Lincoln Reacts to the Union’s Massive Defeat at Chancellorsville

April 26, 1863/2013
Volume 4, Issue 17 (133 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

“Officers of Negro Troops Should be Tried Under Confederate Law”

On May 1, 1863, possibly in reaction to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Confederate Congress declared “officers of Negro troops in the Union army should be tried under Confederate law for inciting servile insurrection, and put to death upon conviction; while the Negro troops themselves would be “delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured to be dealt with according to the present or future law of such State or States.”

The Union War Department retaliated on May 25, halting the exchange and parole of officers. There are recriminations on both sides, and the program gradually died out. In late 1863, Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Federal Commissioner for Exchange, placed the blame for the failure of the exchange cartel on the Confederate policy towards black troops.

What this meant was there were more long-term prisoners, the need for more prisons, more guards, more supplies, etc. The prison system basically breaks down, resulting in the horrors of Andersonville, in Georgia, and Elmira, in New York, and other sites.

SOURCE

Official Records, Series II, Vol. 4, pp. 266-268.


Lincoln Reacts to the Union’s Massive Defeat at Chancellorsville

May 1-4, 1863. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia the Union Army under General Fighting Joe Hooker was decisively defeated by an army half the size as a result of Robert E. Lee’s and Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant and daring tactics. It was one of the Union’s most costly defeats in the war; Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded, and missing out of 130,000. The Confederates lose 13,000 out of 60,000. When Lincoln heard the news of the massive defeat, he walked up and down the room saying, “My God! My God! What will the country say? What will the country say?” His friend Noah Brooks wrote, “Never, as long as I knew him, did he seem so broken, so dispirited, and so ghostlike.”

Stonewall Jackson’s Flanking Maneuvers were Legendary

General Jackson's "Chancellorsville" Portrait, taken at a Spotsylvania County farm on April 26, 1863, seven days before he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

General Jackson’s “Chancellorsville” Portrait, taken at a Spotsylvania County farm on April 26, 1863, seven days before he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Historian Robert Cowley writes, “Stonewall Jackson’s left hook out of nowhere at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, may be the classic American battle maneuver. (It was reenacted most recently by Norman Schwarzkopf in the Gulf War.) Thanks to the vigorous scouting by J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, Jackson and Lee learned that the Union right flank was ‘in the air,’ and they looked for, and found, a hidden way to reach it. They were abetted in their plan by the nature of the landscape in that area of Virginia, a maze of second-growth timber known as the Wilderness, with dirt lanes meandering through the woods, mostly out of sight of Union eyes. It seems incredible that the Northern commanders did not prepare themselves for some sort of flanking operation by Jackson. The flank attack was his military trademark. As the South Carolinian diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote, ‘Down here, we sleep securely, with the serenest faith that Stonewall is to flank everybody and never be flanked himself.'” (1)

Chancellorsville was a massive defeat for the Union, but it came at a terrible cost for the Confederacy because General Stonewall Jackson, whom Lee considered his “right arm,” was shot and wounded by Confederate sentries who [at dusk,] mistook him for the enemy.  He “was shot once in the right hand and twice in the left arm. . . . At first it was hoped that he would recover, but pneumonia set in and his strength gradually ebbed, and he died eight days later [on May 10].” (2)

SOURCES

1.) With My Face to the Enemy: Perspectives on the Civil War, p. 190, Robert Cowley, ed.

2.) Poetry and Eloquence from the Blue and the Gray: The Photographic History of the Civil War, Francis Trevelyan Miller, ed. (1957), p. 89.

2 Comments

Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1863

2 responses to “Lincoln Reacts to the Union’s Massive Defeat at Chancellorsville

  1. Pingback: Copperhead & Candidate for Ohio Governorship Arrested | Civil War Book of Days

  2. Pingback: Copperhead & Candidate for Ohio Governorship Arrested | Civil War Book of Days

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