2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Chancellorsville - Friday, May 1, 1863
General Hooker's Offensive

Chancellorsville McLaws Field
On the morning of Friday, May 1, 1863, Union Major General Joseph Hooker had the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia exactly in the position he had hoped. The soldiers under Major General John Sedgwick, including his own 6th Corps, threatened Lee's entrenched Fredericksburg lines. As Sedgwick's men held the Butternuts in place, or so the plan went, Hooker's 70,000 man detachment had successfully swung north around Lee's left flank and closed in to catch the Southern Army between his two wings. The night before, the men of Union Major General George Sykes Division of Major General George Gordon Meade's 5th Corps camped within the distant wood line in the picture above, just south of present day Route 3 a short distance east from the ruins of the Chancellor House.

Chancellorsville McLaws FieldAs morning came, Sykes' Division continued their advance towards Lee, colliding with southern troops about two miles to the east near the Zoan Church. Falling back to the ridge pictured to your right (the same ridge on which you would be standing if in the picture above looking towards the distant tree line) the men of the 5th Corps prepared to defend their ground. [C] However, General Hooker feared that, although he had more men total than Lee, General Sykes' lone advanced Division may be outnumbered at the point of attack by Stonewall Jackson's entire Corps. Meade's other two Divisions and the men of Major General Henry Slocum's 12th Corps, also participating in the advance, found themselves outside of immediate supporting distance of Sykes. With Jackson moving aggressively westward, Hooker could only assume that General Sedgwick had not been successful in holding him in his Fredericksburg lines. [Q] Much to the chagrin of General Meade, General Hooker ordered all advanced Federal forces to fall back to the ground around the Chancellor home a mile to the west. General Meade, famous for his quick, hot temper, angrily snorting words akin to, "If he can't hold the top of the hill, how does he expect to hold the bottom of it."

Chancellorsville The WildernessThe soldiers fighting over this ground did not find the scenic, rolling fields in the vista presented above. Instead, a dense, young forest thrived on these hills during the time of the battle. Locals had logged these lands to provide fuel for the iron works nearby. The younger growth which took the place of the felled trees made this ground extremely difficult to navigate.

Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws' small force would hold this ground for the next few days. His aggressive sparing with the Federals in his front would sufficiently distract the Union commander to allow Lt. General Thomas Jackson to execute an audacious flank attack against the Federal left on May 2. The following day, McLaws and his greatly outnumbered men would participate in the offensive that would drive General Hooker back from his Chancellorsville headquarters. [C]