Lessons from the Battle of Chancellorsville

“Hold the attention of your enemy with a minimum force, then quickly strike him suddenly and hard on his flank or rear with every weapon you have.”[1] ­- Gen. A.A. Vandegrift

Introduction

May 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville. It is one of the premiere battles that military professionals around the world study to understand the art of warfare. The chaos, courage, and suffering that took place at the Battle of Chancellorsville was so expansive and extreme that it is difficult for twenty-first century minds to grasp. Numbers vaguely tell the story of the savagery: total Confederate casualties 13,156, of whom 1683 were killed, 9277 were wounded, and 2196 were prisoners of war. Union casualties totaled 16,845 with similar proportions.[2]

What possible lessons could still be useful today from this massacre of a battle that took place a century and a half ago? If the history of war teaches us nothing else, it is that even though equipment and tactics change the human element changes little. Consistently the ages remind us that the human element is the only thing that resembles a constant in the progression of warfare.

The fighting that unfolded midway between the Union and Confederate capitols reveals timeless principles about military planning, maneuver, surprise, deception, and initiative. Yet even more astounding than the physical actions that transpired, the battle provides profound insights into the minds of military commanders and their soldiers on both sides.

Verities such as energy, firmness, staunchness, emotional balance, and strength of character are enduring markers of successfully leaders across the millennia of human conflict.[3] Such universal lessons are essential for officers who aspire to master the art of war. To fully understand and apply them in modern warfare requires a thorough immersion of thought into the context of a major historical campaign. Understanding the reasons why past commanders took the decisions they did is a vitally important part of a military education.

The Strategic Setting

The terrible battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg in September and December of 1862 revealed the orthodox thinking of leaders in both armies. American military leaders of this era were raised during a transformational period in human development; when mankind was adapting to the age of enlightenment and birth of the industrial revolution. Most senior Army leaders were products of the West Point education system that stressed engineering, the campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the theories of Antoine Jomini. This mental framework led to a broad-based inclination by Civil War leaders in both armies to take the offensive.   Author Michael Phipps summarizes the Jomini-Napoleon ideals that permeated early U.S. Military Academy graduates.

Jomini, like Napoleon, preached the offensive. One of the most quoted passages from Art of War is, “A general who waits for the enemy like an automaton without taking any other part than that of fighting valiantly, will always succumb when he shall be well attacked.” [4]

The methodical warfare that was ingrained in the minds of officers was based on a few simple principles. Chief among these was the principle of maneuvering to concentrate massed forces against a weak point in the enemy’s formation. Jomini sums this up in the following statement,

The employment of forces should be regulated by two fundamental principles: the first being, to obtain by free and rapid movements the advantage of bringing the mass of the troops against fractions of the enemy; the second, to strike in the most decisive direction…[5]

By the spring of 1863 Union and Confederate armies in the eastern theater of war were preparing to resume the bloody struggle to settle political differences. The wonton destruction of human life and war materiel that occurred at Antietam and Fredericksburg had a shocking effect on psyches and war machines. Frontal assaults across open terrain against entrenched forces had led to the slaughter and maiming of tens of thousands of Americans. These tragic battles necessitated the installation of several new leaders, most notably General Joseph Hooker as head of the Army of the Potomac (AOTP).

Concurrent with his appointment as new commanding general, General Hooker worked closely with the war department to formulate a new plan for breaking the Confederate stronghold on the Rappahannock River. Hooker’s plan was highly detailed and well designed, yet simple in concept. It sought to take full advantage of Union strengths in manpower and logistics. The thoroughness of the plan and its perceived decisive advantages, instilled widespread confidence in the minds of AOTP officers. The result was that when Hooker started moving forces, the AOTP was “all in” on a predetermined course of action. Said differently, they had mentally put all their eggs in one basket.

In early 1863 the AOTP was in Falmouth, Virginia, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (ANV), under General Robert E. Lee, was in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Hooker had a two-to-one advantage in manpower over Lee and his plan was designed to take full advantage of this inequality. Hooker planned to divide his army. One part would remain near Fredericksburg under the command of General John Sedgwick, while a larger force under Hooker would cross the Rappahannock River upstream and attack the ANV from the west.

