Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863

Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863

4.0 1
by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher White
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

By May of 1863, the Stone Wall at the base of Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg loomed large over the Army of the Potomac, haunting its men with memories of slaughter from their crushing defeat there the previous December. They would assault it again with a very different result the following spring when General Joe Hooker, bogged down in bloody battle with

Overview

By May of 1863, the Stone Wall at the base of Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg loomed large over the Army of the Potomac, haunting its men with memories of slaughter from their crushing defeat there the previous December. They would assault it again with a very different result the following spring when General Joe Hooker, bogged down in bloody battle with the Army of Northern Virginia around the crossroads of Chancellorsville, ordered John Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps to assault the heights and move to his assistance. This time the Union troops wrested the wall and high ground from the Confederates and drove west into the enemy’s rear. The inland drive stalled in heavy fighting at Salem Church. Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863 is the first book-length study of these overlooked engagements and the central roles they played in the final Southern victory.

Once Hooker opened the campaign with a brilliant march around General Lee’s left flank, the Confederate commander violated military principles by dividing his under-strength army in the face of superior numbers. He shuttled most of his men west from around Fredericksburg under Stonewall Jackson to meet Hooker in the tangles of the Wilderness, leaving behind a small portion to watch Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps. Jackson’s devastating attack against Hooker’s exposed right flank on May 2, however, convinced the Union army commander to order Sedgwick’s large, unused corps to break through and march against Lee’s rear. From that point on, Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front tightens the lens for a thorough examination of the decision-making, movements, and fighting that led to the breakthrough, inland thrust, and ultimate bloody stalemate at Salem Church.

Authors Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White have long appreciated the pivotal roles Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church played in the campaign, and just how close the Southern army came to grief—and the Union army to stunning success. Together they seamlessly weave their extensive newspaper, archival, and firsthand research into a compelling narrative to better understand these combats, which usually garner little more than a footnote to the larger story of Jackson’s march and tragic fatal wounding.

The success at Second Fredericksburg was one of the Union army’s few bright spots in the campaign, while the setback at Salem Church stands as its most devastating lost opportunity. Instead of being trapped between the Sixth Corps’ hammer and “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s anvil, Lee overcame long odds to achieve what is widely recognized as his greatest victory. But Lee’s triumph played out as it did because of the pivotal events at Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church—Chancellorsville’s forgotten front—where Union soldiers once more faced the horror of an indomitable wall of stone, and an undersized Confederate division stood up to a Union juggernaut.

REVIEWS

“Too often historians have treated the battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church as mere footnotes to the greater Chancellorsville campaign. In Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front, Mackowski and White bring the story to the forefront where it belongs, and they do so in a style at once entertaining and evocative.”

– Donald Pfanz, award-winning author of Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life

“Mackowski’s and White’s Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front is not just a micro-study of a small portion of a large campaign, but a study of the campaign from the perspective of overlooked battles. Anyone who thinks Second Fredericksburg, Salem Church, and Banks’ Ford were insignificant engagements are about to discover that the Federals who fought and died in these actions were not left behind simply as decoys, and the fighting so wonderfully researched and described had a direct effect on the entire campaign.”

– Greg Mertz, supervisory historian, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

“Most studies of Chancellorsville focus on the fighting around the Chancellor house and on Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack and mortal wounding. Few remember the campaign’s ‘second front’ at Fredericksburg and the intense deadly combat at Salem Church, where nearly 30,000 Federal troops of Sedgwick’s VI Corps battled for their lives against Jubal Early’s division and elements of Longstreet’s First Corps. This stunning oversight has finally been corrected by historians Mackowski and White. Their readable, enjoyable, and deeply researched micro-tactical study is a must for anyone interested in Civil War battles in general, and Chancellorsville in particular.”

– Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning Civil War author

“Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White’s Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front focuses on an overlooked and yet complex part of ‘Fighting Joe’ Hooker’s 1863 effort to defeat Robert E. Lee. Their study is simply first-rate, and should not and cannot be overlooked by anyone trying to understand the full importance of the Chancellorsville campaign.”

