Discussion of the Battle of Chancellorsville
This discussion occurred in a Civil War Chat Room on June 15, 1997 and was hosted by "Buford." This is the chat room handle of a very well known and respected Civil War author.
Buford's Opening Statement
Major General Joseph Hooker inherited a badly beaten and badly demoralized army when he took command of the Army of the Potomac on January 25, 1863. He proceeded to implement many reforms, all of which led to a great improvement in the morale and efficiency of the army. Among those reforms were: elimination of the cumbersome Grand Division structure of command implemented by Ambrose Burnside, replacement of many of the poor commanders previously in positions of power, such as Edwin Sumner, William B. Franklin, and Fitz-John Porter (although that's another story for another night). These officers were replaced by competent commanders such as Darius N. Couch, John F. Reynolds, and George G. Meade. Hooker also reorganized the Federal cavalry into a cohesive 12,000 man corps and gave it a purpose. By the beginning of April, the army had had a rebirth of purpose. During the first week of April, President Lincoln came to the army's winter encampment near Fredericksburg and reviewed the entire army. The effect was electric, and the army was ready and eager to take the field.
By the end of April, Hooker had assembled a 133,000 man force, the largest army fielded by the Union during the Civil War. Hooker came upon a brilliant scheme. He would take the Sixth Army Corps and feint toward the defenses at Fredericksburg, hoping to pin down a large portion of Lee's army there. The rest of the army would cross the Rapidan River and steal a march around Lee's flank, approaching Richmond from the northwest. He would also send his 12,000 man cavalry force, less one brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, on a raid deep behind the Confederate lines intended to disrupt Lee's lines of communication and supply and to draw off the Confederate cavalry. The scheme was brilliant, and it almost worked. Hooker actually stole a march on Robert E. Lee, and got around the flank.
On May 1, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville commenced, with Hooker's army moving into the Wilderness area of central Virginia.
In a day of fighting, Hooker lost his nerve. He was stunned by having a beam drop on his head after an artillery shell hit it. Also, the lack of cavalry left his flanks in the air. Confederate Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee found this, and reported it to army headquarters. As a result, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson made his famous 17 mile flank march, caught the 11th Corps on its flank, and sent its men running. As a result Hooker fell back and assumed a defensive position around the Chancellor family home, called Chancellorsville. The night of May 2, Jackson, while out scouting between the lines, was severely wounded by his own troops. He was replaced, albeit temporarily, by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, commanding infantry for the first time.
In a three day long battle, Robert E. Lee drove the body of Hooker's army from the field and back across the Rapidan. Only a stubborn stand by Darius N. Couch's Second Corps at a place called Hazel Grove saved the army from complete rout. Unfortunately for Hooker, only about half of his huge army was engaged. He held back, and in his own words, "I lost faith in Joe Hooker". In the interim, Sedgwick's Sixth Corps succeeded in capturing Marye's Heights in front of Fredericksburg, driving out the divisions of Jubal Early and Lafayette McLaws. George Stoneman's Cavalry Corps reached almost the outskirts of Richmond, and it destoryed a lot of supplies, bridges, etc. But the absence of the cavalry led to the disaster that befell the 11th Corps. Hooker went to his grave blaming George Stoneman for his defeat, an unjust charge. Nobody was more responsible for the loss than Hooker.
In designing his victory, Robert E. Lee violated THE cardinal rule...he divided his numerically smaller army in the face of the enemy. Had Hooker launched a determined attack against the small 12,000 or so man force holding his left flank while Jackson marched around the flank, his army easily could have been defeated in detail. Instead, Lee gambled and he won. But, he lost...the magnificent victory cost Lee his chief lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson. Ultimately, the great Confederate victory drove the Army of the Potomac back and shifted the initiative for the summer campaign to Lee, who immediately designed and implemented a summer campaign, which met its destiny at a small crossroads town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. In the interim, Joe Hooker pulled his army back together, but he had lost the confidence of the administration. On June 28, 1863, he was replaced by Pennsylvanian George Meade. Hooker never held a command with more responsibility than corps level the rest of the war.
With all of that as a background, the following questions are submitted for your consideration:
1. Was Chancellorsville Lee's greatest victory?
2. Was the victory there worth the cost of Stonewall Jackson?
3. Should Hooker's strategy have worked?
4. Is the 11th Corps culpable for its rout?
5. Should the Cavalry Corps have been sent on a protracted raid behind Confederate lines?
These questions ought to get the ball rolling....Let the games begin!
Saber at [Jun 15 20:03:22]: My opinion on Ques. 2 is that the victory was not worth the cost of Stonewall. At the end of the battle both armies were again in the same positions they were prior to the battle less 30,000 men. No land was taken of loist by both armies.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:03:23]: By the way, I wrote that lengthy diatribe off the top of my head as I went, so there may be a few minor factual inaccuracies in it. I sincerely apologize if there are.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:05:46]: Saber, that is a legitimate point. As support for that argument, I can only point out the fact that the Army of Northern Virginia never had the same offensive potency after Chancellorsville. At the same time, the Army of the Potomac never fielded as large a force, or had it as well rested, well equipped and in as high of morale as it was in mid-April, 1863. So, there was a major impact to this battle separate and distinct from the loss of Jackson.
Bent at [Jun 15 20:06:43]: Saber, I will agree with you on Question # 2. Was it Lee's greatest victory ? I'm not sure, if you are factoring in the quality of Hooker's leadership. An interesting question though ! Good evening all !
Saber at [Jun 15 20:07:03]: One of the critical parts of Hooker's startegy was the assignment given to Stoneman and the cavalry. He was to cut Lee's lines of communication but did not do so. In fact Hooker maintasined his hope that those lines would be cut but arriving trains showed that they weren't. In fact Hooker Hooker heard nothing from the cavalry until after the battle despite his orders to have daily communications.
