Ohio troops part of historic battles

In the spring of 1863, Ohio troops took part in a pair of battles: Stoneman’s Raid and Battle of Chancellorsville.

l Stoneman’s Raid

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry took part in Stoneman’s Raid from April 28-May 7, 1863.

The raid was ordered by Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, to disrupt Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s lines of supply and communication. The 9,895 troopers plus four batteries of horse artillery took eight days’ rations and forage. Hooker had a plan to turn away from Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia then aggressively attack him.

This plan resulted in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Union Maj. Gen. George Stoneman received orders to move on April 28. He was to cross the Rhappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford first, on April 29. The troopers were late and had to wait until the infantry crossed on the pontoon bridge, which was about 5 p.m. After the army of about 47,000 men were across, the engineers took up the bridge to use again. Stoneman’s orders were to destroy Lee’s railroad line, then according to Hooker’s plan, Stoneman would block Lee’s retreating army.

By April 30, Hooker’s plans appeared to be going well, however the Confederates were not fooled by Hooker’s ruse and attempts with false signalmen’s messages and were preparing for attacks of their own. That first night the cavalry raiders only moved four miles from the ford crossing, spending the night near Madden’s Tavern on Culpepper Road.

The next day, they moved 10 miles crossing the Rapidan River at Raccoon Ford. This left Hooker with only one cavalry brigade, but he didn’t think the cavalry would be much help in the thick woods surrounding the Chancellor House.

On May 2, the cavalry tore up 5 miles of track of the Virginia Central Railroad. They also burned several bridges, but within 48 hours the southern track crews had the rail lines repaired. The most significant bridge was the 600-foot span over the South Ana River. Two-hundred men were detailed to destroy that bridge but were chased off by the guards.

Returning from the raid on May 5, a violent storm turned the roads into mud and the rivers into roaring, churning mud. On May 7, they crossed the Rhappahannock at Kelly’s Ford. The horses were submerged up to their heads which soaked the troopers.

Hooker was not happy with Stoneman and relieved him, however the newspapers such as the Washington Daily Star described it as a brilliant cavalry raid.

l Battle of Chancellorsville

The 7th Ohio crossed the Rapidian River at Germanna Ford on April 30. They deployed south of the Chancellors House which was Hooker’s headquarters. On May 1 they met Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s men along the Plank and Catharpin Road, but on May 2 when Stonewall made his famous flanking movement the 7th was at the Chancellor house.

On the evening of May 1, Jackson and Lee met alongside a road, reportedly sitting on cracker boxes and planned what historians have called Lee’s greatest victory. Jackson would move his men, this would split up Lee’s army leaving a thin line facing the Union army, and flank attack the Union army, hopefully surprising them. Stonewall met with delays on May 2 and started late. The Union soldiers thought Stonewall was retreating.

With the sun low in the sky and the Union soldiers preparing their dinners, rabbits, deer and other wild animals came running from the woods. At first the soldiers laughed until they heard the rebel yell and hundreds of Confederates rushed from the woods, turning the cannons around to fire at the fleeing Union soldiers.

Later that evening Jackson, accompanied by his staff, made a reconnaissance ride. In the darkness, other Confederate soldiers fired at them, hitting Jackson in the arm. He died May 10 of pneumonia, a complication from amputation of his left arm.

The Battle of Chancellorsville has gone down in history as Lee’s greatest victory, but losing Jackson was a great loss.

Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.