In the city of Fredericksburg and surrounding Spotsylvania County, Central Virginia, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park is home to the battle sites of four important American Civil War battles: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.
One of the most famous battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Chancellorsville is known as one of General Robert E. Lee’s greatest victories. Jackson’s famous Flank Attack is still studied around the world today.
Following the humiliating defeat at Fredericksburg, President Abraham Lincoln tried revitalizing the East’s stumbling war efforts. He named General Joseph Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac, the 5th Union General to face the Confederates.
With General Lee still in Fredericksburg and General Hooker across the river, he proposed a bold plan after he managed to get his army into shape. General Hooker placed a large force in front of Fredericksburg as a feint while he led the other portion around General Lee’s left and rear, hoping to catch the enemy by surprise.
Confidently, General Hooker would say, “My plans are perfect, may God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none!”
On May 1, 1863, General Hooker’s plan was unraveled by General Lee’s initiative and quick thinking. General Lee divided his force and directed his Army on a head-on collision course against an enemy twice his size.
This drove General Hooker back to the Chancellorsville Crossroads in a defensive position at a forested region of Spotsylvania County known as the Wilderness.
That night, General Lee would hatch his career’s most brilliant offensive plan.
On May 2, 1863, he split his army yet again and sent Stonewall Jackson’s Corps on an all-day flank attack march – this meant he would be able to get at General Hooker’s flank and rear. The move culminated in Jackson’s Flank Attack and was wildly successful. However, it would be Jackson’s last victory as he was mortally wounded by friendly fire as he tried to continue the fighting into the night.
May 3, 1863, would be the bloodiest morning of the Civil War. Still reeling, dawn found General Hooker fighting off Confederate attacks from both sides. One of the most dramatic artillery duels of the war would ensue. On this day, one casualty would fall each second for the next five hours as both sides slugged it out in a point-blank match.
Despite heavy losses on both sides, General Lee would emerge victorious. Dividing his force in the face of a superior enemy, along with seizing the initiative with bold and audacious moves would pay off by many folds. This victory encouraged General Lee to invade the North a second time in June 1863, leading to the Gettysburg Campaign.