One-tank road trips: Chancellorsville – Part 1
The Battle of Chancellorsville was one of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s string of victories over the Union Army of the Potomac in the first two years of the American Civil War. Fought in May 1863 in Northern Virginia, Chancellorsville would be the last fight for Stonewall Jackson, whose mortal wounding cast a pall over the Rebel triumph. His aggressive and instinctive battlefield awareness would be sorely missed in the summer campaign which culminated at Gettysburg.
Much of the old Chancellorsville battlefield today is preserved as part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, administered by the National Park Service. I had a chance recently to ride around the park and take a few photographs of the visitors center museum and selected battlefield sites.
The Visitors Center is rather small, but it does a good job of explaining the battle and presenting some artifacts from the battle, as well as a handful of nice dioramas depicting battle action and the wounding of General Jackson by his own men.
Adapted from Wikipedia: The military park was established as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park on February 14, 1927, and transferred from the War Department August 10, 193. It encompasses 8,374 acres, of which 7,369 are owned by the Federal government. The park includes four major Civil War battlefields: Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
It also preserves four historic buildings associated with them: Chatham Manor, Salem Church, Ellwood, and the house where Stonewall Jackson died. The ruins of the Chancellor family mansion (above) are included. There are two visitor centers staffed by Park Service rangers, one in Fredericksburg near the foot of Marye’s Heights, and another at the Chancellorsville site. Exhibit shelters are staffed on a seasonal basis at Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Chatham Manor in Stafford County is open daily. All sites are free. Over 500,000 people visit the battlefield each year.
Union Maj. Gen. Joseph O. Hooker established his headquarters at the Chancellor mansion. He was stunned and temporarily incapacitated when a shell struck the front porch pillar on which he was leaning. The house later caught fire and burned.
From Wikipedia: Chancellorsville is known as Lee’s “perfect battle” because his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force resulted in a significant Confederate victory. The victory, a product of Lee’s audacity and Hooker’s timid combat performance, was tempered by heavy casualties and the mortal wounding of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to friendly fire, a loss that Lee likened to “losing my right arm.”
Chancellorsville was a series of actions between April 30 and May 6, 1863, fought in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. It resulted in more than 30,000 casualties.
A year later, Lee would again fight the Army of the Potomac at the nearby Battle of the Wilderness.