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Famous Battles
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Famous American Civil War - Battles and Events


Famous People, Battles and Events - Table of Contents
List of Civil War Battles, Events and People
 
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  • The Battle of Antietam fought on Wednesday, September 17, 1862 near Antietam, Maryland, was the first major battle of the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with over 20,000 soldiers killed or wounded.

    It was known in the South as the Battle of Sharpsburg.

    September 16th
    Morning Phase

    When Jackson's troops reached Sharpsburg on September 16th, Harpers Ferry having surrendered the day before, Lee consolidated his position along the low ridge that runs north and south of the town--stretching from the Potomac River on his left to the Antietam Creek on his right. "We will make our stand on these hills," Lee told his officers. General Robert E. Lee had placed cannon on Nicodemus Heights to his left, the high ground in front of Dunker Church, the ridge just east of Sharpsburg (site of the National Cemetery), and on the heights overlooking the Lower Bridge. Infantry filled in the lines between these points, including a sunken lane less than a half mile long with worm fencing along both sides (later known as Bloody Lane). A handful of Georgia sharpshooters guarded the Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge).

    By the evening of the 16th, Gen. George McClellan had about 60,000 troops ready to attack--double the number available to Lee. The battle opened at a damp, murky dawn on the 17th when Union artillery on the bluffs beyond Antietam Creek began a murderous fire on Jackson's lines near the Dunker Church.

    Miller's Cornfield

    As the Federals marched toward Miller's Cornfield north of town, the Confederates rose up in the cornfield and fired on the advancing lines. McClellan responded by withdrawing his infantry and training cannon on the corn. "In the time I am writing," Hooker reported, "every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before."

    Hooker's troops advanced again, driving the Confederates before them, and Jackson reported that his men were "exposed for near an hour to a terrific storm of shell, canister, and musketry." About 7 a.m. Jackson was reenforced and succeeded in driving the Federals back.

    An hour later Union troops under Gen. Joseph Mansfield counterattacked and regained some of the lost ground. Less than 200 yards apart, the opposing lines fired lead into each other for a half hour. "They stood and shot each other, until the lines melted away like wax," reported a New York soldier, Isaac Hall. Fighting continued back and forth over the 20-acre cornfield, with the field changing hands 15 times, according to some accounts.

    Then, in an effort to turn the Confederate left flank, Gen. John Sedgwick's division of Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's corps advanced into the West Woods. There Confederate troops arriving from other parts of the field struck Sedgwick's flank, killing or wounding nearly half of his division--about 2,255 men--within a quarter hour of point-blank fire.

    During the three hours of battle, the Confederates had stopped two Federal corps and a division from another, totaling about 20,000 men. Approximately 10,000 men from both sides lay dead or wounded.

    Midday Phase

    Meanwhile, Gen. William H. French's division of Sumner's Union corps moved up to support Sedgwick but veered south into the center of the Confederate line, under Gen. D. H. Hill. The Confederates were posted along a ridge in an old sunken road separating the Roulette and Piper farms. The 800-yard-long road had been worn down over the years by heavy wagons taking grain to the nearby mill, making an ideal defensive trench for the Rebels.

    At dawn some five brigades of D. H. Hill's troops guarded this lane. Soon three brigades had been pulled out to support Jackson in the East Woods, but they were beaten back by Union Gen. George Greene's attack on that position. By 9:30 a.m. the Confederates were stacking fence rails on the north side of the road to provide additional protection from the Union forces, advancing in paradelike precision across the field.

    Firing from behind these improvised breastworks and sheltered in the Sunken Road, the Rebels seemed unassailable. They repelled four different Union charges against the position. "For three hours and thirty minutes," one Union officer wrote, "the battle raged incessantly, without either party giving way."

    From 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., bitter fighting raged along this deeply cut lane (afterward known as Bloody Lane) as French, supported by Gen. Israel B. Richardson's division, also of Sumner's corps, sought to drive the Southerners back. By 1 p.m. about 5,600 killed and wounded troops from both sides lay along and in front of this 800-yard lane.

    Finally, seeing a weak spot in the Confederate line, the 61st and 64th New York regiments penetrated the crest of the hill at the eastern end and began firing volley after volley full length down the sunken line. Then, misinterpreting an order, a Confederate officer pulled his regiment out of the road. The remaining defenders rapidly scrambled out of the lane, over the fence, and fled through the cornfields to the south, some not stopping until they had reached the outskirts of Sharpsburg itself. More than 300 Rebels threw down their arms and surrendered on the spot.

    "Lee's army was ruined," one of Lee's officers wrote later. "And the end of the Confederacy was in sight." About 200 Rebel infantry attempted a weak counterattack, while Lee rushed 20 cannon to the Piper farm. An attack through this hole would have crushed the Confederate center, and the remaining divisions could be destroyed piecemeal. Fortunately for the South, however, McClellan decided against a counterattack with his fresh reserves. That fateful decision would allow the Confederacy to fight on for three more years.

    Afternoon Phase

    Southeast of town, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's corps of 12,000 men had been trying to cross a 12-foot-wide bridge over Antietam Creek since 9:30 a.m. About 450 Georgian sharpshooters took up positions behind trees and boulders on a steep wooded bluff some 100 feet high and overlooking the Lower Bridge. Greatly outnumbered, the Confederates drove back several Union advances toward the bridge.

    Finally, at 1 p.m. the Federals crossed the 125-foot-long bridge (now known as Burnside Bridge) and, after a 2-hour delay to rest and replenish ammunition, continued their advance toward Sharpsburg.

    By late afternoon about 8,000 Union troops had driven the Confederates back almost to Sharpsburg, threatening to cut off the line of retreat for Lee's army. By 3:30 p.m. many Rebels jammed the streets of Sharpsburg in retreat. The battle seemed lost to the Southern army.

    Then at 3:40 p.m. Gen. A. P. Hill's division, left behind by Jackson at Harpers Ferry to salvage the captured Federal property, arrived on the field after a march of 17 miles in eight hours. Immediately Hill's 3,000 troops entered the fight, attacking the Federals' unprotected left flank. Burnside's troops were driven back to the heights near the bridge they had taken earlier. The attack across the Burnside Bridge and Hill's counterattack in the fields south of Antietam resulted in 3,470 casualties--with twice as many Union casualties (2,350) as Confederate (1,120).

    Longstreet later wrote, "We were so badly crushed that at the close of the day ten thousand fresh troops could have come in and taken Lee's army and everything in it." But again McClellan held the 20,000 men of V Corps and VI Corps in reserve--and lost a second opportunity to defeat the entire Confederate army. By 5:30 p.m., the Battle of Antietam was over.

    The next day Federal and Confederate leaders struck up an informal truce, so they could begin gathering up the wounded and dying. During the evening of the 18th Lee began withdrawing his army across the Potomac River.

    Antietam on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. Federal losses were 12,410, Confederate losses 10,700. One in four men engaged in battle that day had fallen. Some historians believe that Lee's failure to carry the war effectively into the North caused Great Britain to postpone recognition of the Confederate government. The battle also gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation which, on January 1, 1863, declared free all slaves in states still in rebellion against the United States. Now the war had a dual purpose: to preserve the Union and to end slavery.

    From the National Park Service description of the Battle of Antietam

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  • The Battle of Chancellorsville marked the zenith of the powers of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in its struggle to drive off and destroy the Army of the Potomac and win independence for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War.

    The Chancellorsville campaign began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union (United States) army on the morning of April 27, 1863. Heavy fighting began on May 1 and did not end until the Union forces retreated across the river on the night of May 5-6. The battle had some characteristics of a modern battle, as the armies were spread out over a front of several miles and neither side every fully concentrated its army.

    On paper, it was one of the most lopsided clashes of arms in the war. The Union army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, brought an effective fighting force of 132,000 men onto the field. The Confederate army, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, numbered approximately 57,000. Furthermore, the Union forces were much better supplied and were well-rested after several months of inactivity. Lee's forces, on the other hand, were spread out all over the state of Virginia. In fact, some 15,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, stationed near Norfolk some 100 miles to the southeast, failed to arrive in time. Their absence probably saved the Union army from total destruction in the battle that ensued.

    On April 27-28, Hooker and the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers in several places, most of them near the confluence of the two rivers and the hamlet of Chancellorsville, which was little more than a large mansion at the junction of the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank roads. In the meantime, a second force of more than 30,000 men crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, some 14 miles to the east and the site of a battle the previous December. By doing this, Hooker now had substantial forces on both Lee's front and on his right flank, and he had dispatched some 7,000 cavalry under Maj. Gen. George Stoneman to raid deep in the Confederate rear areas. He ordered Stoneman to attack and destroy crucial supply depots along the railroad from Richmond to Fredericksburg, which would cut Lee off from resupply and force him to fall back to positions closer to his supply sources.

    By May 1, Hooker had approximately 70,000 men concentrated in and around Chancellorsville, while Lee worked frantically to concentrate his own army. He confronted Hooker at Chancellorsville with 40,000 men, while on his right, Maj. Gen. Jubal Early manned Fredericksburg's formidable Marye's Heights with 12,000 troops, hoping to keep Sedgwick out of Lee's rear. The next day, the Union and Confederate troops clashed on the Chancellorsville front, with some Union forces actually pushing their way out of the impenetrable thickets and scrub pine that characterized the area. This was seen by many Union commanders as a key to victory. If the larger Union army fought in the woods, known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, its huge advantage in artillery would be useless, since artillery could not be used to any great effect in the Wilderness.

    However, Hooker had decided before beginning the campaign that he would fight the battle defensively, forcing Lee, with his small army, to attack his huge one. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union army had done the attacking and met with a bloody and dreadful defeat. Hooker knew Lee could not take such a defeat and keep an effective army in the field. So he ordered his men to withdraw back into the Wilderness and take a defensive position around Chancellorsville, daring Lee to attack him.

    Lee, with no other options but to retreat down open roads with Hooker's larger army in pursuit (this was what Hooker really wanted Lee to attempt), chose to take the dare and plan an attack for May 2. On the night before, Lee and his top subordinate, Lieut. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, came up with a tremendously risky, but daring, plan of attack. They would split the 40,000-man force at Chancellorsville, with Jackson taking his Second Corps of 28,000 men around to attack the Union right flank. Lee, on the other hand, would exercise personal command of the other 12,000 (the other half of Longstreet's First Corps, commanded directly by Lee during the entire battle) facing Hooker's entire 70,000 man force at Chancellorsville.

    For this to work, several things had to happen. First, Jackson had to make a 12-mile march via roundabout roads to reach the Union right, and he had to do it undetected. Second, Lee had to hope that Hooker stayed tamely on the defensive. Third, Early would have to keep Sedgwick bottled up in Fredericksburg. And last but not least, when Jackson launched his attack, he had to hope that the Union forces were unprepared.

    Incredibly, all of this happened. Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart kept the Union forces from spotting Jackson on his long flank march, which took almost all day. The only sighting came shortly after Jackson's corps disengaged from Union forces south of Chancellorsville, and this worked to the Confederates' advantage--Hooker thought that his cavalry under Stoneman had cut Lee's supply line and that Lee was about to retreat. Therefore, he stayed right where he was and never contemplated an all-out attack, sending only his III Corps of 13,000 men under Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles forward. Sickles captured a handful of Second Corps men and then stopped.

    Over at Fredericksburg, Sedgwick and Hooker were unable to communicate with one another due to the failure of telegraph lines between the two halves of the army. And when Hooker finally got an order to Sedgwick late on the evening of May 2, ordering him to attack Early, Sedgwick failed to do so because he mistakenly believed Early had more men than he did.

    But what led most of all to the impending Union disaster was the incompetent commander of the Union XI Corps, Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard. Howard, whose 11,000 men were posted at the far right of the Union line, failed to make any provision for his defense in case of a surprise attack, even though Hooker ordered him to. The Union right flank was not anchored on any natural obstacle, and the only defenses against a flank attack consisted of two cannon pointing out into the Wilderness. Making matters worse, the XI Corps was a poorly trained unit made up almost entirely of German immigrants, many of whom didn't even speak English.

