The South’s Finest Hour: The Battle of Chancellorsville

1 May 1998

For the South in the Civil War, there were many victories and heartbreaking defeats - from the battle of Bull Run, to the upset of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. However, one Southern victory may be said as the South’s finest hour. This victory came at the battle of Chancellorsville.
Lincoln placed Joseph "Fightin’ Joe" Hooker in charge of the Union troops to take on Robert E. Lee and his army. Hooker was to destroy the Rebel army from behind and then move on to Richmond. Fightin’ Joe began moving his troops toward Chancellorsville in Lee’s rear on April 27th.
Hooker sent a cavalry raid on Lee’s communication and supply lines to screen his movements and also sent 40,000 men to keep Lee’s attention in his front. The very attentive Lee, knew exactly what Hooker was doing. Lee had pulled this trick before. Lee remained on standby and waited for he plan to develop more fully. Hooker’s cavalry moved and was reported to Lee. He decided it was time to react. Lee had two choices. One, he could turn tail in retreat toward Richmond or face the threat behind him. Here, Lee made one of the boldest, most brilliant moves of the war.
Lee completely split up his army. He left only 10,000 Confederates to defend against the 40,000 Union troops at Fredericksburg. Nevertheless, on April 30, the main body of Lee’s forces marched toward Chancellorsville numbered 50,000 against 70,000. On May 1st, the Yankees were marching toward Fredericksburg, while the rebels were marching toward Chancellorsville. In the middle of the dense Wilderness, the Battle of Chancellorsville gently began. Gently because when Hooker met the Confederacy, he withdrew his troops back into trenches. Lee took advantage of this action.
Hooker and his troops were badly beaten on May 2, and were in bad fighting position on the third. The two armies stayed still on the fourth and fifth of May, while Hooker withdrew back across the Rappahannock River. The South came out with a huge victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville.