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).
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #1, Introduction
Welcome to the Chancellorsville Driving Tour. This introduction is the first of a 10-stop tour that focuses on the Battle of Chancellorsville. 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.
In December 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia blocked the US Army of the Potomac from getting to Richmond at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Consequently, both armies spent the winter on opposite banks of the Rappahannock River. The Battle of Chancellorsville, in the following spring, was the next large engagement between these two armies. This tour explores the story of the Battle of Chancellorsville. To understand that story, we first have to understand the state of the Civil War in early 1863. Following the disaster at Fredericksburg, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to maintain support for the war. A growing number of weary Americans were eager for peace and support for Copperheads, or Peace Democrats, was on the rise. People were questioning what the end goal was: what would a reunified United States look like and was it worth this cost? On January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation declared enslaved persons in places still in rebellion to be free and approved the enlistment of black regiments. From the start of the war, enslaved people within the Confederacy had used the conflict as an opportunity to flee from slavery. By 1863, thousands of refugees from slavery had poured into U.S. lines and aligned themselves with the Federal government in opposition to the Confederacy, but their status was often unclear. After January 1, enslaved people who reached Union lines, or who were within Confederate territory taken by the U.S. Army, would officially be free. For the first time, the federal government invited Black men to serve as soldiers in the U.S. Army. Their service would increase the strength of the army for the rest of the war. The proclamation ensured that if Lincoln and his troops succeeded in saving the Union, that Union would be irreversibly changed. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not abolish slavery – that would require a Constitutional amendment – it was an important step in the process of undermining the system of human bondage. Still, in May of 1863 slavery’s future in the United States was undetermined. Moreover, the future of the U.S. war effort still depended on the success of its armies in the field and the continued support of voters at home. For their part, Confederate policy makers battled to keep their home front stable. The Confederacy was cracking from the inside by 1863 and the weaknesses of a political experiment premised on proslavery ideals and dedicated to the idea that all men were not created equal, were on full display. Women organized and led bread riots throughout the south in the spring of 1863, highlighting the inability of the Confederate government to provide for the basic needs of its people. Enslaved people on the Southern home front took advantage of the chaos created by war and refused to work, demanded wages, took control of the plantations where they labored, and provided intelligence to the US Army. These actions destabilized the systems that made slavery profitable and undermined the Confederate war effort. Facing troubles at home, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia became a beacon of hope for Confederates. Lee had won several battles since taking command in 1862. His victory at Fredericksburg boosted his soldiers’ morale, but the unpleasant reality of food shortages sobered these feelings quickly. On January 28, Lee wrote to Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon, “As far as I can learn, we now have about one week’s supply, four days’ fresh beef, and four days salt meat, of the reduced ration. After that is exhausted, I know not whence further supplies can be drawn. The question of provisioning the army is becoming one of greater difficulty every day.” Thinking back to that winter, one Confederate officer declared, “That winter was probably the most dreary and miserable we had. ” Over the winter Lee dispersed men and horses across Virginia and North Carolina to ease food shortages. When the US 9th Corps appeared at the Virginia coastline, Lee sent two divisions under the command of General James Longstreet to southeast Virginia in response and used the mission as an opportunity to collect supplies. As a result, Confederate forces in and around Fredericksburg dwindled from 78,000 men to about 60,000 by the end of April. For the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock River, this winter brought a different set of challenges. Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac were disillusioned and politically fractured after the Battle of Fredericksburg. In January, as morale plummeted and desertions ran rampant, General Joseph Hooker replaced Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker diligently set about initiating a series of reforms. He improved food in camps and tackled supply line problems. He instituted a formal leave policy. He reorganized the army and initiated corps badges to improve morale. Hooker instituted the Bureau of Military Information to coordinate intelligence gathering for the first time in the war. As a result, on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Hooker had accurate information about the size and organization of Lee’s forces. Overall, after just a few months under Hooker’s leadership, the Army of the Potomac was in better shape than it had ever been before. By spring, Hooker proclaimed the Army of the Potomac to be, “the finest army on the planet.” [Conclusion] Some challenges remained. A sizable portion of the Army of the Potomac, nearly one-third of its soldiers, were facing the end of their enlistment by June 1863. Lee, despite his own troubles, recognized that this may provide his best opportunity to strike at Hooker. In letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis on April 16, Lee proposed a series of movements that would push Hooker north of the Potomac. Lee wrote, “My only anxiety arises from the present immobility of the army, owing to the condition of our horses and the scarcity of forage and provisions. I think it all important that we assume the aggressive by the 1st of May, when we may expect General Hooker’s army to be weakened by the expiration of the term of service of many of his regiments, and before new recruits can be received.” As it turned out, Hooker moved first, executing an elaborate plan that took Robert E. Lee by surprise.
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #2, Bullock House Site
What was US General Joseph Hooker thinking? Part 2 of the Chancellorsville Battlefield Driving Tour explores Hooker's plan and the opening maneuvers of the Chancellorsville Campaign. US forces first clashed with Confederates at the Bullock House Site on April 30, early in the battle, when neither side knew what the next few days would bring.