    At 4:30 in the afternoon, Jackson's 28,000 men came running out of the Wilderness and hit Howard's corps totally by surprise right when most of them were cooking dinner. More than 4,000 of them were taken prisoner without firing a shot, and most of the remainder were routed. Only one division of the XI Corps made a stand, and it was soon driven off as well. By nightfall, the Confederate Second Corps had advanced more than two miles, to within sight of Chancellorsville, and were separated from Lee's men only by Sickles' corps, which remained where it had been after attacking that morning. Hooker himself suffered a minor injury when a Confederate shell hit near his headquarters during the peak of the fighting.

    Both Hooker and Jackson made serious errors that night, and for Jackson, his mistake cost him his life.

    Hooker, concerned about Sickles' ability to hold what was now a salient into the Confederate lines, pulled the III Corps back to Chancellorsville that night. Unfortunately, this gave the Confederates two advantages--it reunited Jackson and Lee's forces, and it gave them control of a clearing in the woods known as Hazel Grove, one of the few places in which artillery could be used effectively.

    Jackson's mistake came when he was scouting ahead of his corps along the Orange Plank Road that night. Having won a huge victory that day, Jackson wanted to press his advantage before Hooker and his army could regain their bearings and plan a counterttack, which might still succeed because of the sheer disparity in numbers. He rode out onto the plank road that night, unrecognized by men of the Second Corps behind him, and was hit by "friendly fire". The wound didn't seem life-threatening at first, but Jackson contracted pneumonia after his arm was amputated and died on May 10. His death was a devastating loss for the Confederacy.

    On May 3, Lee put Stuart in command of the Second Corps, and the daring cavalryman proved to be a fine commander of infantry, as well. Stuart launched a massive assault all along the front, and even though the Union army still far outnumbered and outgunned the Confederates, they won by simply outfighting the Union defenders, and by using the Hazel Grove position to pound the Union artillery and eventually drive it off. By that afternoon, the Confederates had captured Chancellorsville, and Hooker pulled his battered men back to a line of defense circling United States Ford, their last remaining open line of retreat.

    Still, Lee couldn't declare victory, and Hooker wasn't conceding defeat, either. During the peak of the fighting at Chancellorsville on May 3, he again called on Sedgwick to break through and attack Lee's rear. Again, that general delayed until it was too late. That afternoon, he finally did attack Early's position (after Early at one point abandoned it himself thanks to a misinterpreted order from Lee), and broke through. But he did it too late in the day to help Hooker's men. In fact, a single brigade of Alabama troops led by Col. Lafayette McLaws stood off six times as many Union soldiers, halfway between Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg at Salem Church.

    The fighting on May 3, 1863 was some of the most furious anywhere in the war, and would have ranked among the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War by itself. About 18,000 men, divided equally between the two armies, fell in battle that day.

    On the evening of May 3 and all day May 4, Hooker remained in his defenses while Lee and Early battled Sedgwick. Sedgwick, after breaking Early's defenses, foolishly neglected to secure Fredericksburg. Early simply marched back into the city and reoccupied it, cutting Sedgwick off. Meanwhile, Lee took two divisions from the Chancellorsville front and reinforced McLaws before Sedgwick realized just how few men were opposing him. Sedgwick, as it turned out, was as resolute on the defensive as he was irresolute on the attack, and he stood his ground that day and part of the next, before withdrawing back across the Rappahannock at Banks' Ford. Ironically, this was another miscommunication between he and Hooker; the commanding general had wanted Sedgwick to hold Banks' Ford, so that Hooker could withdraw from the Chancellorsville area and re-cross the river at Banks' to fight again. When he learned that Sedgwick had retreated back over the river, Hooker felt he was out of options to save the campaign, and on the night of May 5-6, he also withdrew back across the river.

    Stoneman, after a week of ineffectual raiding in central and southern Virginia in which he failed to attack any of the objectives Hooker set out for him, withdrew into Union lines east of Richmond on May 7, ending the campaign.

    The most noteworthy characteristic of the battle was the horrifying conditions it was fought under. Soldiers tended to get lost in the impenetrable maze of undergrowth, and many fires started during the course of the battle. Reports of wounded men being burned alive were both common and entirely creditable.

    Lee, despite being outnumbered by a margin of about five to two, won arguably his greatest victory of the war. But he paid a terrible price for it. With only 52,000 infantry engaged, he suffered more than 13,000 casualties, losing some 25 percent of his force--men that the Confederacy, with its limited manpower, could not replace. Just as seriously, he lost Jackson, his most aggressive field commander. His loss would be felt severely later in the summer, in the Gettysburg campaign.

    Hooker, who began the campaign believing he had "80 chances in 100 to be successful", lost the battle through communications snafus, the incompetence of some of his leading generals (most notably Howard and Stoneman) and through some serious errors of his own, including not pushing out of the Wilderness on May 1, pulling back Sickles on May 2 and even by retreating on May 6. For on that day, Lee planned to launch an all-out attack on Hooker's defenses. What Lee didn't know was that they were virtually impregnable, and beyond the capability of his remaining 39,000 infantry to carry. Hooker also erred in his disposition of force; some 40,000 men of the Army of the Potomac scarcely fired a shot.

    Of the 90,000 Union men who bore the brunt of the fighting, just over 17,000 fell in battle, a casualty rate much lower than Lee's, and this without taking into account the 4,000 men of the XI Corps who were captured without a fight in the initial panic on May 2. Hooker's tactic of forcing Lee to attack him was clearly sound in its conception, but terribly flawed in the way he and his subordinates implemented it. The actual fighting showed the Union army had become as formidable in battle as Lee's heretofore unbeatable legions, something else that would be proven again at Gettysburg.

    The Battle of Chancellorsville, along with the May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness fought in the same area, formed the basis for Stephen Crane's 1895 novel The Red Badge of Courage.

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  • The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) was generally considered to be the turning point of the American Civil War.

    Shortly after Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia won a smashing victory over the Federal Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863), Lee decided upon a second invasion of the North. Such a move would upset Federal plans for the summer campaigning season and possibly relieve the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, and it would allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of the rich northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much needed rest. Also, Lee's 75,000-man army could threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington and give voice to the growing peace movement in the North.

    Thus, on June 3 Lee's army began to shift northward from Fredericksburg, Virginia. In order to attain more efficiency in his commands, Lee had pared down his two large corps into three new corps. James Longstreet retained command of his First Corps; and Lee selected two good division commanders to head the remaining corps: Richard S. Ewell was given the Second Corps, replacing "Stonewall" Jackson, who had been slain at Chancellorsville; and Ambrose Powell Hill commanded the new Third Corps.

    The Federal Army of the Potomac, under the colorful Joseph Hooker, consisted of seven corps of infantry and artillery, a cavalry corps under Alfred Pleasonton, and an artillery reserve, for a combined strength of more than 90,000 men.

    The first major action of the campaign took place on June 9 between the opposing cavalry forces at Brandy Station, near Culpeper, Virginia. The Confederate cavalry under "J.E.B." Stuart was nearly bested by the Federal horsemen, but Stuart eventually prevailed. However, this battle, the largest cavalry engagement of the war, proved that the Union horse soldier was equal to his Southern counterpart.

    By mid-June, the Army of Northern Virginia was poised to cross the Potomac and enter Maryland. After gobbling up the Federal garrisons at Winchester and Martinsburg, Ewell's Second Corps began crossing the river on June 15. Hill's and Longstreet's corps followed on June 24-25. Hooker's army pursued, keeping between the U.S. Capital and Lee's army. The Federals crossed the Potomac on June 25-27.

    Meanwhile, in a controversial move, Lee allowed J.E.B. Stuart to take a portion of the army's cavalry and ride around the Union army. However, Lee's orders gave Stuart much latitude, and both generals are to blame for the long absence of Stuart's cavalry, as well as for the failure to assign a more active role to the cavalry left with the army. By June 29, Lee's army was strung out in an arc from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, twenty-eight miles NW of Gettysburg, to Carlisle, thirty miles north of Gettysburg, to near Harrisburg and Wrightsville on the Susquehanna River.

    In a dispute over the use of the Harpers Ferry garrison, Hooker offered his resignation, and Abraham Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, who were looking for an excuse to shelve Hooker, immediately accepted the resignation. They replaced him on June 27-28 with Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, commander of the Fifth Corps.

    When, on June 29, Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac had crossed its namesake river, he ordered a concentration of his forces around Cashtown, located at the eastern base of South Mountain and eight miles west of Gettysburg.

    On June 30, while part of Hill's Third Corps was in Cashtown, one of Hill's brigades, North Carolinians under J. Johnston Pettigrew, ventured toward Gettysburg to look for supplies, including shoes. And thus the myth of the Battle of Gettysburg being caused by shoe-hunting Confederates stumbling upon the Yankees. This is in fact not true. There was no shoe factory in town; there was no large supply of shoes. Pettigrew and his superiors should have known that, four days earlier, part of Jubal A. Early's division of the Second Corps had marched through Gettysburg on its way to York and Wrightsville. Any valuable supplies, including shoes, would have been taken by these troops. Even had Early's passage through town on the 26th not been common knowledge, Hill's troops would have no reason to believe that there was a large supply of shoes in Gettysburg. In his memoirs, Henry Heth, whose division started the battle on July 1, claimed that he heard of a large supply of shoes in town. From whom could he have heard this? Likely Heth used the shoe excuse to absolve himself of the blame for prematurely instigating a battle that General Lee wanted to fight only when the army was concentrated.

    When Pettigrew's troops approached Gettysburg on June 30, they noticed Federal cavalry under John Buford west of town, and Pettigrew wisely returned to Cashtown. When Pettigrew told Hill and Henry Heth, his division commander, about what he had seen, neither general believed that there was a substantial Federal force in or near the town. In fact, Hill reportedly said that he hoped the Federal army was there, because that's where he wanted it to be. Hill determined to mount a reconnaissance in force the following morning to determine the size and strength of the enemy force in his front. Thus, around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, Hill's troops advanced to Gettysburg on the Chambersburg Pike looking for a fight, not for shoes.

    First Day of Battle

    Three miles west of town on the Chambersburg Pike, about 7:30 a.m. on July 1, Heth's division met resistance by cavalry vedettes and, eventually, dismounted troopers from Gamble's brigade, Buford's division of cavalry. Within two and a half hours, the Confederates had pushed the Yankee cavalrymen east along a series of ridges, when the Federal First Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds, arrived from south of town. By 10:20, the Federal infantry had entered the fight. North of the pike, the Confederates gained a temporary success, while south of the road everything went the Federals' way. The famed Iron Brigade decimated Brig. Gen. James J. Archer's Southerners, capturing several hundred men of Archer's brigade, including Archer himself. However, early in the fighting, General Reynolds fell from his horse, killed instantly by rifle fire. Another myth states that Reynolds was killed by a sharpshooter, but the lack of supportive evidence suggests that he was killed by a volley of rifle fire directed at the 2nd Wisconsin, which regiment Reynolds was guiding into McPherson's (Herbst) Woods.

    The morning's victory belonged to the Army of the Potomac. Meanwhile, two divisions of Ewell's Second Corps, marching west toward Cashtown in accordance with Lee's order for the army to concentrate in that vicinity, turned south on the Carlisle and Harrisburg Roads toward Gettysburg, and the Union Eleventh Corps raced north on the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. By early afternoon, the Federal line ran in a semi-circle west, north, and northeast of Gettysburg. However, Hill threw in William Dorsey Pender's division to bolster Heth's afternoon attacks, and Robert E. Rodes's and Jubal Early's Second Corps divisions smashed and out-flanked the Federal First and Eleventh Corps positions north and northeast of town. At 4:10 p.m., Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, Eleventh Corps commander and acting commander on the field, ordered a Federal retreat to the high ground south of town, Cemetery Hill. The battle of July 1 had pitted over 25,000 Confederates against 18,000 Federals, and ranks in itself as the twenty-third largest battle of the war.

