The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major Civil War battle that took place near the small town of Chancellorsville, Virginia. The South defeated the North despite having a much smaller army due to the superior tactics of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
When did it take place?
The battle took place over several days in the Spring of 1863 from April 30th to May 6th with the fiercest fighting taking place on May 3rd.
General Joseph Hooker by Matthew Brady
Who were the commanders?
The Confederate Army was led by General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Other Confederate commanders included Stonewall Jackson, A.P. Hill, and J.E.B. Stuart.
The Union Army was led by General Joseph Hooker who had been recently appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac. Other Union commanders included George Stoneman, Oliver Howard, and George Meade.
Before the Battle
General Robert E. Lee's army was dug into the hills near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was guarding the way to the Confederate capital of Richmond. Union general Joseph Hooker put together a plan to attack Lee and force him to retreat. He would take part of his army and sneak up on Lee from the side while the rest of his army kept Lee busy from the front. Hooker felt sure of his plan and his victory. He had an overwhelming force of 130,000 Union soldiers and Lee only had 60,000 Confederates.
The battle started out on April 30, 1863 as Union General Hooker had planned. He led a large number of troops to the side of the Confederate Army. He had them trapped. Surely Robert E. Lee would retreat.
Then things started to go wrong. Instead of retreating, Lee attacked Hooker's army at Chancellorsville. The Confederate army quickly split into two forces. Lee sent half of his soldiers, led by General Stonewall Jackson, to attack Hooker's army from the side. The Confederates continued to attack over the next several days. General Lee constantly maneuvered his fewer forces to keep them from getting overwhelmed by the larger Union army.
After several days of fighting, the Union Army was forced to retreat on May 7, 1863. The battle was over and the Confederates had won.
The Confederates won the battle. Despite having fewer than half the number of soldiers, they did not have to retreat and they had inflicted 17,000 casualties on the Union while suffering 13,000 of their own.
Even though they had won the battle, the Confederate Army was considerably weakened. They lost 13,000 of their 60,000 men, which was a large percentage of their soldiers. They also lost one of their best generals when Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men.
Interesting Facts about the Battle of Chancellorsville
Historians believe that the book The Red Badge of Courage is based on the Battle of Chancellorsville.
This was the only major battle that was led by Union General Joseph Hooker. He was replaced by General George Meade a few days before the Battle of Gettysburg.
General Robert E. Lee said "I've lost my right arm" when Stonewall Jackson died.
Before the battle, Joseph Hooker was so confident that he wrote "My plans are perfect....may God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none."