150 Years Ago: Chancellorsville, May 3rd, 1863

Union soldiers waiting to advance, Chancellorsville

An interesting post over at Op-For by the redoubtable LtCol P commemorating the 150th anniversary of the famous Stonewall Jackson flank attack in the middle of the week-long battle.


While the Battle of Chancellorsville was a stunning Southern victory, and the end of General Joe Hooker’s time at the head of the Army of the Potomac, the battle was not all disaster for the Federals, nor did their soldiers fail to fight.   Some fought extraordinarily well.  The 240-odd Officers and men of the 115th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, fighting under Dan Sickles’ Third Corps, held the western wall of the Federal position just west of Wilderness Church, in and around Hazel Grove.  The Regimental History for the 115th PA Vol. Inf. tells the story:

At daylight on the 3rd, the first line was attacked.  After holding its position for an hour, it fell back on its supports.  The Second line was then ordered to advance.  With alacrity it sprang forward, driving the enemy, when Colonel Lancaster fell, pierced through the temple with a minie-ball, [sic] the command devolving on Major Dunne.  Without faltering, the line pressed forward, recapturing the breastworks, taking four hundred prisoners and two stands of colors…  The position was held against the desperate efforts to carry it…

The price, including the desperate fighting withdrawal on the 6th, was high.

The Regiment entered the battle with fourteen Officers and two-hundred thirty men; of these, Colonel Lancaster, and Captains John J. Donnelly and George Cromley were killed,  and Captains Richard Dillon and Wm. A. Reilly, and Lieutenants William J. Ashe, James Malloy, and Evan Davis were wounded, the two latter mortally.  Captain Dillon lost his left arm.   Eight men were killed, seventy-three wounded, and twenty-two missing; an aggregate loss of one-hundred eleven.


One of those seventy-three wounded was Private C. A. Warner of D Co., who was struck in the chest by a Rebel musket ball.

Warner, C.A. Private Wounded at Chancellorsville, Va., May 3, 1863 (Pa. Archives); Tr. to Co. D, 110th Regiment, P.V., June 22, 1864 D

Surgeons could not remove it, so it remained in his chest for the remainder of his life, which was all too short.   Just weeks before his son, my grandfather, was born in 1885, Christopher A. Warner died of complications from his wound.   He was 43.

One of the most incredibly moving experiences I ever had was walking through the Chancellorsville Battlefield in 1986 while at the Basic School.  Our 25-mile MCCRES hike was conducted there, and while 25 miles in 8 hours with a full march order is no leisure stroll, the venue was inspired.  On our breaks, Park Rangers would conduct impromptu lecture on the course of the battle.  I asked a Ranger at one point where the 115th PA Volunteers had fought, and he informed me that we were standing on the spot.

Knowing that I was within yards of where one of my ancestors had been wounded in the Civil War was both a thrill and a strongly compelling experience.   Even after the nearly thirty years, I remember every detail of the spot, and of the few minutes spent in thought, before shouldering MY pack again and falling into the long column of men being trained for war.  It is something I shall never forget.

[Update-XBrad]- Of course, for ALL your American Civil War blogging needs, be sure to check out Craig’s blog To The Sound Of The Guns. He’s devoted considerable space to Chancellorsville.


Filed under army, Artillery, guns, history, marines, Personal, Uncategorized, veterans, war

6 responses to “150 Years Ago: Chancellorsville, May 3rd, 1863

  1. scottthebadger

    You are part of a stalwart family, to produce you and your Great Grandfather. Well Done URR Family!


  2. XBrad, thanks for the plug. I’ve spent the last three days on the battlefield. Very little opportunity to blog, as we timed our tours to events 150 years ago, mostly to the hour – but to the minute where possible. Sunrise to sunset.

    We say that there’s no replacement for walking the battlefield. Well, multiply that by a factor of ten with the time factor:

    So Jackson’s men attacked here and went there? How long did that take? Well we just walked it at a stroll, without anyone shooting at us… how long did that take? What did we see along the way? How did the shadows and sunset play in?


  3. Pingback: Chancellorsville 150: Some of day three, where I’d go for day four | To the Sound of the Guns

  4. David Navarre

    Very moving and well-written, Reg.