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Adventures in Chancellorsville

This post is part 15 of our Wednesday Adventure Series. Each week we will highlight something different in the Washington, D.C., Metro Area, many of which will be options for part of your own BookCrossing Journey. With so many things to see and do, how will you choose?

The area surrounding Washington, D.C., was a tumultuous place during the American Civil War, as the Union capitol was located right on the border of the Confederacy. The Battle of Chancellorsville, just one of the major conflicts in the area, took place what is now about an hour’s drive from Washington.

In late April, 1863, Union (Northern) General Joseph Hooker and his troops crossed the Rappahannock River in two places, planning to attack the Confederate (Southern) position from both sides. Hooker fully expected his enemies to retreat in the face of his nearly 115,000 Union soldiers advancing. Though heavily outnumbered with just under 60,000 troops, General Robert E. Lee led his Confederate forces to confront Hooker’s troops. After splitting off two groups under Generals Jubal Early and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, respectively, Lee marched on Chancellorsville, Virginia, where Hooker had halted his advance to await additional troops.

After a skirmish with Jackson’s troops, Hooker fell back into a defensive position at Chancellorsville, losing any offensive advantage he may have had. Through a number of maneuvers intended to lure Hooker into believing the Confederates were in retreat, Lee and his forces attacked the Union soldiers from multiple directions.

The fighting lasted nearly a week, resulting in the deaths of about 24,000 men, including General Jackson. Though there were almost twice as many Union troops as Confederates involved in this battle, the Confederates eventually won the Battle of Chancellorsville, driving Hooker back north across the Rappahannock River in defeat.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, you’ve probably read The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Though the battle in the novel is not named, it parallels the Battle of Chancellorsville. Needless to say, it makes a great themed release. Likewise with Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara, a novel which covers much of the American Civil War prior to the Battle at Gettysburg.

One of the options you can choose from for the Sunday of the BookCrossing Convention is a tour of this battlefield led by BookCrosser and local historian nat4lee. If you would like to join us there, please sign up on the add-ons page. Can’t make it? Check out the National Park Service’s virtual tour of the area.

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