A camera, good walking shoes,and transportation are recommended when aetting out to visit Chancellorsville. Your first stop is the visitor center and watch the short movie explaining how the battle came about and the decisions that spelled victory and defeat for the two commanders. The center also has a small museum with artifacts from actual participants in the battle or recovered from the battlefields. The visitor center occupies the place where Stonewall Jackson was wounded by hia own men. The two shrines to Jackson, a rock and a more elaborate monument. There is one another memorial close by, a stone set in the ground identifies an "unknown Union soldier".
From the visitor center you have a choice, start your tour here,you'll see the didactic panel and the site of Jackson's wounding. The other option is to drive back toward Fredericksburg to where the Battle of Chancellorsville began. You'll have to turn around and get on Route 3 West. This area marks the furtherest advance of the Union Army.
Major General Joseph Hooker planned an envelopment movement to avoid an assault on the Confederate fortifications behind Fredericksburg. The Union advance reached Chancellorsville late afternoon of April 30,1863. The next morning the advance resumed. Union troops encountered Confederates on the open ground on the Orange Plank Road, now the Plank Road. The Union troops pushed the Confederates back and reached an open area near the Zoan Chruch, three miles from Fredericksburg. At this point Jackson arrived, and resolved to attack. His assualt pushed the Union troops of Major General George Sykes. He quickly found himself in difficuties.
Chancellorsville sat in an area of heavy forests and underbrush that made keeping contact with troops on the flanks impossible. The road diverged and troops on the Plank Road and River road were moving away from Sykes. Jackson moved to outflank Sykes on both flanks. Jackson forced Sykes back to a ridge that commanded the countryside around it. Sykes appealed for reinforcements and Major General Winfield Hancock arrived. Hooker gained his sobriquet "Fighting" for commanding his troops from the front. This day he remained and at Chancellorsville and relied on reports. The lack of progress on the plank road, and Sykes difficulties in spite of reinforcement, decided him to withdraw from his advanced positions and dig around Chancellorsville and fight his battle there. The Chief of Engineers for the Army Major General Gouverneur Warren urged Hooker stand on Sykes poistion, it commanded the countryside for miles around. One hundred fifty years later, the visitor can see the advantage of remaining on Sykes. Major General Darius N. Couch the II Corps commander, who relieved Sykes embattled division, protested the Hooker's contemplated move. Major General George Gordon Meade commanding the V Corps chimed in and advised to stand and fight. He had reached his objective, the Banks Ford on the Rappahannock River, and psotioned to drive into the Confederate flank and rear. Hooker peremptorily ordered all troops back.
Hooker's lines around Chancellorsville was anchored on the right by the Rappahannock River. The center used Hazel Grove, a clearing surrounded by the forests of the Wilderness. Hazel Grove commanded the country around it. Fairview lay below Hazel hill, eight hundred yards from the Chancellor house. Hooker's right flank was "in the air" not anchored on a natural barrier or fortified. Hooker suggested to Major General Oliver Otis Howard commander XI Corps he fortify his flank. Howard ignored the suggestion. Confederate scouting the Union line, discovered the open flank and reported to General Robert E. Lee of this fact. Lee and Jackson decided to attack.
Jackson's movement to the right was observed. Major General Daniel Sickles III Corps attacked the Confederate column and learned that Jackson was moving to attack on the right. Hooker sent written orders for Howard to strengthen the right flank and moved Sickels Corps into the line where the XII and XI corps lines met. Jackson succeeded in reaching Howard's exposed flank and formed his corps to attack. Howard for whatever failed to strengrhen hos right, depsite urgent reports that enemy was moving to envelop the right. Two of his division commanders reordered their troops to mee an attack on the right. Four o'clock May 2, 1863 Jackson's men charged out of the wood surprising and stampeding his corps.
The crash of battle on the right followed by a mob of soldiers, wagons,and guns flooded into the clearing around Chancellorsville. Officers' efforts to rally the fugtives failed. Jackson'e men cutoff the troops around Hazel Grove. Sickles' corps broke through the Confederate line and erected breastworks around Fairview where a Union battery feverishly dug epaulments for the cannon. Hooker abandoned Hazel Grove to contract his line. Jackson pressed his men on, wanting them to cut Hooker off frome the river. While scouting for a way around Hooker's position, he was shot by his own men who took Jackson and his staff as Yankee cavalry. Major General JEB Suart took command of Jackson's men and renewed the attack. Confederate artillery placed on Hazel Grove dominated the countryside. The Confederate assault caught the III Corps moving to a new position and routed part of the corps.
The result of the scattering the III Corps forced Hooker's back to the river where the I Corps erected breastworks. The army safe at last, Hooker abandoned the campaign recrossing the Rappahannock at Ely's Ford abandoning his wounded unable to make their to the river.
Visitors touring the Fredericksburg-Chancellorsville military parks receive a good leson on Civil War history. A vistor also gets a feel for the Wilderness battleground fought in 1864. The Wilderness fighting occured over the same ground as May 1863.The Fredericksburg area has many very good hotels, restaurants, and shops that provide a variety of products for the visitor. A visit to Chancellorsville is a spring break or summer vacation.