Chancellorsville Day

mmm ightin' Joe Hooker was confident he would smash Lee. His observation balloons - Washington and Eagle - manned by Professor Lowe could see enemy troop movement; his telegraph and new military codes could get messages around faster than couriers, and Colonel Sharpe's Military Information Bureau supplied him with information that made him the most accurately informed commander of the Army of the Potomac to date. Abandoning wagons in favor of faster-moving mules, Hooker's supplies could easily keep up with his troops. Hooker kept Lee at Fredericksburg, mesmerized by the winter quarters of the Army of the Potomac. With the arrival of good weather, Hooker acted.

Hooker's plan was simple: steal a march on Lee. He would send his cavalry wide to cut Lee off, send a force downstream below Fredericksburg to make Lee think that was the real threat, and meanwhile move his army stealthily north, then march west to come down through the fords and close on Lee's rear. Part of II Corps encamped across from Fredericksburg in full view of the Confederate observers remained stationary, casting doubt as to what Hooker planned. Hooker's cavalry would arrive from the west to disrupt communications, slash supply lines, and maintain a threat to the Confederate Army and capital, while his troops savaged the Army of Northern Virginia.

Hooker split his infantry into halves. Under Hooker, V, XI, and XII Corps would cross north and west of Fredericksburg. Sedgwick took I, III, and VI Corps south of Fredericksburg and threatened to cross downstream, while part of II Corps acted as a stationary diversion east of Fredericksburg.

Hooker's plan possessed one element many other Union plans had not: security. Virtually every civilian nearby or on the line of march was under house arrest to keep them from informing Lee of his actions. He kept his full plan from his commanders, so only a handful of men knew the real scope of it, and no one, except possibly Couch or Butterfield, understood what Hooker really wanted to accomplish. What a man did not know, he could not let slip, Hooker reasoned, and he was determined to surprise Lee. If his plans failed, it would not be because someone had leaked his intentions to the Confederates.

Union opening moves

Stoneman's cavalry rode out on 13 April 1863, moving north and then cutting west. He felt no sense or urgency and did not wish to overtire his mounts in forcing a march or crossing; this proved to be his undoing.

Rains began the night of 14 April, and flood waters made fords impassable to

Professor T.S.C. Lowe was in charge of the Union balloon corps. His balloons were a great help, although many of his aerial reports were militarily nonspecific; he reported "a great many men" instead of brigades, divisions, or corps.

These Union artillerymen were photographed on 3 May 1863 across the river from Fredericksburg, where they doubtlessly supported Sedgwick's attack that finally broke through Barksdale's defenses at Marye's Heights.

BELOW Because Stuart's cavalry often struck suddenly and burned bridges, Union commanders had to put guards on their pontoon bridges to ensure their lines of retreat stayed open.

Jackson Mine

Stoneman until 28 April. His march stalled at Warrenton Junction, on the Orange and Alexandria railroad. Although the weather bears part of the blame, the lion's share goes to Stoneman, who was unsure of how to use his cavalry corps and moved cautiously forward lest he encounter Stuart. His caution was part of the undoing of Hooker's masterplan. Union infantry began marching on 27 April 1863, moving up-river according to plan, unaware of the slowness of Stoneman's column. Because most civilians were under house arrest, and because the Army of the Potomac was moving away from the Confederate positions, they made headway with little comment.

Hooker sent pickets of the 75th Ohio (XI Corps) ahead of the column. Lt.Col. Duncan McVicar, an impetuous and brave Scotsman, commanded the 6th NY cavalry which probed his proposed route of march. This was one of only four cavalry units Hooker retained from Stoneman's force.

In the late evening of 28 April and early morning of 29 April, V, XI, and XII Corps crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford. Light Confederate cavalry probes plagued them but did little to slow their advance. Howard and Slocum's corps moved to Germanna Ford on the Rapidan. Slocum's XII Corps left first, and an hour later Howard's XI Corps followed his route of march. They moved along the easternmost edge of the Spotsylvania Wilderness. The thick wood was a mixed blessing, for although the Wilderness slowed movement and made scouting ahead difficult, it also hid the advance of the Union Army from Lee's eyes. Hooker should have kept that in mind, realizing that it protected each army from observation by the other. They skirmished with Stuart's cavalry near Wilderness Tavern, but chased off the light Confederate probe, losing only a few stragglers and men taken prisoner by the Confederates.

