top of page
Battle of Chancellorsville
New York Times Articles

The following article is transcribed from the New York Times, dated May 8, 1863:


Abandonment of the South Side of the Rappahannock. NO BATTLE ON TUESDAY.


          The Withdrawal Commenced on Tuesday Night. Our Losses in the Great Battles Estimated at Ten Thousand. GEN. STONEMAN HEARD FROM. All the Railroads and Telegraphs Communicating with Lee's Army Cut. Our Cavalry Within Five Miles of Richmond. Important Movements in Other Directions. Interesting Reports from the Richmond Papers.

          Our intelligence this morning puts beyond doubt the fact that Gen. HOOKER'S army has again retired to the north side of the Rappahannock. From various sources we collect the following facts in regard to the movement. There was no fighting on Tuesday of any consequence, and the rumors to that effect were founded on a misapprehension. The sharpshooters were quite active, and the artillery opened occasionally, but results were unimportant. The enemy had evidently massed his army on our right. About 5 o'clock in the morning it commenced raining. The water fell in torrents over an hour, deluging the roads, tearing up the corduroys, sweeping away bridges, and threatening the destruction of the pontoons. The river rose with great rapidity, and soon overflowed the ends of the pontoons, rendering crossing impracticable. The upper pontoon was taken up, and used in lengthening out the others, and after several hours of very hard labor the bridges were once more ready. It was soon evident that Gen. HOOKER, seeing his position was rendered temporarily untenable by the storm, had determined to cross over again to this of the Rappahannock. On Tuesday the order was given to retreat. New roads were cut. The trains and reserve artillery were sent back, and the evacuation was commenced. Pine boughs were spread upon the pontoons to prevent the noise of crossing, and at 10 o'clock Tuesday night the troops commenced falling back. The First Corps (COUCH's) was the first to cross. The Fifth (MEADE's) Corps remained in the intrenchments to cover the retreat. The Sixth Corps also recrossed the United States Ford, and are marching back to Falmouth. At 3 o'clock on Wednesday morning wagon and mule trains and the artillery had all passed, and the infantry was crossing on two bridges at United States Ford. COUCH's corps was in the advance. The retreat was covered by the Fifth, MEADE's corps. By dark, the wagons, extra caissons, pack mules, &c., were at Falmouth, The wounded were hastily removed from the hospitals, and sent to Washington, leaving nothing on the other side except our infantry and artillery. After fighting the severe battle of Sunday morning, Gen. HOOKER continued to strengthen his lines, throwing up double lines of rifle pits, and constructing abattis along the entire line of his camp. The enemy continued to make demonstrations along the works, driving in the pickets, and delivering volleys of musketry at men most exposed. SEDGWICK, at Fredericksburgh, was overwhelmed by numbers, and pressed hard on both front and rear, and was hardly able to make good his escape near Banks' Ford. Fredericksburgh and the heights beyond have been reoccupied by the enemy. SEDGWICK has lost in killed and wounded about 5,000 men. His artillery and trains were safely brought over on Monday night. Richmond papers of the 5th, state that STONEMAN's cavalry had completely severed all LEE's communications with Richmond, and that the only reports of the fighting were received there from mounted messengers. These journals also state that Gen. PECK's forces were pressing on after the rebel forces, which had abandoned the siege of Suffolk; and that KEYES' corps at Yorktown was also moving. Reports are said to have been received in Washington that, after cutting the railroad lines leading into Richmond, STONEMAN deployed his forces along the road leading from LEE's army to Gordonsville. It was also said that troops were arriving at the latter point, en route to LEE's army, but that they came from Lynchburgh, and not from Richmond. The most intelligent estimates place our losses during this brief campaign at not more than 15,000. The rebel army is thought to have lost at least one-third more, as they charged upon our batteries in masses, and were fearfully slaughtered by our artillery. Our correspondent with the left wing alludes to a rumor that Gen. SICKLES had fallen in the fight on the right. The report lacks confirmation, however. We subjoin the letters of our correspondents detailing the important movements which transpired previous to Gen. HOOKER's withdrawl from the south bank of the Rappahannock. The lists of casualties, so far as they have been received, are also given.

The following article is transcribed from the New York Times, dated May 10, 1863:

GEN. HOOKER'S LATE MOVEMENT.; Opinion of Mr. Emil Schalk.


Mr. EMIL SCHALK, author of the remarkable work on the present war entitled Campaigns of 1862-3, has communicated the following opinion to the Philadelphia Press:

