THE RATTLE OF MUSKETRY and the shrill sound of the rebel yell broke the calm of the warm evening of May 2, 1863. Astonished pickets, guarding the right flank of General "Fighting Joe" Hooker's Army of the Potomac, saw Confederate battle flags suddenly appear above the dense undergrowth of the Wilderness in their front. Within seconds Stonewall Jackson's Corps, 26,000 strong, burst through the tangled brush. Most of the men of the Union XI Corps, who had been relaxing and preparing their evening meal, took to their heels, abandoning equipment and arms. General Oliver O. Howard, commander of the XI Corps, later described the attack as "a terrible gale...the rush, the rattle, the quick lightning from a hundred points at once; the roar redoubled by the echoes through the forest".

IN THE WANING LIGHT of the settting sun the men of Dole's Georgia Brigade pressed forward, down the poorly constructed earthworks sited along the Orange Turnpike, while their comrades struck in to the Federal rear. By the time the sun had set behind the low dark wall of forest forming Virginia's Wilderness, Stonewall Jackson's battle hardened veterans had crushed the right flank of the Army of the Potomac, setting the stage for Robert E. Lee's greatest triumph -- Chancellorsville.

Confederates' surprise attack on the Federal right flank at Chancellorsville -- May 2, 1863

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