Thursday, May 2, 2013

Battle of Chancellorsville – May 2, Jackson's Wounding

See all posts on the Battle of Chancellorsville

Jackson Wounded
Riding past the Confederate line, Jackson, A. P. Hill and their staffs heard Federals up ahead around Fairview and Chancellorsville cutting down trees for breastworks. After he listened to the sounds for a time, Jackson turned around to ride back to the safety of the southern lines. But then a volley of musketry crashed from the Confederate lines through the dark woods. Seeing the horsemen ahead and thinking they were from a Pennsylvania cavalry regiment that had just been sighted, a jumpy Confederate officer had ordered his men to open fire. Many bullets hit their marks. The road was filled with dying horses and men. Hill yelled out to the men to cease fire, as they were friends. "Who gave that order?" the Confederate officer shouted, "It's a lie! Pour it into them, boys!"

The Plank Road, near where Jackson was shot
The Confederate soldiers reloaded and fired again, and the Confederate officers continued to fall. Stonewall Jackson was hit with three of the smoothbore bullets, two in the left arm and a third in his right palm. His horse, spooked by the noise, took off through the woods, and branches ripped across the general's face. Surviving staff officers were able to catch the horse and help Jackson to the ground. Putting him on a litter, they began to carry him towards the main road.

But now the Union artillery near Fairview, hearing the confused noise between the lines, opened fire, filling the air with bursting shells. Jackson's litter bearers came under this fire, and they dropped the wounded man several times. Finally they were able to make it to a field hospital near the rear, and Hunter McGuire, Jackson's staff doctor arrived to care for him.

A. P. Hill
Jackson's wounding created a command crisis in the Army of Northern Virginia. His corps could not be taken over by A. P. Hill as Hill had been wounded in the same volleys, hit in both legs. There were no other veteran commanders on the Second Corps that Hill could trust to take over, so he turned over the command to J.E.B. Stuart. Stuart war was a cavalry officer and he had never commanded any number of infantry, let alone an entire corp of them. But as a natural leader of men, he adapted very quickly to the role. Even with his skill, the night attack Jackson planned was out of the question. Stuart worked through the night to acquaint himself with the situation and commanders with whom he had never worked in this setting. Lee wrote to him at 3:00 in the morning of May 3rd regarding the battle plan for that day:
It is necessary that the glorious victory thus far achieved be prosecuted with the utmost vigor, and the enemy given no time to rally. As soon, therefore, as it is possible, they must be pressed so that we can unite the two wings of the army. Endeavor, therefore, to dispossess them of Chancellorsville, which will permit the union of the whole army. I shall myself proceed to join you as soon as I can make arrangements on this side, but let nothing delay the completion of the plan of driving the enemy from his rear and from his position.


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