January 20, 1863: Mud March

Mud March Painting


Probably the nadir of the Union war effort was reached by the Mud March of the Army of the Potomac which began 150 years ago on January 20, 1863.  Desperate to redeem himself after the bloody fiasco at Fredericksburg the commander of the Potomac, General Ambrose Burnside, ordered an unusal winter offensive, planning to cross over the Rappahannock at Banks ford, .

The weather was unseasonably mild on the 20th.  On the evening of the 20th-21st the rains began and did not stop.  Burnside quick began throwing pontoons over the river, but as the landscape dissolved into a sea of mud, the progress of the Army slowed.  Lee had ample time as a result to station the Army of Northern Virginia across from Burnside on the southern banks of the  Rappahannock.  Other than sharpshooter fire, Lee made no effort to stop Burnside from crossing, perhaps thinking that fighting Burnside with a swollen Rappahannock in the rear of the Army of the Potomac gave an excellent prospect of destroying the Union force.

However, Burnside did not cross.  His army was effectively stuck in the mud, as noted by amused Confederates who posted a large sign reading “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud”.  Burnside gave up on the 23rd and began his retreat.  In after years many Union veterans would recall the wearying mud march back to their encampments around Washington as their worst experience during the War.  Burnside was finally sacked by Lincoln on January 26th.  It was a great pity that the militarily talentless Burnside was not summarily dismissed from the Union Army, a fact would bedevil Grant during his Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg, where Burnside would give fresh examples of the art of military incompetence.



  1. Off subject but you might find this link interesting…http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/3-d-sonar-provides-new-view-of-civil-war-shipwreck/?cat_orig=diversions It is about the only USN ship sunk during the Civil War.

    • Fascinating Dennis. I will probably make this the subject of a future post.

  2. another off subject comment. I think I found the source for the title of your blog. Fascinating. But this post is from history professor at King’s College picked up by CNN of all things?! My wife read it to me this morning as I do not haunt CNN and all I could say is WOW. The only thing he could have added is that bothe Lincoln and Martin Luther King were REPUBLICANS.
    Thanks for your good work.

    • Yep, that is where we got the title Dennis. I have always been struck by the phrase and what Lincoln may have meant by it:


      • Read your link. I have Presbyterian friends buying into “replacement theology”, a heresy in my book. They are teaching that the church has replaced Israel in regard to the promises of God. Our unchanging God made a promise to Abram which is only partially fulfilled. Our Abraham (Lincoln) understood that Israel could never be replaced by the church, rather the church is grafted onto the stump of Jacob/Jesse. Abe Lincoln and others believed that God had His hand in the founding and guiding the country even up to his day. And I believe that God has as long as we have recognized and obeyed Him blessed the USA in amazing ways throughout our history… ALMOST as much as He has blessed Israel. As we turn our backs on the LORD, we will see what it means to be the benefactors of the ALMOST, unfortunately. I think President Lincoln recognized that while Israel has the position of the apple of God’s eye, and the USA will never REPLACE the Chosen People. For a season we are blessed and with that blessing came an awesome responsibility.
        It would have been a great conversation to hear the President expound on this thought. It makes a real good title for a blog. You should offer occasionally for new readers the reasoning behind the name.
        I continue to enjoy haunting your blog. No need to reply.
        In Christ, Dennis

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