Battle of Chancellorsville "Hooker's Strategy" May 1-4, 1863
"And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories," was the fatherly advice President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Gen. Joseph Hooker upon appointing him to command the Union Army of the Potomac in January 1863. The army was badly demoralized, having been defeated by the Rebel army in the December battle at Fredricksburg and by the weather on the equally disastrous "Mud March." Hooker worked tirelessly to turn the army around, and by spring he had what he described as "the finest army on the planet." The 135,000-man force was fit and well equipped, and their morale was restored.
At Fredricksburg, VA., across the Rappahannock River from Hooker's army, sat the 60,000-man Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee. While Hooker was rebuilding his army, Lee's men suffered horribly from reductions in rations and lack of shoes, clothes, and blankets. Two divisions under Gen. James Longstreet had been sent to North Carolina to forage for provisions, lessening Lee's supply problems but also losing him the service of a reliable commander and 13,000 men.
Hooker developed a brilliant strategy to defeat Lee. Utilizing his overwhelming superiority in numbers, Hooker decided to leave a large force across the river from Lee, and send the rest of his army on a rapid march 20 miles up the Rappahannock to cross at Kelly's Ford. That force would sweep down onto Lee's rear, and the Rebel army would be destroyed between the two Union wings.
The Union soldiers set out the morning of April 27 and by the 30th had made the crossing and were passing through a tangled overgrown expanse known as the Wilderness, only 10 miles from Fredricksburg. At noon the different corps began arriving at a 50-acre clearing at a crossroads where an imposing brick mansion with white columns, the Chancellor House, was located.
Fascinating Fact: The Chancellor House, a holstery in the Wilderness, had lent its name to the crossroads, which was named Chancellorsville.
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