However, one man taken prisoner was a Belgian observer attached to XI Corps. Stuart's aide, Heros von Borke, questioned him in French. The Belgian revealed no details, possibly because he knew none. However, he knew enough to guess that Hooker was advancing in force and would surprise the Southerners. His one comment was, "Gentlemen... make your escape as quickly as possible; if not,... capture... is a certainty." It was not much, but it was enough for Stuart to send messengers to Lee telling him XI Corps was south of the Rappahannock.

He did not know its destination, but its presence set off an uneasy feeling. Later probes yielded V Corps and XII Corps prisoners, and Stuart began to realize the scope of Hooker's advance.

Meade's V Corps moved east and south, encountering only mild resistance from pickets stationed at Ely's Ford. Once across, and worried that more Confederates might be at Todd's and U.S. Fords, Meade detached Sykes to secure those while he continued toward Chancellorsville. Confederate generals Carnot Posey and William Mahone's men controlled U.S. Ford. When they learned of a general Union advance and of Sykes heading toward them, obviously intent on cutting them off, they withdrew, leaving a regiment to slow Sykes' advance. They established new positions -Mahone at Ely's Ford and Posey astraddle the Orange Turnpike - and sent Lee their locations.

So far, so good: Hooker had met no opposition. His plan called for all corps to converge on Chancellorsville on 30 April. At 1100 hours on 30 April Meade arrived without problem, decided there was little threat, and sent for Sykes to rejoin him.

That evening the other corps converged on the Chancellorsville crossroads six miles west of Fredericksburg. Hooker had successfully placed an army as large as Lee's at the Confederate commander's rear, and Lee was unaware of his peril. Uncharacteristically, Meade was demonstratively happy about their success and was clearly ready to continue his advance. Slocum informed him that Hooker had specifically ordered them to stop, consolidate, and form a defensive position around Chancellorsville. Meade's jubilation turned sour. What did Hooker plan?

Quickly establishing his headquarters at the Chancellor home, Hooker sought information on how Sedgwick's diversion was progressing. Sedgwick sent a dispatch saying that although Confederates were still visible to his front, they had allowed him to establish two pontoon bridges across the river with little resistance. Perhaps they remembered Burnside's dismal attack and were waiting for the Union forces to again smash themselves against the fortified Confederate positions. There seemed to be little activity on the southern side. Hooker took this to mean that his plan was working, so he ordered Sickles' III Corps to leave Sedgwick and march northwest, cross the river, and join him at Chancellorsville.

Excitement was running high in the Union ranks. "Hurrah for Old Joe!" soldiers cheered. So far, the campaign had gone without a hitch. Perhaps the end was near; perhaps Fightin' Joe had outfoxed the Gray Fox and was going to thrash Lee; maybe Chancellorsville would prove to be as big a turning point as Waterloo. Perhaps Hooker was another Wellington. Evidently Hooker's morale boosting, security, and planning, like Wellington's, had translated into efficiency and military success. Hooker's campaign was on schedule, at least as far as

Although magnificent for crossing where no fords or bridges were present, pontoon bridges were cumbersome affairs which had to be transported to the bridge sites by huge wagons; often their presence telegraphed a commander's intentions.

Engineers had one of the toughest jobs in the army, erecting bridges and fortifications, often under heavy enemy fire. These veterans are from Co. B, US Engineers.

Although magnificent for crossing where no fords or bridges were present, pontoon bridges were cumbersome affairs which had to be transported to the bridge sites by huge wagons; often their presence telegraphed a commander's intentions.

the infantry was concerned. The rank and file had not yet heard that Hooker had ordered them to cease advancing. Like racehorses long stabled and denied the right to gallop, the Army of the Potomac was eager to charge headlong into combat and take on the rebels.

