The Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-May 5 1863
April 27 1863 The AoP, commanded by Maj. Gen Joseph Hooker, begins its flank march by its “flying column” consisting of the 3rd, 11th, and 12th Corps. The part of Hooker’s plan that wanted to hide his march from Lee and the AoNV, worked perfectly. Lee had no idea the enemy had started their campaign
By April 30th, the 5th Corps, under Maj. Gen. Meade, is ordered to cross the Rappahannock River, and meet the “flying column” at a three building crossroad called Chancellorsville. Hooker now has four corps on Lee’s flank and rear. It went exactly how Hooker had planned, Lee was completely caught by surprise.
Lee finds out what Hooker has done on April 30th. He is shocked, disgusted, angry, in disbelief that Mr. “F.J. Hooker” has done to him
Lee and the AoNV response? Exactly how Hooker had planned, Lee had two options. He either could: • Come out from his strong defensive position and retreat closer to Richmond, shortening his supply line, or • Come out from his strong defensive position, and attack the flying column. LEE CHOSE #2
Lee orders Jackson’s 2nd Corps to leave Fredericksburg and march the ten miles to the Chancellorsville area, find the enemy and attack him.
AoNV Commanders: The Battle of Chancellorsville 1st Corps: Longstreet (two divisions left at Chancellorsville after Longstreet took 3 divisions to SE Virginia) commanded by Lee himself 1st Div.: Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson 2nd Div.: Maj. Gen Lafayette McLaws
AoNV Commanders: The Battle of Chancellorsville 2nd Corps: Maj. Gen Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
AoNV Commanders: The Battle of Chancellorsville 2nd Corps Division Commanders 1st Division: Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill 2nd Division: Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes
AoNV Commanders: The Battle of Chancellorsville 2nd Corps (cont’d) 3rd Division: Maj. Gen Jubal Early 4th Division: Maj. Gen Raleigh Colston
Lee also knows that the AoP’s 6th corps under Sedgwick was still at Fredericksburg. He had to keep one division to keep Sedgwick in check, so he orders Jackson to leave one division behind in the Fredericksburg lines. Jackson choose Early’s 3rd division. The other three 2nd corps divisions, he marches to the Chancellorsville area.
May 1 1863 Hooker and the “flying column” of three corps now meet up with the 5th Corps at Chancellorsville. They now have a four corps flying column.
Hooker’s plan a huge success So far, his plan has worked flawlessly. Lee is out of his strong Fredericksburg defenses. Now three things must happen for his plan to become a victorious one: • He has to advance with his flying column until he is out of the “Wilderness”, and forest of thick, tangled, interwoven, almost impenetrable trees that could successfully hide enemy movements • Hopefully, Hooker wanted to very soon receive word that the U.S. Calvary, under Stoneman, had cut the one railroad supply line of Lee. • He sent word for Sedgwick and the 6th corps, still at Fredericksburg, to attack across the river against the Rebels there, to keep as many of Jackson’s men as possible there in Fredericksburg, instead of facing the “flying column” IF all this would happen, there is a good chance Hooker would have badly defeated Lee!!!
But things don’t always go as planned First, Hooker heard nothing from Stoneman. And Obviously, Lee’s supply lines were not cut, because if they were Lee would HAVE TO RETREAT, and Lee is confronting him instead of retreating. This greatly confused and irritated Hooker
But things don’t always go as planned Second, there must have been some kind of communication mess up between Hooker and Sedgwick in Fredericksburg. Despite sending an order to attack, to keep Jackson and his men in Fredericksburg, Jackson was reported moving towards the flying column with his ENTIRE CORPS, so obviously Sedgwick and the 6th did not attack. This greatly worried and irritated Hooker.
But things don’t always go as planned Third, Jackson launches a massive assault against Hooker and his flying column, about three miles east of Chancellorsville. This major attack, and Hooker’s irritation over the previous two parts of the plan not working out, caused him to STOP MOVING FORWARD, and retreat around the Chancellorsville crossroads for the night to figure out what the Hell was going on.
Night May 1 1863 These were the battle lines the night of May 1.
Situation: Night May 1 1863 AoP Hooker and the AoP still have the advantage. They have forced Lee out of his strong Fredericksburg defenses, and have chosen the battlefield, which Lee and the AoNV had to attack him on. If they Could gain a few more miles Of ground, Lee and the AoNV would have to Retreat.
Situation: Night May 1 1863 AoNV Lee is in HORRIBLE trouble. He is severely outnumbered. Both his flanks are turned. He is out of his strong defenses. He is attacking the enemy in their chosen ground. Any other general would already have retreated. But not Lee. He decides to fight. So the night of May 1, he meets with Jackson to try and plan an attack the next day, and save the battle for the Confederates.
During Lee and Jackson’s meeting, scouts came back and said that the Union left flank was vulnerable to attack. Lee asks Jackson “How can we get at those people?” Jackson proposes to attack the exposed Union left flank. Lee asks: “What force do you propose to attack with?” Jackson: “My entire corps.” Lee, taken back says, “What do you propose to leave me with to confront the enemy?” Jackson: “With your permission, the divisions of McLaws and Anderson.” This proposal stirred the fighter and risk taker in him, so he OK’d Jackson’s proposal. Jackson was to begin the flank march at 8:00 AM May 2.
This was an extremely risky plan. Jackson had to march and not let the enemy see him, or they could attack and rout his corps while on march. He had to completely conceal his march, his lines were miles long. He could not attack until he was in his assigned position. By 4:00 PM May 2, his corps had made their flank march and were ready to attack
Union left flank: 4:00 PM May 2 1863 The corps on the Union left was the German 11th corps led by General O.O. Howard. These men were greatly disliked by other AoP men, and were harassed constantly. Howard was warned by Hooker to watch out for an attack from the west, but Howard did not heed the warning.
Consequently, the 11th corps was not ready for Jackson’s attack. They were literally lying around, playing cards, washing clothes, eating, and had NO IDEA what was coming. The first clue they had was that all kinds of wild animals-squirrels, deer, foxes, even a bear, came streaming out of the woods all at once right at them.
Jackson’s attack near perfect Jackson’s attack hit Howard’s 11th Corps right on the flank. Most Germans of the 11th did not even stop to pick up a weapon or any of their gear. They were so frightened they just ran the opposite way as fast as possible.
The attack takes about 2 ½ hours, and with the combination of Jackson’s lines getting tangled in the Wilderness, and resistance from the 12th corps, this caused the Confederate attackers to slow down. It is now about 8:00 PM May 2 1863
Jackson is impatient He wants to cut the Yankees off from the river. If he does, the war could be over. He does not want darkness or confusion to stop him. He orders another attack, a night attack. Jackson rides out between his lines and the Yankees, to personally look for an attack route. But it is dark.
Jackson is shot And as Jackson is returning to his lines, he is shot…BY HIS OWN MEN!!!! His men, in the darkness mistook Jackson and his aides as Union Calvary.
Jackson was taken to a field hospital where his left arm was amputated. The next day, Jackson was in surprisingly little pain and all signs were positive. General Lee wrote Jackson that “You have lost your left arm, but I have lost my right.”
JEB Stuart, the Confederate calvary commander, is assigned to command Jackson’s corps. The battle is now in favor of the Confederates, but they still have a lot of hard fighting to do to win the battle. Hooker and the AoP are not defeated yet.
May 3 1863 Lee decides to continue the attack. Even though he is greatly outnumbered, even though most of the Yankees are behind solid defenses, Lee feels he has the momentum, and will not give it up.