This location was once the site of the Bullock House, a small farming operation run by the Bullock family and five people they enslaved. Today the buildings that once stood here are gone, but the intersection between Bullock Road and Elys Ford Road is the same one travelled during the war. This region of Virginia was known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania County. It was a sparsely populated area with more dense thickets and second growth forests than agricultural clearings. The Orange Turnpike, modern-day Route 3 , extended from Fredericksburg westward and passed through the Wilderness. About 4 miles north of this spot is the confluence of the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers. A network of roads connected the Orange Turnpike to the rivers, but there were also many informal paths that could make travelling here difficult without an accurate map. The Confederates spent the winter on this side of the river, so they were familiar with the terrain. While the Army of the Potomac did not have the same first-hand experience, Hooker’s intelligence gathering enabled him to plan and execute complicated troop movements. Hooker’s plan was to lay a trap for Robert E. Lee. He knew that the Army of the Potomac outnumbered the Army of Northern Virginia over 2 to 1 and that the Confederates were dependent on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad track for what little supplies they had. With these factors in mind, Hooker planned to split his army and surround Lee, force Lee out of his defensives at Fredericksburg, and cut the Confederate supply line. To cut off Lee’s supplies, Hooker would utilize almost his entire cavalry. On April 29, US cavalry under the command of General George Stoneman rode across the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford and set off on a deep sweeping raid into Lee’s rear. Their intention was to tear up railroad tracks, destroy bridges, and deprive the Confederates of supplies and reinforcements. Hooker deduced that if Lee lost access to the railroad, the Army of Northern Virginia would have to retreat. On April 27, portions of the Army of the Potomac began marching westward, aiming to go around and over the river to end up behind Lee’s Confederates in Fredericksburg. As the US forces began crossing Kelly’s Fords on April 28, the US 6th Corp, stationed across from Fredericksburg provided a distraction by loudly crossing the river and creating the illusion for observant Confederates that they would replicate the same mistakes made in December. This move encouraged Confederates to mass their forces on the hills outside of Fredericksburg. With Confederates focused to the east, Hooker’s troops completed their march around Lee. If Hooker’s plan succeeded, Lee would be sandwiched between US forces to his east and west, with a river above him, and no supplies coming from below. Once across Kelly’s Ford, the US troops split into two columns and raced to cross the Rapidan River at Germanna and Elys Ford. The crossing at Elys Ford is a little over 4 miles northwest of this location, up Elys Ford road. Confederates at the river crossings offered only minor resistance, but did send word to Lee about the US movements. On the morning of April 30, the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry was heading towards the Chancellorsville intersection from Elys Ford along Elys Ford Road, a 5-mile journey. Behind them was the rest of the US 5th Corps. Here at the Bullock’s clearing, about 1 mile from Chancellorsville, they collided with the 12th Virginia Infantry in a very brief engagement from which the Virginians quickly backed away. As more US forces passed this location on their way to the Chancellorsville intersection, it became clear that Hooker successfully managed to spirit the bulk of his army around Lee. Hooker was confident, declaring to the army that day, “the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.” The troops that swept over the Bullock House Site at the beginning of the battle were optimistic as they marched towards the Chancellorsville intersection. That intersection would become the epicenter of US decision making over the next few days. Those optimistic US soldiers did not know how quickly and how dramatically Hooker’s plan would unravel.
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #3, Chancellor House Site
Despite its lofty name, Chancellorsville was just a large home and tavern in a sparsely population region known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania County. It was this spot that US General Joseph Hooker chose as his headquarters during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Part 3 of the driving tour explores the role of the Chancellor House in the battle that unfolded there in the spring of 1863.
As US forces moved past the Bullock House and arrived at the Chancellorsville intersection on April 30th they found a plantation with a large brick house, surrounded by smaller outbuildings and agricultural fields, and 16 civilians including the Chancellors, a few of their neighbors, and 2 enslaved people. When Hooker arrived at the Chancellor house spirits were high in the US Army and generals congratulated themselves for reuniting their forces behind Robert E. Lee’s defenses outside of Fredericksburg. They had successfully completed one of the trickiest parts of Hooker’s plan: reuniting before Lee could stop them. Brimming with confidence, Hooker reportedly declared, “The rebel army is now the legitimate property of the Army of the Potomac. They may as well pack up their haversacks and make for Richmond. I shall be after them." On May 1 Hooker ordered troops to march east, hoping to reunite with his forces in Fredericksburg and pursue the retreating Confederates. However, the communications Hooker received on May 1 indicated that a Confederate column, estimated at 2 corps, were marching towards Chancellorsville, on a collision course with Hooker’s troops at that moment heading towards Fredericksburg. The Confederate movement indicated that Lee meant to fight rather than retreat. With this knowledge, Hooker ordered his advancing troops, who were just beginning to engage with Confederates 2 miles east of here, to withdraw back to Chancellorsville. The order to retreat was met with dismay by some of the US corps commanders who felt they had momentum on their side and anticipated an easier time holding ground in more open countryside. After suspending the attack, Hooker instructed his troops to establish defensive lines around the Chancellor house. On the evening of May 1, Hooker wrote, “I think the enemy in his desperation will be compelled to attack me on my own ground.” If Lee did not retreat, Hooker planned to entice the Confederates out of their own defenses in Fredericksburg, which, so far, was what Hooker had accomplished. So, on the afternoon of May 1, Hooker massed his forces around this intersection. US troops established a defensive line that extended 2 miles north to the Rappahannock River and to the west, roughly 2 and a half miles along the Orange Turnpike. Over the coming days Hooker would watch the battle swirling around him from this spot. When the fighting intensified on May 2, Hooker sent the civilians present at the Chancellor house to the cellar for their own safety. Sue Chancellor, 14 at the time, later recalled, “It was late that afternoon when the terrible time came. Oh! Such cannonading on all sides, such shrieks and groans, such commotion of all kinds! We thought that we were frightened before, but this was far beyond everything, and it kept up until long after dark. Upstairs they were bringing in the wounded, and we could hear their screams of pain.” US surgeons turned the former tavern into a busy field hospital, until, on May 3, the fighting threatened the structure and everyone inside. As the house burned to the ground US General Joseph Dickinson escorted the white civilians behind US lines where they would remain safe for the duration of the battle. The two enslaved civilians remained behind. Before the battle was fully underway, Hooker presented Lee with a choice: fight or retreat. Why did Robert E. Lee decide to fight rather than preserve his army? How did Confederates interpret the movements of the Army of the Potomac?