Two roads led west from Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville, the Orange Turnpike went west past the Wilderness Church. The Plank Road followed the Orange Turnpike west for a couple of miles, then turned south at Salem Church, looping west to rejoin it at Chancellorsville, and then splitting again at Wilderness Church to move southwest. By holding Chancellorsville, Hooker controlled the Orange Turnpike and controlled the way Lee must withdraw. By allowing Sedgwick to press Lee, Hooker gave Lee two choices: stand and fight, or

Stonewall Brigade Brigade Iron

Solomon Meredith led the Iron Brigade of Midwesterners proudly at Chancellorsville. Two months later they would again bear the brunt of the fighting at the first day at Gettysburg.

Although an able and trusted commander, McLaws was unaccountably slow to react on 4 May, when with some urging he could have linked with Early to destroy Sedgwick.

withdraw. If Lee stood, he would find himself trapped with Sedgwick before him and Hooker behind. If Lee withdrew, he would have to move across the line held by the Army of the Potomac and then Hooker would fall on him like a ton of bricks! No doubt Hooker smiled to himself when he said, "I have Lee in one hand, and Richmond in the other."

Confederate dilemma

Lee was confused. Earlier Jackson had discovered Sedgwick's force erecting pontoon bridges south of Fredericksburg, and had informed Lee of their presence, but strangely, Sedgwick had not forced a strong advance, although he had more than enough men to do so. The Iron Brigade spearheaded the crossing. Their advance drove the 13th Georgia pickets and the 6th Louisiana relief pickets away from their rifle pits and back toward Confederate lines where Early waited. It appeared that his position was going to bear the brunt of the Union assault. Lee ordered Jackson's men to fall back to the heights in preparation for an assault. Lee's strategy was to let the enemy come to his entrenched army rather than oppose its crossing. Straddling a river was hard for any army, and straddling a river and having to maintain the path of retreat while trying to capture the heights held by entrenched Confederates was a much more difficult process. But Sedgewick had inexplicably stopped.

J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry had skirmished and captured prisoners from all corps. He sent Lee a message stating that he had reason to believe a sizable Union force was now on their side of the river and moving east.

Lee makes his reply

Suddenly the situation made sense to Lee. The threatened crossing at Fredericksburg was a diversion. That was why the Union troops had been less than fully aggressive. The large Union force Stuart had sighted was the real threat. Weighing his options, Lee sent word to Jefferson Davis, "Their intention... is to turn our left, and probably... our rear. Our condition... favours their operations."

Knowing that Hooker had a more sophisticated plan than Burnside's headlong assault, Lee scanned the map of the area and noted the peninsula of good fighting ground bordered by the river and the Wilderness. At the heart of this area lay the Chancellorsville crossroad. No doubt Hooker would occupy them and then move toward the Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee saw his peril. He ordered Anderson, who was guarding the fords north of Fredericksburg, to move his brigades west toward Chancellorsville to counter any Union movements east toward Fredericksburg. He was to reinforce Mahone and Posey's positions. When Anderson arrived at Chancellorsville, he decided to withdraw further to the east where the fighting ground was better than the heavy woods surrounding the Chancellor farmhouse.

Next, Lee told McLaws to move from Early's left flank below Fredericksburg and go to Anderson's support. That would leave Early facing the apparently sedentary Sedgwick. Then he ordered Stuart to rejoin the main Confederate Army with all due haste, lest the Union Army cut him off and with the Wilderness and Union troops combined, make it impossible for him to rejoin Lee. Not only was Lee concerned for Stuart, but Stuart's cavalry represented a considerable portion of his command; and they were his eyes and ears. He would need them to keep him informed of Hooker's moves so he could work out what the slippery Union commander had planned.

That night heavy rains returned. At 2100 hours on 29 April Anderson moved his men west, ignoring the driving rain. He both cursed and thanked the rain - it concealed his movements, but it slowed his progress. Sometime before dawn on 30 April he set up his battle line on a small ridge near Zoan Church, about two miles east of Chancellorsville. His left flank was across the unfinished railroad cut, and his right flank extended over the Orange Turnpike. The rain lessened. Anderson's approach had been silent, and he held the high ground. Now all he could do was wait for dawn.

