Stonewall Jackson's Flank Attack, Battle of Chancellorsville
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was perhaps the South's greatest general, and Chancellorsville was Jackson's greatest triumph. The parcel preserved by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust marks the point where Jackson’s force – more than half the available Confederate Army of Northern Virginia -- struck the Union flank on May 2, routing Major General O. O. Howard's XI Corps. The stunning success of the attack set in motion events that would culminate three days later in Confederate victory. It was a costly victory to be sure, but a sudden reversal of fortune for a Federal army that seemed on the brink of brilliant achievement.
In the late afternoon on May 2nd, 1863 there was a sudden eruption of wild game -- turkeys, rabbits, and deer -- from the woodline west of this clearing. It was much to the delight and amusement of Federal XI Corps soldiers who were preparing camp and cooking rations here, until a host of gray-clad soldiers followed, the first wave of Jackson’s 27,000-man flank attack. The Confederates fell upon the Union line at this point, capturing two guns and routing General Leopold Von Gilsa's German brigade. The XI Corps was woefully unprepared for the attack – Howard, their commanding officer was absent and their entire reserve division gone with him, their defensive line unprepared and facing the wrong direction, with both ends of the line unsecured, “in the air”. The nearest supporting troops were a mile away. With Confederates bursting upon their flank and rear, many Union soldiers had no option but to run for their lives. The shock was complete. The rout was on. Jackson had reached the pinnacle of his success, of his fame, of military glory. As he rode towards the front lines to the cheers of his men it must have felt exhilarating. But it was almost over.
The scrubby woods on the CVBT land, shown above, are similar in character to the second-growth forest through which Jackson's men charged.
The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust purchased this 5.39 acre tract in 1998 to prevent the construction of a modern building on this key portion of the battlefield. It was conveyed it to the National Park Service in 1999. The progress in preserving the area of the Flank attack has been tremendous, thanks in no small measure to acquisitions like this one by CVBT.