Across Five Aprils

by Irene Hunt

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What impact do the Battles of Fredricksburg and Stones River have on Union soldiers and supporters in Across Five Aprils?

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According to the narrator, the Battles of Fredricksburg and Stones River have a discouraging effect on the Union soldiers and their supporters. The former was a bitter defeat for the Union, while the latter was technically a victory; still, the cost in lives of both battles made the appalling price of the war clearly evident to the North, and it was a price that many began to think was an impossible price to pay. The narrator says,

"Everyone was discouraged, and it looked as if the war might never be won; as if, indeed, the country that had been born in the travail of the Revolution and had been given direction during the days of 1787, when the Constitution came to life, might now be dissolved into two weak nations. Well, why not, soldiers were beginning to say. How much can men bear to keep together the nation their great-grandfathers had helped to create? They were losing faith - faith in their leaders and in the cause of union."

I believe the Battles of Fredericksburg and Stones River had this devastatingly discouraging effect because the Union soldiers and their supporters were exhausted. The war had been dragging on for two long years, and there was no end in sight. Blind to the realities of war, the North had confidently predicted that the conflict would be quickly resolved with victory when the hostilities had first begun, but had quickly discovered otherwise. Also, the two battles in question were exceptionally costly in the number of lives that were lost. Led by Ambrose Burnside, the Union had sent "wave after wave of men" to certain death up a slope from the top of which entrenched Confederates mowed them down "until the ground was piled high with blue-clad bodies," and although the North technically won the Battle at Stones River, they suffered thirteen thousand casualties. The unbelievable number of young lives wasted brought home to the Union exactly what a victory would cost, and many began to wonder if the price was worth it (Chapter 8).

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