See all posts on the Battle of Chancellorsville
By 5 pm, the Confederates were finally ready to attack. Soon Jackson gave the order, and the grey line surged forward through the woods, across the fields, onto the completely unsuspecting Federals. Ahead of the thousands of advancing Confederates came a wave of animals, frightened from the woods by the advancing Confederates. On after them came the rebels, screaming the terrifying rebel yell.
The surprised Federals broke at once. But as the Confederates swept through the camps pockets of resistance began to form. Union officers urged their men to stand with their personal examples. Howard himself grabbed a flag in his one remaining arm and stood on a stump waving it to rally his men. But the Yankee troops that stood and fought were not able to make a cohesive resistance, and they were soon overwhelmed. Most of Howard's force turned into a mob, desperate for survival. Jackson was at the front of the pursuit, urging the men on. By nightfall Jackson's corp had driven Howard's XI corps over a mile, inflicting 2,500 casualties, about 1/4 of Howard's men. Some of Jackson's men could even see the Union headquarters at the Chancellor house. However, the Confederates were disorganized from their rapid advance and a further advance in their present condition was out of the question.
Jackson planned to get his troops moving again and make a night
attack. Under the light of a full moon he would strike the Federals
while they were disorganized, driving further into Hooker's rear. He
planned to get between Hooker and the United States Ford to cut off
his retreat. This would leave Hooker surrounded, ready to be crushed
by Jackson and Lee. To make this attack he had four brigades of A. P.
Hill as a reserve. After ordering A. P. Hill to advance, Jackson went
forward with A. P. Hill and their staffs to investigate the Union
position. But that ride brought one of the greatest disasters of the
war for the Confederate arms.