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The Forgotten Battles of the Chancellorsville Campaign

Fredericksburg, Salem Church, and Banks’ Ford in Spring 1863

408 pages
The Kent State University Press

Exploring neglected and misinterpreted aspects of a pivotal point in the Civil War

Military operations in Fredericksburg, Virginia, were a significant part of the Chancellorsville Campaign, but they have been overshadowed by what occurred in the wilderness of Spotsylvania County, where Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson’s forces overwhelmed a hapless Union army. That struggle in the woods in the spring of 1863 has been the subject of numerous studies, and its geographical setting is a prominent component of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

To demonstrate how a Union force overpowered Confederate troops in and around Fredericksburg, Erik F. Nelson emphasizes the role of terrain and reexamines contemporary documentation. Previous studies have relied on misleading primary sources that have left the campaign—and the Union’s eventual larger victory—misunderstood. Moreover, the former battlegrounds near Fredericksburg have been physically altered by new roads and neighborhoods, further complicating study and understanding.

While the dramatic Confederate victory at Chancellorsville loomed large as the Southern army confidently marched into Pennsylvania, the Union army, confident and still intact, redeemed itself at Gettysburg—ultimately changing the course of the war. Nelson’s thorough consideration of the physical settings at Fredericksburg, Salem Church, and Banks’ Ford helps readers better understand how the Army of the Potomac had developed the capability to prevail against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia long before they emerged victorious at Gettysburg.

Author Bio

Erik Nelson is a former US Navy weapons specialist and retired city planner of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was a founding board member of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and a founding editor of its journal, Fredericksburg History and Biography.