Fight At Catherine Furnace "Guarding Jackson's March" May 2, 1863
At 7:00am on the morning of May 2, 1863, Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's corps began a roundabout all-day march to the Union army's right flank. The march, which would end in a Confederate victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, was spotted by Union observers on the high ground at Hazel Grove around 8:00am. As his men crossed over a ridge near Catherine Furnace, an old iron foundry, Jackson became aware that they were being watched by the enemy. Ordering a regiment to be detached, he instructed it "to guard the flank of the column in motion against a surprise, and call, if necessary, upon any officer whose command was passing for reinforcements."
Major Emory F. Best's 23rd Georgia drew the assignment, and as its men deployed in an arc north of the furnace, Jackson had his 10-mile-long column march double time through the exposed area. Gen. David Birney, whose Union soldiers had spotted the Rebel movement, ordered his artillery to fire on the moving column and requested permission from his army commander, Joseph Hooker, to attack with infantry. It was noon before Birney received permission and ordered his men and another division forward through the woods to attack the still visible column 1,600 yards away.
Birney's soldiers forced the Georgians backward and caused Best to call for immediate reinforcements. Two brigades, dispatched by Gen. Robert E. Lee, quickly arrived from the east and caught the attacking Yankees in a flanking fire. Meanwhile, the last two brigades from Jackson's column, which had already passed Catherine Furnace, turned back to render assistance. By this time, however, Best's regiment had been engulfed by the Union attack and three quarters of the Georgians- almost 300 men- were captured, along with a few wagons that were trailing Jackson's corps. Birney's attack came too late to disrupt Jackson's column, which continued westward. Just before dark, it succeeded in crushing the Union right flank at Chancellorsville.
Fascinating Fact: The 23-year-old Best managed to escape with the remnant of his brigade. After the battle he was arrested and court-martialed for dereliction of duty; he was found guilty and dismissed from the army.
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