Chancellorsville

Last updated June 14th, 2007 by Jenny

As was fast becoming typical during periods of quiet, Jackson and Hill began to again snipe at one another. The Hill-Jackson feud reached a climax on January 29, 1863 when an angry A.P. Hill -- still smarting over his arrest during the Sharpsburg Campaign -- sent a final, feisty letter to General Lee. The tenor of the letter was harsh, mocking towards Jackson, and not the least bit deferential to a superior officer. One can only imagine Lee's reaction to it. After this infamous "slumbering volcano" letter, Lee just ignored the feud and hoped that it would go away or that cooler heads would eventually prevail. They did not.

To General Jeb Stuart, the leader of the Confederate cavalry and a friend (somehow) to both Hill and Jackson, Hill poured out further how he really felt:

Many thanks in sending me the letter. It found me with only one arm useful -- the other swollen as big as old Sacketts leg. I suppose I am to vegetate here all winter under that crazy old Presbyterian fool -- I am like the porcupine all bristles, and all sticking out too, so I know we will have a smash up before long. I don't like the complexion here. I think a fatal sin has been committed, provided the Yanks have the sense to take advantage of it, which they don't often do, for they sometimes won't {take} the peach when held to their lips. How do you like PAXTON Brig. Gen.! The Almighty will get tired, helping Jackson after a while, and then he'll get the damnedest thrashing-- and the shoe pinches, for I should get my share and probably all the blame, for the people will never blame Stonewall for any disaster.

Then, in March, Jackson's chief of ordnance told Hill's chief of ordance to perform a duty. Hill exploded at the fact that the chain of command was ignored. And that was not all. Captain R.H.T. Adams, of Hill's staff, leaked a message intercepted by a Federal signal line that was meant to be secret and for Lee's eyes only. Adams did not deny leaking the contents to members of Lane's brigade; but he was relieved of command without anyone telling Hill. Hill demanded that all communiques for his division pass through him. Jackson had had enough. He asked for General Hill to be relieved of duty from his corps.

Forced now to act, Lee tried to have his two commanders reach an accord. He had met with both Jackson and Hill numerous times separately. At length, Lee was able to convince both to come to his headquarters for a discussion. Neither man would budge on his stand; both felt injured. Lee finally said then, "Then let him who thinks he has been injured most prove himself most magnanimous by forgiving most." This had some effect and the feud cooled down, though one can not imagine Hill and Jackson ever being on extremely friendly terms. William H. Palmer, Hill's chief of staff, noted "on the field Jackson and Hill were very polite and no observer could have supposed that serious differences existed between them." In periods of quiet, things were of course very different.

In "Smoothbore Volley That Doomed The Confederacy," Robert Krick points to an account by Conway Howard that suggests that the Hill and Jackson feud had been waning and had been, in fact, pretty much ended by Chancellorsville. Either way, at Chancellorsville the feud ended once and for all.

Spring brought another new commander for the Federal Army of the Potomac. This time the selection was Joseph Hooker. Hooker, bombastic like Pope had been, crowed that he would catch Lee and then God should have mercy on Lee for Hooker would have none. Even the hard swearing "Thunderbolt of the Army of the Potomac," Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the Union Army's best soldiers, was appalled by this temptation of fate and the Almighty.

Hooker's Campaign started out well -- he caught Lee without James Longstreet who was detached in southern Virginia. But, when it came time to actually attack, Hooker had a case of cold feet. It was the sort of opportunity to grab the initiative that Lee actively sought and acted upon.

Lee and Jackson decided upon a daring plan. They would split the Army in half. Part would remain with Lee in front of Hooker while the other half under Jackson flanked the Federal forces. It was exceedingly daring and audacious, but Lee and Jackson were audacious generals.

A.P. Hill and his Division were part of Jackson's flanking movement. Hill's Division was last in line. The march took longer than had been expected and it was nearly dark when the lead elements of Jackson's force attacked. As Jackson had expected, the Union forces were completely surprised. Jackson's force rolled them up and crushed them before they had a fair chance to react.

Darkness fell over the Virginia woods. Jackson apparently was hoping to continue the attack because he continued to reconnoiter the positions of the Federals, even though night had fallen. The men on both sides were jumpy. It was difficult to discern friend from foe and the lines were somewhat jumbled.

Major Benjamin Leigh, who was killed two months later at Gettysburg, was on Jackson's staff that night. He recalled "General A.P. Hill rode along down the road, occasionally dashing off to the right or left to see what some particular brigade was doing, and, of course, his staff accompanied him." Hill and his staff were approximately sixty yards ahead of Jackson's party when, suddenly, the woods were alive with fire. Lane's Brigade -- specifically the 18th North Carolina -- had opened fire, mistaking Jackson and Hill and their parties for Federal cavalry. Hill's staff was closer to the center of the fire, suffered terribly. Palmer, Hill's chief of staff, had both of his shoulders dislocated. Keith Boswell was killed. Only Hill escaped complete harm -- when the firing began, he listened to instinct, threw himself off his horse, and laid face down in the road. When the firing ended, Hill rose and cried out: "You have shot my friends! You have destroyed my staff!" Someone is said to have called out, "The whole damn Yankee army can't run the Light Division and one little general needn't try it either!"

