Chancellorsville Campaign and the Death of Thomas Jonathan Jackson

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Death of Stonewall Jackson Details Location Where General Stonewall Jackson was Killed Died Wounded How did Stonewall Jackson Die History of General Stonewall Jackson’s Death Who Shot Stonewall Jackson
Chancellorsville Campaign and Death of "Stonewall" Jackson
(Confederate Military History, Volume 3, Chapter XXI)

House Where "Stonewall" Jackson Died
House Where "Stonewall" Jackson Died.jpg

       DURING the winter of 1862-63 and early spring of 1863, Stuart, by frequent raids across the Rappahannock, kept the Federal cavalry busy, protecting Burnside's fight and rear, while in the Valley and in the Appalachian region, Imboden and Jones broke the Federal communications with the west by the Baltimore & Ohio railroad.
       In one of his humorous moods, on the 3d of March, Lee wrote to his wife:

We are up to our eyes in mud now, and have but little comfort. Mr. Hooker looms up very large over the fiver. He has two balloons up in the day and one at night. I hope he is gratified at what he sees. Your cousin, Fitz Lee, beat up his quarters the other day with about 400 of his cavalry, and advanced within four miles of Falmouth, carrying off 150 prisoners, with their horses, arms, etc. The day after he recrossed the Rappahannock they sent all their cavalry after him . . . but the bird had flown ... I hope these young Lees will always be too smart for the enemy.

       After the battle of Fredericksburg, Stuart's cavalry corps held the line of the Rappahannock up to the Blue ridge, with a considerable body in Culpeper, near the line of the Orange & Alexandria railroad, having its base of supplies at Gordonsville. Several times during the winter and early spring the Federal cavalry attacked the Confederates, who invariably drove them back. In an engagement, March 17th, at Kellysville, the first real battle between the horsemen of the opposing armies, the brave and beloved Pelham, commanding Stuart's horse artillery, was killed.
       While tented in his winter quarters back of Fredericksburg, Lee was considering a plan of campaign for the coming spring, having frequent consultations with Jackson and Stuart; and Jackson, in the Corbin lodge at Moss Neck, although busy all the time strengthening his corps and putting it in a high state of efficiency by drill and inspection, and by using every possible effort to have it clothed and fed, was also thinking about his favorite design for a campaign into Pennsylvania, to break up the mining operations in the anthracite coal-field, and so seriously cripple the enemy by cutting off fuel supplies for his manufacturing establishments, his railways, and his numerous steamships. Almost at the beginning of 1863 he directed the writer, his topographical engineer, to prepare a detailed map of the country between the Potomac and the Susquehanna; a map that was subsequently used in the Gettysburg campaign, but not by Stonewall Jackson.
       Generals of lesser rank formulated plans of campaign, and so, doubtless, did every thoughtful and enterprising private in the ranks of the veteran army of Northern Virginia. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, of Ewell's division, made an offer to General Lee to bridge the Rappahannock and surprise the Federal army in its camps. To this Lee made reply, in his always courteous way:

I am much obliged to you for your suggestions presented in your letters of February and March. I know the pleasure experienced in shaping campaigns and battles, according to our wishes, and have enjoyed the ease with which obstacles to their accomplishment, in effigy, can be overcome. The movements you suggest in both letters have been at various times studied, and canvassed with those who would be engaged in their execution. but no practicable solution of the difficulties to be overcome has yet been reasonably reached. The weather, roads, streams, provisions, transportation, etc., are all powerful elements in the calculation, as you know. What the future may do for us, I will still hope, but the present time is unpropitious, in my judgment. The idea of securing the provisions, wagons and guns of the enemy is truly tempting, and the desire has haunted me since December. Personally, I would run any kind of risk for their attainment, but I cannot jeopardize this army.

General Stonewall Jackson
General Stonewall Jackson.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Portrait: This oil portrait was painted by William D. Washington in 1868. Washington, a noted 19th century American artist who was a member of the VMI faculty after the Civil War, produced a number of portraits of Institute alumni and faculty who died during the war. The portrait hangs in VMI's Preston Library.)