    Second Day of Battle

    Throughout the evening of July 1 and morning of July 2, most of the remaining infantry of both armies arrived on the field. The Union Sixth Corps was enroute from Manchester, Maryland, and Longstreet's third division, commanded by George Pickett, had begun the march from Chambersburg early in the morning. It would not arrive until late on July 2.

    The Union line as established ran from Culp's Hill southeast of the town, northwest to Cemetery Hill just south of town, then south for nearly two miles along Cemetery Ridge, terminating just north of Little Round Top. The Confederate line paralleled the Union line about a mile to the west on Seminary Ridge, ran east through the town, then curved southeast to a point opposite Culp's Hill. Thus, the Federal army had interior lines, while the Confederate line was nearly five miles in length.

    Lee's battle plan for July 2 called for Longstreet's First Corps to attack beyond the Union left flank, face north, and roll up the Federal line. Richard H. Anderson's division of Hill's Third Corps was to assist Longstreet and prevent Meade from shifting troops from his center to bolster his left. At the same time, "Allegheny" Edward Johnson's and Jubal A. Early's Second Corps divisions were to make a "demonstration" against Culp's and Cemetery Hills (again, to prevent the shifting of Federal troops), and to turn the demonstration into a full-scale attack if a favorable opportunity presented itself.

    Lee's plan, however, was based on faulty intelligence. Instead of moving beyond the Federals' left, Longstreet's divisions would face opposition in the form of Gen. Daniel Sickles's Third Corps.

    Longstreet's attack was to be made as early as practicable; however, Longstreet got permission from Lee to await the arrival of one of his brigades, and, while marching to the assigned position, his men came within sight of a Union signal station on Little Round Top. The controversial countermarch that ensued took much time, and Hood's and McLaws's divisions did not launch their attack until just after 4 p.m.

    In the meantime, Sickles, dissatisfied with the position assigned him on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge, and seeing higher ground more favorable to artillery positions a half mile to the west, advanced his corps--without orders--to the high ground along the Emmitsburg Road. The new line ran from Devil's Den, northwest to the Peach Orchard, then northeast along the Emmitsburg Road to south of the Codori farm.

    Longstreet's divisions slammed into the Third Corps, and Meade had to send reinforcements in the form of the entire Fifth Corps, Caldwell's division of the Second Corps, most of the Twelfth Corps, and portions of the newly-arrived Sixth Corps. Hard fighting took place in the Peach Orchard, Devil's Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, and Cemetery Ridge. However, the Confederates failed to achieve concert of action, and the Federal position held.

    About 7:30 p.m., the Second Corps's attack on Culp's Hill got off to a late start. Most of the hill's defenders, the Union Twelfth Corps, had been sent to the left to defend against Longstreet's attacks, and the only portion of the corps remaining on the hill was a brigade of New Yorkers under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene. With reinforcements from the First and Eleventh Corps, Greene's men held off the Confederate attackers, though the Southerners did capture a portion of the abandoned Federal works on the lower part of Culp's Hill.

    Just at dark, two of Jubal Early's four brigades attacked the Union Eleventh Corps positions on East Cemetery Hill; however, Early failed to support his brigades in their attack, and Ewell's remaining division, that of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, failed to aid Early's attack by moving against Cemetery Hill from the west. The Union army's interior lines enabled its commanders to quickly shift troops to critical areas, and with reinforcements from the Second Corps, the Federal troops retained possession of East Cemetery Hill, and Early's brigades were forced to withdraw.

    Third Day of Battle

    General Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left, while Ewell attacked Culp's Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Federal Twelfth Corps troops attacked the Confederates on Culp's Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The fight for Culp's Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.

    Lee was forced to change his plans. Now Longstreet would command Pickett's Virginia division of his own First Corps, plus six brigades from Hill's Third Corps, in an attack on the Federal Second Corps position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the enemy's line.

    The day was hot--87 degrees by one account--and the Confederates suffered under the hot sun awaiting the order to advance. Around 1:00 p.m., 142 Confederate cannon began an artillery bombardment that would become the loudest noise ever heard on the continent. In order to save valuable ammunition for the infantry attack that they knew must follow, the Army of the Potomac's artiller at first did not return the enemy's fire. After waiting about fifteen minutes, eighty or so Federal cannon added to the din. The Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly affect the Union position. After more than an hour (some accounts say two hours), the cannon fire subsided, and nearly 13,000 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile to Cemetery Ridge. Nearly one half would not return to their own lines. Although the Federal line wavered and broke temporarily at the "angle," just north of the copse of trees, reinforcements again rushed into the breach and the Confederate attack was repulsed. Known to history as "Pickett's Charge," Pickett's men actually composed only one-third of the attacking force, the remainder consisting of North Carolinians, Mississippians, and Tennesseeans.

    The armies stared at one another across the bloody fields on July 4, the same day that the Vicksburg garrison surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. On July 5, in a driving rain, the Army of Northern Virginia left Gettysburg on the Hagerstown Road; the Battle of Gettysburg was over, and the Confederates were headed back to Virginia. Meade's Army of the Potomac followed, though the pursuit was half-spirited at best. The recently rain-swollen Potomac trapped Lee's army on the north bank of the river, but by the time the Federals caught up, the Confederates were ready to cross back to Virginia. The rear-guard action at Falling Waters on July 14 ended the Gettysburg Campaign and added some more names to the long casualty lists, including General Pettigrew, mortally wounded.

    Throughout the campaign, General Lee seems to have entertained the belief that his men were invincible; most of Lee's experiences with the army had convinced him of this, including the great victory at Chancellorsville in early May and the rout of the Federals at Gettysburg on July 1. To the detrimental effects of this blind faith were added the fact that the Army of Northern Virginia had many new and inexperienced commanders. (Hill and Ewell, for instance, though capable division commanders, had not commanded a corps before.) Also, Lee's habit of giving general orders and leaving it up to his lieutenants to work out the details, though this method may have worked with Stonewall Jackson, proved inadequate when dealing with corps commanders unused to Lee's loose style of command. Lastly, after July 1, the Confederates were simply not able to coordinate their attacks. Lee faced a new and very dangerous opponent in Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and the Army of the Potomac stood to the task and fought well on its home territory.

    The armies would move on, but Gettysburg had much cleaning up to do. The two armies had suffered 51,000 casualties--killed, missing and wounded/captured. More than 7,000 soldiers had been killed outright; these bodies, lying in the hot summer sun, needed to be buried quickly. 5,000 horse carcasses were burned in a pile south of town; townsfolk became violently ill from the stench. The ravages of war would still be evident in Gettysburg more than four months later when, on November 19, the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated. During this ceremony, the president of the United States would re-dedicate the nation to the war effort and to the ideal that no soldier at Gettysburg--North or South--had died in vain.

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  • The Battle for Richmond Located on the James River, only 110 miles from the Federal capital of Washington, Richmond was a symbol and prime psychological target throughout the Civil War. If the city were captured, southerners might lose their will to resist -- so reasoned leaders on both sides. Between 1861 and 1865, Union armies repeatedly set out to capture Richmond, capital of the Confederacy, and end the Civil War. Three of those campaigns came within a few miles of the city the battles at Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill, and Cold Harbor. Of the seven major drives launched against Richmond, two brought Union forces within sight of the city - George B. McClellan's Peninsular Campaign of 1862, culminating in the Seven Days' Battles, and Grant's crushing Overland Campaign of 1864 which ultimately brought the Confederacy tumbling down.

    Spring of 1862


    In the spring of 1862, the first full year of war, the Union army approached Richmond from the east. As slow as cold molasses, and as irresistible, they neared the Confederate capital at the end of a very wet season. Then, in one of war's endless ironies, the South was blessed by the wounding of its commanding general, Joseph E. Johnston, at the battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862. General Robert E. Lee succeeded Johnston, and, against almost everyone's expectations, boldly attacked the Northern juggernaut and drove it away from Richmond, saving the Confederate capital and prolonging the conflict.

    By early 1862 Gen. George B. McClellan had forged around the "cowering regiments" that survived the First Battle of Manassas a ponderous but disciplined 100,000-man fighting machine called the Army of the Potomac. With it he moved by water to invest east central Virginia and capture Richmond. The operation was to have been assisted by an overland assault by troops under Gen. Irvin McDowell and coordinated with a water-borne move up the James River. A Union naval attack was halted on May 15 at Drewry's Bluff and by May 24, when McClellan was deployed within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the Confederate capital, President Lincoln had become alarmed for Washington's safety and suspended McDowell's movement.

    Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederate commander. now believing that McClellan planned to stay north of the James River, decided to attack. On May 31 Johnston's troops fell on the Federals near Fair Oaks. Although the resulting battle proved indecisive, it did produce significant results for both armies. The already deliberate McClellan was made even more cautious than usual. More important, because of a serious wound sustained by General Johnston during the battle, President Jefferson Davis placed Gen. Robert E. Lee in command of the defending forces.

    McClellan, who had maintained a dangerous position astride the Chickahominy River expecting McDowell's corps to join him, hesitated too long. On June 26 Lee's Army of Northern Virginia attacked the Union right flank at Mechanicsville, then suffered heavy losses in futile attacks against the strong Union positions on Beaver Dam Creek. Thus began the Seven Days' Battles, a series of sidestepping withdrawals and holding actions that climaxed the Peninsular Campaign at Malvern Hill and enabled the Union army to avoid disaster by circling east of Richmond to the security of Federal gunboats on the James River at Harrison's Landing. When the Seven Days ended, some 35,000 soldiers, north and south, were casualties, and many on both sides probably shared the view of a young Georgian who wrote home: "I have seen, heard and felt many things in the last week that I never want to see, hear nor feel again...."

    For two years, while the armies fought indecisively in northern Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, Richmond entrenched and applauded Lee's unbroken successes in keeping northern armies at bay. In March 1864 Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Union armies in the field. Attaching himself to the Army of the Potomac, then under the command of Gen. George Gordon Meade, Grant embarked on an unyielding campaign against Richmond and the Army of Northern Virginia. Said Lee: "We must stop this army of Grant's before he gets to the James River. If he gets there it will become a siege, and then it will be a mere matter of time."

    In a series of flanking movements designed to cut Lee off from the Confederate capital, the Union army slipped past the southerners at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna River, and Totopotomoy Creek, although it suffered heavy casualties. At Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, Grant's massive frontal assaults against the strongly entrenched Confederate lines failed dismally, with appalling casualties. For 10 days the badly bruised Federals and hungry Confederates broiled in the trenches under 100-degree heat; then Grant silently withdrew, crossed the James River, and drove toward the important rail center of Petersburg, south of Richmond.

    Throughout the late summer and fall Grant continued to threaten the outer defenses protecting Richmond and Petersburg. Several major assaults met with partial success, including the capture of Fort Harrison in September 1864. Winter weather eventually brought active operations to a close. Life in the trenches around the besieged cities became routine and humdrum. Just finding enough to eat and keeping warm became constant preoccupations.

    Grant's successful siege of Petersburg over the winter of 1864-65 forced Lee to retreat westward from that city on April 2,1865. The following day, soon after dawn, Richmond's mayor, Joseph C. Mayo, delivered the following message to the commander of the Union forces waiting to enter the Confederate capital: "The Army of the Confederate Government having abandoned the City of Richmond, I respectfully request that you will take possession of it with organized force, to preserve order and protect women and children and property."

    Upon evacuation of the city, the Confederate government authorized the burning of warehouses and supplies, which resulted in considerable damage to factories and houses in the business district. Before the charred ruins of Richmond had cooled, Lee, with the remnant of his army, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. The collapse of the Confederacy followed swiftly.