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #4, McLaws' Line
Part 4 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour explores McLaws' Line and the Confederate reaction to the US Army's movements across the Rappahannock River. This position became a critical location for Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his army during the Battle of Chancellorsville. From here, the Confederates occupied and distracted Federal forces at Chancellorsville, while maneuvering into position elsewhere on the battlefield.
When the Army of the Potomac started moving in late April, Confederates noticed the increasing activity across the Rappahannock. Robert E. Lee assessed his options and waited to see where Hooker’s troops would go. On the 29th Lee received word of a heavy column marching from Kelly’s Ford to Germanna Ford. The routes that the approaching US soldiers appeared to be taking would put them on the roads that led into Fredericksburg. Lee sent his cavalry to impede the progress of the US troops. The cavalry was not able to prevent the US column from crossing the river, but they did send word to Lee that a large portion of the Army of the Potomac seemed to be gathering in the Confederate rear. Meanwhile, though the US troops in Fredericksburg were making a lot of noise, they did not advance. These circumstances led Lee to conclude that the movements at Fredericksburg were a feint. In response, Lee turned his attention to the Federal forces gathering around Chancellorsville. Like Hooker, Lee divided his army. He left about 10,000 men with General Jubal Early to watch the US troops in Fredericksburg and turned about 50,000 of his troops towards Chancellorsville. Lee ordered the divisions of Anderson and McLaws to block Hooker’s advance. These divisions included the troops who had skirmished with the Federals the day before near the Bullock house and were already situated between the advancing Federals and the rest of the Confederate army. Lee then sent his 2nd Corps commander, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, to bring the fight to the approaching Federals. Jackson left with his troops before dawn and joined the others at around 8am. With Confederates and Federals now marching towards each other, the question became, where would they meet? At this location, US Regulars under General George Sykes encountered advancing Confederate troops on the morning of May 1. The Regulars drove the Confederates back about a mile along the turnpike. Today, this portion of the battlefield is on land owned by the American Battlefield Trust. Jackson hoped to lure the Federals into a fight on the Orange Turnpike and then swoop in behind them from the south, using the Old Plank Road. If this movement worked, Jackson could separate the whole of Sykes’ command from the rest of the Army of the Potomac. Sykes made a determined stand and appealed to Hooker for reinforcements. Instead, Sykes received the orders from Hooker to retreat. The same US soldiers who had marched forward across this location on May 1 marched back just a few hours later. One soldier complained, “there was heard cursing and grumbling from the Regulars, not at being ordered into danger, but at being ordered out.” The Confederates bombarded this hilltop before cautiously following the Federal withdrawal back to Chancellorsville where they discovered that the US forces were digging in and establishing a defensive line. Confederates under command of General Lafayette McLaws halted here for the night of May 1. As day turned to dusk, Lee decided to hold this position, and would continue to hold this position over the next two days. Evaluating his options, Lee eagerly sought a way to attack Hooker. A frontal assault from here against the well defended line around Chancellorsville would be very costly, but this location proved to have other advantages. From here, he could establish an internal line of communication with his troops at Fredericksburg, and from here he could observe and distract the Federals at Chancellorsville.
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.
