The Civil War, Day by Day

The Fighting 69th

The Fighting 69th

This time their Confederate counterparts held the high ground on the south side of the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. The Army of the Potomac arrived on the river’s opposite side in mid-November. With the army was the Irish Brigade - composed of the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York, the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania. With winter looming, the men expected a lull in the fighting and promptly constructed winter quarters. However, more than cold and snow awaited them at Fredericksburg: on December 13th the men in blue would make one of the bloodiest assaults of the war.

The Irish Brigade would be at the center of the storm, charging a stone wall defended by thick ranks of Confederate marksmen supported by wheel-to-wheel artillery. Stubbornly, the Irishmen would make the charge again and again, dashing themselves in vain against the impregnable wall of gray. At battle’s end, the Confederates would still hold the field despite 12,7000 Federal casualties. Among the dead and wounded would be scores of troops from the Irish Brigade.

Among the countless claims to valor that cold and bloody day would be the reputation earned by the soldiers of the 69th New York. They would charge into the flame of battle at Fredericksburg without their battle flag, which had been shot to ribbons in earlier fighting. The flag was retired on December 2nd and sent to New York for replacement. Determined to “show the green,” the men of the 69th would make their assault with sprigs of boxwood tucked in their kepis. They would indeed “show the green” and in so doing they would also show their pluck and prove their reputation as “The Fighting 69th.”

December's Archived Features:

Thursday December 1, 2022



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.