Ordered initially to hold the Confederates on Marye's Heights
in place, reliable Major General John Sedgwick kept
his Corps facing the Southerners in Fredericksburg as the rest of the Army of the Potomac circled north to catch the Confederates
between the two sections of the Union's enormous army. General Sedgwick would report, "On Friday, May 1, at 5 p.m., an order was
received from the commanding general to make a demonstration in force at 1 o'clock that same day; to let it be as severe as possible
without being an attack; to assume a threatening attitude, and maintain it until further orders."
Later that night the order would be countermanded but, on May 2nd, General Sedgwick would again be asked to "pursue the enemy". As Stonewall Jackson engineered his wildly successful flank attack, General
Sedgwick said, "...my command was immediately put under arms and advanced upon the right, driving the enemy from the Bowling Green
road and pushing him back to the woods."
Later on Saturday, May 2, General Sedgwick would continue to describe the conflict as it unfolded.
"That night at 11 o'clock I received an order, dated 10.10 p.m., directing
me to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg immediately upon receipt of the order, and move in the direction of Chancellorsville
until I connected with the major-general commanding; to attack and destroy any force on the road, and be in the vicinity of the general
did so, the men of both North and South must have experienced painfully familiar visions of the previous December and the terrible
slaughter of the Battle of 1st Fredericksburg. During their previous contest, wave after wave of blue clad soldiers unsuccessfully
battered themselves against the defenders of Marye's Heights. This time however, the disparity between Union and Southern numbers would
aid in having the winds of war blow in favor of the North. Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale, who also guarded
against the Federal crossing during the first Battle of Fredericksburg, stated with perhaps some justifiable embellishment:
"After a determined and bloody resistance by Colonel Griffin and the Washington Artillery, the enemy, fully twenty to one,
succeeded in gaining possession of Marye's Hill; at all other points he was triumphantly repulsed... It will thus be seen that
Marye's Hill was defended by but one small regiment, three companies, and four pieces of artillery. A more heroic struggle was
never made by a more handful of men against overwhelming odds. According to the enemy's own accounts, many of this noble little
band resisted to the death with clubbed guns even after his vast hordes had swept over and around the walls."
The next morning, May 3, Major General John Sedgwick would continue his efforts to push aside Confederate resistance and move towards
Chancellorsville. He would relate their struggles to plow through a tenacious, layered Southern defensive lines.
"The columns moved on the Plank road and to the right of it directly up the heights. The line of battle advanced on the
double-quick to the left of the Plank road against the rifle-pits, neither halting nor firing a shot until they had driven the enemy
from their lower line of works. In the meantime the storming columns had pressed forward to the crest, and carried the works in the
rear of the rifle-pits, capturing the guns and many prisoners. These movements were gallantly executed under a most destructive fire.
In the meantime Howe advanced rapidly on the left of Hazel Run, in three columns of assault, and forced the enemy from the crest in
front, capturing five guns. The entire corps was at once put in motion and moved in pursuit. Considerable resistance was made on the
next series of heights, but the position was carried without halting. A section of horse artillery on our right occupied every
successive crest upon our line of march, and much annoyed our advance."
As they marched over the bitterly contested ground, Sedgwick's men would cross
over scenes of slaughter and desolation wrought by the second great collision of these armies on this ground in just a few months.
Despite the tremendous successes the Confederates had achieved around the areas of the Wilderness and the Chancellor House, the
southerners were still at risk of being squeezed between Sedgwick's Corps and the rest of the Army of the Potomac. In order to reverse
the Union tide of battle, General Sedgwick would first need to get past the butternuts defending the area near the Salem Church.