This Week in the American Civil War: April 29-May 5, 1863

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

( and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)


Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday April 29, 1863

In Virginia, the majority of Major General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s and U.S. fords, plunging into the Wilderness, clear of the left flank of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Other actions in the area included Franklin’s Crossing (or Deep Run), just below Fredericksburg, and at Fitzhugh’s Crossing. Federals from Falmouth tried to divert the Confederates from the major effort above the city. Other skirmishing in Virginia occurred at Crook’s Run and Germanna Ford, Kellysville, Brandy Station and Stevensburg.

Thursday April 30, 1863

In Virginia’s Wilderness, Major General Joseph Hooker and his Federal Army of the Potomac set up camp around the Chancellor family house, known as Chancellorsville. Brief skirmishing erupted in the area near Spotsylvania Court House. Meanwhile, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia probed and planned.

Major General Ulysses Grant’s Federal forces were across the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg and prepared to move inland.

Skirmishing also occurred at Day’s Gap, Crooked Creek and Hog Mountain, Alabama; Bridgeport, West Virginia; Bloomfield, Missouri; and Fort Gibson, Indian Territory.

Friday May 1, 1863


An alert Army of Northern Virginia grasped the threat of Federal Major General Joseph Hooker’s movement of 70,000 men across the Rappahannock River and hurriedly moved out of Fredericksburg to block the Army of the Potomac’s exit from the Wilderness. In the afternoon, Hooker ordered his main units to withdraw from the advance and concentrate in a five-mile area near Chancellorsville. Surprised by the lack of opposition, Lee cautiously moved forward.

That night, in the woods of the Wilderness, Lee and Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson conferred and made one of the most daring military decisions in history. Jackson was to take about 26,000 men through the scraggly brushland and attack Hooker’s vulnerable right flank, while lead would demonstrate with the remainder of his army at Chancellorsville.

In Mississippi, Federal Major General Ulysses Grant’s army continued to move across the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg, south of Vicksburg.

The third session of the First Confederate Congress created a Provisional Navy to supplement the Regular Navy; authorized President Davis to contract for construction of Naval vessels in Europe; provided for election of delegates to Congress from some Indian nations; created the office of Commissioner of Taxes; tightened some of the exemptions in the draft law; and adopted a new national flag known as the “Stainless Banner.” 

Saturday May 2, 1863


Early in the morning, Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate flanking force moved past Catherine Furnace deeper into the Wilderness. Though his move was not completely unseen, the Federals failed to recognize his motives and thought the Confederate army was retreating.

At 6 P.M., when Jackson gave the order to move in. The scurrying wildlife alerted the Federals to the impending attack, and Union outposts fled back upon the main position. Jackson’s attack rolled forward. Though a few Federal units fought well, the majority ran back towards Chancellorsville in various stages of disorder. Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates opened fire striking the Federal V Corps on the left flank to draw attention away from Jackson.

While trying to cut Federal Major General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac from escaping through U.S. Ford on the Rappahannock River, Jackson rode forward with a small party. In the darkness, he was mistaken for a Federal soldier and was shot by a Confederate soldier. Jackson’s arm was amputated that night, while command fell to Major General James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart, since Major General Ambrose Powell Hill was wounded and unable to take over. It was Hill who requested that Stuart take command.

Sunday May 3, 1863


At daybreak, Major General J.E.B. Stuart, in command of Jackson’s corps, seized a low hill known as Hazel Grove, and ordered artillery fire on Chancellorsville itself. A shell struck a column of the Chancellor House and a falling brick or column temporarily disabled Federal Army of the Potomac commander, Major General Joseph Hooker. Reluctantly following Hooker’s orders, Major General Darius Couch withdrew the Army of the Potomac back to U.S. Ford. A firm, short position with the right on the Rapidan River and left on the Rappahannock River prevented further disaster.

That night, Major General John Sedgwick’s Federals assaulted Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg and failed twice. Eventually, the weakened Confederate line gave way and Sedgwick’s men surged forward, and the path to Chancellorsville was open. General Robert E. Lee turned a portion of his line around to confront Sedgwick at Salem Church. In a sharp battle that broke out in late afternoon and lasted until dark, Lee was successful in halting Sedgwick’s advance.

Monday May 4, 1863


Federal Major General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac failed to take the initiative near Chancellorsville and Confederate General Robert E. Lee was able to reinforce troops opposing Major General John Sedgwick at Salem Church. Confederates surrounded Sedgwick’s troops on three sides and attacked in the late afternoon. Sedgwick ordered his forces back to the ford and crossed the Rappahannock River by pontoons during the night, ending the Chancellors campaign. It was the second defeat for the Army of the Potomac in the Fredericksburg area in six months. The Army of the Potomac had 133,868 men engaged at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, and sustained 1,606 dead, 9,762 wounded and 5,919 missing for a total of 17,287 casualties from April 27 to May 11. Confederates engaged approximately 60,000 with 1,665 killed, 9,081 wounded and 2,018 missing for a total loss of 12,764, a higher casualty percentage than the Federals suffered. However, the biggest Confederate loss was Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

Tuesday May 5, 1863

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia spent the day preparing to attack the Army of the Potomac near Chancellorsville, but during the day and night, the Federals recrossed the Rappahannock River in defeat.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of April 29 – May 5, 1863 

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Operations around Franklin’s Crossing during the Chancellorsville campaign.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Chapel Hill, Tennessee until June 4, 1863.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Heiman, Kentucky until June 2, 1863.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Battles of Port Gibson, Jones’s Crossroads and Willow Springs in Mississippi.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Movement to join army in rear of Vicksburg via Richmond and Grand Gulf.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Camp Pope near Iowa City, Iowa until June 16, 1863.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Mankato and other points in Minnesota until June 1863.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in various frontier Minnesota communities until June 1863.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Regiment on detached service for garrison duty at various outposts in frontier Minnesota until June 1863.

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Organized at St. Cloud, St. Peter and Fort Snelling for frontier duty against Indians until June 1863.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Donelson, Tennessee until June 5, 1863.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty during siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, until July 4, 1863.

2nd Independent Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty at Murfreesboro Tennessee until June 4, 1863.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia.C

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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