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  • Battle of Cold Harbor May 31 - June 12, 1864 - Situated at the head of navigation on the James River and only 176 kilometers (110 miles) from the Federal capital of Washington, Richmond had been a symbol and a prime psychological objective since the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. If the city were to be captured, southerners might lose their will to resist--so reasoned leaders on both sides. But there were even more compelling reasons why Richmond became a military target, for besides being the political center of the Southern Confederacy, it was a medical and manufacturing center, and the primary supply depot for troops operating on the Confederacy's northeastern frontier.

    In the overland campaign of 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant with the Army of the Potomac battled General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia for six weeks across central Virginia. At the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna and Totopotomoy Creek, Lee repeatedly stalled, but failed to stop, Grant's southward progress toward Richmond. The next logical military objective for Grant was the crossroads styled by locals Old Cold Harbor.

    May 31,1864

    After sparring along the Totopotomoy northeast of Richmond, Grant ordered Major General Philip Sheridan's cavalry to move south and capture the crossroads at Old Cold Harbor. Arriving near the intersection, the Union force ran into Major General Fitzhugh Lee's Confederate horsemen.

    A sharp contest ensued, soon joined by Confederate infantry under Brigadier General Thomas Clingman of Major General Robert Hoke's division. After a short battle, Union cavalry drove the Confederates beyond the crossroads. The Rebels then started digging new positions a half mile to the southwest.

    June 1

    Lee wished to retake Old Cold Harbor and sent Major General Joseph Kershaw's division to join Hoke in a morning assault. The effort was short and uncoordinated. Hoke failed to press the attack and Sheridan's troopers, armed with Spencer repeating carbines, easily repulsed the assault.

    Grant, encouraged by this success, ordered up reinforcements and planned his own attack for later the same day. If the Union frontal assault broke through the Confederate defenses, it would place the Union army between Lee and Richmond. After a hot and dusty night march, Major General Horatio Wright's VI Corps arrived and relieved Sheridan's cavalry, but Grant had to delay the attack Major General William Smith's XVIII Corps, Army of the James, marching in the wrong direction under out-of-date orders, had to retrace its route and arrived late in the afternoon.

    The Union attack finally began at 5 p.m. Finding a fifty yard gap between Hoke's and Kershaw's divisions, Wright's veterans poured through, capturing part of the Confederate lines. A southern counterattack however, sealed off the break and ended the day's fighting. Confederate infantry strengthened their lines that night and waited for the battle to begin next morning.

    June 2

    Disappointed by the failed attack Grant planned another advance for 5 a.m. on June 2. He ordered Major General Winfield Hancock's II Corps to march to the left of the VI Corps. Exhausted by a brutal night march over narrow, dusty roads, the II Corps did not arrive until 6:30 a.m. Grant postponed the attack until 5 p.m. Later that day, he approved a postponement until 4:30 a.m. of June 3 because of the spent condition of Hancock's men.

    The Union delays gave Lee precious hours, time he used to strengthen his defenses. The Confederates had built simple trenches by daybreak of June 2. Under Lee's personal supervision, these works were expanded and strengthened throughout the day. By nightfall the Confederates occupied an interlocking series of trenches with overlapping fields of fire. Reinforcements under Major General John Breckinridge and Lieutenant General Ambrose Hill arrived and fortified the Confederate right. Lee was ready.

    June 3

    At 4:30 on the morning of June 3 almost 50,000 Federal troops in the II, VI and XVIII Corps launched a massive assault. The Confederate position, now well entrenched, proved too strong for the Union troops. In less than an hour, thousands of Federal soldiers lay dead and dying between the lines. Pinned down by a tremendous volume of Confederate infantry and artillery fire, Grant's men could neither advance nor retreat. With cups, plates, and bayonets, they dug makeshift trenches. Later, when darkness fell, these trenches were joined and improved.

    June 4-12

    The great attack at Cold Harbor was over. Hundreds of wounded Federal soldiers remained on the battlefield for four days as Grant and Lee negotiated a cease-fire. Few survived the ordeal.

    From June 4 to June 12 both armies fortified their positions and settled into siege warfare. The days were filled with minor attacks, artillery duels and sniping. With the Union defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant changed his overall strategy and abandoned further direct moves against Richmond. On the night of June 12 Union forces withdrew and marched south towards the James River. During the two week period along the Totopotomoy and at Cold Harbor, the Federal army lost 12,000 killed, wounded, missing and captured while the Confederates suffered almost 4,000 casualties.

    Grant's next target was Petersburg and the railroads that provided needed supplies to the Confederate army. Cold Harbor proved to be Lee's last major field victory and changed the course of the war from one of maneuver to one of entrenchment.

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  • TheBattle of First Manassas (or First Bull Run) took place on July 21, 1861. On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Their ranks were filled with enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered together from every part of the country. Confident that their foes would run at the first shot, the raw recruits were thankful that they would not miss the only battle of what surely would be a short war. But any thought of colorful pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, din, dirt, and death of battle. Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered. At day's end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the fields of Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge. Ten hours of heavy fighting swept away any notion the war's outcome would be decided quickly.

    On the morning of July 21, McDowell sent his attack columns in a long march north toward Sudley Springs Ford. This route took the Federals around the Confederate left. To distract the Southerners, McDowell ordered a diversionary attack where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. At 5:30 a.m. the deep-throated roar of a 30-pounder Parrott rifle shattered the morning calm, and signaled the start of battle.

    McDowell's new plan depended on speed and surprise, both difficult with inexperienced troops. Valuable time was lost as the men stumbled through the darkness along narrow roads. Confederate Col. Nathan Evans, commanding at the Stone Bridge, soon realized that the attack on his front was only a diversion. Leaving a small force to hold the bridge, Evans rushed the remainder of his command to Matthews Hill in time to check McDowell's lead unit. But Evans' force was too small to hold back the Federals for long.

    Soon brigades under Barnard Bee and Francis Bartow marched to Evans' assistance. But even with these reinforcements, the thin gray line collapsed and Southerners fled in disorder toward Henry Hill. Attempting to rally his men, Bee used Gen. Thomas J. Jackson's newly arrived brigade as an anchor. Pointing to Jackson, Bee shouted, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!" Generals Johston and Beauregard then arrived on Henry Hill, where they assisted in rallying shattered brigades and redeploying fresh units that were marching to the point of danger.

    About noon, the Federals stopped their advance to reorganize for a new attack. The lull lasted for about an hour, giving the Confederates enough time to reform their lines. Then the fighting resumed, each side trying to force the other off Henry Hill. The battle continued until just after 4 p.m., when fresh Southern units crashed into the Union right flank on Chinn Ridge, causing McDowell's tired and discouraged soldiers to withdraw.

    At first the withdrawal was orderly. Screened by the regulars, the three-month volunteers retired across Bull Run, where they found the road to Washington jammed with the carriages of congressmen and others who had driven out to Centreville to watch the fight. Panic now seized many of the soldiers and the retreat became a rout. The Confederates, though bolstered by the arrival of President Jefferson Davis on the field just at the battle was ending, were too disorganized to follow up their success. Daybreak on July 22 found the defeated Union army back behind the bristling defenses of Washington.

    From the National Park Service description of the First Manassas

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  • The Battle of Second Manassas (or 2nd Bull Run) - In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas. The naive enthusiasm that preceded the earlier encounter was gone. War was not the holiday outing or grand adventure envisioned by the young recruits of 1861. The contending forces, now made up of seasoned veterans, knew well the realities of war. The Battle of Second Manassas, covering three days, produced far greater carnage-3,300 killed-and brought the Confederacy to the height of its power. Still the battle did not weaken Northern resolve. The war's final outcome was yet unknown, and it would be left to other battles to decide whether the sacrifice at Manassas was part of the high price of Southern independence, or the cost of one country again united under the national standard.

    At the same time, the scatterd Federal forces in norhern Virginia were organized into the Army of Virginia under the command of Gen. John Pope, who arrived with a reputation freshly won in the war's western theater. Gambling that McClellan would cause no further trouble around Richmond, Lee sent Stonewall Jackson's corps northward to "surpress" Pope. Jackson clashed indecisively with part of Pope's troops at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Meanwhile, learning that the Army of the Potomac was withdrawing by water to join Pope, Lee marched with Gen. James Longstreet's corps to bolster Jackson. On the Rapidan, Pope successfully blocked Lee's attempts to gain a tactical advantage, and then withdrew his men north of the Rappahannock River. Lee knew that if he was to defeat Pope he would have to strike before Jackson's veterans seized Pope's supply depot at Manassas Junction. After a day of wild feasting, Jackson burned the Federal supplies and moved to a position in the woods at Groveton near the old Manassas battlefield.

    August 28

    Pope, stung by the attack on his supply base, abandoned the line of the Rappahannock and headed toward Manassas to "bag" Jackson. At the same time, Lee was moving northward with Longstreet's corps to reunite his army. On the afternoon of August 28, to prevent the Federal commander's efforts to concentrate at Centreville and to bring Pope to battle, Jackson order his troops to attack a Union column as it marched past on the Warrenton Turnpike. This savage fight at Brawner's Farm lasted until dark.

    Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge on Groveton. He was sure that he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet could intervene.

    August 29

    On the 29th Pope's army found Jackson's men posted along an unfinished railroad grade, north of the turnpike. All afternoon, in a series of uncoordinated attacks, Pope hurled his men against the Confederate position. In several places the northerners momentarily breached Jackson's line, but each time were forced back.

    During the afternoon, Longstreet's troops arrived on the battlefield and, unknown to Pope, deployed on Jackson's right, overlapping the exposed Union left. Lee urged Longstreet to attack, but "Old Pete" demurred. The time was just not right, he said.

    August 30

    The morning of August 30 passed quietly. Just before noon, erroneously concluding the Confederates were retreating, Pope ordered his army forward in "pursuit". The pursuit however, was short-lived. Pope found that Lee had gone nowhere. Amazingly, Pope ordered yet another attack against Jackson's line. Fitz-John Porter's corps, along with part of McDowell's, struck Starke's division at the unfinished railroad's "Deep Cut." The southerners held firm, and Porter's column was hurled back in a bloody repulse.

    Seeing the Union lines in disarray, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left. Pope's army was faced with annihilation. Only a heroic stand by northern troops, first on Chinn Ridge and then once again on Henry Hill, bought time for Pope's hardpressed Union forces. Finally under cover of darkness the defeated Union army withdrew across the Bull Run toward the defenses of Washington. Lee's bold and brillant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the south's first invasion fo the north, and a bid for foreign intervention.

    From the National Park Service description of the Second Manassas

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  • Battle of Fredericksburg, fought on December 13, 1862 between General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, is today remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the American Civil War.

    The battle was the culmination of an effort by the United States (Union) army to regain the initiative in its struggle against Lee's smaller, but more aggressive, army. Burnside was appointed commander of the Union army in October in spite of the fact that his predecessor, Maj. Gen. George McClellan had stopped Lee at the Battle of Antietam in September. Much of the reason for this was McClellan's lack of aggressiveness.

    Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan affected a smile as he read the fateful orders from Washington. Turning toward his late night visitor, McClellan spoke without revealing his bitter disappointment. "Well Burnside, I turn the command over to you." With these words, the charismatic, overcautious leader of the Union's most famous fighting force exited the military stage, yielding to a new man with a different vision of war.

    Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside inherited the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862. Its 120,000 men occupied camps near Warrenton, Virginia. Within two days, the 38 year-old Indiana native proposed abandoning McClellan's sluggish southwesterly advance in favor of a 40-mile dash across country to Fredericksburg. Such a maneuver would position the Federal army on the direct road to Richmond, the Confederate capital, as well as ensure a secure supply line to Washington.