Railroads were vital supply lines and thus critical vulnerabilities that each side attempted to seize or disrupt. The Union plan was based, in part, on this fact. With the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) dug in around Fredericksburg, Hooker planned to send 10,000 cavalrymen, led by General George Stoneman, on a deep raid toward Hanover Junction, while he took the central axis through Chancellorsville and Sedgewick boxed in the Confederates from the east. The Union plan assumed that once Lee realized his lines of communication with Richmond were at risk, the ANV would have only two courses of action:  conduct a two-front battle around Fredericksburg or withdraw to the south. 

The Union Plan Meets Reality

“Since all information and assumptions are open to doubt, and with chance at work everywhere, the commander continually finds that things are not as he expected.” “[N]ew information and reevaluation are not enough to make us give up our intentions; they only call them in question. We now know more, but this makes us more, not less uncertain.”[6] - Clausewitz

Hooker’s expectations skewed his view of reality on several occasions. First, he convinced himself that Lee had but two courses of action so he looked for indications that Lee was reacting in accordance with one of these two choices. His plans did not anticipate that Lee would—contrary to military doctrine—initially divide his forces. Thus, when  a rear guard force of five brigades under General Early was left near Fredericksburg, Sedgewick and Hooker believed that, per the plan’s script—and some creative ANV deception—the Confederate force at Fredericksburg was stronger than they actually were. This ambiguity, coupled with miscommunication between the commanding general and Sedgwick, caused critical delays in the AOTP pincher thrust from the east.

Another factor that altered Hooker’s plan at the outset was that Stoneman’s cavalry was severely delayed in their assignment to disrupt Lee’s southern supply and communication lines. An integral part of Hooker’s plan was his preference to fight on the tactical defensive, as opposed to the revisiting the AOTP’s offensive tragedies in recent battles. Hooker’s desire to wait for an assault by the ANV proved to be the tipping point in the AOTP plan because it ceded the initiative to Lee.

Hooker again deceived himself on May 1st when he encountered ANV forces east of Chancellorsville. This development suggested that Lee had decided to take the tactical offensive which, as Antietam and Fredericksburg proved, could be a very costly decision.  At the same time, Hooker’s belief that much of Lee’s army was still at Fredericksburg did not fit into his plan. Lee appeared stronger in two places than he should have been (and actually was). This confusion, coupled with confounding demonstrations by Lee on May 2nd, caused Hooker to remain inactive as the threat grew that morning. Hooker’s plan ran into trouble because it had become dogma and its unquestioned structure no longer matched reality.

This leads us to an important observation; that leaders must be agile minded and able to adapt to circumstances. In the words of S.L.A. Marshall,

The test of fitness to command is the ability to think clearly in the face of contingency or opportunity. Improvisation is of the essence of initiative in all combat just as initiative is the outward showing of the power of decision. [7]

Foreordained beliefs again clouded Union thinking when on the morning of May 2nd, General Stonewall Jackson’s Corps began its famous flanking march. Despite the fact Jackson was seen moving southwest past Catharine’s Furnace, little action was taken to adjust the Union plan. Union commanders believed, as the plan had predicted, that Lee had opted to withdraw to the south.  However, Hooker was also aware of the possibility that Jackson might be undertaking a flanking maneuver. He took three actions; he sent a message to Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard: “We have good reason to suppose the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe in order to obtain timely information of their approach.” Hooker's second action was to send orders to Sedgwick to attack at Fredericksburg if “an opportunity presents itself with a reasonable expectation of success.” Finally, Hooker ordered General Daniel Sickles, commander of the III Corps (at the center of the Union line) to “advance cautiously toward the road followed by [Jackson], and harass the movement as much as possible.”  Sickles sent an elite regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters to reconnoiter Jackson’s column.  The sharpshooters caught up with the tail of Jackson’s column and mauled and captured part of the rear guard regiment.  Despite the fact that many of the prisoners told their captors that Jackson would pay them back later in the day, rigid minded, plan-oriented AOTP leaders discounted this fact and no follow-on action was taken.

