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Chancellorsville, battle of

Chancellorsville, battle of, May 2–4, 1863, in the American Civil War. Late in Apr., 1863, Joseph Hooker, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, moved against Robert E. Lee, whose Army of Northern Virginia (less than half the size of Hooker's) had remained entrenched on the south side of the Rappahannock River after the battle of Fredericksburg. Hooker, with four corps, crossed the river above Fredericksburg and took up a strong position near Chancellorsville, located 10 mi (16 km) W of Fredericksburg; he sent John Sedgwick, with two corps, to cross below Chancellorsville. Although outflanked, Lee did not retreat but, leaving 10,000 men under Jubal A. Early to watch Sedgwick, moved on Hooker, who fell back to a defensive position in the wilderness around Chancellorsville. Lee attacked on May 2: T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson led his 2d Corps on a brilliant 15-mi (24-km) flanking movement against the Union right, while Lee, with his small remaining force, feinted along the rest of the line. Jackson fell upon and routed the surprised Union troops but, unfortunately for the South, was mortally wounded by his own men. The next day the Confederate wings united (James Ewell Brown Stuart succeeding Jackson) and drove Hooker back further. Hooker failed to use his superior forces, but called for Sedgwick, who drove Early from Marye's Heights (May 3) and reached Salem Church, 5 mi (8 km) W of Fredericksburg. There, part of Lee's force joined Early and repulsed Sedgwick (May 4–5). Sedgwick and Hooker then withdrew across the river. Chancellorsville, Lee's last great victory, led to his invasion of the North in the Gettysburg campaign.

See J. Bigelow, The Campaign of Chancellorsville (1910); E. J. Stackpole, Chancellorsville: Lee's Greatest Battle (1958); J. Luvaas and H. W. Nelson, The U.S. Army Guide to the Battles of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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