    President Lincoln approved Burnside's initiative but advised him to march quickly. Burnside took the President at his word and launched his army toward Fredericksburg on November 15. The bewhiskered commander (whose facial hair inspired the term "sideburns") also streamlined the army's organization by partitioning it into thirds that he styled "grand divisions." The blueclad veterans covered the miles at a brisk pace and on November 17 the lead units arrived opposite Fredericksburg on Stafford Heights. See Burnside's Official Report on the battle.

    Burnside's swift March placed General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia at a perilous disadvantage. After the Maryland Campaign, Lee had boldly divided his 78,000 men, leaving Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley while sending Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to face the Federals at Culpeper. Lee had not anticipated Burnside's shift to Fredericksburg and now neither of his wings was in position to defend the old city. See Lee's Official Report on the battle.

    The Federals could not move South, however, without first crossing the Rappahannock River, the largest of several river barriers that flowed across his path to Richmond. Because the civilian bridges had been destroyed earlier in the war, Burnside directed that pontoon equipment meet him at Stafford Heights. A combination of miscommunication, inefficient army bureaucracy, and poor weather delayed the arrival of the floating bridges. When the pontoons finally appeared on November 25, so had the Army of Northern Virginia.

    Burnside's strategy depended upon an unopposed crossing of the Rappahannock. Consequently, his plan had failed before a gun had been fired. Nevertheless, the country demanded action. Winter weather would soon render Virginia's highways impassable and end serious campaigning until spring. The Union commander had no choice but to search for a new way to outwit Lee and satisfy the public's desire for victory. This would not be an easy task.

    Longstreet's corps appeared at Fredericksburg on November 19. Lee ordered it to occupy a range of hills behind the town, reaching from the Rappahannock on its left to marshy Massaponax Creek on its right. When Jackson's men arrived more than a week later, Lee dispatched them as far as 20 miles down river from Fredericksburg. The Confederate army thus guarded a long stretch of the Rappahannock, unsure of where the Federals might attempt a crossing. Burnside harbored the same uncertainties. After agonizing deliberation, he finally decided to build bridges at three places - two opposite the city and the other one a mile downstream. The Union commander knew that Jackson's corps could not assist Longstreet in resisting a river passage near town. Thus, Burnside's superior numbers would encounter only half of Lee's legions. Once across the river, the Federals would strike Longstreet's overmatched defenders, outflank Jackson, and send the whole Confederate army reeling toward Richmond.

    Burnside's lieutenants, however, doubted the practicality of their chiefs plan. "There were not two opinions among the subordinate officers as to the rashness of the undertaking, "wrote one corps commander. Nevertheless, in the foggy pre-dawn hours of December 11, Union engineers crept to the riverbank and began laying their pontoons. Skilled workmen from two New York regiments completed a pair of bridges at the lower crossing and pushed the upstream spans more than halfway to the fight bank; then the sharp crack of musketry erupted from the river-front houses and yards of Fredericksburg.

    These shots came from a brigade of Mississippians under William Barksdale. Their job was to delay any Federal attempt to negotiate the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Nine distinct and desperate attempts were made to complete the bridge[s] reported a Confederate officer, "but every one was attended by such heavy loss that the efforts were abandoned..."

    Burnside now turned to his artillery chief, Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, and ordered him to blast Fredericksburg into submission with some 150 guns trained on the city from Stafford Heights. Such a barrage would surely dislodge the Confederate infantry and permit completion of the bridges. Shortly after noon, Hunt gave the signal to commence fire. "Rapidly the huge guns vomited forth their terrible shot and shell into every corner and thoroughfare of [Fredericksburg]," remembered an eyewitness.

    The bombardment continued for nearly two hours, during which 8,000 projectiles rained destruction on Fredericksburg. Then the grand cannonade ceased and the engineers ventured warily to the ends of their unfinished bridges. Suddenly -impossibly - muzzles flashed again from the cobble-strewn streets and more pontoniers tumbled into the cold waters of the Rappahannock.

    Burnside now authorized volunteers to ferry themselves across the river in the clumsy pontoon boats. Men from Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York scrambled aboard the scows, frantically pulling at oar's to navigate the hazardous 400 feet to the Confederates' side. Once on shore, the Federals charged Barksdale's marksmen who, despite orders to fall back, fiercely contested each block in a rare example of during the Civil War. After dusk the brave Mississippians finally withdrew to their main line, the bridge builders completed their work, and the Army of the Potomac entered Fredericksburg. [See text of a walking tour brochure on this street fighting.

    December 12 dawned cold and foggy. Burnside began pouring reinforcements into the city but made no effort to organize an attack. Instead, the Northerners squandered the day looting and vandalizing homes and shops. A Connecticut chaplain left a graphic account of some of this shameful behavior:

    I saw men break down the doors to rooms of fine houses, enter, shatter the looking glasses with the blow of the ax, [and] knock the vases and lamps off the mantelpiece with a careless swing ... A cavalry man sat down at a fine rosewood Piano ... drove his saber through the polished keys, then knocked off the top [and] tore out the strings ...

    The Battle of Fredericksburg would unfold in a natural amphitheater bounded on the east by the Rappahannock River and on the west by the line of hills fortified by Lee. When Jackson's men arrived from downstream, Longstreet sidled his corps to the north, defending roughly five miles of Lee's front. He mounted guns at Strong points such as Taylor's Hill, Marye's Heights, Howison Hill, and Telegraph (later Lee's) Hill, the Confederate command post. "Old Pete's" five divisions of infantry supported his artillery at the base of the slopes.

    Below Marye's Heights a Georgia brigade under Brig. Gen. Thomas R. R. Cobb poised along a 600-yard portion of the Telegraph Road, the main thoroughfare to Richmond. Years of wagon traffic had worn down the surface of the roadway lending it a sunken appearance. Stone retaining walks paralleling the shoulders transformed this peaceful stretch of country highway into a ready-made trench. Jackson's end of the line possessed less inherent strength. His command post at Prospect Hill rose only 65 feet above the surrounding plain. Jackson compensated for the weak terrain by stacking his four divisions one behind the other to a depth of nearly a mile. Any Union offensive against Lee's seven-mile line would, by necessity, traverse a virtually naked expanse in the teeth of a deadly artillery crossfire before reaching the Confederate infantry.

    Burnside issued his attack orders early on the morning of December 13. They called for an assault against Jackson's corps by Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin's Left Grand Division to be followed by an advance against Marye's Heights by Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's Right Grand Division. Burnside used tentative, ambiguous language in his directives, reflecting either a lack of confidence in his plan or a misunderstanding of his opponent's posture -- perhaps both.

    Burnside had reinforced Franklin's sector on the morning of battle to a strenght of some 60,000 men. Franklin, a brilliant engineer but cautious combatant, placed the most literal and conservative interpretation on Burnside's ill-phrased instructions. He designated Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's division -- just 4,500 troops -- to spearhead his attack. See Meade's Official Report

    Meade's men, Pennsylvanians all, moved out in the misty half-light about 8:30 a.m. and headed straight for Jackson's line, not quite one mile distant. Suddenly, artillery fire exploded to the left and rear of Meade's lines. Maj. John Pelham had valiantly moved two small guns into position along the Richmond Stage Road perpendicular to Meade's axis of march. The 24 year-old Alabamian ignored orders from Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to disengage and continued to disrupt the Federal formations for almost an hour. General Lee, watching the action from Prospect Hill, remarked, "it is glorious to see such courage in one so young." When Pelham exhausted his ammunition and retired, Meade resumed his approach, Jackson patiently allowed the Federals to close to within 500 yards of the wooded elevation where a 14-gun battalion lay hidden in the trees. As the Pennsylvanians drew near to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad north of Hamilton's Crossing, "Stonewall" unleashed his masked artillery. Confederate shells ripped gaping holes in Meade's ranks and the beleaguered Unionists sought protection behind wrinkles of ground in the open fields.

    Union guns responded to Jackson's cannoneers. A full throated artillery duel raged for an hour, killing so many draft animals that the Southerners called their position "Dead Horse Hill." When one Union shot spectacularly exploded a Confederate ammunition wagon, the crouching Federal infantry let loose a spontaneous Yankee cheer. Meade, seizing the moment, ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge. Meade's soldiers focused on a triangular point of woods that jutted toward them across the railroad as the point of reference for their assault. When they reached these trees they learned, to their delight, that no Southerners defended them. In fact, Jackson had allowed a 600-yard gap to exist along his front and Meade's troops accidentally discovered it.

    The Unionists pushed through the boggy forest and hit a brigade of South Carolinians, who at first mistook the attackers for retreating Confederates. Their commander, Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg, paid for this error with a fatal bullet through his spine. Meade's men rolled forward and gained the crest of the heights deep within Jackson's defenses.

    Jackson, who had learned of the crisis in his front from an officer in Gregg's brigade, calmly directed his vast reserves to move forward and restore the line. The Southerners raised the "Rebel Yell" and slammed into the exhausted and outnumbered Pennsylvanians. "The action was close-handed and men fell like leaves in autumn," remembered one Federal. "It seems miraculous that any of us escaped at all." See Jackson's Official Report on the battle.

    Jackson's counterattack drove Meade out of the forest, across the railroad, and through the fields to the Richmond Stage Road. Union artillery eventually arrested the Confederate momentum. Except for a minor probe by a New Jersey brigade along the Lansdowne Road in the late afternoon and an aborted Confederate offensive at dusk, the fighting on the south end of the field was over.

    Burnside waited anxiously at his headquarters on Stafford Heights for news of Franklin's offensive. According to the Union plan, the advance through Fredericksburg toward Marye's Heights would not commence until the Left Grand Division began rolling up Jackson's corps. By late morning, however, the despairing Federal commander discarded his already-suspect strategy and ordered Sumner's grand division to move to the attack.

    In several ways, Marye's Heights offered the Federals their most promising target. Not only did this sector of Lee's defenses lie closest to the shelter of Fredericksburg, but the ground rose less steeply here than on the surrounding hills. See Sumner's Official Report

    Nevertheless, Union soldiers had to leave the city, descend into a valley bisected by a water-filled canal ditch, and ascend an open slope of 400 yards to reach the base of the heights. Artillery atop Marye's Heights and nearby elevations would thoroughly blanket the Federal approach. "A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it," boasted on Confederate cannoneer.

    Sumner's first assault began at noon and set the pattern for a ghastly series of attacks that continued, one after another, until dark. As soon as the Northerners marched out of Fredericksburg, Longstreet's artillery wreaked havoc on the crisp blue formations. The Unionists then encountered a deadly bottleneck at the canal ditch which was spanned by partially-destroyed bridges at only three places. Once across this obstacle, the attackers established shallow battle lines under cover of a slight bluff that shielded them from Reel eyes.

    Orders then rang out for the final advance. The landscape beyond the canal ditch contained a few buildings and fences, but from the military perspective it provided virtually no protection. Dozens of Southern cannon immediately reopened on the easy targets and when the Federals traversed about half the remaining distance, as sheet of flame spewed forth from the Sunken Road. This rifle fire decimated the Northerners. Survivors found refuge behind a small swale in the ground or retreated back to the canal ditch valley.

    Quickly a new Federal brigade burst toward Marye's Heights and the "terrible stone wall," then another, and another, until three entire divisions had hurled themselves at the Confederate bastion. In one hour, the Army of the Potomac lost nearly 3,000 men; but the madness continued.

    Although General Cobb suffered a mortal wound early in the action, the Southern line remained firm. Kershaw's Brigade joined North Carolinians in reinforcing Cobb's men in the Sunken Road. The Confederates stood four ranks deep, maintaining a ceaseless musketry while the gray artillerists fired over their heads. See Kershaw's Official Report and the report for Cobb's Brigade on the battle.

    More Union units tested the impossible. "We came forward as though breasting a storm of rain and sleet, our faces and bodies being only half- turned to the storm, our shoulders shrugged," remembered one Federal. "Everybody from the smallest drummer boy on up seemed to be shouting to the full extent of his capacity," recalled another. But each blue wave crested short of the goal. Not a single Union soldier laid his hand on the stone wan.

