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21 Readings About the Great Battles of the Civil War #10-- Battle of Chancellorsville


Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870) was an American and Confederate soldier, best known as a commander of the Confederate States Army. He commanded the Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865. A son of Revolutionary War officer Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee III, Lee was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and military engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. During this time, he served throughout the United States, distinguished himself during the Mexican–American War, and served as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy


 Before the Union finally took over Vicksburg, the South won one of its greatest victories in the Civil War in May 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va. General Lee achieved perhaps his most brilliant success in this battle. At the start of the battle, Lee had about 60,000 men in a region east of Chancellorsville and south of Fredericksburg.

       The newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, General Hooker, had moved his forces during April to an area north of Chancellorsville and west of Fredericksburg. By April 30 the Union army of about 130,000 men was well entrenched. Hooker sent a detachment under Gen. John Sedgwick to attack Fredericksburg. He then prepared to advance and engage Lee's army in a major battle.

       Lee's cavalry leaders had told him of the movements of Hooker's troops, including some actions that were meant to be deceptive. Quickly Lee decided to attack.

       On the morning of May 1 he sent a division under Gen. Jubal Early to pin down Sedgwick's forces at Fredericksburg. With the remainder of his army Lee marched west to meet Hooker's advancing troops. By mid-afternoon the armies were in combat. Under heavy Confederate pressure the Union soldiers slowly withdrew to their strongly fortified defensive positions. Fighting came to a halt at nightfall.

       During the night Lee decided to attempt an encircling movement. He ordered Stonewall Jackson to lead 30,000 men around the southern flank of the Union army. General Jackson began the long march after midnight. In the morning the Confederates were seen by the Federals guarding the southern flank of the Union army. The Federals attacked but did not seriously hamper Jackson's march.

       Jackson moved west, then north. He entered the tangled forest called The Wilderness, and soon his forces were in the rear of the Union army. Jackson then turned eastward and attacked. His Confederates drove into the Union lines, which faltered and fell back. When the Federals reached their defenses near Chancellorsville, they held their ground.

During the night Jackson rode ahead of his lines to scout the situation around United States Ford. On returning he was mistaken for a Federal officer and was fired upon by a Confederate sentry. The wound proved to be mortal. He died eight days later.

       On the morning of May 3 the Confederates seized Hazel Grove, a hill near Chancellorsville. They mounted 50 cannons on it. Fire from this artillery killed large numbers of Union men. Fierce fighting raged throughout the day, and losses were heavy on both sides. Hooker himself was a casualty of the day. A cannon shell wrecked the porch of the two-story brick house that was Hooker's headquarters. A falling pillar struck Hooker on the head. When the general regained consciousness he was dazed and in pain, yet refused to turn over full authority to the officer next in command. This decision has been blamed for much of the uncertainty and confusion that led to the defeat of the huge Union army.

       At Fredericksburg Sedgwick defeated Early and routed his troops. Sedgwick then marched westward to join the battle around Chancellorsville. He attacked Lee's rear guard, which was larger than he had expected. When darkness stopped the fighting on all fronts, Sedgwick had trenches dug and other defenses prepared.

       In the afternoon of May 4 Lee attacked Sedgwick's well-entrenched corps. Its lines held firm for the most part, and Lee made little progress. Federal forces repelled attempts to take United States Ford and other key points. Sedgwick maintained his position throughout the day.

       There were only unimportant skirmishes on May 5. That night Hooker decided on a total withdrawal. Early on May 6 the first Federal units began crossing the Rappahannock at United States Ford. By the evening of May 6 most of the Union army was safely across the river. Lee, with his badly battered army, did not attempt to pursue the Federals. Meanwhile Sedgwick's detachment succeeded in crossing at Scott's Ford.

       Union losses in killed, wounded, and missing amounted to some 17,000 men, or about 13 percent of the total force. The Confederates lost about 13,000 men, or more than 21 percent of the Army of Northern Virginia, and in Stonewall Jackson they lost an irreplaceable leader. The South's victory was its costliest as well as one of its greatest.

From Wikepedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chancellorsville

Battle of Chancellorsville

Battle of Chancellorsville.png
Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison
(depicts the wounding of Confederate Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson on May 2, 1863)
Date April 30 – May 6, 1863
Location Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Result Confederate victory
 United States (Union)  CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Units involved
Army of the Potomac Army of Northern Virginia
133,868 60,892
Casualties and losses


(1,606 killed
 9,672 wounded
 5,919 captured/missing)


(1,665 killed
 9,081 wounded


(1,665 killed
 9,081 wounded

A Soldier's Letter from Chancellorsville

John Garibaldi Civil War Papers  Manuscript# 284
Letter, May 11, 1863, to wife Sarah.
Death of Stonewall Jackson & the Battle of Chancellorsville

Camp Near Fredericksburg Va.  May 11, 1863

Dear Wife:
       Having somewhat leisure time to write to you this beautiful monday evening I will seat myself down to write you these few lines in order to let you know that I am well and hope that when these few lines will come to hands they may find you enjoying the same blessings. I have written you a letter last weak but not knowing whether you received it or not I thought I would write you this present one, as I have chance to send it to Covington by Mr. Lamby.

