The serene quiet of these empty fields perhaps mirrors the growing relief of the Union's 11th Corps soldiers as
the day wound down. Men prepared their meals, played cards, and mused as animals, for reasons known only to themselves, came bounding
from the woods to their west. Mirth gave way to shocked excitement however as the force driving them burst upon the unprepared
soldiers. Stonewall Jackson's Corps, 26,000 strong, erupted from the woods in an unrelenting wave of force. Officers tried to form
lines of resistance but all broke as the unyielding Southerners surged forward. Only darkness slowed the onslaught. Earlier in the
day as Jackson progressed with his flank march, the Union Army, thinking that the Confederates were retreating, removed units between
the 11th Corps and the Union center to pursue the butternuts. This left only about 8,000 blue coats alone on the far right to fend for
themselves as the flanking Confederates overwhelmed these remaining troops. Nightfall and reinforced Federal lines ended the attack as
both armies prepared for the coming day, little sensing the unforeseen events yet to come that would irrevocably change the course of
this bloody, savage war.
The 11th Corps did not break immediately however. As indicated in the drawing above, those that could attempted to made a stand. But,
even according to General Oliver O. Howard's report, the 11th Corps Commander would state,
"At about 6 p.m. I was at my
headquarters, at Dowdall's Tavern, when the attack commenced. I sent my chief of staff to the front when firing was heard. General
Schurz, who was with me, left at once to take command of his line. It was not three minutes before I followed. When I reached General
Schurz's command, I saw that the enemy had enveloped my right, and that the First Division was giving way. I first tried to change the
front of the deployed regiments. I next directed the artillery where to go; then formed a line by deploying some of the reserve
regiments near the church. By this time the whole front on the north of the Plank road had given way. Colonel Buschbeck's brigade was
faced about, and, lying on the other side of the rifle-pit embankment, held on with praiseworthy firmness. A part of General
Schimmelfennig's and a part of General Krzyzanowski's brigades moved gradually back to the north of the Plank road and kept up their
fire. At the center and near the Plank road there was a blind panic and great confusion. By the assistance of my staff and some other
officers, one of whom was Colonel Dickinson, of General Hooker's staff, the rout was considerably checked, and all the artillery, except
eight pieces, withdrawn. Some of the artillery was well served, and told effectively on the advancing enemy. Captain Dilger kept up a
continuous fire until we reached General Betty's position."
In his official report, General Lee would somewhat modestly describe the fighting in this manner.
"At 6 p.m. the advance was
ordered. The enemy were taken by surprise, and fled after a brief resistance. General Rodes' men pushed forward with great vigor and
enthusiasm, followed closely by the second and third lines. Position after position was carried, the guns captured, and every effort
of the enemy to rally defeated by the impetuous rush of our troops. In the ardor of pursuit through the thick and tangled woods, the
first and second lines at last became mingled, and moved on together as one. The enemy made a stand at a line of breastworks across the
road, at the house of Melzie Chancellor, but the troops of Rodes and Colston dashed over the intrenchments together, and the flight and
pursuit were resumed, and continued until our advance was arrested by the abatis in front of the line of works near the central
position at Chancellorsville."
To your left is a picture of a United
States National Park Map showing the route of Jackson's Flank March and Attack as well as the Confederate and Union troop positions.
Once you click on the map for a larger picture, notice the location on the map where Union Major Sickles' Third Corps had connected
the Major General Oliver Otis Howard's Eleventh Corps on the far right flank to the rest of Hooker's Army. Sickles' Corps, having
been moved forward to harass the rear of Jackson's column, left the 11th Corps alone on the field.