       The Official Records show that the Federal army under Burnside was thoroughly demoralized after the disasters of Fredericksburg and the failure of the "Mud Campaign." Not only were desertions numerous, but an alarming degree of insubordination was prevalent throughout the army. To remedy this condition of things, Burnside was displaced, and on the 26th of January, 1863, Maj.-Gen. Joseph Hooker, the second in the command, was given charge of the army of the Potomac. He speedily restored it to a condition of efficiency and brought its strength up to nearly 134,000 soldiers, when, toward the last of April, he made ready to cross the Rappahannock and attack Lee's 63,000 veterans. Jackson held the front of Lee's right, from Hamilton's crossing down to Port Royal, with the 33,000 well-tried men of the Second corps. Of the two divisions of Longstreet that remained with Lee, McLaws held the front, from Jackson's left to opposite Banks' ford, with 8,000 men; Anderson's 8,000 extended McLaws' left well toward Chancellorsville (to Mott's run), while Stuart's 2,700 cavalrymen watched the fords of the Rappahannock up to the Orange & Alexandria railroad crossing.
       Hooker had opposed Burnside's plan of campaign against Lee, and he now essayed to make trial of his own. He proposed to make a great show of having adopted Burnside's plan, by sending Sedgwick across the Rappahannock, at and below Fredericksburg,. with three army corps, thus hoping to detain Lee in front of that desolated city while he, with four Other army corps, marched rapidly up the north bank of the Rappahannock, concealed by its well-nigh continuous forests, crossed that river at Kelly's ford and the Rapidan at the Germanna and Ely fords, and thence, marching on roads leading from Orange through Spottsylvania to Fredericksburg, should fall upon Lee's flank and rear and thus force him away from his tried lines of defense toward Richmond, when Hooker's reunited army would, with overwhelming numbers, follow in pursuit.
       On the 13th of April, a fortnight in advance of his infantry movement, Hooker sent Gen. George Stoneman, with 10,000 of his cavalry corps, to cross the Rappahannock at Kelly's ford, in Culpeper, brush aside Stuart's cavalry, destroy his base of supplies, break the Virginia Central railroad at Gordonsville, then turn southeastward toward Hanover Junction, and, breaking Lee's railway connection with Richmond, there form an intrenched camp and be ready to fall upon Lee's flank as Hooker drove him in retreat toward Richmond. As Stoneman began his march, a heavy rain set in and so flooded the Rappahannock that he had not only to contend with Stuart at every ford he attempted, but also to wait upon its northern bank for the waters to subside; and it was not until the 27th that the three Federal corps, led by Slocum', followed after the cavalry. They crossed Kelly's ford of the Rappahannock in the afternoon of the 28th, and late on the 29th reached Germanna and Ely fords of the Rapidan. Lee had divined the purpose of this movement, for on the 23d he wrote to Jackson. that he considered the Federal preparations opposite Port Royal as only a feint that it was not necessary to move troops to meet, as he was satisfied that Hooker's purpose was to attempt a passage elsewhere, and closed by writing: "I will notify Generals McLaws and Anderson to be on the alert, for I think if a real attempt is made to cross the river, it will be above Fredericksburg."
       During the night of the 28th, Sedgwick threw his pontoons across the Rappahannock, nearly in front of Hamilton's crossing, and on the morning of the 29th the Federal lines of battle again appeared on the broad river plain below Fredericksburg. That same morning Stuart informed Lee that the Federal flanking advance had crossed at Kelly's ford, and later in the day that two columns of Federal infantry were moving toward the Germanna and Ely fords of the Rapidan. This information confirmed Lee as to Hooker's intentions, and he at once ordered Anderson westward to support the opposition which he directed Stuart to make to the Federal movement toward Chancellorsville. At midnight Hooker's advance forced back from Chancellorsville the brigades of Mahone and Posey, of Anderson's division, and occupied that plantation. Anderson withdrew and formed his lines in the intrenchments that had been thrown up in front of Tabernacle church, across the three roads that there converged, from the westward, into the turnpike road leading to Fredericksburg.
       On the night of this same 29th of April, Stuart sent Gen. W. H. F. Lee, with two regiments of cavalry, to intercept Stoneman's movement against Gordonsville, while in person he led Fitz Lee's brigade across the historic Raccoon ford of the Rapidan, and placed his cavalry in position to protect Lee's left. This brought him into conflict with the Federal cavalry advance on the morning of the 30th, near Todd's tavern, not far from Anderson's left at Tabernacle church.
       Meade's corps of the Federal army, the Fifth, reached Chancellorsville during the night of the 29th, and by sunset of the 30th, Hooker had there concentrated 50,000 men, while 18,000 more, under Sickles, were near at hand. Sedgwick, with his 40,000 or more, was still threatening Lee's right, below Fredericksburg; at the same time some 13,000 Federal cavalry were threatening his railway communications.

General Stonewall Jackson Statue
General Stonewall Jackson Statue.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Picture: Close-up view of the "The Jackson statue" in front of the VMI Barracks.)

       Exulting in the success of his strategic movement which had placed him, without loss, on Lee's flank, Hooker issued to his command, on the 30th, a general order, in which he said, among other boastful things: "Our enemy must ingloriously fly or come from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him." Lee quietly, but quickly, accepted the challenge, thus thrown out, and at midnight of the same day ordered Jackson's corps, which he had some days before concentrated in the vicinity of his battle line of the 13th of December, to march from Hamilton's crossing by the old Mine road toward Tabernacle church. By 8 of the morning of Friday, May 1st, a portion of Jackson's corps joined Anderson, and Lee was ready to meet any advances Hooker might make toward Fredericksburg.
       Lee left Early in command at Fredericksburg, with his own division, Barksdale's brigade of McLaws' division, and the reserve artillery under Pendleton, to watch the movements of Sedgwick. This disposition of forces placed Lee's army directly between the two widely separated wings of Hooker's army, while the cavalry of the latter was still further detached, seeking to destroy Lee's lines of communication. These conditions compelled Lee to face his army in both directions, which he resolutely did, and prepared for the conflict, contrary to Hooker's expectations. Early, with 30 guns and 8,500 infantrymen, stretched his thin line along the whole length of Lee's defenses of the previous December, and with characteristic alertness awaited Sedgwick's movements.
       The mass of Lee's army, some 41,000 men, under Jackson, Anderson and McLaws, were moved to within four miles of Chancellorsville, and these, just before noon of May 1st, advanced and drove back Hooker's skirmishers, who were in the act of opening the way to Fredericksburg. Lee himself spent the forenoon of the day with Early, watching, from his old battlefield position, the Federal demonstrations on Stafford heights and on the Rappahannock plain, and counseling Early to hold fast his position and not be deceived by Sedgwick's demonstrations; advice that he well knew would be implicitly followed by the courageous old fighter to whom he gave it. When Jackson reached the vicinity of Tabernacle church, he found Anderson busily engaged, with pick and shovel, strengthening his position. He, in command as the ranking officer present, immediately ordered the discontinuance of such operations, and that an immediate advance should be made to meet the one he shrewdly supposed Hooker was already making. McLaws was sent forward along the old turnpike, and Anderson along the plank road, while Jackson supported the more exposed left of the movement. The two roads thus taken converged at Chancellorsville. As Jackson had divined, Hooker, having started at 11 a.m., was at the same time marching a column along each of these roads toward Fredericksburg; consequently these opposing forces met about midway between Tabernacle church and Chancellorsville, and the issue of battle was joined in the fields along the roads and in the dense intervening forest. Alexander quickly placed one battery from his battalion in front, on the plank road, and sent one accompanying the skirmishers. Lee came up at about this time, and he and Jackson, riding side by side, followed in the line on the left. With wild cheers for these two trusted and beloved commanders, the Confederates rushed forward and drove back the oncoming Federals. Sykes' division of Meade's corps, advancing on the turnpike, was flanked by Jackson and repulsed in front by McLaws: while Anderson turned back to Chancellorsville Slocum's Twelfth corps, with loss, and Hooker's initial action-movement sought protection behind Sickles' line of 18,000 men that held the front of the fields at Chancellorsville. Lee's skirmishers followed until they found themselves confronted by formidable intrenchments of logs, protected by abatis, in the forest in front.
       Hooker had concentrated his army in a most formidable position, which he had carefully and skillfully fortified, but he was surprised and mortified that his first movement had been unsuccessful. Informed, by his advance, as to Hooker's position and the disposition of his forces, Lee withdrew his army for a short distance, as the day closed, and his men slept in lines of battle covering the roads leading from Chancellorsville. In person he went into bivouac with' Jackson, where the road to Catherine furnace turns southward from the plank road. During the night Talcott and Boswell, of Lee's engineers, reconnoitered the Federal front and pronounced a direct attack impracticable. Lee then said to Jackson, "We must attack from our left;" and Jackson was directed to prepare for such a movement. These two leaders and their staffs then sought sleep, as best they could, in a cold night of the early springtime, wrapped in their overcoats, under the sheltering pines and oaks. Stuart, in the meantime, had informed Lee of the disposition of all of Hooker's forces on the field of action, especially of those of his right wing, which extended far out along the plank road to beyond its intersection with the Ely's ford road, held by the Federal cavalry.