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.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville Hooker want to fight a defensive battle, but that meant handing the initiative to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Part 4 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour explores how Lee determined to adopt a plan to attack the Union rear in a risking flanking maneuver led by General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
On the evening of May 1st into the early morning hours of May 2nd, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee met with his generals under the trees at this crossroads. Here, he made a calculation that would turn the tides at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The Confederates did not know that Hooker had ordered a retreat. Consequently, they felt that they had driven the US army back into the Wilderness earlier in the day. General Paul Semmes, who faced Sykes’ Regulars along the Orange Turnpike described how they had repulsed Union troops who were “handsomely driven from the field after a sharp contest.” In executing a strategy that relied on a defensive position, Hooker’s plan required giving the initiative to Lee. Now, Lee sought a way to exploit this opportunity. Lee had always been aggressive against his foes in the Army of the Potomac, and found retreat to be an unacceptable option. The Confederate leader wanted to attack, but the question was: where? In his report of the battle Lee described his situation: “the enemy had assumed a position of great natural strength, surrounded on all sides by a dense forest, filled with a tangled undergrowth, in the midst of which breastworks of logs had been constructed, with trees felled in front so as to form an almost impenetrable abattis. His artillery swept the few narrow roads by which his position could be approached from the front, and commanded the adjacent woods…Darkness was approaching before the strength and extent of his line could be ascertained, and as the nature of the country rendered it hazardous to attack by night, our troops were halted and formed in line of battle in front of Chancellorsville, at right angles, to the plank road, extending on the right to the mine road, and to the left in the direction of the Catharine furnace. It was evident that a direct attack upon the enemy would be attended with great difficulty and loss, in view of the strength of his position and his superiority of numbers. It was therefore resolved to endeavor to turn his right flank and gain his rear, leaving a force in front to hold him in check and conceal the movement. The execution of this plan was entrusted to Lieutenant General Jackson, with his three divisions.” Staff officers discovered a route that would allow the Confederates to march around the US army and strike its vulnerable flank. Jackson’s mapmaker, Jedediah Hotchkiss, briefed Lee and Jackson on a 12-mile route that started from this location and made a sweeping arc to the west. Once Jackson’s column was underway, the Army of Northern Virginia would be split into 3 parts: 10,000 Confederates holding the hills outside of Fredericksburg under General Jubal Early, 15,000 Confederates holding the lines here under Lee’s personal supervision, and nearly 30,000 Confederates marching off with Jackson to strike the Federal army from behind. The plan was certainly a risk, and while it can be praised for its boldness, it can also be understood as an act of desperation. Confederate supply troubles were not going away, nor was it getting easier to find new recruits. Lee’s goal was to strike a blow at the Army of the Potomac that would prevent it from fighting another day. With Hooker’s forces split, Lee perceived a chance to do just that. For Lee, the reward of destroying the Army of the Potomac was worth the risk. The head of Jackson’s column would start down the Furnace Road at 7:30 am 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.
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.
On the morning of May 2, 1863, Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson led a column of nearly 30,000 Confederates past Catharine Furnace. Learn about the events that followed in part 6 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour.
Catharine Furnace first blast into production in 1837, but closed after John Wellford, the primary owner, died ten years later. With secession and war came the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to revive the region’s iron industry. Wellford’s brother, Charles C. Wellford and a group of investors reincarnated Catharine Furnace with the backing of the Confederate government in 1861. The furnace investors made contracts to supply pig iron for the Confederate navy. Previously, the furnace employed a small number of skilled ironworkers who managed a larger force of enslaved laborers. However, by the time preparations were in place during the war, most of the enslaved laborers had fled the region, and the company turned to soldiers to bolster its labor force. These laborers established a network of roads to access the new surface mines and timber stands which would support the furnace. The Wellfords oversaw the operation and resided in a house just south of the furnace. Charles Wellford allied himself to the Confederacy not only through iron production, but also by providing the Confederates with critical support during the Battle of Chancellorsville. On May 2, Wellford and his son, also named Charles, helped Jackson’s flanking column navigate the unmapped trails through the tangled thickets of the ironworks property. The head of Jackson’s column reached Catharine Furnace around 8am on May 2. At about the same time, Federal soldiers reported the Confederate movement. US artillery targeted the marching Confederates, testing the column to see if they would stand and fight when being fired upon. The Confederates dispersed into the woods, but kept moving. Jackson was aware that Hooker had spotted his troops and detached Colonel Emory Best’s 23rd Georgia to guard the area around Catharine Furnace and protect his column from a potential US assault. General Daniel Sickles, commanding the US 3rd Corps reported, “This continuous column—infantry, artillery, trains, and ambulances— was observed for three hours moving apparently in a southerly direction…The movement indicated a retreat on Gordonsville or an attack upon our right flank—perhaps both, for if the attack failed the retreat could be continued. The unbroken mass of forest on our right favored the concealment of the enemy’s real design.” At this point in the battle US commanders had not formed an opinion as to whether the Confederate column they observed that morning was a flank attack or a retreat. At 9:30am Hooker issued a circular to 11th Corps commander O. O. Howard instructing him to strengthen the defenses on the right of his line. This order indicated that Hooker initially considered a flank attack to be a real possibility. At around Noon, Hooker authorized Sickles to cautiously advance towards the Confederates marching past the furnace. By that time, most of Jackson’s troops were to the south of the ironworks. As the 23rd Georgia was preparing to follow suit they were ambushed. A group of US Sharpshooters known as the Berdan Sharpshooters deployed ahead of Sickles’ force and surprised the 23rd Georgia. The Berdan Sharpshooters wore distinct green uniforms, which blended well with the foliage of the Wilderness. In the initial shuffle that followed around Catharine Furnace, the sharpshooters captured nearly 100 prisoners. Sickles’ soldiers were preparing to pursue the remaining Georgians who had fled south when they were assailed with an unexpected fire from the east. From his lines to the east, Lee had heard the shooting and commotion around the furnace, and realized that Hooker was on Jackson’s trail. Lee hoped that firing into the Federal lines would direct Federal attention away from the flank attack. Hooker sent Sickles reinforcements: the rest of the 3rd Corps, as well as parts of the 11th and 12th Corps. As the hours ticked by, the fighting around Catharine Furnace convinced Hooker that the Confederates were retreating. Hooker noted that the Confederates headed south, away from the US army, and that they did not turn back to help the 23rd Georgia. At 2:30pm Hooker sent a circular to his corps commanders, asserting, “The Major General commanding desires that you replenish your supplies of forage, provisions and ammunition to be ready to start at an early hour tomorrow.” Meanwhile, Federal observers across from Fredericksburg began reporting that the Confederates on the heights, led by General Jubal Early, were retreating from their position. As it turned out, this retreat was simply a confusion of orders. Lee ordered General Early to immediately reoccupy the heights, but from the perspectives of the US commanders, this movement ultimately reinforced the illusion that the Confederates were in retreat. Just after 4 o’clock in the afternoon Hooker sent a message to his Chief of Staff, Daniel Butterfield, “We know that the enemy is fleeing.” The firefight calmed down around Catharine Furnace later in the afternoon. Just then, the Federals received word that the rest of the 11th Corps was retreating in disorder from attacking Confederates.
