontoon boats allowed Confederate forces to hunker in.  During the Union delay, the Confederates placed heavy artillery on Howison Hill including the second 30 pound Parrott gun used during the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

NPS interpretative marker shows the location of Union and Confederate artillery.  The photograph was taken in 1930s before the view was blocked by trees.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The view from Howison Hill today.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Cannon marks the spot where Confederate guns fired on December 13, 1862.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The view from Howison Hill, during the battle the trees had been cleared by Confederate pioneers--a contingent of soldiers tasked with clearing anything that blocked the vantage point of the guns.  Pioneers would also build and repair roads, dismantle enemy fortifications, among other tasks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Earthworks surrounding the cannons.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Confederate earthworks, this part of the battlefield has some excellent examples of original Confederate earthworks.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

By this time, the sun was starting to set.  Fortunately we had all just got loaded into the car before it started to rain again.  These two locations are only just a shadow of the treasures to be found on the battlefield and I am already looking forward to my return trip.


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