Hazel Grove Walking Trail
The tragic wounding of "Stonewall" Jackson at 9:00 p.m., May 2, 1863, brought to an end a day of momentous military events. The Battle of Chancellorsville, however, was far from over. the action on May 3rd would determine if the Confederates could exploit Jackson's initial success and continue to drive the Union army from its fortified positions. The end result of the many charges and counter thrusts over the ground between two elevated clearings, Hazel Grove and Fairview, dictated the outcome of the battle.
This hill formed approximately on-fourth of a large open field on a tract of land called Hazel Grove. In the pre-dawn hours of May 3, Union chieftain Joseph Hooker unwisely ordered his forces positioned here to abandon Hazel Grove. Jackson's attacks the previous evening had played havoc with Hooker's deployment, and the Federal commander wished to adjust his lines. He instructed his men to fall back closer to the Union artillery concentrated at Fairview, the ridge across the open field 1/2 mile ahead of you. Cavalry officer J. E. B. Stuart had replaced the wounded Jackson in command of the Confederate forces located about 1/4 mile behind you and extending to your left nearly a mile. R. E. Lee commanded another portion of the Confederate army, one mile to your right. The two generals planned to advance their respective wings toward Hazel Grove, and here reunite their outnumbered and divided army. Union occupation of Hazel Grove would have offered formidable resistance to the Confederate objective, but thanks to Hooker's tactical blunder, Stuart's forward movement encountered only a Union rearguard. With the capture of four cannon and 100 prisoners, the Confederates seized this vital terrain.
The landscape around Chancellorsville, known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania and characterized by dense woods, offered few opportunities for the use of artillery. The Confederates quickly realized that this open ground was well-suited for cannon. Shortly after Stuart's seizure of Hazel Grove, Rebel guns crowned this hill. They targeted the Yankee cannon at Fairview and the supporting infantry in the woods on either side of the clearing.
TOUR STOP 3: STRUGGLE IN THE WOODS, THE INFANTRY FIGHT
The Wilderness vegetation hampered attempts by the infantry of either army to coordinate their efforts. Accordingly, the opposing foot soldiers of many commands ebbed and flowed through the woods to your left. About 8:00 a.m. nearly tow hours after the day's struggle began, Union reinforcements under General Charles Graham formed between here and the Orange Turnpike ahead of you. As Colonel Amor McKnight of the 105th Pennsylvania on this end of the line ordered his men to advance to take their turn at the front, a Confederate sharpshooter's bullet instantly killed him. "Go for them, they have shot the colonel!" yelled the Pennsylvanians as they rushed into action, renewing the conflict in the woods.
TOUR STOP 4: 12TH NEW HAMPSHIRE, HOLDING OPEN THE RETREAT ROUTE
The action of the typifies the brutal fighting along the mile long battlefront. About 9:15 a.m. from a position near here, the regiment entered the woods to your left. Graham's Brigade had retreated under a Confederate onslaught, and the 12th was called upon to fill the breach in the Union line. Instructed to hold the enemy in check "until the last man falls," the regiment stepped off. Met with "that savage-like screech" known as the rebel yell, the 12th managed to stem the Confederate tide long enough for new line to be formed beyond Fairview at the Chancellorsville Inn, 1/2 mile to your right front. But their mission carried a high cost -- 317 casualties out of 558 men.
TOUR STOP 5: CAPTAIN BEST'S UNION ARTILLERY POSITION
Captain Clermont Best commanded the Union artillery here on the Fairview farmstead. His original position faced south, protected by the gun pits a few yards behind you. On the evening of May 2, he swung his guns around to help repulse "Stonewall" Jackson's attack and had his men fortify this ridge with the earthworks visible along the tree line to your right. (The tree line did not exist in 1863.) The Union forces that abandoned Hazel Grove early on May 3 rallied around Best's guns at Fairview. As the morning wore on, Best had no choice but to send some of his cannon to the rear as ammunition chests emptied. Army headquarters could not or would not respond to pleas for more projectiles. When Confederate riflemen appeared on each end of Best's line, picking off gunners and horses, he felt "compelled to withdraw my guns to save them." By 9:30 a.m., cannon crews still possessing rounds headed for the new line being established near the Chancellorsville Inn.
TOUR STOP 6: BATTLE MAP, THE FALL OF FAIRVIEW
The two Confederate wings, one under Stuart and another with Lee, linked together about 1/4 mile behind you. This re-united force delivered a musketry fire from this sector, raking Best's line and hastening its flight. Teams of horses strained to haul Confederate cannon from Hazel Grove to the former Union line at Fairview. A.L. Scott observed Lee near this new artillery position: "He was standing by his horse with reins over his arm, calmly directing the battle." With the Confederates pounding the Chancellorsville Inn from three directions, that Union position also fell promptly.
TOUR STOP 7: 27TH INDIANA REGIMENTAL MONUMENT
This monument stands between two smaller flank markers indicating the front occupied by the 27th Indiana, one of more than 200 Federal regiments present for duty on the Chancellorsville battlefield. An average regiment, 430 strong, could form a pair of lines, each line two men deep, in the space between these flank markers.
To learn more about the Battle of Chancellorsville, click here.
Did You Know?
The Chancellorsville Visitor Center was built in 1963 within a few yards of the spot where "Stonewall" Jackson was wounded.