Battle of Chancellorsville

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The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville and the area from there to the east at Fredericksburg.[1] The battle pitted Union Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac against an army half its size, Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. It is known as Lee's "perfect battle"[3] because of his risky but successful division of his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force. Lee's audacity and Hooker's timid performance in combat combined to result in a significant Union defeat. The Confederate victory was tempered by the mortal wounding of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson to friendly fire, a loss that Lee likened to "losing my right arm."

The Chancellorsville campaign began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union army on the morning of April 27, 1863. Crossing the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely's Fords, the Federals concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30 and May 1. Heavy fighting began on May 1 and did not end until the Union forces retreated across the river on the night of May 5–6.

Contents

Background

In the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, the basic offensive plan for the Union had been to advance and seize the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. In the first two years of the war, four major attempts had failed: the first foundered just miles away from Washington, D.C., at the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) in July 1861; Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign took an amphibious approach, landing his Army of the Potomac on the Virginia Peninsula in the spring of 1862 and coming within 6 miles (9.7 km) of Richmond before being turned back by Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Seven Days Battles; that summer, Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia was defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run; in December 1862, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside commanded the Army of the Potomac and attempted to reach Richmond by way of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was defeated at the Battle of Fredericksburg. (This string of Union defeats was interrupted in September 1862 when Lee moved into Maryland and his campaign was defeated by McClellan at the Battle of Antietam, but this represented no threat to Richmond.)

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