M at [Jun 15 20:07:27]: Buford....actually you did quite well for of the top of your head. I disagree with Saber on the loss of Jackson, but I'm not a fan of Jackson since he tended to lose more men than his US opponent (not a good practice when you have a small reenforcement pool to draw on). Jackson also tended to keep to much to himself without informing his Lt's of what the plan was.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:09:59]: Buford, one of the things that surprised Lincoln on his visit to Falmouth after the battle was that the morlae of the AOP was still high. The rank and file may have lost confidence in Hooker but in no way near the crash of morale over Burnside.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:11:03]: Bent, M, I don't think that we have had the pleasure. Welcome. Hooker is really an enigma here. His plan was brilliant, and it darned near worked. Yet, when push came to shove on the battlefield, he lost his nerve. He did an outstanding job with the army after the battle and is, in large part, responsible for the A of P's getting to Gettysburg in good fighting condition. I find this paradox one of the most intriguing things about this battle.
M at [Jun 15 20:11:31]: Buford, I will also agree with you that the ANV lost much of it's offensive thrust afterwards, but concidering what it cost them when they went of the offensive, perhaps they should have used a more defensive stratagy all along. They would not have been bled dry so severely. 4 long years of bleeding drained the South pretty badly.
Bent at [Jun 15 20:12:00]: M, I don't want to jump Battles here but with regard to Jackson, we need to look no farther than the first day at Gettysburg to recognize his potential impact.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:12:30]: Buford why do you say that Hooker lost his nerve?
Buford at [Jun 15 20:13:06]: A point well-taken, M. But it was definitely not in Robert E. Lee's nature to sit back. He was a gambler and a great offensive general. There was no way that could happen with Lee in command. Perhaps if Joe Johnston was still in command, but not Lee.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:14:40]: Saber-Hooker said so himself. Instead of continuing to attack in the early phases of the battle, Hooker pulled back and spent the rest of the battle on the defensive. It meant that a large portion of his army was never really engaged and it also meant that he ceded the iniative to Lee. Once that happened, the battle was lost.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:15:09]: Hey Buford. It has always been my understanding that Hooker lost his nerve twice in that he not only stalled his movement in the presence of Lee, but also withdrew his men from strong defensive positions earlier than he needed to. If Lee had refocused his attack on Hooker's men for a second time (i.e., after he had driven Sedgewick back) before Hooker had moved to the other side of the Rappahannock, that Hooker may have been able to severly hurt Lee's army.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:15:43]: Precisely, TJ. You are exactly right.
Irish at [Jun 15 20:16:14]: I understand that Chancellorsville is considered General Lee's greatest victory by many historians. However, to me a great victory is one that leads to a domino effect in a series of victories. In that, Lee obviously failed. However, it did lead to the offensive that culminated in Gettysburg later that summer. Lee had his greatest success in defense, he was considered an offensive minded general. He found ground to his liking and defended it by conducting probes that generally led to offensive actions. At Chancellorsville, Lee's much smaller army defeated General Hooker. The Army of the Potomac was not damaged to any great extent, it was quickly reorganized and was able to fight the Army of Northern Virginia to a standstill two months following Chancellorsville. I also make the emphasis that Lee defeated Hooker. The Army of Northern Virginia fought well against a small portion of the Army of the Potomac. However, the Army of the Potomac was not fought to its full potential. Meade's Fifth Corps was hardly engaged as was Reynold's First Corps. Had Hooker relied on his council of Couch, Meade, and Reynolds the action probably would have produced a much differing result. To say that this is Lee's greatest battle might indicate that he had virtually destroyed his opponent which truly was not the case. Lee fought a very effective defensive battle, that removed the Federal threat from Virginia due to Hooker's failings as a army commander. Lee's greatest battle to my estimation is Second Manassas. His maneuvering there was a mark of true military genius, and the results were the destruction of the General Pope's Army of Virginia.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:17:47]: Evenin', Professor Irish, and thanks for stealing all of my thunder! :-) I was going to get around to that point later in the discussion....but since you've brought it up now, what does the group think about Irish's conclusion?
M at [Jun 15 20:18:01]: Bent, ok we'll look no farther. If his record in every other battle he ever fought in is an indication, he would have lost more men then his opponent once again. Jackson could march his men to death and get there in record time, no one would dispute that, but he was not a good man for leading an army with very limited recources against a foe with near limitless resources.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:18:52]: I think it is widely recognized that Hooker defeated himself to a large extent (even by Hooker) at Chancellorsville. Still, this should not detract from the laurels won by Lee at the battle, in my opinion.
Mich at [Jun 15 20:19:12]: Many writers agree that Hooker really surprised Lee with his planning and early advancements. Once Jackson started his end around Hooker misinterpeted this as a retreat. Was this wistful thinking on his part? What would have been Hooker's next move to continue his momentum that he had built up on the first day? Evening everyone.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:20:09]: I must agree with you, TJ. Hooker did spend the rest of his life using George Stoneman as a scapegoat for the loss at Chancellorsville, but the blame must fall squarely on his shoulders.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:21:24]: Evening Mich. I'm no student of the battle of Chancellorsville, but I've never heard that Hooker et al believed Jackson's flanking movement was in fact a Confederate retreat. Anyone have a third and decisive opinion?? -
guest at [Jun 15 20:23:07]: TJ, according to the actual reports of the time, Hooker did infact believe that Jackson was leaving.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:23:40]: Actual reports? You mean the ORs?
Saber at [Jun 15 20:24:17]: Buford I believe that story of Hooker saying he lost his confidence has its basis in Joh Bifelow's The Campaign of Chancellorsville. He quoted from aleeter of one E.P. Halstead written on April 19, 1903. Halstead said that Hooker said this to Doubledasy after they had crossed the Potomac into Pa. If this were the case it would have to happen on one of three days June 25-27 , bdfore Hooker was replaced. There is a problem with that. If you check the records of the routes of Hooker's headquarters and Doubleday's you will find that on these three days they were dozens of mile apart. There meeting could not happen. Doubleday in his book never mentioned it and Halstead waited until both were dead before he told the story.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:24:39]: TJ-The other thing is that the small force of cavalry which was with Hooker spotted the flank march, which was reported to O.O. Howard, who promptly ignored the intelligence and set up his command for disaster.
Irish at [Jun 15 20:26:35]: I believe Hooker had a great mind for tactics as was displayed by his pincer movement, which up to this time in history had been rarely used by any army. Reason being, is it is usually found out before it can meet with any success. Hooker was as good a general in the Army of the Potomac as there was up to the point of the Battle of Chancellorsville. He successfully removed a large portion of his army from the Fredericksburg area and moved them unnoticed to the fords near Chancellorsville. Success for him was unfolding at a rapid pace. His cavalry was unable to carry out their portion of the plan, however, I do not believe it was entirely the cavalry's fault. As the army was moving to an imaginary line from Banks ford to Tabernacle church they met with some resistance, and Hooker lost his nerve, and at that critical junction put the first piece of the puzzle in to the ultimate loss at Chancellorsville.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:26:58]: Saber-Capt. Eminel P. Halstead was Doubleday's aide-de-camp, so it is very possible that he was in fact a witness to this discussion. I have read and have copies of a number of letters written by Hooker in the 1870's to the eminent historian Samuel P. Bates, who wrote the first history of the battle. In those letters, Hooker plainly says things that indicate he lost his nerve, but he points fingers at lots of folks, most notably George Stoneman.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:27:36]: Buford, which cavalry was that? I'm sure many Union troops saw Jackson's daylight march. I remember hearing of a particular bunch of Howard's troops who spotted the Confederates and were unable to convince either Howard or Hooker that there was a real threat.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:27:41]: Sickles reported to Hooker that Jackson was leaving. His 3rd. Corps troops saw the wagons of Jackson heading away from the battle. In fact they were just taking another route to avoid Yankee artillery from Hazel Grove.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:29:22]: Irish-You understate the case about the cavalry. In fact, they had multiple hardships to tackle, not the least of which was the flooding of the rivers. In addition, the truth is that Stoneman did not entirely fulfill his orders, and, most egregious, William W. Averell mysteriously removed his entire division from the fray by going into camp near Brandy Station instead of doing as he was supposed to do.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:30:07]: I find it funny Buford that Doubleday never mentioned the meeting in any recorded converstaion or in his book.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:30:19]: Alfred Pleasonton had a brigade of cavalry there, Saber. The march was spotted by the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which ultimately made a desperate saber charge against JAckson's infantry.
Irish at [Jun 15 20:31:04]: My recollection of what the Federals knew about the flanking movement was that Sickle's troops first reported the movement in their front. Eventually some troops were captured and began bragging that the lead elements of the line were probably already in front of the exposed right flank of the AoP. Messages were conveyed to both General Deven and Howard, who ignored the reports.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:32:12]: Having read Doubleday's book in some critical detail (at least the Gettysburg portion, anyway), it's clear that one of his main agendas was spinning things to his benefit. Don't forget that Doubleday really believed, perhaps rightfully, that he had been wronged by Meade through his removal from corps command at Gettysburg, and he spent the rest of his life trying to defend himself.
Irish at [Jun 15 20:34:07]: Didn't mean to minimize the problems with the cavalry Buford. Hooker blamed Stoneman for not fullfilling his mission. Stoneman, to his credit, was in no way able to perform the mission, since it is my understanding that the time needed to get the Cavalry Corps positioned correctly took a great deal more time than Hooker allowed for. Plus, as you state, swollen rivers did prevent a major portion of the problem. However, when this portion of the plan failed, Hooker should have come up with another plan for the cavalry, namely protecting the right flank.
M at [Jun 15 20:36:15]: The debate of the Cav is really a mute point, because, as Buford stated at the onset, if Hooker had thrown is strength against Lee when he felt that Jackson was retreating the battle would have been decided in his favor at that point.
Digger at [Jun 15 20:36:42]: Didn't Hooker actually reposition his right flank so that it wound up "in the air"?
ks at [Jun 15 20:37:36]: Knowing that Stoneman would be hampered by the flooded bridges and fords which were impassable to the wagons and artillery that accompanined his force, why would the cavalry even have been sent off? Hooker lost his patrols, screens and raiders in doing that, didn't he? Not too mention the additional 10,000 or so troops?
TJ at [Jun 15 20:37:51]: I agree, M. And that could really be said for any point in the battle.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:38:04]: That's true, Irish. Stoneman did well, but he was slow, and his raid did not comply with the orders he was given. Despite this fact, participation in the raid was a matter of great pride for the men of the cavalry corps, many of whom viewed it as the turning point of the war for the Federal cavalry. Saber at [Jun 15 20:42:20]: I think we are letting the cavalry off to easy. Soneman tore up less than five miles of track in his effort to cut Lee's communications. This caused a delay of ten hours on the railroad. It is I believe interesting to note that Stoneman thought his mission a great success when he didn't accomplish one goal he was given even though late he was in position to do much damage.
Digger at [Jun 15 20:42:32]: Did Howard realize what a precarious position he was in?
TJ at [Jun 15 20:42:41]: I disagree, M. After Jackson's attack, when Lee turned to Sedgewick, Hooker still outnumbered Stuart's force left in his front (by about 3 to 1). He could have done some damage still.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:43:10]: I notice the issue of cavalry has come up. Hooker was not one to be delt harshly with. He saw the good use cavalry could bring. His creation of a separate corps for cavalry is what made the AOP even better. Stoneman was not a great general. He could have passed over the ford long before rains delayed him. He choose to be slow that cost the yanks the chance to take victory early.
M at [Jun 15 20:45:25]: TJ, that would be true if you discount that the Federal right was rolling up, Hooker had lost his nerve and "mentally" they had lost the battle at that point. Prior to that they still had the psychological view that they were about to win.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:46:17]: Hooker and Couch visited Howards headquarters at 9:00AM the morning of the the 2nd. Hooker suggest to Howard that he refuse a part of his line to face West. Howard told Hooker that the men of the Corps would consider this movement a retreat and morale would suffer. Couch agrreed with Howard. Hooker then ordered Howard to build defensvie works, which he did not do.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:47:00]: Digger, he did not. Saber, Stoneman knew he was under fire, as he was accused of not following his orders. He was relieved of command almost immediately after the end of the Chancellorsville Campaign, and was exiled.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:47:07]: That last post was from me, the one with no name. Has anyone here brought up the fact that hooker telegraph, and signal corps were what caused much of the damage delt in the battle. Lowe in his balloon saw Jackson's corps moving west toward the Chancellor house. Yet it took to long to get the info to Hooker. And Meade clashed with Jackson and was repulsed.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:48:07]: M, I'd argue that there came a point, while Lee was focusing on Sedgewick, that the Federal right flank ceased being 'rolled up.' At that point, Hooker's well-intrenched troops outnumbered the force in their front by 3 to 1 (some 75,000 to 25,000). Also, though Stuart did very well by taking over Jackson's command, perhaps it can be argued that there was some instability in the CSA force opposite Hooker due to the recent loss of Jackson.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:48:22]: Digger yes Howard knew he was in a bad spot. That is why Reynolds was called in to anchor his flank.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:50:11]: Howard built defencive works just not strong ones.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:50:56]: The other thing is that Couch had developed a terrific defensive position at Hazel Grove and that it would be a very difficult one for the Confederates to carry.
