April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville

Fighting Joe HookerHooker arrived at Chancellorsville on the morning of April 30.  He was in high spirits and issued this order to his army:

GENERAL ORDERS No. 47.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 30, 1863.

       It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.  The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.

       By command of Major-General Hooker:

S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant General.

(more…)

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April 28, 1863: Marching Towards Chancellorsville

Hooker's Plan

One hundred and fifty-eight years ago the Army of the Potomac was en route to what would be come the battlefield of Chancellorsville.  Hooker was in fine spirits.  He outnumbered Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia 133,000 to 60,000, two of Lee’s divisions being in Southeastern Virginia on detached duty and that would take no part in the battle.  He planned to crush Lee between a Union corps at Fredericksburg led by General Sedgwick and and an attack by six corps led by him from The Wilderness, the rugged wooded terrain that surrounded Chancellorsville, that would fall on Lee’s rear.  E.P. Alexander who fought at Chancellorsville as a Confederate artillery colonel, and who would end the War as a Brigadier General and commander of First Corps artillery, in his two memoirs, Military Memoirs of a Confederate and Fighting for the Confederacy, demonstrated ability as a keen military analyst, and he thought Hooker’s plan was the best, and the best executed up to May 1, of the many plans of campaign by the Army of the Potomac against the Army of Northern Virginia. (more…)

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

Father D. Hubert, Chaplain, Hay’s Louisiana Brigade, upon the dedication of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on May 10, 1881 in New Orleans

Something for the weekend.  After the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville only Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, seems appropriate.  The song is a fitting evocation of the man, who, if he had not been mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, might well have with Lee brought about a war ending victory for the Confederacy at Gettysburg.  I fully agree with Father Hubert that the death of General Jackson was probably a necessary factor in the defeat of the Confederacy.  As a military team he and Lee were able to accomplish military miracles and with his death the Confederacy could still rely upon the endless courage of their ragged warriors and the brilliance of Lee, but the age of military miracles in the Civil War ended with the passing of Jackson.

The song was taken from a poem found on the body of a dead Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862: (more…)

May 3, 1863: Lee Wins the Battle of Chancellorsville

Chancellorsville_May3a

 

 

After the brilliant flank attack of Jackson on May 2, 1863 which wrecked the Union 11th Corps, Lee still faced a daunting situation as morning dawned on May 3.  Hooker had been reinforced by Reynolds Corps overnight which made good his losses and Lee’s Army of approximately 43,000 faced 76,000 troops under Hooker.  His forces were also divided with Jackson’s Corps, now temporarily commanded by General Jeb Stuart after Jackson’s wounding, located behind the right of the Union army.  If this were not a bad enough situation, Lee still had Sedgwick south of Fredericksburg with 40,000 men confronting the 11,000 of Early.  If Sedgwick attacked, Lee could be facing an attack from his rear.  Unbeknownst to Lee, in the wake of the flank attack of Jackson, Hooker had sent an urgent message to Sedgwick ordering him to attack immediately.

The first thing Lee had to do was to reunite his army confronting Hooker.  Lee in his official report details how this was done: (more…)

May 2, 1863: Jackson Flanks Hooker

  When the blue-coated
Unprepared ranks of Howard saw that storm,
Heralded by wild rabbits and frightened deer,
Burst on them yelling, out of the whispering woods,
They could not face it.  Some men died where they stood,
The storm passed over the rest.  It was Jackson’s storm,
It was his old trick of war, for the last time played.
He must have known it.  He loosed it and drove it on,
Hearing the long yell shake like an Indian cry
Through the dense black oaks, the clumps of second-growth pine,
And the red flags reel ahead through the underbrush.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

The plan having been made for the flank attack against Hooker, it remained for Jackson to execute it.  For a very long day he and his corps marched along the front of Hooker’s massive army’s front and into the rear of the right of his army.  Numerous reports came to Hooker from Union units reporting movement by a large number of Confederates to their front.  Hooker, now firmly ensconced in the pleasant land of wishful thinking, chose to interpret these reports as evidence that Lee was retreating.  Hooker had his army sit idle that day, the day when he could have crushed Lee with overwhelming numbers.

Chancellorsville_May2

Lee described Jackson’s march in his official report of the battle on September 21, 1863: (more…)

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May 1, 1863: Lee and Jackson Plan a Military Masterpiece

Chancellorsville May 1, 1863

On the evening of May 1, 1863, General Robert E. Lee knew several facts about the military situation confronting him:

1. His army was between two forces, Hooker with approximately 70,000 men at Chancellorsville and Sedgwick south of Fredericksburg with approximately 40,000 men.  Confronting Sedgwick he had Early with about 11,000 men and confronting Hooker Lee had around 40,000 men.

2.  If Sedgwick and Hooker attacked aggressively Lee’s army could be destroyed between them.

3.  Neither Sedgwick nor Hooker had demonstrated much appetite for attack.  Hooker had launched a brief attack the morning of May 1, but had quickly called it off, Hooker being content to defend against Lee.

4.  Lee now had the initiative, ceded to him miraculously by the man who commanded a combined force more than twice the size of Lee’s.

5.  What to do with the initiative was the question.  How could Lee overcome such a grave disparity in numbers?

The solution was  found at an evening conference that Lee had with Jackson.  Go here to see a video on the conference.  Jackson believed that Hooker might retreat, but Lee reasoned that Hooker had too much political capital invested in the attack.  Hooker’s army would remain at Chancellorsville and Lee would attack him if a plan could be devised that made such an attack practicable.  At that time Lee’s son, cavalry  General Fitzhugh Lee, rode up with the news that the Union right was “in the air” and that a flank attack was feasible. (more…)

April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville

Chancellorsville April 30, 1863

 

On April 30, 1863 Hooker arrived at Chancellorsville.  He issued this order:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 30, 1863.

       It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.    The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.

       By command of Major-General Hooker (more…)

Published in: on April 13, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville  
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