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Virginia Civil War Battles - Page 6

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Fredericksburg Campaign (November-December, 1862) - In November 1862, President Abraham Lincoln needed to demonstrate the success of the Union war effort before the Northern public lost confidence in his administration. Confederate armies had been on the move earlier in the fall, invading Kentucky and Maryland, and although each had been turned back, those armies remained intact and capable of further action. Lincoln urged Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to advance against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi; replaced Major General Don Carlos Buell with Major General William S. Rosecrans, hoping for a more aggressive posture against the Confederates in Tennessee; and on November 5, seeing that his replacement of Buell had not stimulated Major General George B. McClellan into action, he issued orders to replace McClellan with Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.

 

Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862) - Also known as the Battle of Marye’s Heights, this large engagement involving more than 170,000 troops took place in Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg. On November 14th, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, now in command of the Army of the Potomac, sent a corps to occupy the vicinity of Falmouth near Fredericksburg.

 

 

 

Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia

Battle of Fredericksburg, by Kurz & Allison, 1888.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!

The rest of the army soon followed. Confederate General Robert E. Lee reacted by entrenching his army on the heights behind the town. On December 11th, Union engineers laid five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock Riverunder fire. The next day, the Federal army crossed over, and on December 13th, General Burnside mounted a series of futile frontal assaults on Prospect Hill and Marye’s Heights that resulted in staggering casualties. General George Meade’s division, on the Union left flank, briefly penetrated Confederate Major General Thomas J. Jackson line but was driven back by a counterattack. Union Generals C. Feger Jackson and George Bayard, and Confederate Generals Thomas R.R. Cobb and Maxey Gregg were killed. On December 15, General Burnside called off the offensive and re-crossed the river, ending the campaign. Burnside initiated a new offensive in January, 1863, which quickly bogged down in the winter mud. The abortive “Mud March” and other failures led to General Burnside’s replacement by Major General Joseph Hooker in January, 1863. The Confederate victory resulted in an estimated 13,353 Union casualties and 4,576 Confederate casualties.

 

Longstreet's Tidewater Operations (March-April 1863) - In mid-February, 1863 most of Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet's corps was moved south by rail. Confederate President made three purposes clear to General Longstreet --1) Longstreet was to keep himself in a position to cover Richmond in case the Union landed troops at Fort Monroe and moved up the James-York Peninsula again. 2) Be able to move back to Fredericksburg in case Hooker moved. 3) Push the Union troops back to their bases, capture any of those ports if possible, gather all the provisions and volunteers possible in the area, which had been under Union occupation for almost a year. Longstreet had to be careful not to get drawn into pointlessly bloody battles in this little campaign. This may be why Lee chose Longstreet over Jackson, who had more experience of independent operations.

 

Norfleet House/Suffolk (April 13-15, 1863) - In cooperation with Confederate General Daniel H. Hill’s advance on Washington, North Carolina, Lieutenant General James Longstreet with Generals John Hood’s and George Pickett’s divisions besieged the Union garrison at Suffolk commanded by Brigadier General John Peck. The Union works were formidable and manned by 25,000 men, opposed to Longstreet’s 20,000. On April 13th, the Confederate troops pushed their left flank to the Nansemond River and constructed a battery on Hill’s Point, which closed off the garrison to Union shipping. On April 14th, Union gunboats attempted to run the batteries at the Norfleet House slightly upstream, but Mount Washington was crippled. The Federals, at the same time, constructed batteries to command the Confederate works at Norfleet House. On April 15th, these batteries were unmasked and opened fire, driving the Confederates out of this important position.

 

 

 

Confederate General James Longstreet

Hill's Point/Suffolk (April 11-May 4, 1863) - Also known as the Battle of Hill’s Point this engagement took place in Suffolk, Virginia On April 19th, a Union infantry force landed on Hill’s Point at the confluence of the forks of the Nansemond River. This amphibious force assaulted Fort Huger from the rear, quickly capturing its garrison, thus reopening the river to Union shipping. On April 24th, Brigadier General Michael Corcoran’s Union division mounted a reconnaissance-in-force from Fort Dix against Major General George E. Pickett’s extreme right flank. The Federals approached cautiously and were easily repulsed. On April 29th, General Robert E. Lee directed Longstreet to disengage from Suffolk and rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. By May 4th, the last of Longstreet’s command had crossed the Blackwater River en route to Richmond. The battles of Longstreet's Tidewater Operations were inconclusive and resulted in a total estimated casualties 1,160 for the entire siege.
 

Cavalry Operations along the Rappahannock (March 1863) - When Major General Ambrose Burnside was relieved of command of the Union's Army of the Potomac (following the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862 and the fiasco of his Mud March in January, 1863), his replacement, Major General Joseph Hooker, immediately began reorganizing and training his army, in winter quarters outside of Fredericksburg.

