On this day in 1863, Robert E. Lee was duking it out with “Fighting Joe” Hooker at a crossroads in the Wilderness known as Chancellorsville. And oops, Stonewall Jackson‘s own men accidentally shot him (which is perhaps what the engraving above is getting at; I’m not sure).
This is one of those Civil War battles I kind of geek out about, so I’ll try to be brief. But when the generals conspired against Burnside, they got Hooker for their trouble, and Hooker devised a fool-proof plan to get Lee, and then set about telling everybody how fool-proof it was. Problem was, Lee lured him into the Wilderness, and there everything went to hell. Hooker got hit by a falling wooden beam around the same time he got hit by Jackson,* who had quietly marched his men all the way around to Hooker’s right. They came screaming out of the woods late in the afternoon, scaring the bejeezus out of pretty much everyone.**
Come dusk, however, Jackson unintentionally scared the bejeezus out of some of his own men, who promptly shot him. He died a few days later, but not before Hooker, still a little woozy, was forced to eat crow and retreat. No plan was fool-proof in the Wilderness.
“And was there a Spirit of the Wilderness?” a Union officer asked. If there was, it haunted Union and Confederate alike.
* All right, it was actually after.
** Lee and Jackson’s planning of this moment has become one of the legendary set pieces of the war.
IMAGE: The Battle of Chancellorsville (Kurz and Allison)