The preconceived notion that the enemy would react in accordance with the plan undercut the AOTP’s ability to take aggressive action outside the boundaries of the plan. This was the milieu of false confidence that was in the minds of Union leaders when Jackson struck Howard’s Corps from the West. While the physical damage that Jackson caused was significant, the psychological damage delivered was devastating.  The Confederates ultimately won at Chancellorsville and drove Hooker back toward the Rappahannock.  They then turned to face Sedgwick’s eastern command at Salem Church on May 3-4, 1863.  Sedgwick fended off Confederate attacks from three directions, but finding himself almost encircled, he also retired to the river.  At that point, Hooker ended the Chancellorsville campaign and crossed the Rappahannock, leaving the field in the possession of an army half the size of his own.

The Confederate Perspective

“In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries--or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary's Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop. ... Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries--since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.”[8] – Col John Boyd

General Lee was in a much different predicament and possessed a different mental temperament than Hooker. Obliged to assume the strategic defensive, and lacking much of Longstreet’s Corps, due to operations south of Richmond, Lee was severely outnumbered and hemmed in from three sides. Such a predicament, in fact, played into Lee’s strong suit as a commander. Lee was bold and decisive and always sought ways to disadvantage his enemy through unexpected actions. He understood that owning the initiative can make up for inferior numbers; and that initiative opens opportunities for its owner and forecloses them to one’s opponents. As Clausewitz says, “The more boldness lends wings to the mind and the discernment, so much the farther they will reach in their flight, so much the more comprehensive will be the view, the more exact the result, but certainly always only in the sense that with greater objects greater dangers are connected.”[9] Squeezed into a tight situation at Chancellorsville, Lee’s confidence in himself and his forces, especially Jackson, combined with an understanding of Hooker’s tendencies, enabled him to take bold, rapid action against Hooker’s plans. His actions against AOTP maneuvers were in keeping with one of Sun Tzu’s famous maxims on war, “What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.”[10]

Lee used initiative to disrupt enemy plans and create more favorable conditions. Again from Clausewitz, “Loss of moral equilibrium must not be underestimated merely because it has no absolute value and does not always show up in the final balance. It can attain such massive proportions that it overpowers everything by its irresistible force.”[11] In doing so, he sought to create confusion for the enemy, while harnessing the cohesion of highly-disciplined veteran forces. Military theorist J.F.C. Fuller makes clear the significance that psychological effects can have on the battlefield.

The enemy does not attack him physically, but mentally; for the enemy attacks his ideas, his reason, his plan. The physical pressure directed against his men reacts on him through compelling him to change his plan, and changes in his plan react on his men by creating a mental confusion which weakens their morale. Psychologically, the battle is opened by a physical blow which unbalances the commander's mind, which in its turn throws out of adjustment the moral of his men, and leads to their fears impeding the flow of his will. If the blow is a totally unexpected one, the will of the commander may cease altogether to flow, and, the balance in the moral sphere of war being utterly upset, self-preservation fusing with self-assertion results in panic.[12]

One upside to the ANV’s small numbers was that it was lighter and more maneuverable than the AOTP. Lee used this advantage, along with his interior lines, to move his forces into a more favorable position. This is consistent with modern warfare doctrine. Marine Corps doctrine says that maneuver warfare is a philosophy that seeks to “shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a variety of rapid-focused and unexpected actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope.”[13]

To act inside the decision cycle of the Union army and exploit the benefits of initiative and maneuver warfare, Lee used a trust-based command and control philosophy that was highly decentralized. This method is still in use by U.S. forces today. Marine Corps doctrine purports that,

Mission command and control offers the flexibility to deal with rapidly changing situations and to exploit fleeting windows of opportunity. It provides for the degree of cooperation necessary to achieve harmony of effort yet gives commanders at all levels the latitude to act with initiative and boldness.[14]

