Ambrose Burnside 1824–1881
Born Liberty, Indiana
Doubtful of his fitness to lead a large army, Ambrose Burnside twice declined the command of the Army of the Potomac. He felt duty-bound to assume the post, however, when it was offered yet a third time, after General George McClellan’s removal in the wake of Antietam (September 1862). Burnside’s first and only engagement as commander was the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg in December of the same year, in which a series of frontal assaults against well-fortified Confederate positions resulted in nearly 13,000 Union casualties. Relieved of his command by President Lincoln, Burnside was transferred to the Department of the Ohio, where he later redeemed himself in the defense of Knoxville, Tennessee, earning the thanks of Congress for his efforts. Burnside ended his Civil War service on an unfortunate note. Deemed responsible for the staggering Union losses in the Battle of the Crater (July 1864) at Petersburg, Virginia, Burnside was placed on leave and not recalled to duty.