Bretzky at [Jun 15 20:51:34]: All Howard did was turn two regiments and his reserve artillery to the west and send one Signal Corp captain out on picket duty.
M at [Jun 15 20:52:08]: TJ, I can't support the argument about instability due to the loss of Jackson, but I will concede that yes, militarily, Hooker could have still won. However, psychologically Hooker was defeated at that point, and once you are convinced you've loss, you have in fact loss. M
Irish at [Jun 15 20:52:50]: In response to the second question concerning General Jackson. I believe that Jackson was a good independent commander. As a member of the team of generals in the hierarchy of the Army of Northern Virginia he was outstanding. He and Longstreet complimented each other in a way that was becoming legendary. This team had problems on the Peninsula, however, to Lee's credit it became more streamlined and more lethal to an enemy force. At Second Manassas, even though there were some shaky maneuverings, together this force was very destructive. At Antietam, with their backs to the Potomac they stood toe to toe and slugged it out with a very strong army. Fredericksburg, another case of where they just got better and better. Jackson's mortal wounding in affect wounded the entire Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet's ability as a commander was wounded by not having Jackson as a partner anymore. Lee's spirit began to diminish with Jackson's death. What Jackson brought to the Army of Northern Virginia is something that probably can't be measured. I believe his star was only beginning to rise. Because Chacellorsville did nothing more than remove the Federal threat from the Rappahannock, I guess I could believe that Jackson's wounding was not worth the victory. However, what if Jackson had not flanked the Federal army? What if Jackson was not the demanding general that he was? What if he preferred to follow his troops instead of lead? He met with his destiny the only way a soldier of his caliber could meet it.
TJ at [Jun 15 20:53:14]: That's true, M. In that case, then, Hooker was finished before Jackson's men even hit him.
Saber at [Jun 15 20:53:20]: At 1:55AM on the 2nd, Hooker sent an order to Butterfield part of which oredered Reynolds and the 1st. Corps. to march to US Ford cross the river and extend the right flank of the AOP to the Rapidan River at Ely's Ford. The courier carrying this order to US Ford got lost and Butterfiled did not receive it until 4:55AM about fifteen minutes before dawn. Reynolds in his report said he did not get this order until 7:00AM. Had this order been delivered in a timely manner Jackson would have found Reynolds Corps on the flank instead of the flank hanging in the air.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:53:22]: It is interesting to note that Howard felt his line was safe, due to it's being near the wilderness. He was relying on that for defence.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:53:36]: And, as hussman will tell us when he gets here, it's an awfully good thing that Howard sent Hubert Dilger's Battery of the Ohio Light Artillery out there, or things would have been much worse than what they were....more on that later, though....
Buford at [Jun 15 20:55:37]: M, that's an excellent point that you raise about the psychology of it all. That's the essence of what Hooker said when he commented that he had lost faith in himself. If you think you have lost, you have lost. It's that simple.
Irish at [Jun 15 20:55:41]: There were several instances where the Army of the Potomac could have turned their perceived problems into assets up until the time they actually retreated across the river. When you remember that the entire Army of Northern Virginia that was in the vicinity had been fought, and that two very strong corps in the Army of the Potomac had not been in any considerable fighting, it is hard to imagine a Federal loss.
M at [Jun 15 20:57:02]: TJ, I have to disagree. By all acounts Hooker went into the campaign believing in his ability to defeat Lee, and held that position up to the point when his Army was flanked.
Buford at [Jun 15 20:57:20]: Couch was so infuriated by the whole thing that he absolutely refused to serve under Hooker any further, and he asked to be relieved of command. This, of course, is how Hancock ended up in command of the II Corps, but Couch was a fine soldier and a great loss to the army.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 20:58:35]: Jackson and lee were the perfect team, without that team the ANV was doomed. Hooker was hopping for the defense. He could not have dreamed that lee would have given battle as he did. After the first day Hooker had accomplished his goal. Lee was very weak at Fredrisburg. And Hooker was fighting a defensive battle. Had he only know what was to come on day two!
Pickett at [Jun 15 20:59:23]: On the issue of slavery at this time the Emancipation proclamation was being worked upon in Jan 1863 there were armies of slaves that were either "contrabands"(Free slaves joining the fight) or actual infantrymen that were fighting just the same.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:00:04]: Hooker did not think Howard was a good general. His corps was one of the smallest, and he was not like by it. For these reasons he placed him far from were he felt the fighting would take place. It turned out that was the worst place.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:00:06]: Makes you wonder which Hooker feared more, the Army of Northern Virginia or the reputation of Robert E. Lee.
M at [Jun 15 21:01:14]: Digger, he didn't fear Lee's rep, or he wouldn't have been so confident of victory right up to the point that he lost. M
Saber at [Jun 15 21:01:37]: Hooker entire plan was that if Lee came out of the Fredericksburg defenses the AOP would fight a defensive battle. He was surprised that he found the Rebs in an offensive posture so close to Chancellorsville. At the end of the 1st. nothing in Hookers communications indicate a commander who is beat. His comment was I have Lee right were I want him.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:01:39]: M, I think you may be mixing your arguments. I don't disagree with you that when a man loses his nerve and thinks he's defeated he's most likely defeated already. Then, it would seem to reason that when Hooker first lost his nerve (if we follow your argument), than he was a goner or close to it when he first halted his advance in the Wilderness when he learned Lee was moving against him. This was well before Jackson's flanking attack.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:02:09]: Hooker planed a perfect battle. Alexander said in his book years latter, it was the best campaign put against us. It truly was, had a few things not have gone wrong it would have been victory.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:04:14]: I feel Hooker was the best General to command the army. I feel Hooker would have performed well at Gettysburg, and at Fredricksburg had he been general for both.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:05:02]: The truth is that Howard WAS a lousy general. He did not deserve corps command. He was, at best, a decent brigade commander. But, that's another story for another day. I agree about the plan. Only Rosecrans' plan for the Tullahoma Campaign and Grant's campaign for Vicksburg were better, and then, perhaps, because they were successful.