    Lee, from his lofty perch on Telegraph Hill, watched Longstreet's almost casual destruction of Burnside's divisions as Jackson's counterattack repulsed Meade. Turning toward Longstreet, Lee confessed, "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."

    Burnside ordered Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's Center Grand Division to join the attack in the afternoon, and late in the day, troops from the Fifth Corps moved forward. Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys led his division through the human debris of the previous assaults. Some of Humphreys' soldiers shook off well-meaning hands that clutched at them to prevent their advance. Part of one brigade sustained its momentum until it drew within 25 yards of the stone wall. There, it too melted away.

    The final Union effort began after sunset. Colonel Rush C. Hawkins' brigade, the fifteenth such Federal unit to charge the Sunken Road that day, enjoyed no more success than its predecessors. Darkness shrouded the battlefield and at last the guns fell silent.

    The hideous cries of the wounded, "weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear," echoed through the night. Burnside wrote orders to renew the assaults on December 14, wishing to lead them personally, but his subordinates dissuaded him from this suicidal scheme. On the evening of December 15-16, Burnside skillfully withdrew his army to Stafford Heights, dismantling his bridges behind him. The Fredericksburg Campaign had ended.

    Grim arithmetic tells only a part of the Fredericksburg story. Lee suffered 5,300 casualties but inflicted more than twice that many losses on his opponent. Of the 12,600 Federal soldiers killed, wounded, or missing, almost two-thirds fell in front of the stone wall.

    Despite winning in the most overwhelming tactical sense, however, the Battle of Fredericksburg proved to be a hollow victory for the Confederates. The limitless resources of the North soon rectified Burnside's losses in manpower and materiel. Lee, on the other hand, found it difficult to replenish either missing soldiers or needed supplies. The Battle of Fredericksburg, although profoundly discouraging to Union soldiers and the Northern populace, made no decisive impact on the war. Instead, it merely postponed the next "On to Richmond" campaign until the spring.

    The armies remained in position throughout the day on December 14, when Burnside briefly considered leading his old IX Corps in one final attack on Marye's Heights, but thought better of it. That afternoon, Burnside asked Lee for a truce to attend to his wounded men, and Lee graciously granted it. The next day, he retreated across the river unmolested, and the campaign came to an end.

    The casualties sustained by each army showed clearly how disastrous the Union army's tactics were, and Burnside was soon relieved of command. The Union army lost 12,500 men, with more than 10,000 of them coming as a result of the repeated attacks on Marye's Heights. The Confederate army lost only 4,201, most of them in the early fighting on Jackson's front. Longstreet's corps lost only about 500 men.

    Portions of this summary are from the National Park Service description of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

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  • The Battle of USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia USS Monitor -- Looking like a "Cheesebox on a raft", this United States Civil War ship is most famous for its participation in the first ever naval battle between two ironclad ships when it battled the CSS Virginia near Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Monitor was engineered by John Ericsson. Although the battle itself was inconclusive, the USS Monitor trapped the CSS Virginia in the James River. Neither ship played much of a subsequent part in the war. The ship consisted of a heavy, round iron turret on the deck, which housed two large cannon. The armored deck was barely above the water line. Aside from a smoke stack and a few fittings, the bulk of the ship was below the water line to prevent damage from cannon fire (torpedoes were not a worry for another 50 years).

    The USS Monitor was one of the most innovative naval vessels of all time. It was the first ship made almost entirely out of iron. Parts were forged in nine foundries and brought together to build the ship. The entire process took less than 120 days. Other innovations included the "cheesebox", which was the first rotating turret, it was the first naval vessel fitted with Ericsson's marine screw and it even anticipated some aspects of submarine design by placing all facilities but the turret under water. In contrast, the CSS Virginia, better known by its Yankee name USS Merrimac, was a conventional wooden vessel covered with iron plates and with fixed weapons.

    The USS Monitor was lost at sea during a heavy storm, swamped by high waves.

    In 1974, the wreck of the USS Monitor was located on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and the part of the wrecked ship has been recovered for further study. The wreck site was designated as the United States' first marine sanctuary. The Monitor Sanctuary is the only one of the thirteen national marine sanctuaries created to protect a cultural ( as opposed to a natural ) resource.

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  • The Battle of Chickamauga and Chattanooga - Union and Confederate armies clashed during the fall of 1863 in some of the hardest fighting of the Civil War. The prize was Chattanooga, key rail center and gateway to the heart of the Confederacy. The campaign that brought the armies here began late in June 1863 when General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland, almost 60,000 strong, moved from Murfreesboro, Tennessee against General Braxton Bragg's 43,000 Confederates dug in 20 miles to the southwest defending the road to Chattanooga.

    Six months earlier, these same armies had clashed at Stone River where, after a 3-day struggle, the Confederates had retreated. Now, once more, through a series of skillful marches, Rosecrans forced the Southerns to withdraw into Chattanooga. There Bragg dug in again, guarding the Tennessee River crossings northeast of the city, where he expected Rosecrans to attack. But early in September the Federals crossed the Tennessee well below Chattanooga and again Bragg had to withdraw southward.

    Eluding his Federal pursuers, Bragg concentrated his forces at LaFayette, Georgia (26 miles) south of Chattanooga. Here reinforcements from East Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi swelled his ranks to more than 66,000 men. Twice he tried unsuccessfully to destroy isolated segments of Rosecrans' army. Then, on September 18, hoping to wedge his troops between the Federals and Chattanooga, Bragg posted his army on the west bank of Chickamauga Creek along a line from Reed's Bridge to just opposite Lee and Gordon's Mill.

    Fighting began shortly after dawn on September 19 when Union infantry encountered Confederate cavalry at Jay's Mill. This brought on a general battle that spread south for nearly 4 miles. The armies fought desperately all day, often hand-to-hand, and gradually the Confederates pushed the Federals back to LaFayatte Road. On September 20, Bragg again tried to drive between the Union force and Chattanooga, but failed to dislodge Rosecrans' line. Then a gap opened in the Federal ranks, and General James Longstreet's Confederates smashed through the hole, routing Rosecrans and half his army. General George H. Thomas took command of the remaining Federals and formed a new battleline on Snodgrass Hill. Here his men held their ground against repeated assaults, earning for Thomas the nickname "Rock of Chickamauga." After dark, Thomas withdrew his men from the field. The defeat forced the Union troops to retreat into Chattanooga. The Confederates pursued, occupying Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, and Chattanooga Valley. By placing artillery on the heights overlooking the river and blocking the roads and rail lines, the Southerners prevented Federal supplies from entering the city. Unless something was done to break the Confederate stranglehold, Rosecrans' army must surrender or starve.

    Aware of Rosecrans' plight, Union authorities in Washington ordered reinforcements to his relief. General Joseph Hooker came from Virginia late in October with 20,000 men and General William T. Sherman brought in 16,000 more from Mississippi in mid-November. Thomas replaced Rosecrans as head of Army of the Cumberland and General Ulysses S. Grant assumed overall command.

    Within days of Grant's arrival at Chattanooga in October, the situation began to change dramatically. On October 28 Federal troops opened a short supply route (called the "Cracker Line") from Bridgeport, Alabama. On November 23 Thomas' men attacked and routed the Confederates from Orchard Knob. On the 24th, aided by a heavy fog that enshrouded the slopes of Lookout Mountain during most of the day, Hooker's soldiers pushed the Confederates out of their defenses around the Cravens House. On November 25, with most of Bragg's army now concentrated on Missionary Ridge, Grant launched Sherman's troops against the Confederate right flank, and sent Hooker's men from Lookout Mountain to attack the Confederate left. Thomas soldiers, in the center at Orchard Knob, were held in reserve.

    Hooker was delayed crossing Chattanooga Creek and the Confederates halted Sherman's attack. To relieve the pressure on Sherman, Grant ordered Thomas' Army of the Cumberland to assault the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. This was quickly accomplished. Then, without orders, Thomas' men scaled the heights in one of the great charges of the war. The Confederates line collapsed and Bragg's troops fled to the rear. During the night they retreated into Georgia. The siege and battle of Chattanooga were over and Union armies now controlled the city and nearly all of Tennessee. The next spring, Sherman used Chattanooga for his base as he started his march to Atlanta and the sea.

    From the National Park Service description of the Battle of Chickamauga and Chattanooga.

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  • The Siege of Vicksburg - At the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi River was the single most important economic feature of the continent; the very lifeblood of America. Upon the secession of the southern states, Confederate forces closed the river to navigation, which threatened to strangle northern commercial interests.

    President Abraham Lincoln told his civil and military leaders, "See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.... We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg." Lincoln assured his listeners that "I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and as valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so."

    It was imperative for the administration in Washington to regain control of the lower Mississippi River, thereby opening that important avenue of commerce enabling the rich agricultural produce of the Northwest to reach world markets.

    It would also split the South in two, sever a vital Confederate supply line, achieve a major objective of the Anaconda Plan, and effectively seal the doom of Richmond. In the spring of 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant launched his Union Army of the Tennessee on a campaign to pocket Vicksburg and provide Mr. Lincoln with the key to victory.

    First Assault on Fortress Vicksburg
    May 19, 1863

    Anxious for a quick victory, Grant made a hasty reconnaissance of the Vicksburg defenses and ordered an assault. Of his three corps, however, only one was in proper position to make the attack--Sherman's corps astride the Graveyard Road northeast of Vicksburg. Early in the morning Union artillery opened fire and bombarded the Confederate works with solid shot and shell. Stockade Redan, present day

    With lines neatly dressed and their battle flags blowing in the breeze above them, Sherman's troops surged across the fields at 2:00 p.m. and through the abatis (obstructions of felled trees) toward Stockade Redan. Although the men of the 1st Battalion, 13th United States Infantry, planted their colors on the exterior slope of Stockade Redan (a powerful Confederate fort which guarded the road), the attack was repulsed with Federal losses numbering 1,000 men.

    May 22, 1863

    Undaunted by his failure on the 19th and realizing that he had been too hasty, Grant made a more thorough reconnaissance then ordered another assault. Early on the morning of May 22, Union artillery opened fire and for four hours bombarded the city's defenses. At 10:00 the guns fell silent and Union infantry was thrown forward along a three-mile front. Sherman attacked once again down the Graveyard Road, McPherson in the center along the Jackson Road, and McClernand on the south along the Baldwin Ferry Road and astride the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. Flags of all three corps were planted at different points along the exterior slope of Confederate fortifications. McClernand's men even made a short-lived penetration at Railroad Redoubt. But the Federals were again driven back with a loss in excess of 3,000 men.

    May 26 - July 3, 1863

    Following the failure of the May 22 assault, Grant realized that Vicksburg could not be taken by storm and decided to lay siege to the city. Slowly his army established a line of works around the beleaguered city and cut Vicksburg off from supply and communications with the outside world. Commencing on May 26, Union forces constructed thirteen approaches along their front aimed at different points along the Confederate defense line. The object was to dig up to the Confederate works then tunnel underneath them, plant charges of black powder, and destroy the fortifications. Union troops would then surge through the breach and gain entrance to Vicksburg. Union soldiers dig approach trenches towards the Confederate fortifications

    Throughout the month of June, Union troops advanced their approaches slowly toward the Confederate defenses. Protected by the fire of sharpshooters and artillery, Grant's fatigue parties neared their objectives by late June. Along the Jackson Road, a mine was detonated beneath the Third Louisiana Redan on June 25, and Federal soldiers swarmed into the crater attempting to exploit the breach in the city's defenses. The struggle raged for 26 hours during which time clubbed muskets and bayonets were freely used as the Confederates fought with grim determination to deny their enemy access to Vicksburg. The troops in blue were finally driven back at the point of bayonet and the breach sealed. On July 1, a second mine was detonated but not followed by an infantry assault.

