On this day in 1863, Union General Ambrose Burnside is removed as commander of the Army of the Potomac after serving in the role for two months.
Burnside assumed command of the army after President Abraham Lincoln removed General George B. McClellan from command in November 1862. Lincoln had a difficult relationship with McClellan, who built the army admirably but was a sluggish and overly cautious field commander.
Lincoln wanted an attack on the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which was commanded by Robert E. Lee. Burnside drafted a plan to move south towards Richmond, Virginia. The plan was sound, but delays in its execution alerted Lee to the danger. Lee headed Burnside off at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13. Burnside attacked repeatedly against entrenched Confederates along Marye's Heights above Fredericksburg with tragic results for the Union. More than 13,000 Yankees fell; Lee lost just 5,000 troops. Northern morale sunk in the winter of 1862-1863.
Lincoln allowed Burnside one more chance. In January 1863, Burnside attempted another campaign against Lee. Four days of rain turned the Union offensive into the ignominious "Mud March," during which the Yankees floundered on mud roads while Lee's men jeered at them from across the Rappahannock River. Lincoln had seen enough--General Joseph Hooker took over command of the army from Burnside.