Stonewall Jackson Cemetery
Stonewall Jackson Cemetery and Gravesite.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Picture: General Stonewall Jackson's gravesite as it looks today. Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Main Street, Lexington, Virginia.)

       By early dawn of the next morning, Jackson sent his topographical engineer, Capt. Hotchkiss, to Catherine furnace to ascertain whether there was a shorter road around Hooker's front and right to his rear, than the one by way of Todd's tavern. Informed, at an early hour, of the shortest way, Jackson, after a short conference with Lee, in which he secured permission to take his whole corps with him in his flank movement, promptly marched, first southward, then southwestward, to the Brock road, thence northwestward, by that road, to the plank road, thus traversing nearly the entire front of Hooker's position, and turning his right. He then formed his command in three lines of battle, with Rodes (D. H. Hill's division) in front, supported by Colston (Trimble's division), and he in turn by part of A. P. Hill's division. When the Orange road was reached, Paxton's "Stonewall brigade," of Trimble's division, was advanced on that road so that it constituted an extension of Rodes' right when the forward movement took place.
       General Lee, in his report, describes the origin of Jackson's flank movement in these words:

I decided against it [an attack upon Hooker's central works] and stated to General Jackson, we must attack on our left as soon as practicable, and the necessary movement of the troops began immediately. In consequence of a report received about that time from Gen. Fitz Lee, describing the position of the Federal army and the roads which he held with his cavalry leading to its rear, General Jackson, after some inquiry concerning the roads leading to the furnace, undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear, which he accomplished with equal skill and boldness; the rest of the army being moved to the left flank to connect with him as he advanced.

       The audacity of Jackson's flank movement, by which Lee entirely detached from himself the larger part of his army, was only equaled by the audacity of Lee himself in his willingness to confront and attempt to hold in place the great mass of Hooker's army with the two divisions of Anderson and McLaws. The dense forest that covered Hooker's eastward front prevented his seeing the small force that Lee held opposed to him; while the fierce demonstrations that Lee made, all along this front, with infantry and artillery, keeping up an almost continuous fire, deceived Hooker as to his numbers, and made him hesitate to advance from his intrenchments and ascertain what was really opposed to him. Taking counsel of his fears, he allowed Lee to hold him all day in check, while Jackson was eagerly and swiftly marching around his right flank.
       The morning sun of the 2d of May was barely visible when Jackson began his march with Rodes, commanding D. H. Hill's old division in front, followed by Colston and A. P. Hill; 26,000 war and camp hardened veterans led by Jackson in person, with four regiments of cavalry, under Stuart and Fitz Lee, protecting his flanks. Sickles, from his elevated position in Hooker's south front, discovered Jackson's column moving southward, by way of Catherine furnace, and opened on it with his long range artillery. This caused Jackson to diverge to his left, after throwing out a brigade to protect his flank. Sickles advanced on this and captured a Georgia regiment, which induced the Federal officers to believe that Lee was in retreat toward Richmond. Sickles then organized a strong movement in pursuit of Jackson, sending three divisions after him; but Lee turned Anderson's guns upon Sickles and cheeked his movement. Sickles then called for reinforcements, and late in the afternoon he sent a brigade to the furnace; but it was then too late, for Jackson's column of march was already far beyond his reach, and so far he had successfully concealed the object and direction of his movement. The only result was that Hooker had sent 20,000 men away from his center, into the tangled wilderness, searching for Jackson, at the very time that the latter was ready to throw the weight of his whole corps upon Hooker's extended and weak right flank.        

       Jackson led his 'flanking movement with even fiercer energy than was his usual characteristic, constantly urging division commanders to "Press forward," and kept all of his staff constantly moving along the line of march to see that it was closed up, and with map, made by his topographical engineer on the way, when wanted, and memorandum, he hourly apprised Lee of his progress. Dr. Hunter McGuire, his medical director, says of Jackson at this time:

Never can I forget the eagerness and intensity of Jackson on that march to Hooker's rear. His face was pale, his eyes flashing. Out from his thin compressed lips came the terse command, "Press forward! Press forward!" his eagerness, as he rode, he leaned over on the neck of his horse, as if in that way the march might be hurried. "See that the column is kept closed, and that there is no straggling," he more than once ordered; and "Press on! Press on!" was repeated again and again. Every man in the ranks knew that we were engaged in some great flank movement, and they eagerly responded and pressed on at a rapid gait.

General "Stonewall" Jackson death bed
General Stonewall Jackson.jpg
(General "Stonewall" Jackson)

(Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson died in an outbuilding on the Chandler plantation in the rural community of Guinea Station. Although "Stonewall" Jackson was shot by friendly fire, he died from pneumonia... Today, the Jackson Shrine is part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.)