SIR: When battles are fought in which thousands and thousands of brave soldiers are immolated, but which, notwithstanding the great sacrifice, do not obtain an adequate result for the enormous loss of life, is it, then, not the duty of every friend of the country to inquire into the cause of the disasters which cover a whole nation with mourning, and which, in its history, remain a dark spot in its glory? The late battle of Fredericksburgh and Chancellorsville, with its hecatombs of human beings, may, like nearly all other lost battles of this war, be traced directly to the mistakes of the Generals commanding, and it is but just that the whole country should have a clear insight into those mistakes, for it may be that thus more errors in future will be avoided. Looking at the map, it will be seen that the rebel army, in its encampment near Fredericksburgh, held a line running from northwest to southeast; its right wing was extended as far down as Port Royal, on the Rappahannock; its left wing rested above Fredericksburgh, on the same river. This army has only two main lines of retreat -- one toward Richmond, the other toward Gordonsville. It cannot retreat to the east or southeast, as such a march would carry it into the Potomac, or York River. Under these circumstances, the natural point of attack is the rebel left wing. If this wing is seriously defeated, and the victory rapidly followed up, the rebel army would be pressed from its two lines of retreat against the southeast; thrown against the rivers, it would finally be obliged to surrender -- the same fate which befell the Prussian army after the battle of Jena. Crossing, therefore, above Fredericksburgh, at United States Ford, for instance, marching rapidly to Chancellorsville, and from there to a point midway between Chancellorsville and Guiney, on the railroad (or, if the last move be considered too daring, moving straight from Chancellorsville against Fredericksburgh,) would be the correct strategical move to obtain the desired result, viz.: the destruction of the rebel army. Utmost speed, concentration of force and utmost daring would guarantee a complete success. Gen. HOOKER arranged his plans of attack as follows: He had seven army corps; of these, three were massed below Fredericksburgh, to cross there and make a feint attack on the rebels, two of the corps, immediately after the crossing, to return and join Gen. HOOKER, who meanwhile, was crossing with the four remaining corps at several fords, some ten to twenty miles above Fredericksburgh. On Sunday, 26th of April, the movement was commenced; on Monday it was continued, and on Tuesday morning the three corps below Fredericksburgh and on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the four corps above Fredericksburgh made good their crossing. On Wednesday and Thursday the main army moved to Chancellorsville, some five miles from the principal crossing place, making five miles in thirty six hours. Friday was occupied throwing up intrenchments; Saturday the fighting seriously commenced; Saturday evening, only, as it appears, the two remaining corps arrived from below. Sunday another attack, and repulse of the main army. Meanwhile, SEDGWICK carries the intrenchments behind Fredericksburgh. By SEDGWICK's movements two lines of operations are clearly formed, the two Union armies separated by a distance of some twenty miles -- the rebels in a central position between them. While all these movements are being carried on, the whole cavalry under Gen. STONEMAN is detached on a raid in the rear of the rebel army. Gen. LEE, without heeding the cavalry in his rear waits quietly in his intrenchments till the Union movement is fully developed. He easily discerns the feint from the real attack. He throws his whole force against Gen. HOOKER, whom he confronts on Thursday evening, giving up, meanwhile, his intrenchments near Fredericksburgh. HOOKER is beaten on Saturday. On Sunday, scarcely is he on the defensive when Gen. LEE, by means of his interior-line forces, marches Sunday night, and throws, on Monday, the mass of his forces against SEDGWICK, who the day before had carried the fortifications near Fredericksburgh. SEDGWICK is beaten crippled, and scarcely escapes annihilation. After this triple check Gen. HOOKER gives up the contest and recrosses the river. By what we have said above of the position of the rebel army, it will be seen that the crossing at Chancellorsville by the main force was entirely correct but it will be seen, too, that the crossing effected by four corps only, instead of seven, or at least six, was entirely incorrect. Had the army consisted of the seven corps, and marched on Wednesday morning, in forced marches toward Fredericksburgh, or in a direction some five to six miles south of Fredericksburgh, they would have been, by Wednesday night, behind the rebel intrenchments. The great decisive battle of the war would probably have taken place on Thursday, and would have been fought under very different circumstances from those of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, where our army was beaten in detail. The idea of a General, who is on the offensive whose avowed object is the capture or destruction of a whole army, making six miles in thirty-six hour, just in the most critical moment of his operation and finally, after intrenching himself without being on the communications of his enemy, tells his soldiers that the enemy has to run away or to attack him on his own ground, where he will destroy him, has n[???] its parallel in modern times. Another quite as unpardonable mistake is the sending away of the cavalry in a moment when a great battle was nearly certain to happen. It was the same silly conduct which made MELAS lose the battle of Marengo. The cavalry ought to have formed the utmost right wing in the large wheeling movement which our army performed, and in which the rear wing formed the pivot. Gen. HOOKER's operation is modeled on the operations of WURMSER and ALVIUCI, in 1796, in Italy; those of JOURDAN, in 1799, at Stokach, and, in quite modern times, on that of the royal Neapolitan army, in 186[???] at the Volturno. On the contrary, Gen. LEE took good lesson from the action of NAPOLEON, the Archduke CHARLES, and GARIBALDI, on those different occasions. Gen. LEE has certainly gained for himself by this battle, the name of one of the ablest General of the present age. It would be wrong to make Gen. HOOKER alone responsible for his defeat. We are told that his arm is to be reinforced by 30,000 men from Washington and by 40,000 to 50,000 from Suffolk. Is it not strange that those troops did not join HOOKER before the battle? What is the use of 30,000 idle men in Washington? What the use of those 50,000 on the Blackwater? Why are some 20,000 standing sentry [???] North Carolina? What have the 30,000 done y[???] near Charleston? Is there not common sense enough in our great Generals to understand, that to keep thousands and thousands of men as sentries, to prevent blockade-runners from coming into Southern ports, is ridiculous; that it is more reasonable to mass all those troops, and to crush with this superiority the enemy main armies, because then the blockade runners will soon find no more buyers for their contraband goods. But how could such reasonable action be expected from a General-in-Chief who advanced again. Corinth with a snail-like pace to undertake the siege of fieldworks which the rebels after wards, under VA[???]DORN, did not hesitate a moment to storm; and when sent POPE with 30,000 men to capture an army which he, with 100,000, could not defeat. It is the same General who, in August last, ga[???] Gen. BURNSIDE the strange order to stay quietly; Fredericksburgh with his troops; meanwhile POPE was defeated at Manassas. The same who ordered POPE to retreat toward Washington instead of ordering him to retreat towards Salem and Berlin, which would have prevented the battle at Manassas and the invasion of Maryland. It is the same who gave the fatal order to Col. MILES to hold Harper's Ferry when the rebels were already in Maryland, and when thereby, Harper's Ferry had lost all importance. Have there not been useless butcheries and failure of operation enough to warrant finally the adopti[???] sound military plans? Till this is done, we can only hope that fortune will once more smile upon the country of freedom. I am, Sir, yours, very truly. E. SCHALK.

bottom of page