It would go down in failure. The abortive military campaign was intended to boost the flagging morale of the Union's Army of the Potomac and restore Burnside's reputation after his bruising defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. The offensive began in mild weather on Jan. 20, 1863, but a night of heavy rain bogged down Union attempts to place a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River for troops and weapons to cross.
Instead, Burnside's forces found themselves bogging down in mud along the riverbank amid rebel sniper fire and the campaign had to be called off. Many in the Army of the Potomac emerged demoralized and despairing after the latest failed campaign. And the grumbling of some of Burnside's officers reached the ears of President Abraham Lincoln, then desperate to find a military leader who could smash the Confederate army. In a matter of days, Burnside would be sacked, replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker at the helm of the Army of the Potomac.
The Associated Press reported on Burnside's departure Jan. 26, 1863, in which he saluted his officers and troops a last time at his headquarters. . Burnside acknowledged that while victory had not been gained on his watch, his forces had shown "courage, patience and endurance." He added to the troops: "Continue to exercise these virtues, be true in your devotion to your country, and the principles you have sworn to maintain. "
This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.from ABC News and the Associated Press