Relevant Lessons for Today

Chancellorsville offers an almost unlimited number of valuable lessons for the modern military professional.  The most important of these include:

  1. The importance of initiative.  The importance of initiative cannot be overstated. Initiative is more than executing offensive actions within the physical domain. It also has significant advantages within the moral and cognitive domains. It yields broad advantages to individuals that possess it and organizations that exploit it. Ultimately, initiative engenders freedom of action within physical and non-physical realms and empowers one to anticipate, if not dictate changing conditions. Hooker had control of the situation as long as he kept moving, and kept following his plan.  When he halted and Sedgwick did not advance, Lee seized the initiative and controlled events for the rest of the campaign. 
  2. Mental agility and adaptability.  Hooker was married to a plan, Lee wasn’t. In the chaos of combat, commanders must remain open to improvise and adjust as circumstances change. Hooker’s assumption that Lee had only two courses of action was the greater of two fatal mistakes in the campaign. This erroneous assumption in his plan led to Hooker’s decision to stop and hold in place at Chancellorsville, which was the other mistake. In short, neither Hooker’s plan nor his mentality allowed for the play of chance. On the other hand, Lee’s mentality and the temperament of his forces were much more agile and flexible. Infused with confidence, the ANV executed through a sense of trust. Trust facilitates rapid decisions and right actions. It is the assurance another will act in good faith to achieve a goal. Trust is the coin of decentralize command and control. Forces that possess trust have a distinct advantage in high-speed warfare.
  3. The principles of war.  Current reverence for universal truths of warfare can be traced back to Jomini, who said “there have existed in all times fundamental principles… unchanging, independent of the kinds of weapons, of historical time and of place.”[15] For better and for worse, Lee and Hooker anchored their planning and decisions on time-tested principles, many of which are reflected in contemporary U.S. doctrine.
  • Mass - Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time.
  • Objective - Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.
  • Offensive - Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.
  • Surprise - Strike the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared.
  • Economy of force - Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.
  • Maneuver - Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
  • Unity of command - For every objective, ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander.
  • Security - Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.
  • Simplicity - Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.[16]

Lee’s use of divided forces and Jackson’s flank march were consistent with six of the nine principles of war: Initiative, Offensive, Maneuver, Mass, Economy of Force and Surprise. However, Lee also knew when to deviate from conventional wisdom when he split his “mass” into three smaller groups. This shows that the principles of war are useful in framing military plans, but not absolute laws that must be obeyed. Hooker also used Initiative, Offensive, Maneuver, Mass, Economy of Force, along with Simplicity, in his initial plan to trap Lee. But, when he halted his advance, he gave up the benefits of the offensive and maneuver. 

Conclusion

To succeed in future conflicts where information is exchanged around the globe instantaneously requires leaders that are competent in chaos and can make decisions rapidly with confidence. Leaders must understand the importance of holding the initiative. They must remain mentally agile and adaptable. They must know and apply, but not become slaves to the principles of war. Speed of decision is essential to gaining and maintaining the initiative. Initiative enables the force that holds it to dictate the context of battle on terms it deems most favorable to itself and its ends. By generating a higher operational tempo through superior decision speeds, an inferior force can wrest the initiative from an otherwise dominant adversary and dictate the terms of engagement. Owning initiative can also disrupt enemy cohesion and morale. Decentralized decision making at the tactical edge is inherently faster and more dexterous than that of remote centralized decision authorities, especially in geographically dispersed, complex environments. Decentralized execution enables speed, surprise, and decisiveness. So as we commemorate the series of battles that took place 150 years ago, and the painful sacrifices that so many on each side experienced, it is also important to understand, preserve, and apply forward the enduring lessons of war.


