Battle of Chancellorsville - Virginia Historic Site

Chancellorsville Battlefield

Where is Chancellorsville?

The Chancellorsville Battlefield is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park located at 9001 Plank Road, Spotsylvania, Virginia.

Chancellorsville Battlefield Map

Did you know: Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson's death in the Battle of Chancellorsville by friendly fire from his own troops may have been an unofficial turning point in the Civil War, as commanding General Robert E. Lee considered him his best General.


Although Lincoln did get some much needed victories from his Generals- including some early successes by Ulysses S. Grant at Fort Donelson and nearby areas, he desperately wanted one which would crush the rebels and force them to come to the negotiating table to end the war. Unfortunately, in early 1863 he was still waiting. On April 30, 1863 the two sides faced off again in Virginia and Confederate General Robert E. Lee was ready.

On April 30, 1863 Union General George Stoneman crossed the Rappahannock River in pursuit of Lee’s forces. Lee had been waging a highly successful guerrilla war, attacking Union positions whenever and wherever he felt he had the chance for a victory. Aside from being a superb General, Lee possessed characteristics which often made good soldiers into great ones. He was aggressive and fearless, willing to attack even when the odds were against him and he was outnumbered. Having an uncanny ability to detect positions of advantage, Lee adroitly maneuvered around larger and better armed Union forces and achieved what many thought was impossible. The Battle of Chancellorsville was one of those victories.

At Chancellorsville, Lee knew the opposing positions under Union General Joseph Hooker strongly outnumbered him- yet he managed to surprise everyone with his strategic plan. Lee divided his troops into two groups, one much smaller to provide a diversionary tactic and the other at about three-quarters of his total force to aggressively attack the Union positions. The strategy worked; over the next few days, Lee inflicted heavy casualties on Hooker’s forces in what was later described as the “perfect battle plan”, still studied in military schools around the world. Union General John Sedgwick was able to attack rebel positions not far away at what would be called the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, but the overwhelming defeat of the Union troops at Chancellorsville became yet another embarrassment for the North. Lee did suffer one major casualty- General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire from his own troops and died not long afterwards. Lee would later say that he’d “lost his right arm” and the Confederate Army would never be quite the same.

After five days of heavy fighting, on May 6th, 1863 the Battle of Chancellorsville came to an end. Lee had engineered an impressive victory; Union General Hooker was later replaced. President Lincoln continued to search for a General who could win that one overwhelming victory which would end what had already become the bloodiest war in American history.

Today the Battle of Chancellorsville is remembered at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, which also covers the Battle of Fredericksburg. More about Chancellorsville...