2nd May 1863: a great day for the South, tinged by sadness.
JEB Stuart, leading Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, had discovered Hooker’s right flank was ripe for attacking; it was “in the air”, not anchored on anything solid, like a river.
Jackson, Lee’s only Corps commander(Longstreet had been earlier sent South with 2 good Divisions, so was unavailable) had a plan. He found a man who knew the area and using back roads he would march his 3 Divisions(28000 men) around Hooker and attack Howard’s XI Corps in rear. It was audacious, but Lee agreed. It would mean Lee was left for most of the day with just 9 Brigades(18000men) in McLaws’ and Anderson’s Divisions facing over 60000 men.
Jackson left at 4am with General Rodes leading the march. Unfortunately for the South, delays getting into position meant the first wave of Rebel yelling Infantry did not hit Howard’s “Dutchmen”, as they were disparagingly called(many were Germans), until 5pm. The result was as expected: the Union troops were “rolled up like a blanket” and were soon fleeing the field.Much was Howard’s fault as he had not insisted his men entrench, thinking the woods, through which the Southern Infantry poured, were impassible. Everywhere was panic and Lee’s gamble was paying off.