[1]. General A.A. Vandegrift, USMC, Battle Doctrine for Frontline Leaders, 1944, Reprinted by Marine Corps Education Center, 1981

[2]. Douglas Freeman, Robert E. Lee, Vol III, Ch 1, p.5, November 1, 1977, Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York and London, 1934

[3]. Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, p.104, Produced by Charles Keller and David Widger, February 2006; Updated January 2013; Translated by Colonel J.J. Graham, 1874; London Reprinting 1909

[4]. Michael Phipps, Mahan at West Point, “Gallic Bias,” and the “Old Army”: The Subconscious of Leadership at Gettysburg, November 2011

[5]. A.H. Jomini, Summary of the Art of War, p. 328, Military Service Publishing Co., Harrisburg, PA, J.D. Hittle, 1958

[6]. Clausewitz, On War

[7]. S.L.A. Marshall, Colonel, AUS, Men Against Fire; the Problem of Battle Command in Future War, Originally Published: Washington: Infrantry Journal; New York: William Morrow and Company, 1947

[8]. John Boyd, Patterns of Conflict, Produced by Ginger Richards, 2007; Original Version December 1986

[9]. Clausewitz, On War

[10].  Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Published c 610 BC, Translated by Samuel B. Griffith, October 2005

[11]. Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, p.104

[12]. J.F.C. Fuller, Colonel, D.S.O., The Foundations of Science of War, pp 126-127, London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers), LTD., Paternoster Row, E.G., Army General Command and Staff Press, Reprinted 1993

[13]. Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP) 1, Warfighting, 20 June 1997

[14]. US Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 6, Command and Control, 4 October 1996

[15]. A.H. Jomini, Summary of the Art of War

[16]. U.S. Joint Doctrine, Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations, 11 August 2011

 

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Very well-written yet unconvincing account that study of old history provides ample lessons for future warfare. The tendency to claim that even ancient past is prologue is countered by the reality that few modern wars are predictors of future ones. Yet study of more recent wars and their technology does provide clues to how today’s and tomorrow’s warriors and warfighting systems will fight future wars regardless of where they are.

The same lessons about human imperfection, strength of character and leadership, mission command efficiency, adaptation, initiative, and heroism apply in the study of current warfare and projection of use of realistic systems in future wars. Some of those systems just fundamentally alter the way wars are fought and how mission command is conducted. This is not revolution, it is recognition of how evolution changes warfare.

It also reflects the reality that the warrior of the Civil War differed substantially from WWI doughboys, the greatest generation of WWII and Korea, Vietnam boomer draftees, and today’s volunteer troops who grew up playing less outside and more in front of video games and using computers/I-pads. We also shouldn't ignore that recent history has been much less deadly to our Soldiers/Marines reflecting a smarter way of conducting war that does not ask our troops to walk through jungles with 10 foot visibility searching for bad guys awaiting them. Nor do we line up rows of troops and ask them to stand in the open and fire at one another.

It also is reasonable to look at recent history to note the presence or non-presence of air combat aces and major naval battles to project their likelihood for the future. Counting the actual size, condition, and technology of threat armies, navies, and air forces and their defense budgets in an era of $100 million fighters and $14 billion carriers also is a good predictor of likelihood of advances in size and capability within the next 20 years that can reasonably match our own air, sea, or land forces. If that examination yields a single nation with a large naval and air force (that still lags well behind our own and allies), we also should consider the economic relationship of that nation with the U.S and their motivation for war with their biggest trading partner.

Then we can look elsewhere at the numbers of large rogue armies and terrorist groups coupled with the potential for nuclear proliferation and state-sponsored WMD usage to see where real future threats exist. Pivot to recent reality, not pure and unlikely speculation of major AirSea conflicts deterred by MAD and mutually assured economic destruction.

Because I knew nothing about the Battle of Chancellorsville, I trusted Wikipedia for the following quotes to compare that war of yesteryear to how it might have changed with largely current warfare systems let alone those in the program of record pipeline.

Hooker's intelligence about the positioning and capabilities of his enemy was superior to that available to his predecessors in command of the AOP….Apart from gathering the usual sources of information from interrogating prisoners, deserters, "contrabands" (slaves), and refugees, the bureau for the first time coordinated intelligence from other sources including infantry and cavalry reconnaissance, signal stations, and an aerial balloon corps.

