Crossing the Rapidan
Upon the Opening of 2nd Fredericksburg, General Hooker moved the Army Crossing the Rapidan River came upon the rear of Lee at Chancellorsville, forcing him to fall back. Hooker ordered The Sixth Corps, in which the 23rd PA was in under Brigade Commander Alexander Shaler, to cross the Rappahannock River and take the (Marye's) Heights. It was considered by the men a unattainable position and the horrible defeat the winter before was still fresh on thier minds.
Through the Town
The pontoon boats were carried on the backs of the men to the river to decieve the enemy. The Confederates were driven back from thier rifle pits along the river to Bowling Green Road. After getting possesion of this road, the Brigade, taking the advance, moved along the road, to the right in the direction of Fredericksburg meeting the enemy at Hazel Run. After the 65th NY lead a charge, forcing the enemy back, The Twenty Third Pennsylvania took the advance with a heavy line of skirmishers under a heavy fog and got to within thirty yards of the stonewall at the approach of Maryes Heights. (This currently is where the Fredericksburg 7-11 leads toward the present day Visitors Center) They remained here until about 11 A.M.
About 11:15 A.M., a grand assualt was made on the heights by two storming columns and a battle line composed of a right column, Commanded by Col. George C. Spear, who fell while gallantry leading the attack with the 61st PA Volunteers. Spear, who got his start with the 23rd PA Volunteers was killed in front of his former and current troops. The storming column moved on the plank road (The Plank Road is the Current Day Route 3) and to the right, piercing the enemy's flank. The Twenty Third joined the attack, entered the sunken road and scaled the heights and soon captured the Washington Artillery at the top of the Heights. At the top of the Heights, the men of the 23rd remembered seeing the Willis Family Cemetery and its battle damage. At the Apex of the hill a small redoubt was cleared as was the works at the bottom of the heights. The Sixth Corps had swept up the heights.
General Shaler, the brigade commander, in charge of the line, supporting the right charging column, in which the twenty third was in, distinguished himself in this charge by rushing to the front with the colors as the line was struggling to cross the causeway or canal on the plank road. He was granted The Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions. At Marye's Heights, when the skirmishers of the 23rd advanced through the fog, to feel the enemy, the orders were upon receiving fire, to fall back a short distance to a slight depression in the ground, lie down and await orders to charge. The rebs opened a severe fire as the skirmishers neared the wall. One of the skirmishers of the 23rd, Charley Smallwood of Company G was wounded. To get away from the fire, he crawled over to a nearby house that stood on the edge of the road. It however was manned by Confederate Sharpshooters and he was taken prisoner. He was brought to the trences in the sunken road and the soldiers from Mississippi taunted him, telling him how they would destroy The Yankees when they came on the charge, just as they had done the winter before. Charley was rescued during the Union assault as the Confederates were swept back. He remained with the unit for the remainder of the War.
The most singular wound that Surgeon Roller had seen was at 2nd Fredericksburg when Major Healy was brought to him near Hazel Run. Roller ordered a steward who carried his chest to find a house with a piano, saw off its legs and make an operating table. Healy had been an old friend of Roller's and upon looking his wounds over it had been determined he was mortally wounded in the abdomen. Not being able to find the ball, he told Healy he would send him home to NYC. While at home and examined by a family doctor it was found that the ball has passed through his body as could be seen by the line of infection. Healy Survived the War and moved to Washington D.C.
The 23rd Pennsylvania would see great losses in this city the second time around. Tis Battle would prepare them for the final two years of the War. 100 Veterans who made the charge were issued The Ely Medal for bravery.
In 2003 Turner Pictures released a movie about the First two and a half years of the Civil War entitled "God's and Generals". It includes scenes from The Battle of Fredericksburg. It is 231 minutes long and availible on DVD and Video.
"God's and Generals" The Movie (Click for more info)