2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Chancellorsville - Sunday, May 3rd, 1863
The Battle of 2nd Fredericksburg

General John Sedgwick at Harrison's Landing VA in August of 1862Ordered initially to hold the Confederates on Marye's Heights in place, reliable Major General John Sedgwick kept his Corps facing the Southerners in Fredericksburg as the rest of the Army of the Potomac circled north to catch the Confederates between the two sections of the Union's enormous army. General Sedgwick would report, "On Friday, May 1, at 5 p.m., an order was received from the commanding general to make a demonstration in force at 1 o'clock that same day; to let it be as severe as possible without being an attack; to assume a threatening attitude, and maintain it until further orders." [5] Later that night the order would be countermanded but, on May 2nd, General Sedgwick would again be asked to "pursue the enemy". As Stonewall Jackson engineered his wildly successful flank attack, General Sedgwick said, "...my command was immediately put under arms and advanced upon the right, driving the enemy from the Bowling Green road and pushing him back to the woods." [5]

Later on Saturday, May 2, General Sedgwick would continue to describe the conflict as it unfolded.

"That night at 11 o'clock I received an order, dated 10.10 p.m., directing me to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg immediately upon receipt of the order, and move in the direction of Chancellorsville until I connected with the major-general commanding; to attack and destroy any force on the road, and be in the vicinity of the general at daylight." [5]

Fredericksburg Stone Wall Sunken RoadAs he did so, the men of both North and South must have experienced painfully familiar visions of the previous December and the terrible slaughter of the Battle of 1st Fredericksburg. During their previous contest, wave after wave of blue clad soldiers unsuccessfully battered themselves against the defenders of Marye's Heights. This time however, the disparity between Union and Southern numbers would aid in having the winds of war blow in favor of the North. Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale, who also guarded against the Federal crossing during the first Battle of Fredericksburg, stated with perhaps some justifiable embellishment:

"After a determined and bloody resistance by Colonel Griffin and the Washington Artillery, the enemy, fully twenty to one, succeeded in gaining possession of Marye's Hill; at all other points he was triumphantly repulsed... It will thus be seen that Marye's Hill was defended by but one small regiment, three companies, and four pieces of artillery. A more heroic struggle was never made by a more handful of men against overwhelming odds. According to the enemy's own accounts, many of this noble little band resisted to the death with clubbed guns even after his vast hordes had swept over and around the walls." [5]

The next morning, May 3, Major General John Sedgwick would continue his efforts to push aside Confederate resistance and move towards Chancellorsville. He would relate their struggles to plow through a tenacious, layered Southern defensive lines.

"The columns moved on the Plank road and to the right of it directly up the heights. The line of battle advanced on the double-quick to the left of the Plank road against the rifle-pits, neither halting nor firing a shot until they had driven the enemy from their lower line of works. In the meantime the storming columns had pressed forward to the crest, and carried the works in the rear of the rifle-pits, capturing the guns and many prisoners. These movements were gallantly executed under a most destructive fire. In the meantime Howe advanced rapidly on the left of Hazel Run, in three columns of assault, and forced the enemy from the crest in front, capturing five guns. The entire corps was at once put in motion and moved in pursuit. Considerable resistance was made on the next series of heights, but the position was carried without halting. A section of horse artillery on our right occupied every successive crest upon our line of march, and much annoyed our advance." [5]

Wrecked Confederate caissons and dead horsesAs they marched over the bitterly contested ground, Sedgwick's men would cross over scenes of slaughter and desolation wrought by the second great collision of these armies on this ground in just a few months. Despite the tremendous successes the Confederates had achieved around the areas of the Wilderness and the Chancellor House, the southerners were still at risk of being squeezed between Sedgwick's Corps and the rest of the Army of the Potomac. In order to reverse the Union tide of battle, General Sedgwick would first need to get past the butternuts defending the area near the Salem Church.