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #7, Slocum's Line
The US 12th Corps established defenses along this line on May 1 and 2, 1863. Part 7 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour explores the relationship between the front line experiences of soldiers in the field and supporting operations that determined the course of the battle.
At this location, on May 1 and 2, soldiers of General Henry Slocum’s US 12th Corps fortified their battle line. Private Rice Bull of the 123rd New York described building these earthworks: “A line was laid out by our Engineers and we were ordered to fortify our position. Axes and shovels were furnished and we were soon hard at work. To most of us this was an unfamiliar effort but before our service ended it was one in which we were to become proficient…There was a lot of fallen timber that we gathered and placed lengthwise, then dug a trench behind, with the dirt thrown over the logs. The trench was over two feet deep, wide enough for a line to stand in and with the embankment the total depth was five feet…In the morning General Hooker inspected our lines and as he passed, he was heartily cheered by the Regiment. It was reported that the enemy was on the retreat…The quiet on our front would seem to confirm this report.” From the perspective of Private Rice Bull, the battlefield was quiet on May 2. Rice’s perspective makes sense; soldiers on the front lines often had no way of knowing what was going on elsewhere on the battlefield. However, behind the lines, there was a constant flurry of activity that supported operations in the field. Amongst these supporting activities, maintaining reliable, fast lines of communication and accurate intelligence gathering were of the utmost importance. For the US Army, Chief of Staff Daniel Butterfield spent the Chancellorsville Campaign coordinating communications between Hooker, at Chancellorsville, and Sedgwick’s Corps, in Fredericksburg. These communications across the battlefield largely relied on telegraph lines established by the US Signal Corps, as well as information presented in person by couriers who were constantly on the move. Since the majority of US Cavalrymen were with Stoneman’s Raid, on a mission to destroy Confederate supply lines to the south, Hooker relied almost entirely on the Signal Corps, their telegraph lines, and information gathered from lookouts and even observation balloons. Over the course of the battle US telegraph lines experienced multiple delays and technical issues. High winds and rain occasionally prevented the balloons from flying. And, in addition to not having cavalry present for reconnaissance, the status of Stoneman’s Raid was an unknown for the duration of the battle. When Hooker began his campaign, he initially experienced success. However, as events unfolded, the complex coordination that the plan required became increasingly difficult to manage in real time. In comparison, while Lee took on a great deal of risk, his orders on the battlefield were simple and straightforward. Lee relied on his cavalry for reconnaissance and sought weak spots in the Federal lines where he could attack and achieve tactical success. Ideally, cumulative successes around the battlefield could add up to a victory. Jackson’s flank attack was one such movement. Jackson would be able to create a numerical advantage by lining up his troops perpendicular to most of the 11th Corps soldiers situated along the Orange Turnpike. A little after 5 o’clock, Jackson’s men began lining up and would test how far they could push that advantage.
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.
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.
Part 8 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour discusses the flank attack that Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's led against Union General O. O. Howard's US 11th Corps on May 2, 1863. Though successful, Jackson's flank attack came to an end when Jackson himself was accidentally shot down by his own soldiers.