Obviously, updated technology applied to the same ground elements assisted by enhanced joint air intelligence by JSTARS, Global Hawk, and Reapers, and Army attack reconnaissance AWT/SWT and tactical UAS provided Hooker’s great Grandson to the 9th power (Hooker XII) with even superior intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance representing 150 years of progress accelerated in the latter part of the 20th century.

In recent Congressional testimony, General Odierno stated that a company commander today has access to 20 times the information that he had as a division commander in 2003.

Armed with this more realistic information, Hooker realized that if he were to avoid the bloodbath of direct frontal attacks, which were features of the Battles of Antietam and, more recently, Fredericksburg, he could not succeed in his crossing of the Rappahannock "except by stratagem."

Hooker XII was no longer constrained by attacking lines of troops trading on-line volleys and hampered by slow reloading in point-blank engagements. He now had highly mobile mounted and dismounted ground and air maneuver forces and highly effective indirect fires and CAS to act on his superior intelligence. He also had greatly improved communications and information systems displaying the presence of his own and enemy forces on the common operational picture (COP). That strategic intelligence about the threat was imperfect, however his operational and tactical Army information collection assets, both on the ground and in the air, completed situational understanding using combat information and reports.

Stoneman's cavalry began on April 30 its second attempt to reach Lee's rear areas. The two II Corps divisions crossed at U.S. Ford on April 30 without opposition. By dawn on April 29, pontoon bridges spanned the Rappahannock south of Fredericksburg and Sedgwick's force began to cross. Pleased with the success of the operation so far, and realizing that the Confederates were not vigorously opposing the river crossings, Hooker ordered Sickles to begin the movement of the III Corps from Falmouth the night of April 30–May 1. By May 1, Hooker had approximately 70,000 men concentrated in and around Chancellorsville.

Stoneman XII, the Combat Aviation Brigade commander, watched as his 60 helicopter air assault force launched repeated flights of forces moving an air assault infantry brigade to reach Lee XI’s rear area in 40 minute round-trip repeated sorties. The 18 square mile around Chancellorsville was easily bypassed by air to both the north and south. Simultaneously, 10 MH-47 sorties fast-roped a Ranger battalion (-) of 300 troops into the vicinity of Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road to protect Hooker’s right flank.

Hooker XII had crossed pontoon bridges with two combined arms battalions of M1A2 tanks and infantry ground combat vehicles to the north to penetrate the Wilderness in the vicinity of Chancellorsville . Meanwhile, Sedgwick XII tanks and GCVs crossed to the south as a deception-turned-to-enveloping-movement after Early XII’s T-72 tanks and BMPs proved ineffective defenders. The 1500 men of the three combined arms battalions of the armored BCT were more than a match for the 13,000 men in old tanks/BMPs, dismounts, technical trucks, and 24 artillery pieces that Lee XI had mustered to defend Chancellorsville. Hooker XII armed with fast-moving armor and aviation coupled with superb information collection and communications to enhance situational understanding at all echelons meant that Hooker XII did not need 70,000 dismounts with slow-loading rifles lined up side-by-side.

Yet nobody speculated that an effective Army was unnecessary as Lee XI’s troops hugged Chancellorsville and Fredricksburg urban areas to preclude air targeting using large precision bombs. Other troops hid in the Wilderness to further preclude effective air attack. No raiding mentality would be effective because Lee’s troops and his people would simply resume prior activities unless he was decisively defeated and terrain was held long enough to accomplish that decisive victory.

As Stuart's intelligence information about the Union river crossings began to arrive, Lee did not react as Hooker had anticipated. He decided to violate one of the generally accepted principles of war and divide his force in the face of a superior enemy, hoping that aggressive action would allow him to attack and defeat a portion of Hooker's army before it could be fully concentrated against him. He became convinced that Sedgwick's force would demonstrate against him, but not become a serious threat, so he ordered about 4/5 of his army to meet the challenge from Chancellorsville.

Sedgwick XII’s armor rapidly penetrated through Early XII’s old armor and technical trucks, and dismounts were unable to penetrate either the Abrams or GCV. Line charges cleared paths through minefields and round about cross country routes precluded easy IED targeting.

