General Lee's Strategy at the battle of Chancellorsville. A paper read by request before R. E. Lee Camp, no. 1, C. V., May 20th, 1906.

By T. M. R. Talcott, Major and Aide de Camp to General R. E. Lee, in 1862-63, and later Colonel 1st Regiment Engineer Troops, A. N. V.
[For the parole list of Engineer Troops surrendered at Appomattox C. H. and graphic account of the retreat from Petersburg, Va., see Vol. XXXII, Southern Historical Society Papers.—Ed.]

Comrades of Lee Camp;

The subject upon which you have called upon me to submit my personal recollections is not the Battle of Chancellorsville, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of May, 1863, in which the Federal Army of the Potomac, under General Hooker, which numbered more than 130,000 men, was defeated by a part of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, numbering less than 60,000 men, for history has already recorded how that field was fought and won.

The hearing you have kindly afforded me as a member of the personal staff of General R. E. Lee at the time of that battle. is on the subject of ‘General R. E. Lee at Chancellorsville,’ and what you wish to know particularly is, I presume, whether or not he conceived and directed the movement around the right flank, and the attack on the rear of Hooker's army.

Both General Lee and General Jackson were so pre-eminent for their modesty that we cannot conceive of either of them claiming for himself any credit for the movement in question. and when various authors of the Life of Jackson awarded to him the credit of the success gained by the Army of Northern Virginia, [2] where he was present, General Lee, as we shall see, expressed reluctance to do anything that might be considered as detracting from Jackson's well deserved fame.

During the period which intervened between the death of General Jackson and that of General Lee, only the partial admirers of Jackson were heard from, for so long as General Lee was reluctant to speak, those who had been nearest to him and were best informed as to what could be said in contravention of some of the claim set up by biographers of General Jackson, were necessarily constrained to silence; and even after General Lee's death there was still some reluctance on the part of General Lee's staff to say anything that might seem to detract from the fame of General Jackson.

The first public allusion to the fact that the famous ‘stroke of generalship,’ which won the Battle of Chancellorsville, was ‘directed by Lee and executed by Jackson,’ seems to have been made by Major John W. Daniel, in his address at the Fifth Annual Re-union of the Army of Northern Virginia, in October 1875, nine years after the publication of the ‘Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Jackson,’ in which Dr. R. L. Dabney stated that at a conference between Lee and Jackson on the night of May 1st, 1863, General Jackson ‘proposed to throw his command entirely into Hooker's rear.’ But it was not until the Ninth Annual Re-union of the Association, in October, 1879, that General Fitzhugh Lee, in his address on Chancellorsville, endeavored to settle the question as to who originated the movement of Jackson's corps to the rear of Hooker, and gave Col. Charles Marshall's account of the matter.

Subsequently, in 1886, General A. L. Long, in his ‘Memoirs of R. E. Lee,’ gave his own recollections of how Jackson's movement originated, and corroborated them by a letter from General Lee to Dr. A. T. Bledsoe, written in October, 1867, and an extract from a personal letter from me.

In 1867 an account was published of the Battle of Chancellorsville by Messrs. Allan and Hotchkiss, the former of whom was the Chief of Ordnance of the Second Corps, and the latter also attached to General Jackson's staff, from which I extract the following, which differs materially from Dr. Dabney's account of the conference between Lee and Jackson and other occurrences which preceded the flank movement around Hooker, but [3] accords to General Jackson the strategical conception of the movement of his corps, as well as the tactical skill with which it was executed, and the attack made.

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