This high ground marks the right flank of the Federal battle line which extended from the Chancellor house. The US 11th Corps, minus one brigade off supporting Sickles at Catharine Furnace, occupied this ground on May 2nd under the command of General Oliver Otis Howard. Beginning at around 3pm, 11th Corps pickets reported sightings of Confederates. These reports continued sporadically throughout the afternoon. Soldiers and officers in the 11th Corps concerned about a flank attack faced difficulty convincing their superiors to take action, especially since the reports coincided with word that the Confederates were in retreat. Instead, as the evening set in, unsuspecting US soldiers here lounged, relaxed, and cooked their rations. About a mile and a half west of here Route 3, the historic Orange Turnpike, intersects with the Brock Road. Jackson’s troops poured on to the Turnpike from the Brock Road and gathered in a valley near the Luckett Farm. Jackson placed nearly 20,000 Confederates in two battle lines, one behind the other. Though some troops were still arriving, Jackson began his advance at around 5:15 pm. He needed to attack before running out of daylight. At about 6pm Jackson’s advance reached the 11th Corps. Major Jeremiah Williams, of the 25th Ohio recalled: “The attack was made by the enemy with suddenness and great fury upon the right flank of our brigade. The enemy’s balls were already reaching our regiment when we commenced forming our line of battle. We had first to change direction at right angles, and, while deploying, the enemy had gained to within 200 paces, and was driving back through our lines the troops that were in advance of our new front…Fleeing men dashed through our lines, while the enemy’s musketry and grape and canister killed and disabled many of our men before the formation was completed.” Most of the 11th Corps soldiers were facing south, and as one frustrated colonel later stated, “a rifle-pit is useless when the enemy is on the same side and in rear of your line.” Jackson’s troops routed the 11th Corps divisions one by one, until they finally surged onto General Adolph von Steinwehr’s division, who made a stand just beyond a rustic chapel called Wilderness Church, a half mile to the east. A small ridge juts above the church barn; today a barn with a green roof stands in this location. Colonel Adolphus Buschbeck’s brigade occupied the ridge and rallied many of the soldiers who had been driven out of their camps. Several thousand US soldiers made a stand on the Buschbeck Line. They beat back multiple attacks before Jackson’s lengthy lines again threatened to wrap around the defenders. Within 10 minutes, the position fell. The 11th Corps dissolved into chaos. Jackson drove his attack relentlessly for 2 miles. The Confederates suffered minimal casualties, while capturing numerous prisoners and prizes. Jackson was eager to maintain the momentum that he had gained thus far and wanted to turn his defeat of the 11th Corps into a crushing blow to the Army of the Potomac. By 9 pm night had fallen and both sides moved about in the darkness. Jackson slowed down to reorganized his jumbled ranks for another attack. They halted near where the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center stands today. Jackson rode ahead of his line with his staff, hoping to familiarize himself with the ground and learn more about the US position. Just then, he was fired upon by his own men. Captain Richard E. Wilbourne, a Signal Officer travelling with Jackson, recalled “…when we had gotten well into the woods and about twenty yards to the left of the road, the troops on the left, who were only about thirty yards distant -, commenced firing…By this fire General Jackson was struck in three places: in the left arm, left wrist, and in the right hand. A North Carolina Brigade was just forming into line on the left as we galloped up, and as seen by the flash of their guns, seemed to be stooping down or on their knees as they fired. I suppose they mistook us for Yankees and were preparing to guard against cavalry. Though the thickness of the woods afforded some shield, nothing but the gracious interposition of divine Providence saved any of us.” Jackson’s staff removed their wounded general from the field. Immediately following Jackson’s fall General A. P. Hill was also wounded. General Jeb Stuart, the cavalry commander, was summoned to take command of Jackson’s troops. In the late hours of May 2nd, the Army of Northern Virginia was in a precarious situation. Confederate forces around Chancellorsville were split between Jackson’s flanking column 1 mile to the west of the Chancellor house site and the forces that stayed back with Lee, located to the south and east of the Chancellor house site. Lee needed to reunite his forces. The battle was far from over. The subsequent fighting on May 3 centered around two clearings known as Hazel Grove and Fairview.
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #9, Hazel Grove
On the morning of May 3, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia needed to reunite its divided forces. Hazel Grove proved to be the ideal location to accomplish this task. Part 9 of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour explores the consequences of the Confederates taking this location.