       By the middle of the day Jackson's advance reached the plank road, two miles southwest of Hooker's right flank under Howard. There he detached the Stonewall brigade to support Fitz Lee's cavalry in an advance toward Chancellorsville, along the forest enclosed road, to cover his farther movement, and then pushed on to the Orange turnpike, to a point northwest of Hooker's right and about two miles distant, which he reached by 3 of the afternoon, when he sent his last message to Lee, in these words: "I hope as soon as practicable to attack. I trust that an ever-kind Providence will bless us with great success."
       Fitz Lee, who with a cloud of cavalry had been hovering around Hooker's front and right, and keeping Jackson's movement concealed by guarding every road that approached it, now met Jackson in person and led him to the summit of a hill, in an open field, whence he could look over the intervening forest and see Hooker's great army stretching away to the eastward, along and near the plank road, to Chancellorsville. Taking in at a glance the strategic as well as the tactic advantages of position that he had gained, Jackson, giving no heed to Fitz Lee's presence, hurried an aide to order Rodes to cross the turnpike and form at right angles to it, along the concealed front of the field of observation and through the forest to the left, with his right extended nearly to the Orange plank road, which was held by the Stonewall brigade. Colston's division was formed in rear of Rodes, in almost equal length of line of battle; two brigades of A. P. Hill's division were formed in the rear of Colston, with their right resting on the old turnpike, while the remaining brigades of Hill's division were left in column to follow along the old turnpike as a reserve. At 5 in the afternoon of Saturday, May 2d, two hours before the set of sun, just as a magnificent rainbow sprang its prismatic arch across the western sky in rear of his lines of battle, Jackson ordered an advance. With a wild "rebel yell," that startled the profound silence that had hitherto reigned in "the Wilderness," his veterans rushed for. ward through the forest, driving game of all kinds before them, and in an incredibly short time fell upon Howard's corps, holding Hooker's right, which, unconscious even of the near presence of an enemy, was engaged in cooking its supper. Thus unexpectedly attacked, a fearful panic ensued, and Howard's men rushed in dismay along the turnpike toward Chancellorsville, sweeping all organizations along with them in their flight. Six guns of Beckham's horse artillery, of Stuart's corps, galloped at even pace, along the turnpike, with Jackson's men, and by sections of twos poured canister into the retreating Federals.
       Nothing could stand against the superior numbers that Jackson hurled against Hooker's flanked line, which he speedily crumpled up and drove back toward Chancellorsville, but two miles away. Many prisoners were taken, and it looked as though the whole Federal army would be routed by the flood of fugitives, followed by Jackson's fierce soldiery flushed with victory. At this juncture, Colquitt, commanding Rodes' right brigade in the woods south of the turnpike, thought he discovered a Federal force on his flank that required him to halt and face southward; and thus was held back, for nearly an hour, Jackson's forward movement, giving Schurz's division, which he would have struck in flank had he continued to advance, time to escape; but Howard's corps was completely wrecked, and all opposition was speedily brushed away as Jackson's men, his lines of battle indiscriminately mixed in finding their way through the dense forests of second-growth timber and over fields along the turnpike, sprang over the Federal works that had been thrown across the road at Dowdall's tavern, nearly two miles east of where Jackson had formed his lines of battle, and about the same distance from Chancellorsville. Overcoming the slight opposition of a Federal rally at this point, Jackson still pressed forward, driving the Federals before him, until he reached a line of log breastworks and abatis that Hooker had thrown up a mile to the west of Chancellorsville, along a cross road leading to Hazel Grove and through the woods. Behind these and the divisions of Berry and Williams, the remnant of Howard's corps found refuge.
       When Jackson reached these formidable obstacles the sun had set and only twilight of the day remained. In their hot pursuit through the tangled forest his men had, of necessity, become completely mixed and all organization lost. Availing himself of the opportunity offered by these obstructions to his progress, and at the urgent solicitation of Rodes and Colston, he called a halt, and ordered that the men should sort themselves and the commands be reorganized. He fell back a little for this purpose, in order that A. P. Hill might form a new line of battle with his men, who had, up to this time, been following in column along the turnpike; intending to press the pursuit as soon as he could reform his army.
       Jackson now held possession of the field of combat to within a mile of Chancellorsville, and covered the junction of the numerous roads that led from the' turnpike, where the Federal works crossed it, and among others the road leading northeast to Bullock's, where that crossed the road leading from Chancellorsville to either Ely's or the United States ford, and immediately in Hooker's rear, less than a mile north of Chancellorsville. Another turning of Hooker's right, along the leading of this road, would cut off his line of retreat and throw him into the arms of Lee, who, with his two divisions, was keeping up a bold contention on Hooker's eastern front and holding the roads against a movement toward Fredericksburg.

General Stonewall Jackson Grave
General Stonewall Jackson Grave.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Photograph: Women mourning at Jackson's grave, circa 1866.)