The officers of the 1st New York light artillery are shown gathered here, but in the battle of Chancellorsville their batteries were attached to several different commands.

These men of the 10th New York cavalry served under Judson Kilpatrick at Chancellorsville. They wear the varied uniforms of seasoned campaigners.

That night Lt.Col. Duncan McVicar's 6th New York Cavalry was moving west when they ran into Stuart's command of Virginia cavalry on the same road moving east. They met on the road to the Spotsylvania Court House, near the Henry Alsop house. Stuart's outriders were fired upon and rode back telling him they were under attack by Yankees. Prussian aide-de-camp Hero Von Borke rode ahead to investigate. Moments later he came flying back, crouched low over his horse's neck, firing his pistol into the darkness behind. Stuart beat a hasty retreat to Todd's Tavern, where he could gather his thoughts and document the enemy's strength and movements. Stuart ordered Fitzhugh Lee to find out how many Yankees were on the road. Lee sent the 5th Virginia as outriders and followed with his whole brigade.

After the brush with Confederate cavalry, McVicar knew trouble was coming, and his unit was not strong enough to fight stirrup to stirrup action. Dismounting his men, he formed skirmish lines in Alsop's field which was surrounded by a fence and accessible only through a gate. The 6th New York waited facing the gate. In the dark, the 5th Virginia entered Alsop's gate in a column of fours. Carbine fire slammed into them stopping them as they entered. Leaving the dead and dying, they withdrew. Stuart ordered more men forward but they were also stalled at the gate by Yankee small arms fire.

McVicar realized he was badly outnumbered and more Confederates were arriving all the time. If he stayed, his command would be annihilated. He mounted his men, drew his saber, and charged the disarrayed Southerners, intent on forcing his way through and back to his own lines. The Confederates had rallied somewhat, and were pushing toward the opening. Von Borke saw the 6th NY charge the gate. Confederate and Union cavalry collided in a crash of horseflesh and steel. While leading the charge, McVicar fell with a pistol ball through his heart. The Union survivors broke through. Stuart hurled the 2nd Virginia cavalry at the Union troopers, splitting the Union command. Many were captured; some escaped; and many died. But their efforts slowed up the spectacular J.E.B. Stuart and kept him from immediately joining Lee a few miles away.

At dawn on 1 May Lee and Jackson surveyed the Federals across the river. Lee went over despatches, trying to fathom Hooker's plan, and then eyed Sedgwick's barely active troops. When the attack came, it would not be from these men. He told Jackson, "The... attack will come from above," meaning from the troops which were camped at Chancellorsville. Lee wired Jefferson Davis, informing him of what he supposed Hooker's plans were. "If I had Longstreet's division," he wrote, "[I] would feel safe." As it was, Lee was a gambler, and he decided to take a calculated risk. No doubt Hooker expected him to retreat when faced with attack from across the river, and then be surprised by the sudden appearance of Union troops along the Orange and Plank roads to the west. Retreat was possible, but it was not the option Lee would choose. Besides, he had a plan he wanted to discuss with Jackson. If his plan failed, he could still retreat.

Lee's idea was audacious: split his army. Leave a few men at Fredericksburg -a token army delaying a token army - and have a few hold an east-west line, then let Jackson take the remainder to strike the enemy. Lee wrote, "Leave sufficient troops to hold our lines, and with the main body... give battle to the approaching

This bridge was endangered by men marching to the tune of the band: their cadenced footfalls almost shook the bridge apart, and the band had to stop playing lest the bridge collapse.

Ambrose Wright was a Georgia lawyer turned soldier whose unit distinguished itself throughout the war. A reliable commander, he was instrumental in saving Jackson's artillery and stopping Sickles' men from advancing.

column." He continued, "At midnight on the 30th, General McLaws marched... toward Chancellorsville. Jackson followed at dawn next morning with the remaining divisions." His foot cavalry was on the move.