Lee XI, seeing Sedgwick’s rapid advance to envelop his 13,000 near Chancellorsville, was in a dilemma insofar as the combined efforts of Hooker XII’s attack with two combined arms battalions coming out of the Wilderness and Sedgewick’s rapid advance through more open territory meant he would be forced to depart Chancellorsville to expose his force to air attack as it attempted to flee south.

He determined that his best course of action was to slug it out on the urban terrain of Chancellorsville using dismounted troops who could hide from airpower and only be fought with ground forces. He knew he could not defeat Hooker XII's armor in that manner but it might buy time for reinforcements to arrive to include Jackson's 28,000 hoping to flank Hooker through the Wilderness.

Early on the morning of May 2, Hooker began to realize that Lee's actions on May 1 had not been constrained by the threat of Sedgwick's force at Fredericksburg, so no further deception was needed on that front. He decided to summon the I Corps of Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds to reinforce his lines at Chancellorsville.

Seeing that Reynolds XII’s trailing Stryker battalion was no longer necessary behind Sedgewick’s CAB, Hooker XII ordered that they reverse course, recross the river, and rapidly advance to the north to reinforce Rangers guarding the Wilderness flank of Hooker XII’s main effort armor.

Given the communications chaos of May 1, Hooker was under the mistaken impression that Sedgwick had withdrawn back across the Rappahannock and, based on this, that the VI Corps should remain on the north bank of the river across from the town, where it could protect the army's supplies and supply line. (In fact, both Reynolds and Sedgwick were still west of the Rappahannock, south of the town.) Hooker sent his orders at 1:55 a.m., expecting that Reynolds would be able to start marching before daylight, but problems with his telegraph communications delayed the order to Fredericksburg until just before sunrise. Reynolds was forced to make a risky daylight march. By the afternoon of May 2, when he should have been digging in on the Union right at Chancellorsville, he was still marching to the Rappahannock.

Without communication constrained to slow and uncertain telegraph and horse messenger, and with capabilities of Blue Force Tracker 2 and the COP, Hooker XII knew exactly where his forces were. He further had instant access to his commanders via voice and text communication and could share written orders and graphic control measures rapidly. Reynold’s knew immediately what was required after Hooker’s 1:55 a.m. order and began to retrace his route to rapidly advance to the north, cross the river and link up with Rangers in the Wilderness, covering the 12 miles rapidly.

While Reynold's Strykers were en route, the Ranger commander could see the location of Reynold's Strykers on the COP. He immediately began coordinating with Reynolds XII on where to locate the Strykers and their infantry, exchanging graphics and text messages. The Stryker, Ranger, and Apache commanders and Hooker XII's main CP also could view imagery from manned and unmanned overhead observers. By dawn, Reynold XII’s men were well into digging fighting positions adjacent to their armored vehicles in positions coordinated with the Rangers mutually securing the routes through the Wilderness.

Meanwhile, for the second time, Lee was dividing his army. Jackson would lead his Second Corps of 28,000 men around to attack the Union right flank while Lee exercised personal command of the remaining two divisions, about 13,000 men and 24 guns facing the 70,000 Union troops at Chancellorsville. For the plan to work, several things had to happen. First, Jackson had to make a 12-mile (19 km) march via roundabout roads to reach the Union right, and he had to do it undetected. Second, Hooker had to stay tamely on the defensive. Third, Early would have to keep Sedgwick bottled up at Fredericksburg, despite the four-to-one Union advantage there. And when Jackson launched his attack, he had to hope that the Union forces were unprepared.

Because neither Hooker’s armored force nor Sedgwick’s had been constrained to only defensive operations, both the second and third requirement’s for Lee’s plan to work were falling apart. The first aspect of Jackson XII’s armored flanking movement was rapidly detected by JSTARS.

Several Confederate soldiers saw the Union observation balloon Eagle soaring overhead and assumed that they could likewise be seen, but no such report was sent to headquarters. When men of the III Corps spotted a Confederate column moving through the woods, their division commander, Brig. Gen. David B. Birney, ordered his artillery to open fire, but this proved little more than harassment.

