Lees greatest triumph

In the spring of 1863, the Union Army mounted yet another offensive against Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Northern military and political leaders knew that if they could crush Lee's army, Richmond and other important Southern cities would be vulnerable to Union attack, and the war could be brought to a close. With this in mind, Union general Joseph Hooker (1814-1879) led the Army of the Potomac into Virginia once again.

Armed with a huge force of approximately 130,000 troops, Hooker planned to use flank attacks and superior numbers to crush Lee's 60,000-man army, which remained entrenched in Fredericksburg. By late April, Hooker's army had taken up strong positions around Fredericksburg and the near

Union general Joseph Hooker. (Reproduced by permission of the National Portrait Gallery.)

by town of Chancellorsville. The Union Army appeared poised to strike. Lee, though, came up with a masterful strategy of countermoves that thoroughly puzzled Hooker. Relying on strong defensive positions, clever troop movements, and deadly attacks against Hooker's exposed flanks, Lee battered the Union force for three solid days. On May 6, the Army of the Potomac finally gave up and retreated to the North.

Lee's victory at Chancellorsville was his greatest triumph yet. "Unquestionably, this latest addition to the lengthening roster [list] of Confederate victories was a great one," wrote Shelby Foote in The Civil War: Fredericksburg to Meridian. "Indeed, considering the odds that had been faced and overcome, it was perhaps in terms of glory the greatest of them all; Chancellorsville would be stitched with pride across the crowded banners of the Army of Northern Virginia."

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