       After urging A. P. Hill to promptness in forming his line of battle, and giving him the order to "Press them! Cut them off from the United States ford, Hill. Press them!" Jackson, accompanied by his staff and escort, rode forward along the turnpike, through the twilight intensified by the heavy forest on each side of the road, and up to his skirmish line to reconnoiter, the accompanying engineers even riding up to a Federal battery which had halted in the road, and where one of them, Captain Howard of A. P. Hill's staff, was captured. The ringing of the axes of the stalwart brigade of Federal pioneers told Jackson that Hooker was already throwing obstacles in the way of his advance, so he promptly turned back and rode at a trot toward his own command. As he approached Hill's newly formed line of battle, some one called out, "A Yankee cavalry charge," for such was suggested by the sudden appearance of Jackson and the score or more that accompanied him, coming through the darkness of the forest; when, without orders, the Eighteenth North Carolina fired a volley, of ounce musket balls, which desperately wounded Jackson, killed Captain Boswell, his chief engineer, and one of his escort.
       Jackson's condition required that he be taken at once from the field to the hospital near the Old Wilderness tavern, and the command devolved on A. P. Hill, who was soon after wounded in the firing that the Federals opened after Hill's men had fired on Jackson. Rodes now succeeded to the command of the Second corps, but declined to take the responsibility, and upon consultation, Stuart, who was guarding the rear against the Federal cavalry which was on the road leading to Ely's ford, was sent for, and, as the ranking officer present, he took command of the corps, at about midnight, and with his accustomed and well-nigh tireless energy, spent the remainder of the night getting the command in readiness to resume offensive operations with the dawn of the coming day.
       Near the time of Stuart's taking command, Sickles reached the vicinity of Hazel Grove, a farm and farmhouse at the southern end of the Chancellorsville open plateau, returning from his fruitless advance to Catherine furnace. The heavy condition of the atmosphere and the dense intervening forests had so deadened the sound of Jackson's attack, which was mainly one of infantry and light guns, that neither Lee nor Sickles had heard the noise of Jackson's battle until it neared Chancellorsville; but when the nearby sound reached Lee, he promptly ordered McLaws to move a heavy skirmish line along the old turnpike against Hooker's left. Anderson failed to respond to a like order to attack Hooker's center, and suffered Sickles to retire unmolested; but when he advanced his skirmishers northward from Hazel Grove toward Jackson's front, they were driven back by Hill's skirmishers. Sickles then turned the larger part of his command against the flank of Hooker's retreating Twelfth corps, and entered into a fight with Slocum's men, of his own army, claiming that in this fight with his associates he had recaptured the plank road and that his men had inflicted the fatal wound on Jackson.
       After Jackson had been removed to the field hospital and his arm had been amputated, and before the arrival of Stuart, after a consultation with Adjt.-Gen. A. S. Pendleton, Captain Hotchkiss, guided by a young Doctor Chancellor, of the vicinage, by a wide detour to the southward, rode to Lee, informed him of the position of the Second corps, and of what had happened up to the time of his leaving. Lee, thus informed, gave orders for Stuart to incline his lines to the right, while he would incline those under his immediate command to the left, and thus form a connected line of battle, which would, on the morning of the 3d, make a front attack on Hooker and drive him back from Chancellorsville toward the Rappahannock.
       Captain Wilbourne, signal officer of the Second corps, reached Lee at about the same time that Captain Hotchkiss did, and gave further information from his points of observation. Choked with emotion, General Lee received the news of the wounding of Jackson, and sadly remarked: "Any victory is dearly bought which deprives us of the services of General Jackson, even for a short time." Soon after, having had his arm disabled by the springing aside of his horse against a tree, Lee dictated this letter to Jackson:

I have just received your note informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead. I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill and energy.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE, General.

       This letter was read to Jackson the next day, while the fierce battle was raging in the immediate vicinity of Chancellorsville. Turning aside his face from the one who read it, Jackson said: "General Lee is very kind, but he should give the praise to God."

General Stonewall Jackson's horse "Little Sorrel"
General Stonewall Jackson horse.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Photograph: General Stonewall Jackson's horse "Little Sorrel," after the Civil War. Originally purchased by Jackson as a gift for his wife and initially named "Fancy," this name was short-lived. Jackson decided to keep the horse, and it was universally known as "Little Sorrel." Described as small (approximately 15 hands) and gaunt, but with remarkable powers of endurance, "Little Sorrel" remained Jackson's favorite and he was riding this horse when he was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.)

       Dawn of the morning of Sunday, May 3d, found Lee ready for an assault upon Hooker in his intrenched position around Chancellorsville, and saying to his staff, as he mounted his horse: "Those people shall be pressed immediately." No one in the army was more fitted to take the place of Jackson and lead his hardy veterans to victory than fearless "Jeb" Stuart, and with the rising of the sun he promptly ordered forward A. P. Hill's division to the south of the plank road, inclining it to the eastward, while, at the same time, Lee moved McLaws westward, along the plank road, and Anderson northward and westward, south of the plank road, inclining to the left, to fill up the line of interval between his left and Stuart's right
       During the night of the 2d, Hooker was reinforced by 17,000 men of the First corps, under Reynolds, and he now had concentrated at Chancellorsville' some 80,000 men, disposed in a bluntly acute salient, projecting southward from each side of Chancellorsville, with the apex at Hazel Grove. The western side of this salient extended for over a mile to the northward from the apex, covering the approaches from the west and the ground held by Jackson's corps. The eastern side of the salient extended about a mile to the northeast, from the apex to the old turnpike, east of Chancellorsville, then reached about a mile to the west of north, to near the Bullock house, thus covering all approaches to Chancellorsville from the eastward. Hooker's lines were nearly those he held the night before, after the retreat of his right from Jackson. His left, facing eastward, was held by 20,000 men of Geary's and Hancock's divisions and the remnant of Howard's corps. In front of these, on Lee's right, were the 14,000 of McLaws and Anderson. Hooker's right was held by the 23,000 men in the division of Williams and the corps of Sickles. Within these two Federal wings were 37,000 more men of the corps of Meade, Reynolds and Couch, in reserve, in the open fields, ready to support either wing. Facing Hooker's right was Stuart with the 20,000 veterans of the Second corps of the army of Northern Virginia.
       Stuart began the bat fie at early dawn by moving against Hooker's right, mainly north of the plank road and against the heavy line of defenses of timber and abatis that the active Federal army had thrown up before and during the preceding night. Stuart, in person, rode behind the line of battle, his black plume waving as, in merry mood and clear, sharp voice, he sang, "Fighting Joe Hooker, come out of the Wilderness!" His right soon took the lead and attacked Hooker's center near Hazel Grove, capturing four Federal guns and gaining a position on the south end of the Chancellorsville plateau. As the light of day increased, Stuart's quick military eye detected the advantages of this Hazel Grove position, and he ordered Walker to concentrate thirty guns upon that point. These gave him an enfilade, as he was at the apex of Hooker's salient, along both the right and the left wing of the Federal army. Anderson's guns, under Hardaway, coming forward from toward Catherine furnace, also secured an enfilading position, and under the concentrated fire of these well served big guns, Hooker's position became untenable in about an hour.
       While Lee's artillery was doing this effective work, McLaws assaulted Hooker's left; Anderson his center, from the south; while Stuart pressed line after line against his right. By 8 of the morning, Lee's wings were joined in front of Chancellorsville, in continuous line of battle, and a stubborn fight, of stroke and counter-stroke, began. Three times the bold Confederates took the Federal line of defenses, and three times were they driven from them by Hooker's brave fighters. His many well-handled guns aided in the repulses; but those of Lee finally overcame those of Hooker. A Confederate shell striking a heavy brick column of the Chancellor house, disabled Hooker himself, and Couch was compelled to take the command without having any definite plan of defense.
       By 10 o'clock Stuart had broken through the Federal lines on the westward and gained the central point of the Chancellorsville plateau, at the little Fairview cemetery, thus forcing Hooker's men to retreat, driven by the desperate courage of inferior numbers, from their strongly-intrenched positions on three sides of Chancellorsville, past that burning mansion, into the strong line of intrenchments (the most formidable the writer ever saw constructed from timber) which Hooker had thrown up, as a refuge of last resort, during the preceding night, extending across from the mouth of Hunting run of the Rapidan, to the Rappahannock at the mouth of Mineral Spring run, a line nearly six miles in length.
       Lee rode in the midst of his line of battle as his men pressed forward in pursuit, pouring volley after volley into Hooker's retreating army, while the shells of the numerous Confederate batteries were thrown over their heads, to burst in the Federal ranks and add to their confusion. The surrounding forests were soon in flames, the accumulated leaves of the preceding autumn having been fired by the burning cartridges and fuses, while flames burst from the large Chancellor house and added to the smoke of the conflict and of the burning forest. Col. Charles Marshall, Lee's military secretary, describes the scene, as Lee spurred "Traveler" up to the burning house, in these words:

       Lee's presence was the signal for one of those uncontrollable bursts of enthusiasm which none can appreciate who has not witnessed them. The fierce soldiers, with their faces blackened with the smoke of battle, the wounded crawling with feeble limbs from the fury of the devouring flames, all seemed possessed with a common impulse. One long unbroken cheer, in which the feeble cry of those who lay helpless on the earth blended with the strong voices of those who still fought, rose high above the roar of battle and hailed the presence of a victorious chief. He sat in the full realization of all that soldiers dream of--triumph; and as I looked at him in the complete fruition of the success which his genius, courage, and confidence in his army had won, I thought that it must have been from some such scene that men in ancient days ascended to the dignity of gods.
       The victory won and the field of contention in his possession, Lee turned his first thoughts to rescuing the Federal wounded and his own from the conflagrations raging in the forest and at the Chancellor house. Marshall relates that just then there came a message from Jackson, with congratulations for the great victory Lee had won, adding: "I shall never forget the look of pain and anguish that passed over his face as he listened. With a voice broken with emotion he bade me say to General Jackson that the victory was his, and that the congratulations were due to him ... I forgot the genius that won the day in my reverence for the generosity that refused the glory."

Jackson's grave in Lexington, Virginia, circa 1866
Stonewall Jackson grave Lexington, Virginia.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

       Lee at once made preparations to assault Hooker's new position, when a message came from Early calling his attention to affairs at Fredericksburg. On Sunday, May 2d, Early was holding on tenaciously to the positions in front of Fredericksburg in which Lee had placed him, and was keeping Sedgwick from making an advance, when a member of Lee's staff brought him an order, which he had misunderstood, directing Early to abandon his position and march toward Chancellorsville. This withdrawal of Early from the right which he was holding with his division, all along Jackson's old position down to Hamilton's crossing, uncovered Barksdale's right on Marye heights back of Fredericksburg, and opened the way for Sedgwick to march against him in safety. The order to Early was countermanded, and on the morning of Monday, the 3d, he marched back to his former position only to see Sedgwick move 20,000 men against Barksdale's flank of 1,000 soldiers with artillery. Sedgwick won the much fought for and much coveted position, but with .great loss, as Barksdale clung to it till overwhelmed by numbers. This capture enabled Sedgwick to move his corps, of 30,000 men, past Early's left on to the plateau west of Fredericksburg, and to the possession of the river and plank roads leading toward Chancellorsville, thus giving him opportunity to fall on Lee's rear while Hooker was contending with his front.
       Wilcox, of Anderson's division, who had been left in observation near Banks' ford, promptly threw his brigade across the plank road, at Salem church, in a strong position, and informed Lee of the situation. He immediately dispatched McLaws with four brigades down the old turnpike and the plank road to reinforce Wilcox, thus meeting the emergency and providing, for a second time, against a rear attack by Sedgwick. McLaws marched rapidly to Salem church and at once joined Wilcox in an issue with Sedgwick, forcing him back a mile toward Fredericksburg, beyond the ravine of Colin run, just as the day closed. Summing up the events of the 3d of May, Lee sent a message to President Davis, saying: "We have again to thank God for a great victory."
       On Monday, May 4th, leaving Trimble's (Colston's) and D. H. Hill's (Rodes') divisions in front of the formidable works at Chancellorsville, behind which Hooker had sought safety, Lee in person led Anderson's brigades to Salem church, where by midday he placed a formidable line of battle in position, with numerous batteries, covering the front of Sedgwick's lines, which extended across the bend of the Rappahannock, from near Banks' ford, southward, along the crest above Colin run across the plank road, then along, south of that, to within a mile of Fredericksburg, then north to the Rappahannock at Taylor's hill. The same morning Early, marching along the Telegraph road, had recaptured Marye heights, and moving westward joined the right of the troops Lee already had in position. By 6 in the afternoon the Confederate lines had advanced from the west, the south and the east, and forced Sedgwick back to the Rappahannock; but McLaws, on the left, was slow in his movements, and Sedgwick was enabled to escape, by pontoons, across the river below Banks' ford and under shelter of the river bluffs. This large left wing of Hooker's army was thus finally disposed of, but after a spirited resistance. Lee, late in the day, returned to Chancellorsville and gave orders to again concentrate his army for a final assault upon Hooker's intrenched position.
       Tuesday, May 5th, was spent by Lee in reassembling his army at Chancellorsville and making preparations to assault Hooker's last-held position. He sent the writer to reconnoiter Hooker's right and ascertain whether his flank could be turned in that direction. Just at dawn, on the morning of the 6th, as Lee was about to order an advance, General Pender came galloping to his field headquarters under a tent fly at Fairview cemetery, and informed him that his skirmishers had advanced and found Hooker's gone. In surprise, he exclaimed: "Why, General Pender! That is what you young men always do. You allow these people to get away. I tell you what to do, but you don't do it." Then, with an impatient wave of the hand, he exclaimed: "Go after them and damage them all you can." A heavy rain (such as almost invariably followed great battles in Virginia) had set in during the preceding night, and under cover of that, and concealed by his formidable intrenchments and the unbroken forest through which the roads led to the United States ford, Hooker had safely withdrawn his army over the pontoon bridges that he had placed across the Rappahannock below the United States ford, only leaving behind the débris of a well-conducted retreat.
       The morning of the 7th found Hooker ordering that "General headquarters to-night will be at the old camp near Falmouth," and thence, before nightfall, issuing "congratulations" to his army. His campaign was a total failure; he had left, south of the Rappahannock, as victims to Lee's combats, over 17,000 killed, wounded and captured men; 14 field guns, 20,000 muskets and 31,000 knapsacks; and yet, in his congratulatory order he said: "The events of the last week may swell with pride the heart of every officer and soldier of this army," and saying, in conclusion, "Profoundly loyal and conscious of its strength, the army of the Potomac will give or decline battle whenever its interests or honor may demand."
       Lee's losses during the Fredericksburg-Chancellorsville campaign were 13,000. Among these were the very pick and flower of his veteran army officers, as well as privates. Among the former were the brave Paxton, an intimate of Jackson, who fell leading the Stonewall brigade to victory, and, above all, the matchless Jackson, Lee's "right arm," as he called him; and, beyond question, the main reliance of the Confederacy for the success of its cause. At least so thought not only the veterans in its armies but many of those at the head of its civic affairs, and the men and women at home, when, amid tears, they heard of his death. In his official report, Lee wrote: "The conduct of the troops cannot be too highly praised. Attacking largely superior numbers in intrenched positions, their heroic courage overcame every obstacle of nature and art, and achieved a triumph most honorable to our arms." He truthfully added: "To the skillful and efficient management of the artillery the successful issue of the contest is in great measure due."