Several of Jackson’s Soldiers in periodic halts thought they heard a faint buzzing but the noise of their own tracks covered the noise the remainder of the time. SA-24 MANPAD gunners scanned the skies but the overhead observers maintained excessive altitude and stand-off to be engaged or even detected visually.

Based on overhead imagery, Hooker XII’s long-range MLRS systems launched unitary rounds and Birney’s 155mm Excalibur munitions targeted bridges. Submunition and FASCAM MLRS and 155mm rounds targeted Jackson’s armored column, trucks, and dismounts. F-35A’s dropped small-diameter bombs that annihilated vehicle after vehicle and took out radar air defense systems without damaging nearby homes. Longbow AH-64E teamed with Gray Eagle UAS then moved in with the latter laser designating for the former maintaining safe stand-off. The result was much more than harassment.

Sickles, however, was enthusiastic when he received the order at noon (many hours after its issue). He sent Birney's division, flanked by two battalions of Col. Hiram Berdan's U.S. sharpshooters, south from Hazel Grove with orders to pierce the column and gain possession of the road. But the action came too late. Jackson had ordered the 23rd Georgia Infantry to guard the rear of the column and they resisted the advance of Birney and Berdan at Catherine Furnace.

A pair of armored companies led by CPTs David Perkins Jr and HR McMaster Jr. led their armor-heavy teams into the rear of Jackson’s column to cut off any retreat by forces fleeing the Apache and F-35A fires. Jackson’s force of 28,000 now down to 5,000 retreaters in 250 armored vehicles and trucks (due to air attacks) was no match for even two company teams with 18 Army tanks and 10 GCVs with air support. Another 10,000 of Jackson’s surviving force attempted to hide dismounted in the Wilderness but their movement back towards Chancellorsville through the woods was repeatedly ambushed by dug-in Rangers and Strykers in tactically-effective overwatch positions. Rangers then advanced to chase runners back toward HR McMaster Jr’s and Apache fires with both aware of dismounted positions on Blue Force Tracker to preclude fratricide. Hooker XII then finished Jackson’s force with long-range lobbed 2,000 lb bombs from F-35s, F-15E’s, F/A-18F, B-1B, and B-52s.

The attack formation (of Jackson’s flanking movement) consisted of two lines—the divisions of Brig. Gens. Robert E. Rodes and Raleigh E. Colston—stretching almost a mile on either side of the turnpike, separated by 200 yards, followed by a partial line with the arriving division of A.P. Hill.

Neither BG Rodes XII nor Colston XII made it to attack formation stage. In fact, Lee XI’s Army lay in ruins which would cut short the war ending any attempt of the South to rise again. However, President Jeb Bush did consult with Congress to offer a proposal of revamping the constitution to create a different banding of states so that a greater degree of autonomy, self-rule (and taxation) existed for "blue" western and northeastern coastal and northern rust-belt states and remaining "red" states of the central and southern U.S. that each represented about half the U.S. population.

Move Forward:

To be slightly sarcastic about your post, it reads like a sales brochure for all the cool devices we have. They will always work. The enemy will never have a counter for them and boy are we going to win big.

My goodness I don't believe it! The day after SWJ publishes a good article about the curse of acronyms that bedevils the military, an article appears in which the author refers to the Army of the Potomac as the AOTP and the Army of Northern Virginia as the ANV. That is not only lazy but sacrilegious. Please Mr. Tyler, if writing the full name of the unit was good enough for Catton, it ought to be good enough for you.

It might be useful to add also that the battle, while a very great tactical success, didn't do a lot to advance the overall position of the Confederacy. The Army of the Potomac never came close to being destroyed. The Army of Northern Virginia suffered a very high number of casualties relative to the number of men engaged, men the South could ill afford to lose. And Lee was quite willing to attack the Union forces in entrenched positions and probably would have if Hooker hadn't pulled back across the river when he did. That would have added quite a bit to the Confederate losses.