Today is the anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of fighting of the entire Civil War. Those of you who visit Chancellorsville today will enjoy an insightful tour and interpretation of the final day’s fighting at Chancellorsville that took place in the area around the clearing between Hazel Grove, Fairview, and the Chancellor House. The overwhelming majority of the roughly 30,000 casualties suffered that day between the two armies took place in this area on May 3, 1863. While Stonewall Jackson’s daring flanking maneuver and its successful assault, which resulted in the collapse of the Eleventh Corps, damaged the Army of the Potomac the day ended with the two wings of Lee’s army split off from one another and facing much larger enemy forces in their respective fronts. A Federal counterattack was still possible and Lee knew it. Throughout the morning of May 3, Lee’s army fought to reunite its two dangerously divided wings.
Interestingly, many visitors to Chancellorsville never walk the May 3 ground or if they do they fail to appreciate its significance. For many, a visit to Chancellorsville begins and ends at the visitors center, whose location reinforces a Jackson-centered narrative that highlights his flanking maneuver, assault, and accidental wounding on the very same ground. You can replay the series of events that led to Jackson’s wounding at the hands of his own men and imagine to your hearts content those counterfactual scenarios that keep the general alive at least through the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. Continue reading →