– Lance J. Herdegen, award-winning author of The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory

“Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front is sure to be among the best Civil War books published this year. Mackowski and White demonstrate the importance of this all-too-often neglected part of campaign with authenticity and eloquence. Their research is exhaustive, and their passion for the subject obvious. If you think you know all about Chancellorsville, think again. Professional historians and amateurs alike will gain new information and fresh insight by reading this book, and come away with a better appreciation for, and knowledge of, Lee’s greatest victory.”

– Mike Stevens, President, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611211368
Publisher:
Savas Beatie
Publication date:
05/15/2013
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
695,406
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Eric J. Wittenberg
Most studies of Chancellorsville focus on the fighting around the Chancellor house and on Stonewall Jackson's flank attack and mortal wounding. Few remember the campaign's 'second front' at Fredericksburg and the intense deadly combat at Salem Church, where nearly 30,000 Federal troops of Sedgwick's VI Corps battled for their lives against Jubal Early's division and elements of Longstreet's First Corps. This stunning oversight has finally been corrected by historians Mackowski and White. Their readable, enjoyable, and deeply researched micro-tactical study is a must for anyone interested in Civil War battles in general, and Chancellorsville in particular."
— Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning Civil War author
Donald Pfanz
Too often historians have treated the battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church as mere footnotes to the greater Chancellorsville campaign. In Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front, Mackowski and White bring the story to the forefront where it belongs, and they do so in a style at once entertaining and evocative"
—Donald Pfanz, award-winning author of Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life
Lance J. Herdegen
Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White's Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front focuses on an overlooked and yet complex part of 'Fighting Joe' Hooker's 1863 effort to defeat Robert E. Lee. Their study is simply first-rate, and should not and cannot be overlooked by anyone trying to understand the full importance of the Chancellorsville campaign"
—Lance J. Herdegen, award-winning author of The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory
Mike Stevens
Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front is sure to be among the best Civil War books published this year. Mackowski and White demonstrate the importance of this all-too-often neglected part of campaign with authenticity and eloquence. Their research is exhaustive, and their passion for the subject obvious. If you think you know all about Chancellorsville, think again. Professional historians and amateurs alike will gain new information and fresh insight by reading this book, and come away with a better appreciation for, and knowledge of, Lee's greatest victory."
— Mike Stevens, President, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust
Greg Mertz
Mackowski's and White's Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front is not just a micro-study of a small portion of a large campaign, but a study of the campaign from the perspective of overlooked battles. Anyone who thinks Second Fredericksburg, Salem Church, and Banks' Ford were insignificant engagements are about to discover that the Federals who fought and died in these actions were not left behind simply as decoys, and the fighting so wonderfully researched and described had a direct effect on the entire campaign."
— Greg Mertz, supervisory historian, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