    Throughout the weary month of June the gallant defenders of Vicksburg suffered under the constant bombardment of enemy guns from reduced rations and exposure to the elements. Reduced in number by sickness and battle casualties, the garrison of Vicksburg was spread dangerously thin. Soldiers and citizens alike began to despair that relief would ever come. At Jackson and Canton General Johnston gathered a relief force which took up the line of march toward Vicksburg on July 1. By then it was too late as the sands of time had expired for the fortress city on the Mississippi River.

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  • The Battle of Petersburg became the setting for the longest siege in American history when General Ulysses S. Grant failed to capture Richmond in the spring of 1864. Grant settled in to subdue the Confederacy by surrounding Petersburg and cutting off General Robert E. Lee's supply lines into Petersburg and Richmond. On April 2, 1865, nine-and-one-half months after the siege began, Lee evacuated Petersburg.

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  • Battle of Shiloh - The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the American Civil War, fought in south central Tennessee, 25 miles northeast of Corinth, Mississippi. It took place on April 6 and April 7]], 1862. It is also called the Battle of Pittsburg Landing.

    Shiloh was fought by the Confederate Army of the Mississippi, led by Albert Sidney Johnston (killed 6 April) and Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, against the Union Army of the Tennessee, led by Ulysses Simpson Grant, and the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Don Carlos Buell.

    The two day battle, the costliest in American history up to that time, resulted in the defeat of the Confederate force and frustration of Johnston's plans to prevent the joining of the two Union armies in Tennessee.

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  • Fort Sumter, located in Charleston harbor, is perhaps best known as the site where, according to tradition, the first shots of the United States Civil War were fired. On April 10, 1861, the Union garrison in the fort was told to surrender by Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard in Charleston. This demand was refused and on April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort. The Union return fire was ineffective. On April 13, the fort was evacuated after surrendering. The only casualties took place after the surrender, when two Union soldiers were killed, and two others wounded during an explosion of a cannon during a salute that occurred during the evacuation. Accounts often describe Charleston residents along what is now known as "The Battery", sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities.

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  • The CSS Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate navy that demonstrated the advantage and danger of undersea warfare. Hunley was the first submarine to engage and sink a warship.

    Privately built in 1863 by Park and Lyons of Mobile, Alabama, Hunley was fashioned from a cylindrical iron steam boiler, which was deepened and also lengthened through the addition of tapered ends. Hunley was designed to be hand powered by a crew of nine: eight to turn the hand-cranked propeller and one to steer and direct the boat. As a true submarine, each end was equipped with ballast tanks that could be flooded by valves or pumped dry by hand pumps. Extra ballast was added through the use of iron weights bolted to the underside of the hull. In the event the submarine needed additional buoyancy to rise in an emergency, the iron weight could be removed by unscrewing the heads of the bolts from inside the vessel.

    On February 16, 1864, the Confederate submarine made a daring late night attack on USS Housatonic, a 1800-ton sloop-of-war with 23 guns, in Charleston Harbor off the coast of South Carolina. H.L. Hunley rammed Housatonic with spar torpedo packed with explosive powder and attached to a long pole on its bow. The spar torpedo embedded in the sloop's wooden side was detonated by a rope as Hunley backed away. The resulting explosion that sent Housatonic with five crew members to the bottom of Charleston Harbor also sank Hunley with its crew of nine. H.L. Hunley earned a place in the history of undersea warfare as the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime.

    The Wreck

    The search for Hunley ended 131 years later when best-selling author Clive Cussler and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) discovered the submarine after a 14-year search. At the time of discovery, Cussler and NUMA were conducting this research in partnership with the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology (SCIAA). The team realized that they had found Hunley after exposing the forward hatch and the ventilator box (the air box for the attachment of a snorkel). The submarine rested on its starboard side at about a 45-degree angle and is covered in a 1/4 to 3/4-inch encrustation of ferrous oxide bonded with sand and shell particles. Archaeologists exposed a little more on the port side and found the bow dive plane on that side. More probing revealed an approximate length of 34 feet with most, if not all, of the vessel preserved under the sediment.

    In August 2000 archaeological investigation and excavation culminated with the resurrection of Hunley from its watery grave. A large team of professionals from the Naval Historical Center's Underwater Archaeology Branch, National Park Service, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and various other individuals investigated the vessel, measuring and documenting it prior to preparing it for removal. Once the on site investigation was complete harnesses were slipped underneath the sub one by one and attached to a truss designed by Oceaneering, Inc. Then after the last harness had been secured, the crane from Clarissa B began hoisting the submarine from the mire of the harbor. On August 8 at 8:37am the sub broke the surface for the first time in over 136 years where it was greeted by a cheering crowd lining the shore and in hundreds of nearby watercraft. Once safely on its transporting barge, Hunley finally completed its last voyage back to Charleston. The removal operation reached its successful conclusion when the submarine was secured inside the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in a specially designed tank of freshwater to await conservation.

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  • The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle of Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia campaign against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

    The battle was fought in the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, an expanse of impenetrable scrub growth and rough terrain that encompassed more than a dozen square miles of Spotsylvania County in central Virginia. A number of battles were fought in its vicinity between 1862 and 1864, including the bloody Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. It is often said that the Wilderness and Chancellorsville were fought in the same spot, but this isn't really the case. The Wilderness was actually fought a few miles to the west, and only overlapped the old battlefield along the Brock Road on the United States (Union) Army's left flank.

    On May 2, 1864, the Army of the Potomac, nominally under the command of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade but taking orders from Grant, crossed the Rapidan River at three separate points and converged on the Wilderness Tavern, which ironically was the concentration point for the Confederates one year to the day earlier when they launched their devastating attack on the Union right flank at Chancellorsville. But Grant chose to set up his camps to the west of the old battle site before moving southward. Unlike the Union army of a year before, Grant had no desire to fight in the Wilderness.

    On the other hand, for Lee, who was massively outnumbered as usual (65,000 men to Grant's 123,000), accosting Grant in the Wilderness was imperative for the same reason as a year ago--in a battle contested in the tangled woods, the value of artillery was limited, and Lee's artillery possessed fewer guns of lower quality than Grant's.

    While waiting for the arrival of Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps, which had been posted 25 miles to the west in order to guard against an attack on the crucial railroad junction of Gordonsville, Lee pushed forward his Second Corps, commanded by Lieut. Gen. Richard Ewell, and the Third Corps under the command of Lieut. Gen. A.P. Hill in an effort to engage Grant before he moved south. The Confederates were able to do this, and on May 5, both Ewell, on Lee's left flank, and Hill on the right clashed with Union soldiers.

    On the left, Ewell met up with the Union V Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. G.K. Warren, and fought it to a standoff. For much of the day, Ewell's 20,000-man corps actually held a slight numerical advantage on this part of the field. But on the right, Hill was hit hard and driven back by the Union II Corps under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock and a division from the VI Corps. He held his ground, however.

    On May 6, Hancock, now commanding close to 40,000 men, resumed the attack on Hill's corps, while heavy Union reinforcements on Ewell's front prevented Lee from sending Second Corps men to aid Hill. By late morning, Hancock had driven Hill's corps back more than two miles and inflicted heavy casualties. With the Third Corps in dire straits, Lee began to look desperately for Longstreet, whose arrival had been expected hours before.

    At around noon, Longstreet and the 20,000-man First Corps arrived at last, and its timing was perfect. Hancock's men were tired from six hours of fighting and disorganized. When Longstreet hurled his forces at the Union attackers, they recoiled and within two hours, the situation was totally reversed. Not only had Longstreet regained all the ground lost, he'd advanced one mile beyond that, forcing Hancock to regroup along the Brock Road. At a crucial moment in the fighting, Longstreet attacked through the cut of an unfinished railroad that had divided the Union forces in two, increasing the confusion. However, Longstreet did not have enough men to complete his victory, and the fighting soon petered out near the Brock Road. As the fighting wound down on this part of the battlefield, Longstreet was badly wounded and did not return to the Army of Northern Virginia for several months.

    Just as this phase of the battle was ending, a division of the Second Corps under Maj. Gen. John Gordon launched one final assault on the Union right, partially turning the Army of the Potomac's flank and taking close to 1,000 prisoners. But darkness fell before the Confederates had a chance to press their advantage, and with that, the battle came to a close.

    The battle is usually described as a draw; a better way of describing it would be as a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic victory for the Union army. Lee inflicted heavy casualties on Grant's army, a total of 17,666 according to Army of the Potomac records. Lee, on the other hand, lost only about 7,500 men and ended the battle in possession of more of the field than it held when the fighting started. But at this point in the war, that wasn't sufficient. Grant, unlike Lee's previous adversaries, refused to retreat simply because he met a check. Lee would have to destroy the Army of the Potomac while he still had sufficient force to do so, and Grant was too skilled to allow that to happen.

    On May 8, Grant ordered the Army of the Potomac to resume its advance, and less than a week later, the two armies clashed again 10 miles to the southeast, at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

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  • The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania, was the final battle of the American Civil War fought in the Rapidan-Rappahannock river areas, in which more than 100,000 men on both sides fell between 1862 and 1864.

    The Battle of Spotsylvania was fought from May 8-19, 1864 along a trench line some four miles long, with the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee making its second attempt to halt the summer offensive of the United States (Union) Army of the Potomac under the command of Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George Meade. Taking place less than a week after the bloody, inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, it pitted 58,000 Confederate soldiers against a Union army numbering 106,000.

    After Lee checked his advance in the Wilderness, Grant decided to take advantage of the position he held, which allowed him to slip his army around Lee's right flank and continue to move south toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. He already had troops on the move by the night of May 7, just one day after the Wilderness fighting ended, and on May 8, he sent Maj. Gen. Gouverneur Warren and his V Corps to take Spotsylvania, 10 miles to the southeast. Lee had figured out what Grant proposed to do, and sent cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and the First Corps of infantry, commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson because its usual leader, Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet had been wounded in the Wilderness.

    The Confederates won the race to Spotsylvania, and on May 9, each army began to take up new positions around the small town. The fighting of May 9 was significant in that Union corps commander John Sedgwick, with the army since 1862, was killed. Lee deployed his men in a trench line stretching more than five miles, with only one major weakness--an exposed salient known as the "Mule Shoe" extending more than a mile in front of the main trench line. Lee recognized this weakness during the fighting of May 10, when a dozen regiments under the command of Col. Emory Upton followed up a concentrated, intense artillery attack by slamming into the toe of the Mule Shoe along a narrow front. They actually broke the Confederate line, and the Confederate Second Corps had a hard time driving them out. Upton's attack won him a promotion to general, and became a staple of miltary textbooks on how to break an enemy trench line. Similar tactics were used by Germany in its successful March 1918 offensive during World War I.

    Lee, seeing the danger, began to lay out a new defense line across the heel of the Mule Shoe that night, but before he could get it finished, Grant sent his entire II Corps of 15,000 men to attack the position in the same manner Upton had. This time, the breach in the Confederate line was complete, thanks in large part to an order from Lee that had already pulled much of the Confederate artillery back to the new line. The II Corps took close to 4,000 prisoners and probably would have cut the Army of Northern Virginia in half if the IX Corps, supporting it with an assault on the Confederate right flank, had pushed its attacks home with force. Instead, Lee was able to shift thousands of his men to meet the threat. The battle in the Mule Shoe lasted for an entire day and night, as the Confederates slowly won back all the ground they had lost, inflcting heavy losses on the II Corps and the reinforcing VI Corps in the process.

    By 3 a.m. on May 13, just as the Confederates had completed expelling the II Corps from the Mule Shoe, the new line was ready, and Lee had his battered men retire behind it. More than 10,000 men fell in the Mule Shoe, which now passed to the Union forces without a fight. On May 18, Grant sent two of his corps to attack the new line, but were met with a bloody repulse. That convinced Grant, who had vowed to "fight it out on this line if it takes all winter", that Lee's men could not be dislodged from their Spotsylvania line.

