Chancellorsville Battlefield Tour

Discover Chancellorsville Battlefield Navigation

 
Map of Chancellorsville Battlefield driving tour
From April 30-May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville raged in the area called the Wilderness of Spotsylvania County. For Confederates, this victory provided a distraction from a crumbling home front and hope that Northern support for the war would falter. What were the consequences of the Battle of Chancellorsville?

The battlefield includes shared public roads that may move at high speeds. Drive carefully. This route and audio tour is also available via the National Park Service app (available at the Apple Store and on Google Play).
 
 

1. Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center

A low, single story brick building surrounded by blooming flowers in trees
The Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center is located off modern-day Route 3, at the location where Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded.

Welcome to the Chancellorsville Battlefield Driving Tour. The Chancellorsville Campaign included three engagements between the Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia: around the Chancellorsville intersection, at Fredericksburg, and at Salem Church. This 10-stop tour focuses on the Chancellorsville engagement.

The Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center is located at the spot where Confederate soldiers accidentally wounded General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. You can learn more about this event on the short interpretive trail encircling the visitor center. While the story of Jackson’s wounding is arguably the most famous incident that occurred during the battle, it is a story that has frequently overshadowed and obscured the historical consequences of the Chancellorsville Campaign

This tour looks at the context within which this battle took place, the people here and the decisions they made, the role of strategy and chance, and how the events here fit into the wider story of the Civil War.

 
 

Driving Directions to Bullock House Site, Stop #2

Take a right onto Bullock Road from the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center and drive 0.6 miles to Tour Stop #2, Bullock House Site. Park in the pull out on your right.


2. Bullock House Site

A field reaching to a line of trees in fall.
The Bullock House once sat at this intersection, about a mile north of Chancellorsville.

Oscar and Catharine Bullock lived in a white house that once stood here with their two small children and Catharine’s brother, David Kyle. The Bullocks enslaved five people, who lived in a smaller house nearby.

Over the winter of 1862-1863, Confederate soldiers were a constant presence in this area. A battle became more imminent on the morning of April 30, 1863 when the approaching Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry skirmished with the 12th Virginia Infantry here. The Confederates backed away towards Fredericksburg, opening up the road for US soldiers in to advance on Chancellorsville. The Battle of Chancellorsville unfolded over the next several days. This location would be a headquarters, a field hospital, and ultimately, this clearing would become the apex of Hooker’s last defensive line after retreating from Chancellorsville.

By the end of the battle the property was in ruins and the lives of the civilians here changed forever.

 
 

Driving Directions to the Chancellor House Site, Stop #3

Continue along Bullock Road to the dead end, then turn right to Elys Ford Road. Drive 0.6 miles to Tour Stop #3, Chancellor House Site, and park in the lot to your right.


3. Chancellor House Site

A cannon in a field at sunset
The view from Chancellorsville stretches across the fields of Fairview across to Hazel Grove. Photo courtesy Buddy Secor.


Forty years before the Civil War the Chancellor family erected a large house here, a tavern catering to travelers coming to and from Fredericksburg. Over time, the property expanded and included the Chancellorsville Inn and 300 acres of improved farmland.

During the war, widow Frances Chancellor occupied the house with her children. Approximately 20 enslaved people plus an overseer and his family lived and worked on the property. After the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation the enslaved residents crossed into to Union lines in Stafford except for one young girl who remained behind. The Chancellors had strong Confederate sympathies and their home was a popular resting place for Confederates over the winter of 1863. When the US army arrived at the Chancellor House on April 30, neighbors and friends took refuge here, bringing the total number of civilians in the house to 16.

The Chancellor house served as Hooker’s headquarters during the battle and was the central point around which the battle raged.

 
 

Driving Directions to McLaws' Line, Stop #4

Turn left at the light onto Route 3 (Plank Road) and drive 1.3 miles. Turn right at McClaws Drive and in 0.3 miles park in the small lot to your right at Tour Stop #4, McLaws' Line.


4. McLaws' Line

An open agricultural fields, sloping hills, covered in 2 inches of snow
From here on May 1-3, Confederate General Lafaytette McLaws kept US forces around the Chancellor House occupied as Jackson's troops executed their flank march and attacked from the west.