The Federal Army was tugging at its leash, anxious to close with what they believed to be an unsuspecting Southern Army. Hooker's intelligence told him Confederates had taken up position across the road to his east, but they were not there in strength, just a division, he imagined, unaware of McLaws' advance to reinforce Anderson, Posey, and Mahone.

Stonewall Jackson was up early on the morning of 1 May. Feeling that the day was something special, he donned his new uniform. He had worn it once before, when his wife had visited and had insisted he sit for a photograph. Gone was the crumpled old VMI kepi and the mud-stained and well-worn trousers and coat. Facing his reflection, Jackson saw a high-ranking Confederate general, resplendent and authoritative. At daybreak he rode past the 2nd North Carolina, hat in hand. "Stonewall's coming!" ran word along the lines of gray-clad troops approaching the Union Army. The thought made them stand straighter, march faster, and bear their weariness better. They arrived at the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road positions about 0800 hours. Their Union counterparts were not aware that Jackson was coming, but they would know all too well when he arrived.

Lee's daring strategy

At dawn on 1 May Hooker thought Jackson still sat on the heights above Sedgwick. Lowe's 0900 report stated, "Heavy columns of the enemy's infantry and artillery are now moving up the river... a heavy reserve on the heights opposite the... crossing." Not a specific report; not even anything to cause Hooker worry; he expected the Confederates to reinforce their positions.

The sun rose and the day began to heat up. As far as the Union forces knew, only Anderson faced them. Hooker delayed several hours after dawn before he gave orders to advance. Sykes was to move down the Orange Turnpike and XII Corps down the Orange Plank Road. Howard's XI Corps was left in position at Wilderness Church. Hooker ordered Gibbon's II Corps to cross the river at Banks Ford.

Gibbon had problems. Many of his troops in Sully's division were due to muster out, and some felt their terms of enlistment dated from the day they signed on and not the day the government accepted their unit into service. Mutinous feelings were rampant among these short-time, two-year men. Earlier, Sully had not been able to convince his mutineers to cross and fight. Gibbon ordered his loyal soldiers to load weapons and face the mutineers, and then commanded the mutineers to return to their duties. No one moved. He readied the loyal troops and called out to the mutineer s, "Even man who is ready to do liis dutv, step forward!" The unit hesitated, then cheered and moved forward. "Go... do your dutv," Gibbon commanded. These soldiers crossed the river with Gibbon. told Jackson to "repulse the enemv." When Jackson arrived at the Gonfederate positions, he found Mi l aws' men entrenching. This was not what he planned. The Union knew there were Gonfederates here. What military value was there in this? He stopped the entrenching and ordered Mi l aws to move down the Orange Turnpike toward Ghancellorsville. Mahone would lead, followed bv, and with Pern and Wilcox's brigades guarding the rear of the line of march. Jackson would move up the Orange Plank Road. Wright and Posev's men would lead, followed by Hill and Rodes' divisions. Colston was still en route from below Fredericksburg and would provide reserves. By 1100 Jackson had rewritten the scenario from one of passively awaiting the Union advance to actively moving west to meet it.

At 1130 hours Svkes' lead elements came under fire from McLaws' Confederates spread across the Orange Turnpike. When Svkes ran into McLaws, he formed a line, with Slocum on his right and Hancock reinforcing him. Mahone's 12th Virginia skirmishers hit the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry, who gave way. Soon the cavalry was sandwiched between Confederate skirmishers in front and Union skirmishers behind. The Virginians forced Svkes back. Svkes gave ground grudgingly and sent Hooker word of stiffer-than-expected resistance.

Svkes found himself in advance of the Union line and beleaguered. On a low ridge. Mahone's Southern skirmishers formed behind a rail fence and poured

CAVALRY SKIRMISH J.E.B. Stuart was trying to locate General Lee. With his staff he rode on what he thought were somewhat "safe" roads that evening, hearing something ahead, he sent Von Bourke to take a look. Soon afterwards the Prussian came galloping back followed by Union troopers in hot pursuit. Stuart and his staff put spurs to their mounts and rode away in the darkness toward the main body of Confederate cavalry.

