At Ease: What Happened at Nine Mile Run?
The Fight at Chancellorsville's Nine Mile Run
Nine Mile Run is located...nine miles from historic Fredericksburg. Here, during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, Union troops made a determined stand, even as other Federal soldiers retreated in surprise or under heavy attack on other parts of the battlefield.
Today's email takes a closer look at the location, some of the fight that took place near or at the site, and the preservation efforts in that area. We hope you'll find some useful information from this less-remembered corner of Chancellorsville battlefield on the opposite side from the famed Flank Attack Fields.
So Where Is It?
On this modern road map, we've highlighted "Chancellorsville" which is at the crossroads where the Chancellor house stood. Moving about .8 miles to the right (east) is Nine Mile Run.
Using this preservation map, the dark blue tracts of land have been preserved by CVBT at Nine Mile Run. McLaws Wedge is just across the road to the south, and First Day Chancellorsville lands are to the east.
The 66th New York: "Not A Man Flinched"
An account of Union soldiers fighting along Nine Mile Run and the high ground into what's now called McLaws Wedge: "About daylight [on May 2, 1863] we were ordered, with the rest of the brigade, to the left, when we took up position in the woods in the first line of battle, and Company D, Captain McNeill, was thrown forward as skirmishers. About 10 a.m. of the same day, this command was detached to take up position on the Fredericksburg road and throw up intrenchments.... Our position here was protected in front by a slight skirting of woods, and intended to secure a flank fire upon the enemy in case of attack. These intrenchments were completed in the face of a severe artillery fire from the enemy on our left flank. About 9 o'clock the same evening General Hancock ordered me to report with my command to Colonel Miles, in charge of the picket line, which I immediately did, marching the regiment outside of the intrenchments down the Fredericksburg road to the picket line, where we relieved the Fifty-seventh and the Fifty-second New York Volunteers. I established my line parallel with a few paces beyond the road, fronting a woods occupied by the enemy's pickets.... The men, under my directions, threw up temporary intrenchments during the night. At daybreak the next morning (May 3), the enemy opened a brisk fire of musketry along the whole line in front and on the left flank. The firing was maintained for upward of four hours, during which the enemy made repeated and determined assaults upon our lines; and was each time gallantly repulsed by our men, with severe loss. At about 9 a.m., all his efforts to break our lines with infantry alone having proved futile, the enemy opened upon them with a terrific fire of artillery, but with no better result, every volley from the enemy's musketry and every discharge from his cannon seeming to give renewed energy to our brave men and to increase their determination to maintain their position at all hazards and against any assaults the enemy might be capable of making against them. There was no wasting of ammunition here; every man fired with the utmost coolness and deliberation, taking careful and steady aim at his object, as if firing at a target for a prize. Not a man flinched under the terrible fire to which he was now subjected. Every one of them felt that the high and enviable reputation of the gallant old Third Brigade was in his special keeping, and was determined that it should not be tarnished by any act of his." Colonel Orlando H. Morris, 66th New York Infantry, excerpt from his Official Report, Chancellorsville
The 66th New York camped near Yorktown in 1862 (Library of Congress)
Confederate Artillery: "The Entire Hillside Seemed To Be Cleared"
This description comes from the other side of Nine Mile Run, as Confederate artillerymen eventually drove the Union pickets and infantry from their position: "We were unwilling to waste a shot, knowing that, in the very nature of things, such an opportunity would not be long vouchsafed us. In the pauses...of the cannonade we could hear the clear, high-pitched, thrilling, dauntless yell of our charging infantry, and we felt what our fire, if well directed, might mean to those gallant fellows. We had already unlimbered and moved the guns forward by hand, so that their muzzles just failed to project over the brow of the hill.... We gave them no time to recover, but kept throwing in shell as rapidly as the guns could be loaded and discharged, until the entire hillside seemed to be cleared for the time of both artillery and infantry." Major Robert Stiles, writing about Chancellorsville
Battlefield Preservation at Nine Mile Run
The first acquisition was 5.39 acres, closing in 1999. The second acquisition occurred when a house on an adjacent parcel burned and the owner decided to move rather than rebuild. This second purchase was for 6.5 acres, closing in 2002. Through a grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation, the CVBT subsequently removed all evidence of the burned house and restored the grade. The site has rapidly revegetated, helping to protect earthworks on the land.
Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.