From here the Chancellorsville intersection is located just over a mile to the west. On May 1st, Hooker ordered his troops to march on Fredericksburg. After a brief engagement with Confederates a mile east of here Hooker ordered his advancing troops to retreat and consolidate around Chancellorsville.

Following the retreating Federals, Confederates under General Lafayette McLaws arrived here in the afternoon. The Army of Northern Virginia would occupy this location for the rest of the battle.On May 2, McLaws launched a series of diversionary attacks across this ground, keeping US forces occupied while Jackson led a flank march around the Federals. On May 3, Lee renewed his efforts to repel US forces at Chancellorsville. From here, McLaws increased the pressure with bigger, more determined attacks against the Federals.

There is a 1-mile loop trail here that interprets the action between Lafayette McLaws’ Confederates and Nelson Miles’ US troops on May 3.

 
 

Driving Directions to the Lee-Jackson Bivouac, Stop #5

Continue along McClaws Drive for 0.5 miles. Tour Stop #5, Lee-Jackson Bivouac, will be on the right immediately after you pass straight through the intersection at Old Plank Road. Park in the pull out on your right.


5. Lee-Jackson Bivouac

A stone marker in an open space with some snow on the ground.
Confederate commander Robert E. Lee met with his subordinate General "Stonewall" Jackson here on the night of May 1, 1863 and planned to attack the US flank the next day.

On the evening of May 1 Confederates held a battle line that stretched along this road, currently the park road, from the Orange Turnpike south along the Furnace Road to Catharine Furnace.

While US forces focused on improving their defenses, Robert E. Lee and Confederate commanders discussed what actions to take. For Lee, ordering a frontal assault against the entrenched Federals would be perilous. A flank attack, charging against Federal’s side would maximize the Confederate’s impact. This is the course Lee decided to take in night between May 1 and May 2. General Jackson, in charge of the Confederate 2nd Corps would lead the flank attack with nearly 30,000 troops beginning on the morning of May 2.

 
 

Driving Directions to Catharine Furnace, Stop #6

Continue along Furnace Road for 1.4 miles and turn left to reach Tour Stop #6, Catharine Furnace. Park in the lot to your left.


6. Catharine Furnace

A stone furnace stack on a rocky mound surrounded by a thin layer of snow.
During the Civil War Catharine Furnace was an active operation that produced iron for the Confederacy.

Today all that remains of Catharine Furnace is the stone furnace stack that sits at the intersection of the Furnace Road and the Jackson Trail East.

Catharine Furnace was part of the reason why the area around Chancellorsville was known as the Wilderness. When European colonists began settling here they depleted the soil after repeated tobacco planting and began calling the region “the Poison Fields.” While the ground was not ideal for agricultural production, it was ripe with minerals.

In 1837, Catharine Furnace became one of numerous furnaces in the region. The primary owner, John Wellford, created a furnace complex with dozens of buildings, loading docks, dorms for enslaved and free laborers, and a road network across over 4,000 acres. Fuel for the furnace came in the form of coal, made from local trees. This deforestation left large swaths of land barren. By the time the armies arrived, many of these formerly deforested areas were filled with young, dense, second growth forests.

 
 

Driving Directions to Slocum's Line, Stop #7

Continue south along Lee Drive until the road ends at Tour Stop #6, Prospect Hill, in 0.5 miles.


7. Slocum's Line

A sign for Slocum's Line next to a road.
The US 12th Corps under General Henry Slocum set up a line here until May 3, when they were forced to retreat to Fairview.

Between Catharine Furnace to the south and this location lies Lewis Run. Lewis Run carves out a swampy morass in the Wilderness; it is a difficult place for soldiers to maneuver or fight.

Slocum Drive is located on higher ground to that guards the region north of Lewis Run. General Henry W. Slocum’s US 12th Corps formed its battle line along this high ground. Today, faint traces of earthen fortifications erected by the US soldiers follow the curves of the park road. Slocum’s men built these trenches on May 1 and 2 and Hooker established his defensive line around Chancellorsville.Slocum’s troops used logs principally for cover and dug enough dirt to hold the logs in place. As the war went on and soldiers gained more experience building defensive works, their trenches became deeper and more imposing.