It soon became terribly apparent what had happened. Jackson was shot through the arm and was bleeding profusely. Hill tried to stop the bleeding in Jackson's arm with a tourniquet, removed the General's gloves, and sent for a surgeon. Everything in his manner and actions was solicitous, even to the point of being almost tender, towards Jackson. To see them in the woods this night one would not think that an ugly feud had been going on for months between these two men. Hill remained with Jackson for a period until medical help arrived, then left, and, as senior division commander, took command of the Second Corps.

The Battle of Chancellorsville

From the National Park Service website, a description of the battle:

On April 27, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker led the V, XI, and XII Corps on a campaign to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Passing the Rapidan via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Federals concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30 and May 1. The III Corps was ordered to join the army via United States Ford. Sedgwick’s VI Corps and Gibbon’s division remained to demonstrate against the Confederates at Fredericksburg. In the meantime, Lee left a covering force under Maj. Gen. Jubal Early in Fredericksburg and marched with the rest of the army to confront the Federals. As Hooker’s army moved toward Fredericksburg on the Orange Turnpike, they encountered increasing Confederate resistance. Hearing reports of overwhelming Confederate force, Hooker ordered his army to suspend the advance and to concentrate again at Chancellorsville. Pressed closely by Lee’s advance, Hooker adopted a defensive posture, thus giving Lee the initiative. On the morning of May 2, Lt. Gen. T.J. Jackson directed his corps on a march against the Federal left flank, which was reported to be “hanging in the air.” Fighting was sporadic on other portions of the field throughout the day, as Jackson’s column reached its jump-off point. At 5:20 pm, Jackson’s line surged forward in an overwhelming attack that crushed the Union XI Corps. Federal troops rallied, resisted the advance, and counterattacked. Disorganization on both sides and darkness ended the fighting. While making a night reconnaissance, Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men and carried from the field. J.E.B. Stuart took temporary command of Jackson’s Corps. On May 3, the Confederates attacked with both wings of the army and massed their artillery at Hazel Grove. This finally broke the Federal line at Chancellorsville. Hooker withdrew a mile and entrenched in a defensive “U” with his back to the river at United States Ford. Union generals Berry and Whipple and Confederate general Paxton were killed; Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded. On the night of May 5-6, after Union reverses at Salem Church, Hooker recrossed to the north bank of the Rappahannock. This battle was considered by many historians to be Lee’s greatest victory.

On site resources for the battle include the reports for the Light Division. This was the final battle in which Hill commanded his famous Light Division.

Hill then checked on Henry Heth, who now commanded the Light Division. He then began moving back towards the direction where Jackson had fallen. Suddenly, a piece of shell ripped off the tops of Hill's boots, striking his calves and leaving his legs numb. Hill could not walk and he could not ride. Obviously, it would be impossible to remain in command. Command fell to General Robert Rodes. But because Rodes was so inexperienced in command of a division -- let alone a corps -- it was agreed that Hill's friend, cavalry general Jeb Stuart, would take control of the Second Corps. With those arrangements in place, Hill went to the rear on a stretcher since he could not walk.

The next day, Stuart led the Confederate troops to a great victory. But a pall hung over the Army due to the loss of Stonewall Jackson. In fact, Chancellorsville -- while a great victory for the Southerners -- it was an extremely costly battle in terms of officers and men and would have been so even if Jackson had not fallen.

By May 6, Hill was sufficently recovered from his leg injury and resumed command of the Second Corps, pending Jackson's return. Jackson's mangled arm was amputated the night of May 2. But he was fully expected to return and resume command of his corps. After all, Kearney had fought well without an army; the Union general's Oliver O. Howard (commander of the XI Corps that Jackson had smashed at Chancellorsville) who lost an arm during the Peninsula Campaign of early 1862 also was able to lead troops. There was no real reason Jackson could not return too.

But it was not to be. Jackson contracted pneumonia. While he rallied at first, eventually the combination of wounds and illness took its toll. On May 10, 1863, Jackson cried, "Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action." He uttered a few more commands. Then he said, "Let us cross over the river, and rest underneath the shade of the trees." Then Jackson died.

Hill and Jackson had never seen eye to eye. Yet, both were great soldiers. The Confederacy could not afford the loss of Jackson. Lee had remarked upon hearing of Jackson's amputation that, "he has lost his left arm; I have lost my right arm." For his part, Jackson had said “So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded.” Now Lee needed to replace his right arm. The Army was abuzz. Who would get the Second Corps? Who would become Lee's new right hand man?

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