"Their dead were buried in almost every yard"

Betty Herndon Maury (1835–1903). Diary entry, December 28, 1862. Betty Herndon Maury Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

On the 13th of December [1862] God blessed us with a great victory at Fredericksburg. Upwards of eighteen thousand of the enemy were killed. We lost but one thousand. Even the Yankees acknowledge it to be a great defeat.

The battle took place in and around the town the streets were strewn with the fallen enemy, the houses were broken open, sacked and used for hospitals and their dead were buried in almost every yard.

Dr. Nichols was there—came as an amateur with his friend Gen’ Hooker—he occupied Uncle John’s house (where his wife has been most hospitably entertained for weeks at a time) drank up Uncle J’s wine, used his flour and ate up Ellen Mercer’s preserves.

delicacy, and so cold blooded and heartless as to come—not at the stern call of duty, but for the love of it—to gloat over the desolated homes of people he once called friends, and who are relations and connections of his wife’s.


This blog complements the Library of Congress exhibition, “The Civil War in America.” This series of posts chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861–1865. To learn more about the object featured in this blog entry, visit the online exhibition.


  1. R. Samawicz
    January 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    It’s the urban warfare that is so scary to think about…perhaps feeding into the personal animosity toward a friend now “coldblooded and heartless.” Scary to think she is thanking God for the 18,000 dead of the “enemy.” How on earth do you switch from that thinking to peacetime?

    My husband worked with colleagues in Nigeria who had fought on opposite sides of the very brutal Biafran War, and they seemed to work well together and sometimes laughed about the wartime, but underneath, there was still an old animosity 30 years later. For instance, hard for an Ibo to get a job when Yoruba were in all the executive positions.

  2. K. Maddux Pearlman
    February 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I find it interesting that most of the papers from the Civil War are from Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. I discovered letters from a Union soldier, related distantly to my father, whose letters home are curently in the library at the University of Missouri. The letters are on microfilm (or were when I made the discovery in 1999) there. I read them, had them digitally scanned and put on CDs and transcribed them. He was a Union soldier from Illinois and died in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Not sure how or why his letters are in Missouri – although some of them were written from posts there.