Wilcox made every effort to reach Fredericksburg before Sedgwick broke Barksdale's line. As it was, his rearguard action delayed Sedgwick from joining Hooker and contributed greatly to Lee's victory.

rifle fire into the Yankees. After a brief firefight, the Federals rallied and c harged the 12th Virginia. The Virginians were given the order to pull bark hut ( apt. Ranks of the 12th Virginia was deatl: the 12th stood until a lieutenant took it upon himself to give the order to fall-back. In the confusion, over 80 Southerners were captured. Soon Wright flanked Slocum. but failed to dislodge him, while Anderson's men attacked Svkcs in front andtrn both flanks and Mcfaws assailed his left. A.P. Hill was not far behind the Confederate advance. Hancock moved forward to relieve Sykes' battered command. Meade's V Corps, still acting according to Hooker's original plan, encountered no resistance on the River Road and was within sight of Banks Ford by 1300 hours.

The battle on the Orange Turnpike ebbed and flowed until Semmes' Confederates joined the fray to turn the tide, forcing the Union troops back toward Chancellorsville.

Meanwhile Posey and Wright formed across the Plank Road after forcing their way through Union soldiers on the road to Catherine Furnace below Chancellorsville. The Confederates slogged through rapidly increasing marsh until Union artillery began slamming into the muddy fields around them. Stuart sent Jackson word that he was approaching his left flank. "1 will close... and help all I can," Stuart wrote. Jackson scribbled a reply on Stuart's note, telling him, "Keep close on Chancellorsville."

Hooker vacillates

Resistance on the Orange Turnpike unnerved Hooker. His scenario called for a Confederate retreat, not an advance. He then made the decision which cost him the battle: he ordered all units to resume their original positions, giving up hard-earned ground which many Union commanders felt could have been held. At 1300 hours Hooker ordered Sykes to resume his position of the prior evening and connect with Slocum, building breastworks and digging trenches. Hooker then added, "General Couch will then retire to his position of last night."

Union commanders were flabbergasted. General Couch reported, "The position... abandoned was high ground... open in front, over which an army might move and artillery be used advantageously." Meade was more to the point, saying, "If he can't hold the top of the hill, how does he expect to hold the bottom of it?" Thus began Hooker's defeat.

By the end of the day the Army of the Potomac had more or less resumed its original position from that morning. This thicket-choked countryside spread out briefly at the crossroads. West of Chancellorsville lay the northern branch of the thick and dark Spotsylvania Wilderness. To the north lay the rivers; to the east, Fredericksburg. To the east and south Confederates pressed west and northwest respectively. Nothing had really changed since the morning, or had it?

Hooker's army felt secure, but unhappy. Meade's V Corps held the left flank, anchored at the Rappahannock and stretching south-southwest, just west of Mineral Springs Run. Couch's II Corps faced east, stretched between Meade's right flank and the junction of the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road at Chancellorsville. South of Couch, Slocum's XII Corps faced south with its left flank butting against the Orange Turnpike, extending southwest over the Plank Road, and then swinging north to touch the Orange Turnpike again about three-quarters of a mile west of the Chancellor farmhouse. Situated along the Orange Turnpike west, Howard's XI Corps stretched over an area of two miles. XI Corps occupied the northern side of the pike, from half a mile west of Talley's Farm, east, moving to within a mile and a quarter west of Chancellorsville. With thick woods before, behind, and beside him to the west, Howard felt secure.

Unfortunately the thick woods concealed many paths and rural roads known only to locals, many partly overgrown and used only for logging, or poorly used as most of the traffic was on either the Turnpike or Plank Road. A little over a mile west of Howard's right flank the Brock Road met the Turnpike just east of Wilderness Tavern. It angled south-southeast below Confederate lines. As with many roads, this was not unmarked, just rarely used, but not so unused that a Confederate sympathizer did not know about it.

Lee wanted to act now that he knew what Hooker planned. Jackson took the imperative when he brought the battle to the Union troops on both the Orange Turnpike and the Orange Plank Road. Hooker gave up the initiative at the slightest show of Confederate resistance. Jackson's advance had swayed the tide of events to stop the Union advance. The next day Union leaders would learn that having their advance stopped was nothing compared to what was to come.