General Stonewall Jackson
General Stonewall Jackson.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About this Picture: The last photograph of General Stonewall Jackson dates from late April 1863 and is often called the "Chancellorsville photograph." Jackson was headquartered near what would soon become his last battlefield - Chancellorsville - when a photographer from the Richmond studio of Minnis and Crowell convinced him to pose for a portrait. Jackson was killed less than two weeks later.)

       Lee's regard, affection and admiration for Jackson scarcely knew bounds. While the great hero lingered in life, near Guiney's, Lee sent him many messages of condolence, and when word came that his wounds, complicated by illness, would probably prove fatal, he said, almost overcome with emotion: "Surely General Jackson must recover. God will not take him from us now that we need him so much. Surely he will be spared to us in answer to the many prayers which are offered for him."
       Jackson died on Sunday, the 10th of May, and the next day Lee issued this general order:

With deep grief, the commanding general announces the death of Lieut.-Gen. T. J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th instant at 3:15 p.m. The daring, skill and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us, but while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and our strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who has followed him-to victory on so many fields. Let officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our beloved country.

       When, in the autumn of the year, Lee wrote his official report of this famous campaign, after calmly reviewing it, he said:

The movement by which the enemy's position was turned and the fortune of the day decided was conducted by the lamented Lieu-tenant-General Jackson, who, as has already been stated, was severely wounded near the close of the engagement on Saturday evening. I do not propose here to speak of the character of this illustrious man, since removed from the scene of his eminent usefulness by the hand of an inscrutable, but all-wise Providence. I nevertheless desire to pay the tribute of my admiration to the matchless energy and skill that marked the last act of his life, forming, as it did, a worthy conclusion of that long series of splendid achievements which won him the lasting love and gratitude of his country.

       In a letter to his wife, written May 11th, concerning "the loss of the good and great Jackson," Lee wrote: "Any victory would be dear at such a price. His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him, but God's will be done. I trust He will raise some one in his place."
       In an article on "Stonewall Jackson's Place in History," by Lieut.-Col. G. F. R. Henderson, professor of strategy in the British Staff college, contributed to the "Life of Jackson," by his wife, he wrote:

When Jackson fell at Chancellorsville, his military career had only just begun, and the question, what place he takes in history, is hardly so pertinent as the question, what place he could have taken had he been spared. So far as his opportunities had permitted, he had shown himself in no way inferior to the greatest generals of the century, to Wellington, to Napoleon, or to Lee. That Jackson was equal to the highest demands of strategy his deeds and conceptions show; that he was equal to the task of handling a large army on the field of battle must be left to conjecture; but throughout the whole of his soldier's life he was never intrusted with any detached mission which he failed to execute with complete success. No general made fewer mistakes. No general so persistently outwitted his opponents. No general better understood the use of the ground or the value of time. No general was more highly endowed with courage, both physical and moral, and none ever secured to a greater degree the trust and affection of his troops. And yet, so upright was his life, so profound his faith, so exquisite his tenderness, that Jackson's many victories are almost his least claim to be ranked amongst the world's true heroes.

(Video interviews regarding the faith, life, and death of General "Stonewall" Jackson)

(Related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (Hardcover) (950 pages). Description: A distinguished Civil War historian unravels the complex character of the Confederacy's greatest general. Drawing on previously untapped manuscript sources, the author refutes such long-standing myths as Stonewall Jackson's obsessive eating of lemons and gives a three-dimensional account of the profound religious faith frequently caricatured as grim Calvinism. Though the author capably covers the battles that made Jackson a legend--Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, etc.--he emphasizes "the life story of an extraordinary man." The result is a biography that will fascinate even those allergic to military history. Continued below...