The Army of Northern Virginia’s survival depended on reuniting its divided forces as quickly as possible. Lee ordered Jeb Stuart to attack at first light and drive the Federal army back towards Chancellorsville. Meanwhile, Lee’s troops would push at the Federals from the east. Lee hoped that hammering Hooker’s lines from both sides would force the US army to consolidate around Chancellorsville, and in turn allow the Confederates to reunite somewhere south of the Orange Turnpike. The Confederates’ first target would be the Hazel Grove clearing occupied by the US 3rd Corps under the command of Dan Sickles. In the early hours of May 3, Hooker also had Hazel Grove on his mind. Hooker was concerned about how Hazel Grove protruded away from the main Union line and did not want the 3rd Corps to get cut off from the rest of the US army. Before dawn Hooker ordered Sickles back to Fairview, the rise on the other end of this open vista. As Confederates moved towards the Federal lines at dawn, the US soldiers abandoned the high ground and retreated to Fairview. Confederate General James Archer described taking this ground: “…about sunrise, we moved forward to the attack, through dense pine timber, driving before us the enemy's skirmishers, and, at a distance of 400 yards, emerging into the open field in front of a battery, which was placed on an abrupt hill near a spring-house. We advanced at double-quick, and captured 4 pieces of artillery and about 100 prisoners, driving the infantry supports in confusion before us. From this position the enemy could be seen in heavy force in the woods, which commenced about 600 yards diagonally to the right and front, and in the high open ground to the front.” Shortly after the Confederates seized this high ground, Stuart ordered them to advance on the US position at Chancellorsville. Meanwhile, Colonel Edward Porter Alexander, in charge of the Confederate artillery, massed close to 30 cannons at the tip of this clearing. The Confederate artillerists also placed cannons along the Orange Turnpike. Together, these cannons blanketed a heavy concentration of fire upon the US positions around Fairview and the Chancellor house. The impact of the converging Confederate fire was immediate and intense. A US artilleryman wrote, “I can only say it was something frightful the way their shells and canister swept our lines. I wish I had the ability to describe as I saw it but I cannot do it. Whole gun teams at a single discharge of canister were piled up, ammunition chests exploding all around us.” Across the open ground at Fairview, Captain Clermont Best, chief of the US 12th Corps artillery, massed 40 guns on the rise to counter the converging fire coming from Confederate cannon here at Hazel Grove and from the turnpike. Since the US artillerists targeted multiple Confederate positions at once, the overall impact of the US artillery was diffused. For once, Confederates enjoyed an advantage in artillery over the US Army. E.P. Alexander enthused, “There has rarely been a more gratuitous gift of a battle-field.” Taking Hazel Grove enabled Lee to reunite his army and focus exclusively on removing the US forces from the Chancellorsville intersection. As the morning wore on, Confederate attacks hammered US lines around Chancellorsville. These attacks were met with counterattacks and the action seesawed back and forth, especially in the dense Wilderness. Confederate General E. A. Perry recalled the chaos, writing, “the woods being so thick as to entirely obstruct the view, I was at a loss for some time as to the direction of the enemy's next line. Their musket-balls soon gave me the proper direction, and I changed front, and, sending out skirmishers, soon found their line on the thickly wooded hill in the rear of their breastworks… No sooner had the enemy's line vanished than their batteries poured a most terrific fire of grape and canister into my lines.” After 5 hours of intense fighting, at around 10:30am, the US defenses gave way and Confederates raced forward to Fairview and Chancellorsville. Hooker’s forces retreated to a V-shaped line that extended from the Bullock House back to the river. Gaining the ground at Hazel Grove ended up being a critical juncture for the Army of Northern Virginia. From here Lee was able to unite his forces, mass his artillery fire, and converge on the US defenses. But gaining this ground came at an enormous cost. By the time Lee took Chancellorsville, approximately 18,000 US and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing, an average of 1 casualty every second. Lee engaged all his available forces on May 3rd, and still, the battle was not over.
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.
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.
Chancellorsville Driving Tour, #10, Fairview
The last part of the Chancellorsville Driving Tour discusses the last actions of the battle and the circumstances that led to US General Joseph Hooker's decision to retreat. Once the battle was over, what were the consequences? How does the story of the Battle of Chancellorsville fit into the larger story of the Civil War?
Today at Fairview there are a number of gun pits that mark where US artillery positions defended Chancellorsville against the Confederate assault that began at dawn on May 3. US General Alpheus Williams described the Confederate assault that converged on his soldiers at Fairview: “This desperate struggle in front and flank by artillery and infantry continued almost without cessation until about 8:30 am. My regiments had literally exhausted their ammunition. Some of them had been twenty-four hours without food, and most of them several nights with but little sleep, while engaged in intrenching. My regiments had several times crossed the breastworks to attack the enemy’s repulsed columns, but the nature of the ground, the thickness of the underbrush, the heavy columns of the enemy always at hand, as well as their position on either flank of my line, admonished me to act on the defensive until a more favorable moment for the offensive should present itself.” That moment would not come for Williams or his troops. At about 9:15am, a Confederate projectile struck the porch of the Chancellor house where Hooker had been observing the battle. The impact knocked Hooker unconscious for a moment. After regaining some of his senses Hooker was taken back to the Bullock House, where he slowly recovered and ordered the rest of his forces to withdraw from the Chancellorsville intersection. Hooker’s forces retreated to a secondary line that extended from the Bullock House in a v-formation up to the river. As the US army retreated from Chancellorsville, Lee received word that the Federals, under command of General John Sedgwick, had broken through Confederate General Jubal Early’s forces holding Fredericksburg. In response, Lee left a thin veil of troops at Chancellorsville while the rest of his forces turned east to confront Sedgwick. For the remainder of May 3 through May 4, the heavy fighting shifted to the east. The Confederates dispatched towards Fredericksburg collided with Sedgwick’s approaching Federal column at Salem Church. As Sedgwick’s men halted against a threat to his front, Early’s troops in Fredericksburg reformed and approached from behind. Lee hoped his forces at Salem Church would destroy a sizeable chunk of the Army of the Potomac, but these hopes were disappointed when Sedgwick managed an escape across the river at Banks’ Ford. On the night between May 4 and May 5, with knowledge of Sedgwick’s retreat, Hooker called his available corps commanders together to discuss whether to stay south of the Rappahannock and fight, or to retreat. 