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Chancellorsville Battlefield

The Chancellorsville battlefield is part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Fought between April 30 and May 6, 1863 near the village of Chancellorsville, the battle pitted  Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 30,500 total casualties.

The Battle of Chancellorsville is considered Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most stunning victory. In violation of basic military rules, he divided his army in the face of a superior enemy and sent Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps around the Union army’s flank. Jackson’s ill-fated death, accidentally shot by one of his own soldiers, was devastating to the Confederate cause.

Pictured above is a re-creation outlining the Chancellor House at the intersection of modern-day Route 610 (Orange Plank Road) and Route 3 (Orange Turnpike). Union General Joseph Hooker used the Chancellor House has a headquarters during the battle. He was slightly injured when a cannonball struck a porch pillar he was leaning against.

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Fredericksburg Battlefield

The Fredericksburg battlefield is part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Fought between December 11–13, 1862 in and around Fredericksburg, the battle pitted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 16,800 total casualties.

The Battle of Fredericksburg is mostly known for a futile Union charge against a formidable Confederate position on Marye’s Heights. The Confederates stood behind a stone wall, with cannon positioned on the heights above. From there, they swept the open field with musket and cannon fire.

Today, Marye’s Heights is located near the Visitors Center. There is a walking trail that follows former Confederate positions up to Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

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Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears

chancellorsville-by-stephen-w-searsIn Chancellorsville, Stephen W. Sears charts the 1863 Chancellorsville Campaign, beginning with the recovery of the Union Army of the Potomac after the Battle of Fredericksburg and ending with two armies facing each other in much the same way as before the campaign began. In what was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most stunning victory, he divided his army in the face of a superior enemy, in violation of basic military rules, and sent Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps around the Union Army’s flank. Jackson’s death, accidentally shot by one of his own soldiers, has been recounted numerous places before, but less well-known is how Union General Joseph Hooker managed to lose a battle that looked so much in his favor.

One of the most stunning takeaways from this book was the Army of the Potomac’s condition after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Desertion, low morale, in-fighting among officers, and expired enlistments whittled the army down to an empty husk. On January 31, 1863, the Union Army counted 25,363 deserters (1/4 of the army!). In contrast, Lee had 91,000 men under his command. Why didn’t he move against the disorganized and demoralized Union Army?

One reason was lack of intelligence. Lee couldn’t be certain how many (or how few) enemy soldiers he faced. Another was lack of supply. Lee couldn’t stockpile enough supplies to go on the offensive with the trickle coming from Richmond. He actually sent 20,000 men south to relieve the burden. So his best opportunity to crush the Army of the Potomac slowly slipped away.

Chancellorsville is above all a vindication of Major General Joseph Hooker. Hooker is usually portrayed as the Union general on the losing end of Robert E. Lee’s most stunning victory. But he was a brilliant organizer and military innovator. Unfortunately, “Fighting Joe” didn’t get along well with his peers. He was outspoken, a rough character, and a middle-aged bachelor at a time when that was viewed suspiciously.

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Silent Guns

Chancellorsville Battlefield, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, Lafayette Blvd, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401. (540) 693-3200