       We have had some very hard time begining from the 29 of last month up to the about the six of May. On the 29th of last month we left our winter quarters on account of the enemy having crossed the Rappahannock and marched up to Hamilton's crossing about eight miles distant. There we slept two nights in a wheat field. It rained nearly all the time and we were to lay out and take it. On the first of May, in the morning, having learned that the enemy, or part of it, had crossed higher up the river about thirty miles, and was marching down on the Fredericksburg plank road, aiming to flank the crest of hills surrounding Fredericksburg, our division and some other divisions with it started up the river on the plank road on which the enemy was coming down and slept that {there} on the battle field where the enemy had been repulsed by the advance of our army. The next morning we started again, and mile or two brought us up in front of the enemy. There we halted for about an hour, and afterward left the main road and took a small county road to left, we marched about twelve miles leaving the enemy at our right, and got in the rear in the evening at about two or three o'clock, where the yankees didn't expect us to attack them.

       There the fighting commenced. One of our division took the front and drove the enemy for about two or three miles, drove the yankees out of their breastworks but fortunately for us that them breastworks were not made to defend themselves in the rear, but they were made to defend themselves in front where the enemy expected us to attack them, they took several batteries and good many prisoners.

       They made several charges on us during Saturday night but they were repulsed all the time and we took that night a whole brigade and their general prisoners. We spended the whole of Saturday night drawn up in line of battle and changing positions. Sunday morning found our Brigade drawn in line of battle in as very thick bushes and small timber at the enemy's right, and at about day light, or may be little after, they commenced cannonading over our head and it looked like that they had commenced early in the morning just for a day's work, but fortunately for us that their balls [and] shells went all over our heads, and none of our Brigade got killed in that place that I have heard.

        At about eight o'clock the enemy moved all his infantry forces on our right in order to overpower us and [cut] their way through us and commenced the firing of small arms, and we were then moved to the right where the enemy was presing the most, and there we were engaged twice. The first time we were engaged we lost our Brigadier General, and in about 15 minutes we were ordered to fall back and then we fell back behind the breastworks behind which the enemy had been dislodged by our sharpshooters about fifteen or twenty minutes before. And while we were thus laying behind them breastworks which were built by the enemy the night previous General Stuart rode by and our Brigade gave them three cheers, and he then told us to advance.

       We then went in again and ran the enemy for about a quarter of a mile and ran them out of two lines of entrenchments, but without no little loss, we took several pieces of cannons, some prisoners and several artillery horses. Out of twenty two hundred of our Brigade there was six hundred and twelve killed and wounded, and out of about thirty five out of our company there was nine killed and wounded. Our orderly Sergeant was killed dead on the battle field. His name was William Scanlon. He was an Irishman and a good Soldier who had been through all the war of Mexico and was a very steady soldier. Another one, a little fellow who came as a substitute [illegible] by the name of John Archy was mortally wounded in the head and died two or three days after. William Evans was wounded somewhere above the knee and it is feared that he will not live. Another fellow by the name of Caleb Griffith was wounded in the nexk, but he is going about and there is no danger of him. James H. Forbes was wounded in the arm but it is thought that he will get better. Isaac Reynolds was wounded somewhere in the leg and he is going about. Lee A. B. Terry was wounded in the wrist but he will get better, and I expect that he is come home and he'll tell you the same news I do. Colonel James K. Edmondson of our regiment had his army cut off.

       General T. J. Jackson died day before yesterday at about one o'clock in the afternoon. He did not die on account of his wound, he die of the newmony {pneumonia}. He was wounded early on the Saturday night the second of May, it is said by our men. When the enemy was making them charges on us he accidently or some how or other happened to be between our men and the enemy in one of them charges with several other Generals, and they rode toward our lines. At the approach of the enemy and of his musketry and our men hearing such noise through the bushes thought it was the enemy's cavalry and they fired into them wounding two Generals and a Colonel.

        Yesterday there was an escort of honor of about two hundred and fifty detailed out of our Brigade to accompany General Jackson's corpse to Richmond and I was one among them, but before we could march down to Guinea Station about eight miles distant from our camp, the remains of our General had been removed on the Rail Road and so we were about an hour too late.

       We took about ten thousand Yankee prisoners, thirty pieces of Artillery and about forty thousand stands of small arms. There is no end to the knapsacks that the enemy left behind him on the battle field, there was knapsacks enough I believe to supply our whole army. They principally full of crackers and they came to play pretty well with us as our rations ran out the day before. They had eight days of provisions with them, they had brought not much clothing with them only a change of underclothes, [and] their portofolios full of writing paper and envelops to write letters at home after the battle, and their pen and ink. All that I did get is a portfolio with paper and envelops in it, some yankee postage stamps, some crackers, a pair of clean new drawers, some ink and an oil cloth coat. Our men have now plenty of oil clothes, and fear rain no more. After our men had done picked up all the oil clothes and blankets and overcoats there was any quantity still left on the ground tramped in the mud.

       Our whole loss was estimated at eight thousand. The battle is now over for the present and we are now encamped stationary for a while resting but we don't know how long we shall remain here. It is believed that the enemy will try some where else before long and if he did seek refuge across the Rappahannock, it is believed he will make his appearance again as balloon has been seen now for two days in succession, viewing this side of the river.

       Mr. Lamby is here now and he is now going to start so I will finish my writing by giving you my best respects and remain your affectionate husband untill death, John Garibaldi.

       Give my best respects to elder Lee Pursinger and you might let him read this letter just for information sake. Enclosed you will find two or three yankee postage stamps just for you keepsake.

       Write to me as soon as you get this and direct your letters as you did before. I saw George Poor after the fight and he wasn't hurt but I hadn't time to speak to him long. He sends you all his best respects. So Good by.

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