M at [Jun 15 21:06:10]: TJ, that is a good point (about stopping his advance), except that appeared to be what Hooker wanted. Not because he was affraid of Lee. Hooker just didn't take the opportunity to destroy Lee at any of the times that they presented themselves.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:06:20]: Hooker might not have slaughtered his army at Fredericksburg, but he would have run like mad after the first day at Gettysburg
Buford at [Jun 15 21:07:19]: Now we are well into the realm of speculation, digger. Of course, if he had not lost his nerve at Chancellorsville, there never would have been a Gettysburg....
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:07:28]: At no time in the AOP had a general been more loved then hooker. He was the best for morale.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:07:41]: I have to agree with you Buford. I think that Howard did a terrible job through out the war. His star rose quickly at Fair Oaks, and fell just as quickly. He had a chance to dig his troops in on the right flank of the Chancellorsville line and did not. His subordinate, Devens is also in a great way responsible for the failure on the right flank.
M at [Jun 15 21:07:45]: That seems like multiple instances of a loss of nerve to me.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:08:27]: sorry, I'll try to stay on topic.
M at [Jun 15 21:08:57]: Digger (laughing), I don't know that Hooker would have run like mad, but he certainly would have been a complete nervous wreck after the first day at Gettysburg, concidering what the flanking at Chancellorsville did to him.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:09:38]: You are wrong about that, lee23. With all due respect, they loved no general more than Little Mac. In fact, among many of the letters by soldiers that I have seen and read as part of my research, many of them expressed the wish that McClellan be put in command of the A of P after Chancellorsville and not Meade. The men prayed for this. They loved no man like they loved George McClellan, and they held that loyalty until the end of the war. Sorry, but you are just plain wrong about Hooker being the most popular.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:10:09]: And I don't think that first halt in the Wilderness was what Hooker wanted, though he could have made great use of the strong position he ended up holding in the Wilderness. Hooker blinked when he learned Lee was doing the unexpected and advancing toward him, immediately throwing a wrench into his nicely worked-out plan. He faltered early and often.
M at [Jun 15 21:10:31]: lee23, according to the men in the AoP, "Little Mac" was the favorite of that army.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:10:37]: I feel that Meade was not aware of what was in front of him on the first day. He could have helped Sykes who was in need of trouble on the first day.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:11:29]: But they didn't love him enough to vote for him for President in 1864.
M at [Jun 15 21:11:52]: TJ, but he still didn't think that he had lost. He still believed that he could win.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:12:18]: As always, I agree with you, Irish. While this is off-topic, I am the moderator, so I get some latitude here...:-)...it galls me to no end that Howard was recognized by Congress for selecting Cemetery Hill as the rallying point for the army, and that someone like John Buford, who chose the ground, and John Reynolds, who validated that choice, were overlooked. Howard was not a hero. He did not deserve the adoration he received at Gettysburg, and that never fails to infuriate me. ...now, back on topic....
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:12:59]: After his comand there was no better time for the army.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:13:04]: We're beginning to go in circles, M. I agree with most of what you're saying, I just think your two arguments are beginning to cross.
M at [Jun 15 21:13:09]: Digger, the US Army had a lot of men who were not in the AoP. Not all of the men under arms voted for Abe.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:14:11]: Meade wasn't in any position to help out Sykes when contact was first made. He was moving up the River Road as that was what his orders dictated. Sykes was moving in the left Centre formation with Slocum on his right, moving slower than Sykes if that is possible. Sykes got nervous with the first contact and sent a message to Hooker relaying his nervousness, not realizing or understanding that help was very near.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:15:01]: Hooker made a big mistake when he pulled the two divisions of Sickles off of Hazel Grove. Mr Alexander quickly took advantage of this blunder. When Hooker was wounded at the Chancellorsville house, probably a severe concussion, a period of an hour or so went by when the AOP had no commander. When Hooker went down Couch was called up but by the time he arrive at the clearing Hooker was standing and talking. Couch was told that there would be no change in command and returned to his Corps. Not long after Couch left Hooker passed out again. That hour was critical to the action around Fairmont.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:16:04]: I think Couch would have done a fine job of commanding the army in such an emergency, Saber. Couch was a fine soldier who is largely forgotten by history, which is also a darned shame.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:16:52]: What questions remained unanswered/discussed, Buford?
Irish at [Jun 15 21:17:56]: Meade, Reynolds, and Hancock all encouraged Couch to take command of the situation following the concussion to Hooker, knowing full well that he would have launched an all-out offensive against the thin lines in front of the Chancellor cross roads.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:18:41]: I have a point to show on the issue of Hooker at chancellorsville, he did give Lee a challenge. He saw an opportunity and took it. I think had his telegraph system worked the battle would have been his. Had he not been wounded the victory would have been Hooker's to take and control!
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:18:52]: I also feel some blame goes to Stoneman for the loss. Had he done his job all history could have been different.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:19:19]: I agree Buford, Couch was a good soldier. It was no ones fault but that hour was critical. Hooker or Couch porbably would have ordered Hancock's Division into the fray and quite probably Fairmont would not have been lost.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:19:41]: TJ-I think one of the major questions that we need to address at some point tonight is the one Irish raised, which is whether Chancellorsville or Second Manassas was Lee's greatest victory. But, things are going well, and I am certainly not opposed to allowing the discussion to continue on.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:20:44]: Couch was an excellent commander who had been basically snubbed by Hooker during the fighting at Fredericksburg. And had it not been for potential threats from Hooker's followers who knew that Hooker had ordered Couch to retreat, I think he would have turned the momentum against the Confederates.
M at [Jun 15 21:21:48]: Buford, no question, Second Manassas was the greatest. Lee came closer to completely destroying his opponent than ever before or after.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:22:04]: I believe that Hooker's main fault at Chancellorsville was his seeming inability to alter his plans by the circumstances.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:22:04]: Lee23-Actually, that's being unfair to Stoneman. After all, Hooker ordered the raid, not Stoneman. Stoneman may not have implemented his orders perfectly, but he did a good job under some extremely adverse circumstances. The lack of cavalry in this instance is no different than Lee not having sufficient cavalry forces to hold his left flank on the second day of Gettysburg, requiring him to use the Stonewall Brigade and Extra Billy Smith's brigades in the role typically occupied by cavalry.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:22:09]: Perhaps, Buford, that would be a better question for any upcomming discussion of Second Manassas??
Irish at [Jun 15 21:23:17]: lee23, I have to disagree with the statement that had Hooker not been wounded he would have turned the battle around. He was making one poor decision after another by the time he was stunned by the cannon ball. There were many generals who had wished that the ball had struck lower killing him, so that Couch could take command.
ks at [Jun 15 21:23:20]: Irish? Could you please elaborate on this? "And had it not been for potential threats from Hooker's followers who knew that Hooker had ordered Couch to retreat..." Potential threats??
Buford at [Jun 15 21:23:50]: M-I have to agree with you. In addition to your arguments here, I also think that what sets the two battles apart is that there were no significant casualties in the Confederate command structure at Second Manassas, while the loss of Jackson created an unfillable hole in the Army of Northern Virginia after Chancellorsville.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:24:13]: Second Manassas was not in my opinion his best. I feel Chancellorsrville was.
M at [Jun 15 21:25:09]: Irish, I have to agree with you. Especially about the cannon ball hitting Hooker.
Mich at [Jun 15 21:25:27]: Hooker, after he was injured, directed Couch to have the army withdraw. He was bound by that directive to take and move the troops back, not forward as many of the officers expected.
Pickett at [Jun 15 21:25:36]: History books seem to lean towards Chancellorslerville.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:25:41]: Both victories prompted Lee to invade the North with almost disasterous results both times. However, I think Lee faced a greater challenge at Chancellorsville and therefore it must be considered his greatest victory.
M at [Jun 15 21:27:09]: Buford, going one step further, even Lee treated the Battle of Second Manassas as one of his best. Everything seemed to go better than he could have hoped for.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:27:19]: Saber I agree with that statement. Hooker has spent many weeks planning for what was going to be called the Battle of Chancellorsville. I don't think he ever thought that a battle would have been fought in that vicinity. He was almost consumed with the idea that once Lee realized that he was in the middle of a pincer movement that he would retreat south. When this didn't happen it completely confused Hooker. Lee was not reacting in the way that an expert tactician would react. His army floundered at Chancellorsville waiting for Lee to take the initiative. And once it did, Hooker kept thinking about retrograde maneuvers.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:27:21]: That's misleading, though, Pickett, largely because Second Manassas is a forgotten/overlooked campaign. For those of us who study it, it's well worth studying, because it was one of the turning points of the war. Despite that, people ignore it. Perhaps it's because the full A of P was not there, and it was not McClellan or Burnside, or Hooker, etc. in command.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:29:15]: Had Hooker been killed at Chancellorsville, he might have been elevated to "Stonewall" status. Die before you really have a chance to lose.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:29:47]: I'd have to say that things went as good for Lee at 2nd Manassas as they went bad for Hooker at Chancellorsville.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:29:59]: That's an interesting "what-if", digger, and one I had never considered. Perhaps you are right.
M at [Jun 15 21:30:10]: Digger, he stood a greater chance of being defeated at Chancellorsville, but I don't see how that makes it a greater victory. Victories are usually judged by what you gain, either by what you take or how badly you destroy your opponent. Second Manassas still stands out ahead of Chancellorsville.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:30:27]: I do not feel all the blame goes to Stoneman. I feel most goes to Hooker, some to Stoneman.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:30:39]: That's a good argument, Saber. It may have had something to do with the fact that John Pope was a complete idiot, but we can discuss that another time.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:31:40]: Also Jackson was not his best at Chancellorsville. I feel that the two Lee and Jackson were at there best at chanslerville the result making it there best victory!
Saber at [Jun 15 21:32:57]: Irish, I think we have to remember that Hooker planned that if Lee came out the AOP would fight a defensive battle. At the end of the and the AOP was in a very strong defensive position and Hooker wnated Lee to attack. Lee of course
Irish at [Jun 15 21:33:56]: ks, Hooker was lapsing in and out of consciousness. Many of the high ranking commanders who were not at the time engaged had heard that Hooker had been wounded or maybe even dead. Couch, Meade, Reynolds, converged on the scene, with Hancock already there. All of these generals were excited with the possibility that the floundering that was occuring would now be reversed. However, Hooker gave clear orders to Couch to make preparations for retreat. The generals mentioned counciled each other and Couch was encouraged to reverse the orders since Hooker was in a dazed state. When this conversation was evesdropped by a high member of Hooker's staff, it was brought out that he had distinctfully heard Hookers' orders to Couch and that he would explain this to the court of inquiry following the battle. Couch was a professional, what he was being encouraged to do could have possibly been rationalized or could have been considered very much against the law, punishable by death. When you think about it, just four and a half months previous Fitz John Porter, possibly the best general in the AoP was court martialled for basically disobeying orders in a battle.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:34:52]: Stonewall's 1862 Valley Campaign is still studied today because of the great odds against him and his brilliant victories. I think Lee approached "the valley campaign" at Chancellorsville. It was a victory of mythic proportions.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:36:41]: Irish, your point is extremely well-taken. The impact of Porter's court-martial on the army can't be understated, because it represented a major turning point for the army. It showed that politics really did govern things more than anything else.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:37:50]: Digger, Stonewall's Valley Campaign was brillant. It had positive results. After the battle of Chancellorsville the two armies returned to the same postions they had held before the battle. There were 30,000 less men though
Irish at [Jun 15 21:37:57]: Saber, the line between Banks Ford and Tabernacle Church is where Hooker had first planned a potential defensive battle if that situation would arise. This also where Sykes made contact and the line was ordered pulled back. Couch restated the position of line, and said emphasized that it was a strong line on good ground, and even brought up the point that if they fell back on Chancellorsville, that the line they were on could be used by enemy artillery to enfilade the army near Chancellorsville.
ks at [Jun 15 21:37:58]: Thank you for the explanation Irish. I was unaware of those circumstances.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:38:22]: If nothing else, the victory at Chancellorsville probably caused Lee to be most arrogant about the invincibility of his army.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:39:21]: An opinion that would haunt him a few months later Buford
Buford at [Jun 15 21:40:17]: Without question, Saber. Without question. And perhaps the loss at Gettysburg is the most significant consequence of the victory at Chancellorsville.
Digger at [Jun 15 21:41:27]: One of my best friend's Great-grandfather won the MOH at Chancellorsville (actually Salem Church). He was a member of Sedgewick's Corps. Alot of Uncle John's men were about to have their enlistments expire. And there seems to have been some question about how hard they would fight. Do you think that really was a factor...my friend's GGfather was mustered out a month later (and later reenlisted).
Irish at [Jun 15 21:42:08]: This information concering Couch's actions comes from Battles and Leaders, and was indorsed by all survivors of the conversation.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:42:58]: I think if we look at lees character Chancellorsrville made him more willing to order his army into defeat. Yes it caused him to be over cofindent.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:44:05]: Hooker tried to make Sedgwick a scapegoat as well. I am not certain how many of men of the Sixth Corps' enlistments were up, since most of the troops were Three year men. There were some regiments that enlisted for shorter terms, but not very many.
Zolli at [Jun 15 21:45:06]: A word about the battlefield itself: Spotsylvania County is one of the most threatened places in all of Virginia, lying as it does between Richmond and D.C. Fredericksburg is rapidly expanding westward towards C'ville. Housing developments are encroaching - especially at Wilderness. Get involved in a preservation group like APCWS! Now, back to the discussion.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:45:07]: I don't think Chancellorsville alone was responsible for the confidence Lee and his army took with them into the Gettysburg Campaign.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:46:09]: Uncle John did well at Fredericksburg. He carried the works at Marye's Heights, which is more than Burnside ever could. But, Hooker was always looking for a scapegoat, which is the reason why he looked for more than one here....
M at [Jun 15 21:46:41]: TJ, yes, it takes a LOT more than one battle to develope that level of overconfidence.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:47:19]: TJ-You are right, of course, but Chancellorsville was the greatest in a long series of great victories, and Lee had honestly come to believe that his army was unbeatable.
Lee23 at [Jun 15 21:47:49]: Here is a question, could chanslerville been victory had hooker placed reynolds were hoard was and vice versa.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:47:53]: This may be off the subject, but Lee may have felt that the Army of the Potomac was not up to defending Pennsylvania, and that his army was fighting the cause of Providence, but when he stepped into Pennsylvania, his tactics and strategy...those things that had befriended him early in the war had completely escaped him. He did not fight a Lee type battle at Gettysburg. Sorry for straying...
Zolli at [Jun 15 21:48:23]: Buford, I never understood until recently that Sedgewick had his men attack Marye's Heights in column rather than in line of battle as Burnside had done. Went at the Confederate position like a battering ram. Gen. S. was one who learned the lesson of Dec., 1862.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:49:09]: Without question, lee23. If the flank had not been rolled up, and the army had stayed on the offensive and not gone on the defensive, things would have been very different indeed...Jackson would not have hit an unguarded flank, he would have run right into the steady veterans of the First Corps.
Saber [Jun 15 21:49:19]: Irish, the terrian between Chancellorsville and the Tabernacle Church was heavily wooded. Skyes had not reached his objective and Slocum was no where near his. The AOP would have to march in column on the roads while the Confederates were in battle line. To get out of the Wilderness to good ground they would of had to push Jackson over two miles. That had not happened during the war. Hooker's mistake, in my opinion, was that he only used 30,000 men for this push. If they had tried to hold Sykes probably would have been destroyed before help could have come up. Hancock's men had not started moving forward yet. Had Hooker commited more men intially they could have pushed right through, I believe.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:50:21]: Zolli, that's a good point, and it's a lesson that was learned by Emory Upton and implemented at Spotsylvania, just as successfully.
M at [Jun 15 21:50:38]: Irish, actually, Lee fought Gettysburg with the same style he fought most of his offensive battles. Why do you say he did otherwise?
Mich at [Jun 15 21:50:57]: SO Hooker's offensive strategy was a seldom used pincer movement that was designed to make Lee come out and fight and when Lee actually did, Hooker retreated. Do I have that right?
Buford at [Jun 15 21:51:25]: Basically, mich, even though that oversimplifies things a bit.
shotgun at [Jun 15 21:52:26]: Folks, its coming on two hours now and I know that more time is needed, but I don't think we should impose on our host "Buford" any longer. If you would, please give a summary statement on the Battle of Chancellorsville based on the questions that Buford asked earlier.
1. Was Chancellorsville Lee's greatest victory?
2. Was the victory there worth the cost of Stonewall Jackson?
3. Should Hooker's strategy have worked?
4. Is the 11th Corps culpable for its rout?
5. Should the Cavalry Corps have been sent on a protracted raid behind Confederate lines?
If you would, put at the beginning of your post "Summary Statement" that way we will know that is your thoughts on the subject tonight.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:53:48]: This is interesting. When did Lee in fact come to the conclusion that his army was invincible. After Chancellorsville? Or after Second Manassas, which seems to be the consensus pick among people now in the room for Lee's greatest victory. - TJ
Buford at [Jun 15 21:55:14]: TJ-I don't know that that can be pinned down specifically. I suspect that it was a gradual thing that was finally concluded after the victory at Chancellorsville.
Mich at [Jun 15 21:56:34]: Buford, I know its over simplified, but it seems Hooker had a long time to plan as well as to make plans for a lot of things that might not go right. I t seems that once his original attack failed, he pulled up stakes and headed across the river.
Saber at [Jun 15 21:56:34]: TJ, I agree with Buford. I think that 2nd Manassas started him thinking in the way but Chancellorsville was the icing on the cake.
Irish at [Jun 15 21:57:04]: One of Couch's major complaints following the Battle of Chancellorsville was the retreat in front on Chancellorsville. It was his claim that Slocum was in position to help Sykes, and that Meade was not far off. In fact Meade questioned the retrograde movement too. He could not understand the reasoning behind the retreat. However, Slocum was not bothered by the order and retreated immediately upon receiving Hookers orders. Lee was so shocked by the retreat that he felt that the line in front of him might be smaller than he had earlier perceived, and later in the day ordered a probing attack against the Fifth Corps, which was thrown back quite handily. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I had heard somewhere with Slocum and Meade composing a front line, Howard a potential protection for the right flank, and two division of Couch's Second Corps for a reserve that the number of troops near that point was somewhere in the neighborhood of 54,000 men. I don't know what they were facing, but have to believe it was considerable smaller.
M at [Jun 15 21:57:23]: Summary Statements: 1. No, 2nd Manassas was. 2. Possibly, but what price do you put on a life? 3. It could have, and with a better man, it probably would have. 4. Not when you concider that they were hit in the flank, but taking that out you can open up another whole debate. 5. To many pros and cons for me to make a choice for either one.
Buford at [Jun 15 21:58:25]: That's probably a true statement, mich, and that's part of what made this such a great victory for Lee.
TJ at [Jun 15 21:58:47]: It was a gradual thing, but it seems to me that few factor in the whole Antietam Campaign. Surely this put a damper on Lee's growing thoughts of invincibility. And if Chancellorsville wasn't as great a victory as Second Manassas, well, who knows.
Irish at [Jun 15 22:01:41]: M. My point about Gettysburg is that Lee had no idea of the size of force he had in front of him, he broke nearly every principle of maneuver that he could and that he had adhered to prior to Gettysburg. In studying all of the great masters of the art of war there are certain things you do not do, and Lee did them at Gettysburg. That is another discussion. However, if you would like to see what I am talking about, you might check Shotgun's web page and read my article concerning Napoleonic Arithmetic.
ks at [Jun 15 22:02:59]: Summary Statement - Despite appearing to have all of the odds in its favor and still losing the Battle of Chancellorsville, the North gained indirectly from the defeat. The gains came in the fact that Hooker's removal from command was hastened and the South lost its irreplaceable general, Stonewall Jackson.
Zolli at [Jun 15 22:03:15]: Folks, my Summary Statement has less to do with Chancellorsville than with the concept of invincibility in Lee's mind (good topic for another night?). True, Lee had watched his men accomplish the "impossible" often and never so spectacularly as at Chancellorsville, given the odds he faced. But to me, Lee was too much a realist to actually believe his army was invincible - as if protected by the Arc of the Covenant or something. I know after Pickett's Charge he said he thought his army was invincible, but I think he meant that in more of a symbolic sense. Lee's victory at Chancellorsville was the product of imagination and audacity coupled with hard fighting. As in many other of his battles, Lee had a sizable amount of cooperation from his opponent. Chancellorsville increased Lee's confidence - but did not blind him to reality.
M at [Jun 15 22:03:54]: Irish, but Lee broke rules in other battles too, so it tended to be his common mode of operation for him, but back to Chancellorsville.
Digger at [Jun 15 22:03:55]: Summary Statement. Yes Chancellorsville was Lee's greatest victory. Great danger and great odds make for great deeds and victories. However, Lee could have defeated Hooker at any turn. Almost from the moment the battle was joined, Hooker was thinking of retreat.Lee's reputation alone caused Hooker's loss of confidence in himself. In that respect, the victory was not worth the loss of Jackson. Hooker's strategy should have worked. The plan was sound but the leadership was not. The men of the 11th Corps were not to blame. A soldier stands where he is ordered to stand. Howard, while a fine christian gentleman, was no general. And yes, Hooker demonstrated a grasp of what Cavalry should/could do...unfortunately his plans did not come to fruition. Thanks to all for this opportunity.
Pickett at [Jun 15 22:04:01]: Thank you all for the time well spent. I appreciate the insight on the General's state of mind and the information on The Second Bull Run. I must go, but will most definitely return for future chats. Thanks a Lot
Buford at [Jun 15 22:05:45]: Good night, Pickett, and I hope to see you again. Folks, this was a fabulous discussion, and I appreciate the insight all of you brought. While I don't hold myself out as the definitive expert on the Battle of Chancellorsville, I hope that I have helped to bring some different perspective on this important fight for all of you.
Saber at [Jun 15 22:15:57]: Summary statement. I do not believe that Chancellorsville was Lee's greatest victory. A great victory should have tangible results in the winning of territory or the destruction of the opponent. Chancellorsville had neither. There can be no doubt that the lose of Stonewall Jackson was a price that was not worth the victory. Hookers strategy was the most innovative of the war to date. Hooker made mistakes and with them must take the blame. I can not help to think though that some things were out of his control such as; the failure of communications between him and Butterfield at Falmouth, Sedgewick's indecision befroe Marye's Heights and at Salem Church and Stoneman's failure to cut Lee's lines of communication. These things in no way exonerate Hooker from any blame for his strategy's failure. Hooker placed the 11th Corps on the right flank out of harms way, he thought. Howard's discounting of warnings that he received as to Rebs on his flank makes him culpable. I am not sure that nay Corps could of stood up to that attack without any preparations. I believe that Stoneman and his cavalry were given the proper orders. Had Lee's lines of communication been effectively cut the situation would have been different. Lee would have been forced to react the way armies through history have had to react, retreat along those lines. I beleive that Hooker's fatal flaw was his inability to alter his plans when the circumstances dictated change. With a commander having this flaw the most brillant strategy ever devised is doomed to fail. I would like to thank Buford for his very capable moderation of tonights discussion.
Irish at [Jun 15 22:18:20]: Your point is well taken M. Chancellorsville should have been a disaster for Lee, and it wasn't. He went to well once too often at Gettysburg. It was bound to catch up with him. It is my contention that he should have developed the Jomini defense and stuck with it. He had too small of a force to make a strong offensive into the north.
TJ at [Jun 15 22:18:39]: Saber, good summary, though I might say that Grant's successful Vicksburg Campaign rivaled Hooker's failed Chancellorsville Campaign in the innovation department.
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