As evening approached, Stuart met with Lee. Lee was confused by the Army of the Potomac's recent actions. Slocum had been under attack from Wright, so his retreat made sense; however, Meade had also withdrawn, and he had not been under attack. The Army of the Potomac was in a natural redoubt formed of thickets, heavy woods and deadfalls now arranged as a defensive position. He made a short reconnaissance ride, but as night was falling and fog returning, he realized how dangerous it could be beyond the lines, so he returned to his headquarters puzzled over Hooker's possible plans for the next day.

Jackson was waiting for Lee's return. The camp was a hasty, ramshackled affair, and they employed discarded Union cracker crates as tables and chairs, studying the map by firelight in the gathering gloom.

Men like Hancock were the backbone of the Federal officer's corps. He steadfastly did his job and held positions assigned him. Without his help at Chancellorsville, Couch would have had a difficult time escaping Early.

Couch hoped to replace the shaken Hooker, who had been stunned by an artillery shell. Instead he was merely called to Hooker's side to relay messages to commanders; Hooker refused to turn over command.

General Hooker Staff

In this compilation of Stonewall Jackson and staff, many of the men here were with Jackson at Chancellorsville the night he was wounded by friendly fire from Confederate pickets. Pendleton is to Jackson's immediate right.

Together with Sickles, Slocum formed the horseshoe salient at Hazel Grove before Hooker ordered the Union Army to withdraw northward and abandon the position.

Because of Sedgwick's apparent feint, Jackson felt that Hooker's probe was also a feint. Regardless, the Union advance had stalled, and now the Southerners could have the imperative if they wanted it. General Stuart arrived bearing a report from Fitzhugh Lee which stated the Army of the Potomac's position extended beyond Wilderness Church to the west and along the north edge of the Orange Turnpike. That was the bad news. The good news was that the Union Army had only woods on its right flank, and because they must have felt protected, they did not have any real fortifications or defenses on that flank. Howard's XI Corps held that flank and had few pickets out. Jackson studied the map, and proposed a plan. Lee listened, and then nodded.

Jackson's audacious plan

The plan was bold: Jackson was to take his entire corps, go west, and then cut north to attack the unprotected XI Corps, thus rolling up Hooker's line and leaving the Union Army disorganized. He would take roughly 28,000 troops plus Stuart's men, who would screen their advance, and leave Lee with only Anderson and McLaws' divisions facing the Union Army and holding it in position. Lee would feint and feign attacks as Sedgwick had done; his sleight of hand would allow Jackson to steal a march on Hooker.

Jackson faced many obstacles, but his faith in his foot cavalry was strong. He would move a dozen or more miles west across the front of the Union position, and then north. It was a tremendously risky maneuver. Lee wrote Jefferson Davis, "If the enemy is too strong for me... I shall... fall back. If successful here, Fredericksburg will be saved. I may be forced... to the Orange and Alexandria or Virginia Central... but... I will be in position to contest the enemy's advance." The object of Jackson's march and Lee's holding action against Hooker was to allow Jackson to "come up in his rear."

Lee later reported that they decided to "endeavor to turn his [Hooker's] right flank and gain his rear, leaving a force in front to hold him in check and conceal the movement." This was not greatly different from the plan Hooker had used in his attempt to destroy Lee. Conservatively, Lee decided Hooker's force numbered in excess of 45,000 men, and Sedgwick still had 30,000 troops facing Fredericksburg.

Dawn reddened the horizon as the meeting broke up. Jackson and Stuart hurried away to ready their commands for the move. Lee made certain McLaws and Anderson's men were ready for their part in the Confederate diversion. It would have been better if Jackson had had the protective cover of night to mask his approach, but the Army of Northern Virginia did not have that luxury. Tonight they would either have turned the Union right, or they would be withdrawing toward the railroads. Either way, Joe Hooker was in for a fight.

Battle Fredericksburg Stonewall
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