Meet the Author

Authors Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White have long appreciated the pivotal roles Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church played in the campaign, and just how close the Southern army came to grief—and the Union army to stunning success. Together they seamlessly weave their extensive newspaper, archival, and firsthand research into a compelling narrative to better understand these combats, which usually garner little more than a footnote to the larger story of Jackson’s march and tragic fatal wounding.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DavidMarshall More than 1 year ago
Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White’s latest book describes the actions around Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church in the context of the 1863 Chancellorsville Campaign. The narrative concentrates on the fight at these overlooked engagements and the crucial roles they played in the ultimate Southern victory. The authors have rescued from obscurity an important clash that unfolded in Chancellorsville’s forgotten front. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were brilliant and bold during this campaign. “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s plan in April appeared to have a good chance of success against the Army of Northern Virginia between the two wings of his large army. By May, the union commander became defensive as Lee split his army into two. May 3rd turned out to be the second bloodiest day of Civil War, after the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam. While his troops out numbered the South by a margin of two to one, held a strong defensive position and General George Stoneman’s cavalry and General John Sedgwick’s VI Corp continued to assault Lee’s flank and rear, Hooker moved off the battlefield. In the end, this “whipped man” who was an injured and a beaten leader, ordered his army to cross the Rappahannock River in his mind to save his soldiers. The author correctly criticizes the Union military commander regarding his strategy and tactics. While Mackowski and White record a case study in miscommunication, they refer how Stonewall Jackson’s accidental death and R.E. Lee’s audacity define the battle and the victory. However, these historians explain in detail how the outcome could have been different. They point out that Hooker did not have to abandon his offensive on May 1st, could have realized that Jackson was flanking his army and not retreating, should have committed his reserves on May 3rd and could have been victorious. Many of “fighting Joe’s” mistakes involved tactics and the fighting men at Fredericksburg. Right in the middle of this fight were two little known battles, Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church. General Hooker ordered the dependable General Sedgwick and his VI corps to assault Marye’s Heights and move to his assistance. This time the Union troops were victorious in taking the wall and the high ground from the Confederates and moved west into the enemy’s rear. The inland drive stalled in heavy fighting at Salem Church. In the end Lee’s subordinates were unable to subdue Sedgwick and by the evening of May 4th, the VI corps retreated across the Rappahannock River at Banks’ Ford unable to reach Chancellorsville. Hooker blamed his subordinates, Stoneman, Howard and Sedgwick. However, the authors ascertain that Sedgwick’s performance was not perfect but was less culpable of the three scape goats. Compared with Hookers blunders, Sedgwick’s errors seem small. During these critical battles, Mackowski and White boasts a most interesting cast of characters including Union generals John Sedgwick and John Gibbons as well as Confederate generals Jubal Early and William Barksdale. Chris Mackowski is a writing professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, NY. He also works as a historian with the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he gives tours at four major Civil War battlefields (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania), as well as at the building where Stonewall Jackson died. He's the author of Chancellorsville: Crossroads of Fire and The Dark, Close Wood: The Wilderness, Ellwood, and the Battle that Transformed Both, and his writing has appeared in several national magazines. He blogs regularly for Scholars and Rogues. www.scholarsandrogues.com). Additionally, he has an M.F.A. from Goddard College and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Kristopher White is a historian for the Penn-Trafford Recreation Board and a continuing education instructor for the Community College of Allegheny County near Pittsburgh, PA. White is a graduate of Norwich University with a MA in Military History, as well as a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania with a BA in History. For five years he served as a staff military historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he still volunteers his services. For a short time he was a member of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg. He is the author and co-author of numerous articles that have appeared in America's Civil War, Blue and Gray, Civil War Times, and Armchair General. White co-authored The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson with longtime friend Chris Mackowski. Mackowski and co-author White have co-authored several books, including The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson, Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, and Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, along with monograph-length articles on the battle of Spotsylvania for Blue & Gray. They have also written for Civil War Times, America's Civil War, and Hallowed Ground. They are co-founders of the blog Emerging Civil War (www.emergingcivilwar.com). Whether you want to enjoy the natural landscape, are a battlefield tramper, or a professional soldier desiring to learn the lessons of strategy and tactics, Chancellorsville was a significant victory for the Army of Northern Virginia. Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White record the essential moments and depict clear understanding in recounting not only the master peace directed by Robert E. Lee but the important role John Sedgwick and VI Corp's played in assaulting Marye's Heights before retreating across the Rappahannock River at Bank's Ford. The authors point out how the campaign directed by Joseph Hoover was a complete failure and why. Whether you are a serious student or a novice Mackowski and White repeatedly explains the failures of several generals as well as the Army of the Potomac. While the South's commanders; Lee and Jackson, won the accolades they deserved for perhaps their greatest victory, Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church battlefields were almost forgotten. Congress never preserved even one acre of the Salem Church battlefield and very little of the Second Fredericksburg battlefield. If not for the National Park Service, small parcels of land from each battlefield would not have been saved from continuous development and urban sprawl. The story of the Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church on the Chancellorsville's Campaign was generally superficial or not mentioned in many modern and secondary works. The intent of Mackowski and White’s book is to fill a void in the history of the Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front by presenting for the first time a complete history of these important engagements. The authors answer the question; why didn’t the Confederates speak much after the war concerning their defeat at Second Fredericksburg. This recommended Civil War book should be on the bookshelf of history buffs of the Eastern Theater and battles. This professor and historian respectively have produced an enlightening, well written, engaging and readable narrative that keeps your attention throughout a great story. Comment Comment | Permalink