Battle of Chancellorsville
Now that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville is upon us, it seems a fitting time to look at how the lives of a family of mainly young women were affected by being suddenly thrust into a war zone and how they were able to survive with the aid of an enemy officer. Sue Chancellor was only fourteen when the area around her home became a bloody battlefield. Their house, called Chancellorsville, was used for a headquarters by first the Confederate and then the Union army while the family continued to live there.
The first eighteen pages of The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, by Robert K. Krick, are reprinted here with permission from the author and publisher, Louisiana State University Press, which retains all republication rights. Library copies of The Smoothbore Volley are available for check-out.
Nineteen men in two distinct groups rode forward from the coalescing Confederate lines west of Chancellorsville at about 9:00 P.M. on May 2, 1863. Only seven of the nineteen came back untouched, man or horse. Although one of those nearest the offending musket muzzles, Major General A. P. Hill escaped among the unscathed handful. Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, among those farthest from the flash point, was one of the five men killed or mortally wounded. The capricious paths of a few dozen one-ounce lead balls caroming off the dense shrubbery of Spotsylvania’s Wilderness that night had much to do with the course of the Civil War.
From every imaginable perspective, the afternoon of May 2 had been a stunning Confederate success of unprecedented magnitude. Lee and Jackson had crafted between them a dazzling tactical initiative that sent Stonewall covertly all the way across the front of a Federal army that outnumbered the southerners by more than two to one. The redoubtable corps commander managed the remarkable march without serious interruption, arrayed his first two divisions in a wide line, and descended upon the Federals like a thunderbolt. Those northerners who rallied bravely against the tide faced an inexorable outflanking by the outriders of Jackson’s line, who stretched far beyond the center of the attack in both directions. In this fashion Jackson routed one Union corps, trapped another out of the line, and left the others shaky, uncertain, and vulnerable to be stampeded.
By A. L. Peel
Albert Peel was raised in Mississippi. At 17, he left the Kentucky Military Institute to come home and enlist in the 19th Mississippi Regiment. He was killed May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania's Bloody Angle and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery near Spotsylvania Courthouse. These diary entries, written a year previously, tell of the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Wednesday, April 29 - Orders came this evening to fall in to fight. Major Hardin went to take command of the right wing which was on picket. Col. Harris was absent so I formed the left wing & formed on the 12 Regt, marched in quick time to the Chanseller Hotel, & Genl. Posey sent us on picket 1½ mile up the road. I put out 2 Companies in advance as pickets. Col. Harris came to us at 9 p.m. Our pickets brought in a prisoner who reported that a company of the enemy had crossed at germanias ford.