The New York Times Book Review, Stephen W. Sears . . . [T]wo dozen writers have attempted [Stonewall] biographies, and there are any number of special studies, monographs and essays. Now going straight to the head of the class of Jackson biographers, and likely to remain there, is James I. Robertson Jr. . . . Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend gives us far and away the sharpest picture we have ever had of this enigmatic figure.

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Recommended Reading: The Stonewall Brigade, by James I. Robertson (Author) (304 pages) (Louisiana State University Press). Description: Commanded by Thomas J. Jackson and comprised of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia Infantry Regiments, plus the Rockbridge Artillery Battery, the unit was officially Virginia's First Brigade. This changed forever at the Battle of First Manassas when in the face of a seemingly overwhelming Federal attack, General Bee, an adjacent Confederate brigade commander, reportedly said, "Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; let's go to his assistance. Rally behind the Virginians!" Continued below...

This book describes the Stonewall Brigade in combat from first mustering to bitter end, when only 210 ragged and footsore soldiers remained of the 6,000 that served through the war. Absolutely a must read for the Civil War buff!

 

Recommended Reading: Beloved Bride: The Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife. Description: He called her "my beloved esposa" because Anna was his dearest love on this earth. The great military exploits of General Stonewall Jackson are studied in military schools around the globe, and his iron will and stern self-discipline have become legendary. However, little has been said about his remarkable marriage. The real Thomas J. Jackson was a humble Christian and loving husband and father. Continued below...

The tender and instructive letters he wrote to his wife Anna are a model of godly leadership and covenantal faithfulness. From their courtship to their final days together, trace the true story of this remarkable couple through the letters of General Jackson to his bride. Even in the midst of the most arduous military campaigns, Stonewall took the time to send home extensive letters of love and devotion. Through all of this, General Jackson proves himself to be a model example for Christian husbands of the twenty-first century -- especially through his dedication to living for God's glory and trusting in His providential care. This special edition book features a foreword by Stephen Lang, the actor who portrays "Stonewall" Jackson in the film, Gods and Generals.

 

Recommended Reading: Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend (Hardcover). Description: Many historians have touched on Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's relationship with African Americans in light of his Christian faith. Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend explores an aspect of his life that is both intriguing and enlightening: his conversion to Christianity and how it affected his relationship with Southern blacks. Covering the origin of Jackson's awakening to faith, the book challenges some widely held beliefs, including the assumption that this spiritual journey did not begin until his adulthood. Furthermore, Richard G. Williams Jr. examines a paradox of Jackson's life: his conversion to Christianity was encouraged by Southern slaves. Continued below...

That faith would one day lead Jackson to minister to other slaves through his Sunday school class. Exploring in depth Jackson's now famous "Colored Sabbath School," Williams reveals—for the first time—the influence his efforts had on subsequent generations of African Americans. Using original documents, interviews, historical resources, and heretofore unpublished letters and photographs, Williams confirms the veneration with which blacks from Virginia esteemed Jackson, even years after his death—and some to this day. An interview with and photographs of two spiritual descendants of Jackson's black Sunday-school class adds a real-life connection to this fascinating dimension of the famed general's life. The book also examines Jackson's documented youthful pangs of conscience regarding the illiteracy of American slaves—and how Providence ultimately came to use him to have a lasting and positive impact on Southern blacks.

 

Recommended Viewing: Gods & Generals (2003) (219 minutes), starring Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Mark Aldrich, and George Allen. Description: The more you know about the Civil War, the more you'll appreciate Gods and Generals and the painstaking attention to detail that Gettysburg writer-director Ronald F. Maxwell has invested in this academically respectable 219-minute historical pageant. Continued below…

In adapting Jeffrey Shaara's 1996 novel (encompassing events of 1861-63, specifically the Virginian battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville), Maxwell sacrifices depth for scope while focusing on the devoutly religious "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang), whose Confederate campaigns endear him to Gen. Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall, giving the film's most subtle performance). Battles are impeccably recreated using 7,500 Civil War re-enactors and sanitized PG-13 violence, their authenticity compromised by tasteful discretion and endless scenes of grandiloquent dialogue. Still, as the first part of a trilogy that ends with The Last Full Measure, this is a superbly crafted, instantly essential film for Civil War study. For all its misguided priorities, Gods and Generals is a noble effort, honoring faith and patriotism with the kind of reverence that has all but vanished from American film – but provides abundant proof that historical accuracy is no guarantee of great storytelling. It is a sweeping epic charting the early years of the Civil War and how campaigns unfolded from Manassas to the Battle of Fredericksburg, and this video was the prequel to the film Gettysburg, which explores the motivations of the combatants and examines the lives of those who waited at home.

 

Recommended Reading: The Gallant Dead: Union and Confederate Generals Killed in the Civil War (Hardcover). Description: More than 400 Confederate and 580 Union soldiers advanced to the rank of general during the course of the Civil War. (More than 1 in 10 would die.) A total of 124 generals died--78 for the South and 46 for the North. Continued below...

Weaving their stories into a seamless narrative of the entire conflict, Derek Smith paints a fascinating and often moving portrait of the final moments of some of the finest American warriors in history, including Stonewall Jackson, Albert Sidney Johnston, Jeb Stuart, James B. McPherson, John Reynolds, and numerous others.

 

Recommended Reading: Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (912 pages). Description: Hailed as one of the greatest Civil War books, this exhaustive study is an abridgement of the original three-volume version. It is a history of the Army of Northern Virginia from the first shot fired to the surrender at Appomattox - but what makes this book unique is that it incorporates a series of biographies of more than 150 Confederate officers. The book discusses in depth all the tradeoffs that were being made politically and militarily by the South. Continued below...

The book does an excellent job describing the battles, then at a critical decision point in the battle, the book focuses on an officer - the book stops and tells the biography of that person, and then goes back to the battle and tells what information the officer had at that point and the decision he made. At the end of the battle, the officers decisions are critiqued based on what he "could have known and what he should have known" given his experience, and that is compared with 20/20 hindsight. "It is an incredibly well written book!"

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