Chancellorsville, Virginia (May 1-4 1863)
If you study military history and tactics, the Chancellorsville Campaign is one of those battles that will go down as history as a text-book examples of how a very small force can beat a larger opponent.
On the outset, it is important to look at overall numbers here. The Union had during this battle 133,868 fighting men, while Lee and his Confederate army only numbered 60,298.
Total Troops: North – 133,868 South – 60,832
Casualties: North – 17,197 South – 13,303 Total – 30,500
The outcome in normal circumstances, with everything else equal would be a convincing win for the Union, however that isn’t what happened. Instead by the end fo the fighting on May 5 and May 6, the Union was in full retreat after suffering several convincing losses.
This is considered Robert E. Lee’s perfect battle, as he pulled off what would seemingly be impossible due to his risky tactics. He split his fighting force, leaving a small number (about a fifth of his force) in Fredericksburg to stop the Union force there, the rest he used to confront the Union army led by Joseph Hooker.
While Lee’s tactics are something that are still studied to this day, his opponent’s are also highly criticized. Hooker, instead of keeping the offensive, which he started out with, retreated into a defensive stance, allowing Lee to set the tone and tactics of the fight. Lee then divided his troops once more, sending Stonewall Jackson’s corps in a flanking position, that ended up routing part of Hooker’s army.
Jackson was killed by friendly fire during that battle. It was his loss that caused Lee to look at Chancellorsville in an unfavorable way. He wrote that it was like “losing his right arm.”
In the end, though, the timid response of the Union along with brilliant maneuvers by Robert E. Lee, led to a convincing Confederate victory.