In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln named General Ambrose Burnside as the commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. His tenure at the helm of the prestigious army was less than stellar. At the December Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside’s Union forces suffered nearly 14,000 casualties compared to only 5,000 casualties suffered by the Confederates.
In January, 1863, Burnside went to Washington DC to meet with Lincoln. He handed him two letters, one requesting permission to replace most of the top officers of the Army of the Potomac, especially the removal of General Joseph Hooker. The other letter was option 2, a submission of Burnside’s resignation.
On January 26, 1863, Lincoln formally acted on Burnside’s ultimatum and appointed Hooker as the new commander of the Army of the Potomac. Although Hooker had a reputation of being a drinker and womanizer, he had distinguished himself at the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Over the next couple of months, Hooker busily rebuilt and rejuvenated the Army of the Potomac.
On April 30, 1863, Hooker successfully led the Army of the Potomac, numbering around 115,000 men, across the Rappahannock River and into a position on Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s flank. Instead of retreating from the advancing Union army, Lee and General Stonewall Jackson led a force of around 60,000 troops. They devised a counterplan to offset being outnumbered 2-to-1.
On this day, May 1, 1863, Lee’s forces attacked Hooker’s army while Jackson led 30,000 Confederate troops around through the wilderness with the intention of attacking the Union army’s flank. The bulk of Hooker’s forces met the rest of Lee’s forces in the open area near the small hamlet of Chancellorsville.
Over the course of the next few days, the Battle of Chancellorsville turned out to be the most decisive victory of the entire Civil War for Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
To be continued…
Sources for the above includes: Chancellorsville; Battle of Chancellorsville; Battle of Chancellorsville begins; Battle of Chancellorsville History; Chancellorsville: Virginia Civil War; The Battle of Chancellorsville; American Civil War Timeline 1863; American Civil War Timeline 1863; Joseph Hooker takes over the Army of the Potomac.