Chancellorsville, Battle of

Chancellorsville, Battle of
   A pivotal battle of the American Civil War fought in Virginia in May 1863. Union General Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in January 1863, following the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg. After a period of refitting the army, Hooker hoped to flank Confederate Commander General Robert E. Lee out of his defenses and into a fight on open ground.
   Leaving John Sedgwick’s corps at Fredericksburg to hold Lee in position, Hooker marched westward along the Rappahannock River. Lee was badly outnumbered, having sent James Longstreet’s corps to North Carolina. In an effort to prevent encirclement, Lee boldly split his army and marched west to meet Hooker, leaving a rearguard near Fredericksburg. When Hooker crossed the Rappahannock on April 30, Lee again divided his army, sending Stonewall Jackson’s corps to the south and west to flank Hooker in the vicinity of Chancellorsville. Within sight of seizing key terrain, Hooker halted his advancing columns. He lost his nerve completely when Jackson fell on the vulnerable Union right flank late on May 2. Without having used his entire force, Hooker retreated in defeat across the Rappahannock. Lee then turned east and routed Sedgwick’s corps, which had successfully pushed the rebel rearguard out of its defenses.
   Lee used the victory as a launching pad for his second invasion of the north, which ended in defeat at Gettysburg. Long considered Lee’s masterpiece, the Chancellorsville victory proved costly to the Confederacy when Jackson was wounded by his own men while conducting a night reconnaissance, wounds that led to his death.
    Furgurson, Ernest B. Chancellorsville, 1863: The Souls of the Brave. New York: Random House, 1992;
    Sears, Stephen W. Chancellorsville. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1996.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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