May 3, 1863: Lee Wins the Battle of Chancellorsville

Chancellorsville_May3a

After the brilliant flank attack of Jackson on May 2, 1863 which wrecked the Union 11th Corps, Lee still faced a daunting situation as morning dawned on May 3.  Hooker had been reinforced by Reynolds Corps overnight which made good his losses and Lee’s Army of approximately 43,000 faced 76,000 troops under Hooker.  His forces were also divided with Jackson’s Corps, now temporarily commanded by General Jeb Stuart after Jackson’s wounding, located behind the right of the Union army.  If this were not a bad enough situation, Lee still had Sedgwick south of Fredericksburg with 40,000 men confronting the 11,000 of Early.  If Sedgwick attacked, Lee could be facing an attack from his rear.  Unbeknownst to Lee, in the wake of the flank attack of Jackson, Hooker had sent an urgent message to Sedgwick ordering him to attack immediately.

The first thing Lee had to do was to reunite his army confronting Hooker.  Lee in his official report details how this was done: Continue Reading

May 1, 1863: Lee and Jackson Plan a Military Masterpiece

Chancellorsville May 1, 1863

On the evening of May 1, 1863, General Robert E. Lee knew several facts about the military situation confronting him:

1. His army was between two forces, Hooker with approximately 70,000 men at Chancellorsville and Sedgwick south of Fredericksburg with approximately 40,000 men.  Confronting Sedgwick he had Early with about 11,000 men and confronting Hooker Lee had around 40,000 men.

2.  If Sedgwick and Hooker attacked aggressively Lee’s army could be destroyed between them.

3.  Neither Sedgwick nor Hooker had demonstrated much appetite for attack.  Hooker had launched a brief attack the morning of May 1, but had quickly called it off, Hooker being content to defend against Lee.

4.  Lee now had the initiative, ceded to him miraculously by the man who commanded a combined force more than twice the size of Lee’s.

5.  What to do with the initiative was the question.  How could Lee overcome such a grave disparity in numbers? Continue Reading