 

Kelly's Ford (March 17, 1863) - Occuring in Culpeper County, this battle was one of the early larger scale cavalry fights in Virginia that set the stage for Brandy Station and cavalry actions of the Gettysburg campaign. Twenty-one hundred troopers of Averell’s cavalry division crossed the Rappahannock River to attack the Confederate cavalry. Confederate General Fitzhugh Lee counterattacked with a brigade of about 800 men. Confederate Major John Pelham, known as the “Gallant” Pelham was killed. After achieving a localized success, Union forces withdrew in mid-afternoon. The inconclusive battle resulted in an estimated 200 total casualties.

 

Chancellorsville Campaign (April-May 1863) - This campaign, which culminated in the Battle of Chancellorsville, produced one of the most stunning and ambivalent Confederate victories of the Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had trounced the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg the previous December, but since then, Joseph Hooker had thoroughly reorganized and revitalized his dispirited Union troops. Declaring that he had created "the finest Army on the Planet," he set into motion an elaborate plan designed to quietly turn the left flank of the outnumbered and underfed Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which was camped not far from Fredericksburg.

 

Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia

Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia by by Kurz & Allison

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!

Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863) - Taking place in Spotsylvania County  over a period of a week this large battle engaged more that 150,000 combined troops. On April 27, Union Major General Joseph Hooker led the V, XI, and XII Corps on a campaign to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Passing the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Federals concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30th and May 1st. The III Corps was ordered to join the army via United States Ford. Major General Sedgwick’s VI Corps and Major General John Gibbon’s division remained to demonstrate against the Confederates at Fredericksburg. In the meantime, Confederate General Robert E. Lee left a covering force under Major General Jubal A. Early in Fredericksburg and marched with the rest of the army to confront the Federals. As Union Major General Joseph Hooker’s army moved toward Fredericksburg on the Orange Turnpike, they encountered increasing Confederate resistance.

 

Hearing reports of an overwhelming Confederate force, Hooker ordered his army to suspend the advance and to concentrate again at Chancellorsville. Pressed closely by Lee’s advance, Hooker adopted a defensive posture, thus giving Lee the initiative. On the morning of May 2nd, Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson directed his corps on a march against the Federal left flank, which was reported to be “hanging in the air.”

 

Fighting was sporadic on other portions of the field throughout the day, as Jackson’s column reached its jump-off point. At 5:20 pm, Jackson’s line surged forward in an overwhelming attack that crushed the Union XI Corps. Federal troops rallied, resisted the advance, and counterattacked. Disorganization on both sides and darkness ended the fighting. While making a night reconnaissance, Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men and carried from the field. Confederate Brigadier General J.E.B Stuart took temporary command of Jackson’s Corps. On May 3rd, the Confederates attacked with both wings of the army and massed their artillery at Hazel Grove. This finally broke the Federal line at Chancellorsville. General Hooker withdrew a mile and entrenched in a defensive “U” with his back to the river at United States Ford. Union Major Generals Hiram Berry and Amiel Whipple and Confederate Major General Elisha Paxton were killed; and General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded. On the night of May 5-6, after Union reverses at Salem Church, General Hooker re-crossed to the north bank of the Rappahannock River. This battle was considered by many historians to be General Robert E. Lee's greatest victory. The battle resulted in an estimated 14,000 Union casualties and 10,000 Confederate casualties.

Second Battle of Fredericksburg (May 3, 1863) - Also called the Second Battle of Marye’s Heights, this engagement took place in Fredericksburg, Virginia. On May 1st, General Robert E. Lee left Major General Jubal A. Early’s division to hold Fredericksburg, while marching with the rest of the army to meet Major General Joseph Hooker’s main offensive thrust at Chancellorsville. On May 3rd, the Union VI Corps under Major General John Sedgwick, reinforced by General John Gibbon’s II Corps division, having crossed the Rappahannock River, assaulted and carried the Confederate entrenchments on Marye’s Heights. The outnumbered Confederates withdrew and regrouped west and southeast of town. The Union victory resulted in a total estimated casualties of 2,000 men.

 

Salem Church (May 3-4, 1863) - Also called the Battle of Bank's Ford, this engagement took place in Spotsylvania County. After occupying Marye’s Heights on May 3rd, Union Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps marched out on the Plank Road with the objective of reaching General Joseph Hooker’s force at Chancellorsville. He was delayed by Confederal Brigadier General Cadmus M. Wilcox's brigade at Salem Church. During the afternoon and night, General Robert E. Lee detached two of his divisions from the Chancellorsville lines and marched them to Salem Church. Several Union assaults were repulsed the next morning with heavy casualties, and the Confederates counterattacked, gaining some ground. After dark, Union General Sedgwick withdrew across two pontoon bridges at Scott’s Dam under a harassing artillery fire. Hearing that Sedgwick had been repulsed, General Hooker abandoned the campaign, re-crossing on the night of May 5-6 to the north bank of the Rappahannock River. The Confederate victory resulted in a total estimated casualties of 5,000.

 

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