On May 3, 1863, the Union broke through Early's line at Fredericksburg and headed west toward Chancellorsville on what is now Route 3. The Confederates headed east, and the two armies met here at Salem Church. The Union attacked the rear of the mile-long Confederate line that was anchored in the center by the church. The Confederates counter-attacked and drove the Union into retreat. The brief but intense battle resulted in 4,000 casualties, and Salem Church served as a field hospital for the wounded soldiers and a burial ground for those who perished. Salem Church is one of five Civil War Era churches that still stand in Spotsylvania County. Union Gen. Grant made his headquarters at Massaponax Church, and soldiers left graffiti at both Salem and Massaponax churches.

Visiting the Salem Church Battlefield

Your best bet to tour Salem Church is to head east on Route 3 from Chancellorsville Battlefield Park. Make a right at Salem Church Road. Then, make the first left by the fire house and then the next left. Drive one block and then park on the left across from the cemetery. Although the church is visible from Route 3, you need to drive around back to access the property. There is a short walking tour with interpretive signs around the church.

Visit National Park Service for battle details and walking tour information.

Pictured at the top: Salem, the name given to this church by the Baptist Congregation that founded it in 1844, means 'peace' in Hebrew. At the start of the Civil War, Salem Church had 77 members, 20 of whom were African American. Although the brick walls of the church were riddled with bullet holes during the battle, the Congregation continued worship in this building for nearly 100 years when a new church was built and this building was donated to the National Park Service.

chancellorsville salem church

An 1884 photo of Salem Church reveals battle damage on the east wall as well as a crack from a lightning strike. (National Park Service)