On May 3, as Confederates seized Hazel Grove they would force Slocum’s men to abandon this position and retreat back to Fairview.

 
 

Driving Directions to Jackson's Flank Attack, Stop #8

Continue along Slocum Drive for 0.3 miles until it dead ends at Old Plank Road. Turn left at Old Plank Road and in 0.1 miles turn left at the light onto Route 3 (Plank Road). Drive 2.7 miles on Route 3 to Tour Stop #8, Jackson's Flank Attack. Turn right and follow the dirt road for 0.2 miles to the interpretive signs.


8. Jackson's Flank Attack

Rolling hills covered in fog at sunrise.
Jackson launched an attack on the US right flank here, forcing the US 12th Corps under General O. O. Howard to retreat for 2 miles. Image courtsy Buddy Secor.

General Oliver Otis Howard’s US 11th Corps anchored the end of the Federal battle line, the right flank, on the high ground here.

The 11th Corps was the smallest corps in the Army of the Potomac, and Howard had only been in command of the corps for a month. Of the 11th Corps’ 23 regiments present (one brigade had been sent to Catharine Furnace) 11 were German, composed primarily of first- and second-generation immigrants, and 8 had never before been into battle. Because of the high concentration of Germans both in the ranks and in leadership positions, the rest of the Army of the Potomac frequently associated the 11th Corps with German culture and the wider community of German immigrants in the United States.

German troops hoped that proving themselves in battle would improve their standing and increase the trust between the German and English speaking regiments. Instead, the Battle of Chancellorsville would be a disaster for the 11th Corps.

 
 

Driving Directions to Hazel Grove, Stop #9

Head back to Route 3 (Plank Road) and turn right. In 0.3 miles make a U-turn and drive back towards Chancellorsville. In 2.1 miles turn right onto Stuart Drive to Tour Stop #9, Hazel Grove, on the right in 0.5 miles. Park in the pull out on your right.


9. Hazel Grove

An open field covered in 2 inches of snow.
Confederates took Hazel Grove on the morning of May 3, and turned this high ground into a critical artillery position from which to assault the US forces centered around the Chancellor House Site.

Hazel Grove was a 300-acre plantation established by Melzi Chancellor, the eldest son of Ann and George Chancellor, located adjacent to the Chancellor family’s Fairview Plantation. Melzi Chancellor moved out in 1859, and the property was reportedly occupied by a family named Sullivan during the Civil War.

By the end of the battle, the construction of earthworks, fighting, artillery fire that swirled around this site left the property in ruins.On May 2, this knoll was occupied by the US 3rd Corps led by General Daniel Sickles. After Jackson’s flank attack rolled up the US 11th Corps, Sickles attempted to attack the Confederate position north of here that night. However, the dark woods created too much confusion and chaos for an effective assault. Sickles’ troops would instead wait until morning for the fighting to resume.

Taking this ground proved critical to Confederate forces on the morning of May 3, 1863, and from here, the most intense fighting of the Battle of Chancellorsville took place.

 
 

Driving Directions to Fairview, Stop #10

Continue along Stuart Drive for about 300 feet and veer left on Berry Paxton Road. Drive 0.4 miles to Tour Stop #10, Fairview.


10. Fairview

A line of cannons pointed across an open field at sunrise.
The US artillery position defended Fairview on the morning of May 3 in the face of heavy Confederate fire until around 10:30am when they retreated back to the Bullock House area.

The US Army held their position at Fairview for 5 hours on May 3, 1863 before falling back to a secondary line near the Bullock House. This retreat marked the end of the fighting around the Chancellorsville, but no the end of the battle. Ultimately, it was Hooker who made the decision to take his army back across the Rappahannock River and put an end to his ambitious campaign.

Large numbers of causalities sobered Lee’s excitement about his victory here, and the battle did nothing to solve the many problems plaguing the Confederate government. In the Army of the Potomac, soldiers maintained their morale, even if they had lost faith in Joseph Hooker. The armies would fight again.

After the armies moved on, the region surrounding Chancellorsville was devastated and would barely have a chance to recover before these same armies fought here again, at the Battle of the Wilderness, one year later.

 
 

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    Last updated: October 3, 2022

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