Battle of Chancellorsville: Characters

Union

1) Joseph Hooker (Union)
  • Commander and Leader

  • During the spring of 1863, Hooker (Union) established a reputation as an outstanding administrator and restored the morale of his soldiers, which had plummeted to a new low under Burnside.

  • Among his changes were fixes to the daily diet of the troops, camp sanitary changes, improvements and accountability of the quartermaster system, addition of and monitoring of company cooks, several hospital reforms, an improved furlough system, orders to stem rising desertion, improved drills, and stronger officer training.

  • After leaving Georgia, Hooker commanded the Northern Department (comprising the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois), headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, from October 1, 1864, until the end of the war.[4] While in Cincinnati he married Olivia Groesbeck, sister of Congressman William S. Groesbeck.
2) Maj. Gen. George Stoneman (Union)
  • On November 22, 1861 (a year and a half before this battle) Stoneman married Mary Oliver Hardisty of Baltimore. They eventually had four children.

  • The plan for the Battle of Chancellorsville was strategically daring. Hooker assigned Stoneman a key role in which his Cavalry Corps would raid deeply into Robert E. Lee's rear areas and destroy vital railroad lines and supplies, distracting Lee from Hooker's main assaults. However, Stoneman was a disappointment in this strategic role. The Cavalry Corps got off to a good start in May 1863.

  • During the entire battle, Stoneman accomplished little and Hooker considered him one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville. Hooker needed to deflect criticism from himself and relieved Stoneman from his cavalry command, sending him back to Washington, D.C., for medical treatment (chronic hemorrhoids, exacerbated by cavalry service), where in July he became a Chief of the U.S. Cavalry Bureau, a desk job.
3) Misc. Immigrant Union Soldier
  • Many of the Union immigrants had poor English language skills and they were subjected to ethnic friction with the rest of the Army of the Potomac, where all non-Irish immigrants were referred to as "Germans". In fact, half the XI Corps consisted of native-born Americans, mostly from the Midwest, but it was the immigrants with whom the corps came to be associated. The corps' readiness was poor as well. Little experience. And although many of the immigrants had served in European armies, they tended to not perform well under the loose discipline of the American volunteer military. Because of these factors, Hooker had placed the XI Corps on his flank and did not have any major plans for it except as a reserve or mopping-up force after the main fighting was over.

  • Around 5:30 p.m. 21,500 Confederate men exploded out of the woods screaming the Rebel Yell. Most of the men in the immigrant Union corps were sitting down to dinner and had their rifles unloaded and stacked. Their first clue to the impending onslaught was the observation of numerous animals, such as rabbits and foxes, fleeing in their direction.
Confederate

4) Robert E. Lee (Confederate)
  • Commander and Leader

  • All three of this sons served in the Confederate Army.

  • Related to George Washington through marriage.

  • Lee's troop strength – 57,000, casualties – 12,764

  • Hooker's troop strength – 105,000, casualties – 16,792

  • While he was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808–1873), great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington, the first president of the United States. They were married on June 30, 1831.

  • They eventually had seven children, three boys and four girls. Son George Washington Custis Lee (Custis, "Boo"); 1832–1913; served as Major General in the Confederate Army and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis; unmarried. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee ("Rooney"); 1837–1891; served as Major General in the Confederate Army (cavalry); married twice; surviving children by second marriage. Robert Edward Lee, Jr. (Rob); 1843–1914; served as Captain in the Confederate Army (Rockbridge Artillery); married twice;
5) Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (Confederate)
  • Mortally wounded in this battle from friendly fire. Jackson was hit by three bullets, two in the left arm and one in the right hand.

  • Darkness ended the assault. As Jackson and his staff were returning to camp on May 2, they were mistaken for a Union cavalry force by the 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment who shouted, "Halt, who goes there?", but fired before evaluating the reply. Frantic shouts by Jackson's staff identifying the party were replied to by Major John D. Barry with the retort, "It's a damned Yankee trick! Fire!"

  • Jackson died of complications from pneumonia on May 10, 1863. On his death bed, though he became weaker, he remained spiritually strong, saying towards the end "It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday."

  • Jackson and his entire corps were sent on an aggressive flanking maneuver to the right of the Union lines. This flanking movement would be one of the most successful and dramatic of the war. While riding with his infantry in a wide berth well south and west of the Federal line of battle, Jackson employed Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry to provide for better reconnaissance in regards to the exact location of the Union right and rear. The results were far better than even Jackson could have hoped. Lee found the entire right side of the Federal lines in the middle of open field, guarded merely by two guns that faced westward, as well as the supplies and rear encampments. The men were eating and playing games in carefree fashion, completely unaware that an entire Confederate corps was less than a mile away. What happened next is given in Lee's own words.

  • Jackson immediately returned to his corps and arranged his divisions into a line of battle to charge directly into the oblivious Federal right. The Confederates marched silently until they were merely several hundred feet from the Union position, then released a bloodthirsty cry and full charge. Many of the Federals were captured without a shot fired, the rest were driven into a full rout. Jackson pursued relentlessly back toward the center of the Federal line until dusk.
Other Battle of Chancellorsville sections: