On April 30, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee split his army, which was already less than half the size of the Union army, not once, but twice, and hammered the Federals into retreat from Chancellorsville. Often called his 'perfect battle', Lee first split his army leaving a small contingent led by Jubal A. Early at Fredericksburg and then attacked the Federals at Chancellorsville with his remaining army. Lee divided his army a second time, sending Stonewall Jackson's division to attack the Union's exposed right flank while the remainder of his army held Chancellorsville.

chancellorsville chancellor house ruins

When Civil War came to Spotsylvania, thousands of slaves from area plantations fled to Chancellorsville to cross the Union line and into freedom. The Chancellor house itself was occupied by Union Gen. Hooker's Army during the Battle, and was struck by Confederate shells and subsequently burned to the ground.

On the second bloodiest day of the Civil War, May 3, 1863, Lee pounded the Federals at Chancellorsville while the Union mounted the stone wall at Marye's Heights sending Early into retreat, and the Confederates fended off a rear attack at Salem Church. But Lee's 'perfect battle' came at a cost of 30,000 casualties and the loss of his 'right arm' Stonewall Jackson, who was shot while riding ahead of his men during a night-time reconnaissance in the tangled undergrowth known as The Wilderness. On the night of May 2, 1863, as Jackson and his party rode down Mountain Road, Confederate muskets opened fire in the dark and dense forest directly in the path of Jackson's party. Jackson was shot three times and died 8 days later at the Chandler Plantation which is preserved and interpreted by the National Park Service as the Stonewall Jackson Shrine in Guinea Station.

Visiting the Chancellorsville Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Battle of Chancellorsville is to start out at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center. Here you can pick up a park map, a driving tour map, and several walking tour maps. The Center has a film, museum, bookstore and gift shop. The park offers a fascinating Jackson Wounding Tour guided by a National Park Service Ranger that provides an overview of the Battle of Chancellorsville, describes the events that took place on the night of Stonewall Jackson's mortal wounding, and culminates with a walk to the very spot where the terrible incident occurred. Visit the National Park Service for brochures and tour information. Check out Wilderness Battlefield for more information about nearby Stonewall Jackson memorial sites and tours.

chancellorsville stonewall jackson monument chancellorsville stonewall jackson wounding trail

The Jackson Wounding Trail leads to the Stonewall Jackson Monument and the spot where Jackson's mortal wounding occurred. The monument is inscribed with Gen. Bernard Bee's famous remark 'There is Jackson standing like a stone wall,' that inspired the General's nickname, as well Jackson's final words before dying, "Let us pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

The Chancellorsville History Trail is an easy, well-marked 4-mile walking tour along a dirt path that begins and ends at the Visitor Center and passes through areas of the heaviest fighting and tragic fires that occurred in the tangled undergrowth on May 3rd. An excellent narrated driving tour is available for purchase at the Visitor Center, and the National Park Service brochure features a free, self-guided tour. This tour has ten stops and three of those, McLaws Line, Hazel Grove and Fairview include walking tours. McLaws features an easy trail on a mowed grass track through scenic rolling hills. Hazel Grove features an artillery display, and Fairview features artillery as well as Union gun pits.

chancellorsville mcclaws trail hills creek

Confederate Gen. Lafayette McLaws diverted the Union army here along the present-day McLaws Trail at Chancellorsville while Stonewall Jackson maneuvered around their right flank.

chancellorsville fairview gun pits

One man fell per second for every hour of the five-hour battle that ensued between Hazel Grove and Fairview. A seven stop-walking tour takes you through the Union and Confederate batteries and areas of major battle actions. Fairview features recreated Union gun pits.

An app is also available from Civil War Trust that features three driving tours of Chancellorsville Battlefield. This excellent resource contains directions to all stops as well as readings, photographs and interactive media describing the battle actions and other items of historical interest.

Pictured at the very top: A scenic hiking trail connects the Confederate position at Hazel Grove the Union battery at Fairview seen in the distance.

Visit Civil War Trust and National Park Service for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.