On May 1st, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker was poised to pinch Lee's smaller Army between his divided forces.
Men in blue that had swung north and behind the Army of Northern Virginia had marched east along the Orange Plank Road towards
Fredericksburg. However, after encountering feisty Confederate troops, General Hooker ordered his men to fall back into defensive
positions, surrendering the initiative he and his men had worked so hard to gain.
That evening, seated on ration boxes that would give this meeting the name "The Cracker Barrel Conference", Generals Lee
and Jackson discussed their strategy for the coming day. With General James Longstreet's 1st Corp further south and not
available for support, General Lee would go into battle with diminished numbers. Learning from Cavalry Commander JEB Stuart that the
Union right was "up in the air", unprotected from attack due to not resting on a natural barrier like a hill, ridge, or body
of water, the Southerners only needed to find a path to move their men to the vulnerable Federal right without being seen. They would
swing around the Federals as the men in blue had swung around them. As General Lee would later report,
"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 intrusted to Lieutenant-General Jackson with his three
divisions. The commands of Generals McLaws and Anderson, with the exception of Wilcox's brigade, which during the night had been
ordered back to Banks' Ford, remained in front of the enemy."
Immediately above is an old photograph of the intersection of the Furnace and Orange Plank Roads, the site of Lee and Jackson's
Cracker Barrel Conference, their last formal meeting before Jackson's death nine days later. The image at the top of this page shows
how the site appears today. Click here to view a painting of this meeting.