3 of the 5 generals present wanted to stay and continue the campaign. Third Corps commander Dan Sickles summarized the considerations in favor of leaving, highlighting, “our deficiency in supplies; our imperiled communications, the hazards of a general engagement with an enemy, whose forces we could not estimate, and who could choose his own time and place to accept battle; the instructions which required the commanding general to protect Washington; and the consequences to the North which would follow disaster to this army.” Hooker chose to retreat. In the meantime, Lee once again refocused his forces on Chancellorsville. Lee determined to launch an overwhelming assault against the entrenched US soldiers in their new line. Heavy rain postponed Lee’s assault until the morning of May 6. On the night between May 5 and May 6, the Army of the Potomac completed their retreat across the river. At dawn on May 6, the Confederates prepared to launch their assault, only to find Hooker’s entrenchments abandoned, and the US army gone. The battle was over. In the aftermath of the battle, Confederate soldier G.W. Poindexter wrote of the battle, “What has either side gained? How much more does it look like peace than before – both sides back in their old camps, and their picket posts in the same place. Just say we have not gained anything nor the Yankees…” Throughout the Battle of Chancellorsville Lee displayed his tactical savvy and command skills. He seized the initiative, and he took risks. But, what end did those risks serve? Lee desired to deal a crippling blow to the Army of the Potomac. Instead, he racked up casualties. In total, the Battle of Chancellorsville claimed 31,000 men, killed, wounded, and missing: 17,000 US soldiers and 14,000 Confederate. Because Confederates captured more US soldiers in the fighting on May 2 and 3, the numbers of killed and wounded were roughly equivalent between the two sides. The losses in the Army of Northern Virginia totaled 23% of its fighting force, in the Army of the Potomac just 13%. Casualties in the Army of Northern Virginia piled up from the lowest rank to Lee’s second in command. The loss of men like Jackson and other Confederate officers created a vacuum of experienced leaders that would only get worse with each coming battle. Lee recognized the severity of his losses and just how precariously positioned his army was in the aftermath of the Battle of Chancellorsville. On May 7 Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis requesting cavalry and infantry reinforcements from other parts of the Confederacy. Lee feared another Federal campaign into Virginia, was vehemently opposed to retreating into the Richmond defenses, and was concerned about staying put in an area that was becoming too familiar to the enemy. So, Lee adopted a plan to go north, into Pennsylvania. Lee intended to draw the Army of the Potomac away from Virginia and raid for much needed supplies. Lee envisioned a fight on Northern soil that would demoralize the U.S. war effort and give support to the Northern Peace Party. In undertaking this plan, Lee was confident in the superiority of his army and believed he would continue to meet with success in the upcoming campaign. Lee’s confidence in his army was a viewpoint shared by many Confederates. As one Richmond paper put it, the Army of Northern Virginia’s success could be entirely attributed to “the matchless skills of our great Chief, the efficiency and morale of our army, and the righteousness of our cause.” By not sufficiently acknowledging Hooker’s blunders and the role of chance on the battlefield, Confederates exaggerated the superiority of Lee and his army. As a matter of course, Lee’s victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville was a welcome distraction for Confederates: the Southern home front was increasingly unstable and the larger Union war effort had begun to more effectively undercut the social and economic foundation of Southern society: slavery. One of the last acts of Confederate congress before adjourning on May 1, 1863, was to pass a series of resolutions in retaliation for the Emancipation Proclamation. The Confederate government declared that the United States’ enlistment of black troops was the equivalent of promoting a slave rebellion. Black troops captured by Confederate forces were to be delivered to state governments, not kept with other prisoners of war . White officers of black troops could be executed. Nearly 40% of the Southern population was enslaved, and the prospect of this population standing against slavery and aligning its interests with those of the United States Army was the Confederacy’s worst nightmare. As the war dragged on, more and more opportunities arose for enslaved people to leverage the chaos of war: to resist and undermine the Confederacy from within. To succeed, Confederates needed to win the war and preserve slavery, which meant winning the war as fast as possible. Robert E. Lee’s dash north offered up that possibility. Abraham Lincoln’s initial reaction to Chancellorsville displayed his concern about how the Northern public would respond to another loss. “My God!” the president cried out, “What will the country say?” Many Northern papers criticized Hooker and made scapegoats of the German soldiers in the 11th Corps. However, the same papers also took some satisfaction that the Army of the Potomac inflicted heavy casualties on the Confederates. Meanwhile, Hooker’s foray across the Rappahannock was only one of many fronts being covered in the wider war effort. By the end of May the Northern papers’ focus was shifting to Grant’s campaign in Mississippi, actions in Tennessee and Kentucky, and movements along the coast. Strategic victories in these places further helped destabilize the Confederacy and limit the possibility of its survival. Northern papers also covered the formation of the black regiments. On May 22, 1863, the US War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops which officially incorporated black regiments, called United States Colored Troops, into the United States Army. These troops faced discrimination and pay disparities. But what the USCTs proved was that the United States was willing to evolve, even if only gradually, to realize the country’s founding belief that all men are created equal. Over time, USCTs’ efforts on the battlefield increasingly proved to white Americans that black men should be equal citizens. Hooker had spent the months before the Battle of Chancellorsville building morale in the Army of the Potomac. In the face of the loss at Chancellorsville, the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac largely maintained their morale even if they had lost faith in their commander. They were ready to fight the Army of Northern Virginia again, and would get the chance on the fields of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.