    Grant, checked by Lee for a second time, responded as he had two weeks earlier. He shifted the weight of his army to the right flank and again moved to the southeast along roads Lee was unable to block. By May 20-21, the two armies were on their way to take positions along the North Anna River, another dozen miles closer to Richmond.

    Once again, Lee's tactics inflicted severe casualties on Grant's army. This time, the toll was 18,399 men, of which close to 3,000 were killed. In two weeks of fighting, Grant had lost 35,000 men, and another 20,000 went home when their enlistments ended. In fact, Grant at one point on the North Anna had less than 65,000 effectives. But Lee wasn't coming out of these battles unscathed, either. At Spotsylvania, he lost another 10,000 men, and the Confederates were having to pull men away from other fronts to reinforce him. Making matters worse, the army was taking heavy losses among its veteran units and its best officers. This may have saved Grant from a disaster on the North Anna, when his decimated army was positioned badly and was ripe to be attacked. Lee never did, because the Army of Northern Virginia was unable to do so. In fact, Lee's army would never regain the initiative it lost in those two weeks of May 1864.

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  • The Battle of Chancellorsville marked the zenith of the powers of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in its struggle to drive off and destroy the Army of the Potomac and win independence for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War.

    The Chancellorsville campaign began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union (United States) army on the morning of April 27, 1863. Heavy fighting began on May 1 and did not end until the Union forces retreated across the river on the night of May 5-6. The battle had some characteristics of a modern battle, as the armies were spread out over a front of several miles and neither side every fully concentrated its army.

    On paper, it was one of the most lopsided clashes of arms in the war. The Union army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, brought an effective fighting force of 132,000 men onto the field. The Confederate army, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, numbered approximately 57,000. Furthermore, the Union forces were much better supplied and were well-rested after several months of inactivity. Lee's forces, on the other hand, were spread out all over the state of Virginia. In fact, some 15,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, stationed near Norfolk some 100 miles to the southeast, failed to arrive in time. Their absence probably saved the Union army from total destruction in the battle that ensued.

    On April 27-28, Hooker and the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers in several places, most of them near the confluence of the two rivers and the hamlet of Chancellorsville, which was little more than a large mansion at the junction of the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank roads. In the meantime, a second force of more than 30,000 men crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, some 14 miles to the east and the site of a battle the previous December. By doing this, Hooker now had substantial forces on both Lee's front and on his right flank, and he had dispatched some 7,000 cavalry under Maj. Gen. George Stoneman to raid deep in the Confederate rear areas. He ordered Stoneman to attack and destroy crucial supply depots along the railroad from Richmond to Fredericksburg, which would cut Lee off from resupply and force him to fall back to positions closer to his supply sources.

    By May 1, Hooker had approximately 70,000 men concentrated in and around Chancellorsville, while Lee worked frantically to concentrate his own army. He confronted Hooker at Chancellorsville with 40,000 men, while on his right, Maj. Gen. Jubal Early manned Fredericksburg's formidable Marye's Heights with 12,000 troops, hoping to keep Sedgwick out of Lee's rear. The next day, the Union and Confederate troops clashed on the Chancellorsville front, with some Union forces actually pushing their way out of the impenetrable thickets and scrub pine that characterized the area. This was seen by many Union commanders as a key to victory. If the larger Union army fought in the woods, known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, its huge advantage in artillery would be useless, since artillery could not be used to any great effect in the Wilderness.

    However, Hooker had decided before beginning the campaign that he would fight the battle defensively, forcing Lee, with his small army, to attack his huge one. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union army had done the attacking and met with a bloody and dreadful defeat. Hooker knew Lee could not take such a defeat and keep an effective army in the field. So he ordered his men to withdraw back into the Wilderness and take a defensive position around Chancellorsville, daring Lee to attack him.

    Lee, with no other options but to retreat down open roads with Hooker's larger army in pursuit (this was what Hooker really wanted Lee to attempt), chose to take the dare and plan an attack for May 2. On the night before, Lee and his top subordinate, Lieut. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, came up with a tremendously risky, but daring, plan of attack. They would split the 40,000-man force at Chancellorsville, with Jackson taking his Second Corps of 28,000 men around to attack the Union right flank. Lee, on the other hand, would exercise personal command of the other 12,000 (the other half of Longstreet's First Corps, commanded directly by Lee during the entire battle) facing Hooker's entire 70,000 man force at Chancellorsville.

    For this to work, several things had to happen. First, Jackson had to make a 12-mile march via roundabout roads to reach the Union right, and he had to do it undetected. Second, Lee had to hope that Hooker stayed tamely on the defensive. Third, Early would have to keep Sedgwick bottled up in Fredericksburg. And last but not least, when Jackson launched his attack, he had to hope that the Union forces were unprepared.

    Incredibly, all of this happened. Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart kept the Union forces from spotting Jackson on his long flank march, which took almost all day. The only sighting came shortly after Jackson's corps disengaged from Union forces south of Chancellorsville, and this worked to the Confederates' advantage--Hooker thought that his cavalry under Stoneman had cut Lee's supply line and that Lee was about to retreat. Therefore, he stayed right where he was and never contemplated an all-out attack, sending only his III Corps of 13,000 men under Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles forward. Sickles captured a handful of Second Corps men and then stopped.

    Over at Fredericksburg, Sedgwick and Hooker were unable to communicate with one another due to the failure of telegraph lines between the two halves of the army. And when Hooker finally got an order to Sedgwick late on the evening of May 2, ordering him to attack Early, Sedgwick failed to do so because he mistakenly believed Early had more men than he did.

    But what led most of all to the impending Union disaster was the incompetent commander of the Union XI Corps, Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard. Howard, whose 11,000 men were posted at the far right of the Union line, failed to make any provision for his defense in case of a surprise attack, even though Hooker ordered him to. The Union right flank was not anchored on any natural obstacle, and the only defenses against a flank attack consisted of two cannon pointing out into the Wilderness. Making matters worse, the XI Corps was a poorly trained unit made up almost entirely of German immigrants, many of whom didn't even speak English.

    At 4:30 in the afternoon, Jackson's 28,000 men came running out of the Wilderness and hit Howard's corps totally by surprise right when most of them were cooking dinner. More than 4,000 of them were taken prisoner without firing a shot, and most of the remainder were routed. Only one division of the XI Corps made a stand, and it was soon driven off as well. By nightfall, the Confederate Second Corps had advanced more than two miles, to within sight of Chancellorsville, and were separated from Lee's men only by Sickles' corps, which remained where it had been after attacking that morning. Hooker himself suffered a minor injury when a Confederate shell hit near his headquarters during the peak of the fighting.

    Both Hooker and Jackson made serious errors that night, and for Jackson, his mistake cost him his life.

    Hooker, concerned about Sickles' ability to hold what was now a salient into the Confederate lines, pulled the III Corps back to Chancellorsville that night. Unfortunately, this gave the Confederates two advantages--it reunited Jackson and Lee's forces, and it gave them control of a clearing in the woods known as Hazel Grove, one of the few places in which artillery could be used effectively.

    Jackson's mistake came when he was scouting ahead of his corps along the Orange Plank Road that night. Having won a huge victory that day, Jackson wanted to press his advantage before Hooker and his army could regain their bearings and plan a counterttack, which might still succeed because of the sheer disparity in numbers. He rode out onto the plank road that night, unrecognized by men of the Second Corps behind him, and was hit by "friendly fire". The wound didn't seem life-threatening at first, but Jackson contracted pneumonia after his arm was amputated and died on May 10. His death was a devastating loss for the Confederacy.

    On May 3, Lee put Stuart in command of the Second Corps, and the daring cavalryman proved to be a fine commander of infantry, as well. Stuart launched a massive assault all along the front, and even though the Union army still far outnumbered and outgunned the Confederates, they won by simply outfighting the Union defenders, and by using the Hazel Grove position to pound the Union artillery and eventually drive it off. By that afternoon, the Confederates had captured Chancellorsville, and Hooker pulled his battered men back to a line of defense circling United States Ford, their last remaining open line of retreat.

    Still, Lee couldn't declare victory, and Hooker wasn't conceding defeat, either. During the peak of the fighting at Chancellorsville on May 3, he again called on Sedgwick to break through and attack Lee's rear. Again, that general delayed until it was too late. That afternoon, he finally did attack Early's position (after Early at one point abandoned it himself thanks to a misinterpreted order from Lee), and broke through. But he did it too late in the day to help Hooker's men. In fact, a single brigade of Alabama troops led by Col. Lafayette McLaws stood off six times as many Union soldiers, halfway between Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg at Salem Church.

    The fighting on May 3, 1863 was some of the most furious anywhere in the war, and would have ranked among the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War by itself. About 18,000 men, divided equally between the two armies, fell in battle that day.

    On the evening of May 3 and all day May 4, Hooker remained in his defenses while Lee and Early battled Sedgwick. Sedgwick, after breaking Early's defenses, foolishly neglected to secure Fredericksburg. Early simply marched back into the city and reoccupied it, cutting Sedgwick off. Meanwhile, Lee took two divisions from the Chancellorsville front and reinforced McLaws before Sedgwick realized just how few men were opposing him. Sedgwick, as it turned out, was as resolute on the defensive as he was irresolute on the attack, and he stood his ground that day and part of the next, before withdrawing back across the Rappahannock at Banks' Ford. Ironically, this was another miscommunication between he and Hooker; the commanding general had wanted Sedgwick to hold Banks' Ford, so that Hooker could withdraw from the Chancellorsville area and re-cross the river at Banks' to fight again. When he learned that Sedgwick had retreated back over the river, Hooker felt he was out of options to save the campaign, and on the night of May 5-6, he also withdrew back across the river.

    Stoneman, after a week of ineffectual raiding in central and southern Virginia in which he failed to attack any of the objectives Hooker set out for him, withdrew into Union lines east of Richmond on May 7, ending the campaign.

    The most noteworthy characteristic of the battle was the horrifying conditions it was fought under. Soldiers tended to get lost in the impenetrable maze of undergrowth, and many fires started during the course of the battle. Reports of wounded men being burned alive were both common and entirely creditable.

    Lee, despite being outnumbered by a margin of about five to two, won arguably his greatest victory of the war. But he paid a terrible price for it. With only 52,000 infantry engaged, he suffered more than 13,000 casualties, losing some 25 percent of his force--men that the Confederacy, with its limited manpower, could not replace. Just as seriously, he lost Jackson, his most aggressive field commander. His loss would be felt severely later in the summer, in the Gettysburg campaign.

    Hooker, who began the campaign believing he had "80 chances in 100 to be successful", lost the battle through communications snafus, the incompetence of some of his leading generals (most notably Howard and Stoneman) and through some serious errors of his own, including not pushing out of the Wilderness on May 1, pulling back Sickles on May 2 and even by retreating on May 6. For on that day, Lee planned to launch an all-out attack on Hooker's defenses. What Lee didn't know was that they were virtually impregnable, and beyond the capability of his remaining 39,000 infantry to carry. Hooker also erred in his disposition of force; some 40,000 men of the Army of the Potomac scarcely fired a shot.

    Of the 90,000 Union men who bore the brunt of the fighting, just over 17,000 fell in battle, a casualty rate much lower than Lee's, and this without taking into account the 4,000 men of the XI Corps who were captured without a fight in the initial panic on May 2. Hooker's tactic of forcing Lee to attack him was clearly sound in its conception, but terribly flawed in the way he and his subordinates implemented it. The actual fighting showed the Union army had become as formidable in battle as Lee's heretofore unbeatable legions, something else that would be proven again at Gettysburg.

    The Battle of Chancellorsville, along with the May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness fought in the same area, formed the basis for Stephen Crane's 1895 novel The Red Badge of Courage.



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