Chancellorsville Staff Battlefield Walk


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This is a little presentation before the staff's Chancellorsville battlefield walk. Just goes into the plan, the situation directly before the battlefield and leads the discussion about consequences.

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Chancellorsville Staff Battlefield Walk

  1. 1. CHANCELLORSVILLE Lee’s Greatest Victory MAY 1 – 3, 1863 Staff Walk
  2. 2. Battle of Chancellorsville Background • Things to know: MGEN Joseph Hooker has been in command of the Army of the Potomac (AoTP) for a little less than 4 months, having maneuvered into the job after Burnside’s less than stellar performance at Fredericksburg and the Mud March. Lincoln is wary of Hooker, considering him ambitious and political. • Hooker is good for the AoTP– he enforces discipline, provides better sanitation, better food, and creates the new Corps Specific system for the AoTP, creating a new found unit pride. Corps are groups of about 20,000 men (ideally) often less, with organic Artillery, HQ, etc. More flexible than Burnside’s “Wings” • Hooker was pressured to act aggressively and “with vigor” by President Lincoln. The Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) was still encamped at Fredericksburg, VA after the previous battle. Hooker was fixated on a grand descent on Richmond, VA, but there was the problem of the ANV. Hooker knew he had to assault it directly, go around it, or out- maneuver it. The first option had been tried and failed by Burnside. Going around was optimal, but he had to contend with the ANV being between him and Richmond. The last option had eluded previous Commanding Generals. • General Hooker had a plan, and it was actually a good one. • He would send a “Demonstration” of 1/3 of his Army across the bridges at Fredericksburg to convince the ANV that a major attack was imminent, under General Sedgwick. Meanwhile, he would take 1/3 of his Army West and cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers at Ely’s and Kelly’s Fords. • 1/3 of the Army would stay North of Rappahannock as reserve, under General Reynolds– this force was summoned across the river on Day 1. • A very significant factor in the days ahead was the creation of the Federal Cavalry Corps under General Stoneman, which had been tasked to swing WIDE AROUND the army, then head South, destroying railroads and any useful war material, and generally cause a disturbance the ANV couldn’t ignore. That was the theory, anyway. They set off ahead of the Army on 17 April Corps Badges, AoTP
  3. 3. Hooker’s Plan at a glance
  4. 4. First Stop: A quick glance at Day One • May 1st advance: Gen. Joseph Hooker led the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps on a campaign to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Passing the Rapidan via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Federals concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30 and May 1. At this stage of the battle, they were elated. It appeared that they had outmanuevered General Lee. Hooker’s advance elements (Generals Meade, Sykes, Couch) moved East on the road to Fredericksburg. Immediately, they encountered stiffening Confederate resistance from the ANV left flank, under CS Generals Rodes and Anderson. The field commanders of the AoTP felt that victory was in sight. • Hooker experiences… SOMETHING.. A loss of courage? Second Thoughts? The Crushing Weight of Responsibility? Orders the entire AoTP to concentrate at the area around Chancellorsville Crossroads, break out shovels and start digging in.
  5. 5. Day 1 Battlefield, first stop • The Day 1 battlefield crosses the around around the Plank Road (Modern day route 3). Development as swallowed a lot of it, but a recent purchase by the Battlefield trust has preserved many acres of the North section of the field above Route 3. We will stop there first for a general sense of where we are on early May 1. The early first day battlefield was positioned roughly perpendicular to the Plank Road stretching from Zoan Church (which you will pass on the left en route to the first stop, though not the original buildings) to the Furnace Road. • The Day 1 battlefield is a big field on the right of the Plank Road (Rt. 3) about 5 miles down the road from Route I-95. To reach the Chancellorsville Visitor Center from I-95, take exit 130B (Route 3) west for approximately five miles. The field is on the right, north side of the highway, and is clearly marked. First Stop: Day 1 Field: 20 minutes plus questions, Going over Hooker’s Plan, and What had happened so far.
  6. 6. Second Stop, Visitor’s Center Driving Tour of Day 2 & 3 • The Visitor’s Center offers four walking tours averaging 3-4 miles each, or one comprehensive “see it all” driving tour. Having hiked this field, I’m recommending the driving tour. Address: 9001 Plank Rd, Spotsylvania, VA 22553 Phone:(540) 786-2880 • About 3 miles West of the First Day field, on the right. Closed on Wednesdays. • We’ll park, and consolidate cars.
  7. 7. Stops 3-10: Driving Tour Day 2 & 3 This is a guided tour of the key places surrounding events on Days 2-3 of this Battle. Time: with allowances for questions, about 2 Hours.
  8. 8. 11: Last Stop • Last Stop: the monument where Jackson was wounded (Supposedly). • About a 15 minute wrapup about the battle and its Consequences, and then off to lunch, we’re done!
  9. 9. Consequences • Discussion: Where did Hooker’s plan go wrong?