Gen Robert E. Lee Mission Command For Battle Of Chancellorsville


The Battle of Chancellorsville took place between April 30 and May 6, 1863, in the county of Spotsylvania in Virginia during the period that witnessed the American Civil War.  The Battle of Chancellorsville also referred as Chancellorsville campaign marked the most important encounter between opposing camps.  The battle brought General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) up against Major General Joseph Hooker leading the Union Army of the Potomac (UOAP).  The battle resulted from one among reasons of the Federal objective attempt to recapture the confederate capital Richmond in Virginia.  Over the past two years, the Unions’ army had faced several defeats over similar objective.  The Battle of Chancellorsville started when the Union of Virginia soldiers crossed River Rappahannock in an effort to surround the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee from the rear and the front.  The Union stationed the remaining of its forces near Fredericksburg. General Lee split his army enabling him to hold off the Union soldiers near Rappahannock. What began as an effort to reclaim Richmond became a battle against Lee’s army. By dividing his army, General Lee was able to contain the Union forces registering great success; however, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia Stonewall Jackson a brilliant and tacticalgeneral was wounded due to friendly fire. This research paper will provide an analysis of the commander’s performance in operations process that includes understanding, Visualizing, Describing, directing, Leading and assessing.

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Confederate Army of Northern Virginia Operation Process

General Lee and Stonewall Jackson leadingConfederate Army of Northern Virginia were very significant participants during the Battle of Chancellorsville operation process. General Lee drove the operation process during The Battle of Chancellorsville by visualizing, understanding, directing, describing, leading, and assessing operations. GeneralLee strategy to divide his small army and face the Union army from different fronts was a great managerial tool that enabled him to drive the operations process. General Lee with the support of his staff, utilized operations process to detail and drive the conceptual planning significant to visualize, understand, as well as describe operational environment and  arrive at articulate decisions that enabled Lee to lead,  direct and assess military operations during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Activities involved in the operations process during a battle recur and overlap as conditions demand.

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During the Battle of Chancellorsville, GeneralLee divided the confederate army into groups in order to face the union armyeffectively since his army was outnumbered.  The planning process started as soon as the Union army crossed River Rappahannock with an objective of taking Richmond. General Lee planned and executed his plan of action through applying combat power to retain and exploit weaknessesof the Union army in order to gain advantage during the war. General Lee staff including Stonewall Jackson role was to assist Lee in understanding circumstances, making and executing decisions, control operations and evaluate progress of the confederates’ army during the battle.  The success registered by the Confederate army during the Chancellorsville campaign resulted from effective planning, execution and assessment of the progress of the battle. This section will analyze how General Lee understood, visualized, described, directed, led and assessed operations process during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

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During military activities, understanding is a very essential component since it enables the commanders to establish the context of a situation. Understanding allows commanders to make effective decisions on planning and execution. The commanders obtain essential information utilized to develop and understand the operation through analyzing the mission and operational variables. Detailed and conceptual planning enables the commanders to develop an initial understanding of the problem and operational environment. In order to develop a full understanding of the problem and operational environment the commanders circulates within the operational area as much as possible with an aim of improving collaboration with lower ranking commanders and the force. Throughout the operational process, the commander use inputs from the staff and his own personal observations to improve the understanding of the operational environment.

With only roughly over 60, 000 soldiers Lee fought against the union soldiers who numbered more than 130, 000. Understanding the problem and the environment of operation provided Lee and his men with advantage over the Union soldiers. Lee knew that he was outnumbered, and as a result, Lee went against military principles by dividing his soldiers twice and attacked the Union soldiers. Faced with the need to protect Richmond from the Union forces, and the challenge of inadequate food supplies for his army, Lee detached half of Gen JamesLongstreet first corps to the south. Operating in North Carolina and southern Virginia, General Longstreet soldiers provided the much-needed food to soldiers in Fredericksburg.


The commander’s continuous understanding of the problem and operational process provides them with an understanding that enables them to visualize the desired goal and possible solution to the problem. Visualization is the process that involves developing an understanding on the situation, establish the desired end goal, and come up with an operation strategy that will enable the army to realize the desired end.  A mission’s assignment provides the basis that enables the commanders to visualize the operational environment, which as a result, act as a framework for planning and execution.  Visualization enables the commanders to make decisions according to new challenges. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee’svisualization of the problem, that is, attack from the Union forces and the desire to protect Richmond enabled him and his support commanders such as Stonewall Jackson to come up with suitable strategy to fight with the Union army that was twice the number of the Confederate soldiers. Lee with the help of support staff developed a strategy aimed at keeping of the looming threat posed by the Union soldiers by dividing his army. This risky military adventure enabled Lee to fight off and defeat the Union forces underMajor General Joseph Hooker who was overconfident and failed to acknowledge the military wit that General Lee possessed.


Describing is the process by which the commanders provide a description to their subordinate commanders and staff after visualizing an operation with an aim of creating a shared purpose and understanding.  The commanders, during the planning process ensure that the staff has a clear understanding of their visualization before embarking on the course of action. The commanders may make modifications to their visualization during execution in updated directives and guidance that result in fragmented orders adjusting the initial orders. Describing enables the commanders to express their visualization in relations to: their intention, planning guidance such as operational approach, critical information that the commander requires and important friendly information elements. General Lee visualization was to defend Richmond from the Union forces. Underscoring the fact that his low number of soldiers as compared to the Union soldiers under Major General Hooker, General Lee decided to split his forces twice and created a shared purpose and understanding among his staff. This enabled General Lee to realize immense success during the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Lee’s visualization included the decision to send General Jackson to flank the enemy from the right side in a risky and surprising but very effective attack. Due to inadequate food supplies, General Lee divided General Longstreet soldiers and sent half to Northern Carolina and Southern Virginia to provide food supplies to Lee’s men near Fredericksburg.


The commanders direct all elements of the operations through directing their intent, setting objectives, and providing clear instructions to support staff.   The commander directs soldiers throughout the entire operation process through: preparation and approval of plans and orders, establish support and command relationship,  assign and adjust responsibilities, control measures and responsibility organization; position force units to maximize battle power; position key leaders at critical times and place to ensure effective supervision; and allocate resources to counter threats and exploit opportunities. General Lee with the help of Lieutenant General Jackson directed all the elements of operation for the confederate army during the Battle of Chancellorsville. General Lee directed his forces through the entire battle by establishing different command under General Jackson and General Longstreet; assigning responsibility to soldiers and positioning General Longstreet soldiers to North Carolina and South Virginia in order to provide adequate food supply to combat. On May 2, 1863, General Lee met lieutenant General Jackson to adjust operation plan since they felt that a desperate plan was necessary. The plan called for Lieutenant General Jackson to lead 28,000 soldiers to attack the Union soldiers on a wide flank march. Lee commanded the remaining soldiers totally up to 12, 000 in an effort to stall Major General Hooker until Jackson executes their plan.


The commander provides direction, motivation, and purpose to support commanders, staff, and combat personnel through leadership. Leadership works effectively in the presence of the commander during the actual operations. The location of the commander during the operation process is a significant area of operations. The commander ensure that they achieve a balanced operation by providing leadership to the support staff as well as providing direction, motivation and purpose to support commanders and combat personnel locate away from the command post. General Lee was present in the actual battlefield during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Lee provided leadership to 12, 000 soldiers who together they contained major General Hooker with his soldiers, and at the same time provided leadership to 28,000 men under the command of Lieutenant General Jackson who aimed at attacking the Union soldiers from the right. General Lee advanced a leadership plan that aimed at containing Sedgwick troops at Fredericksburg. Effective leadership during the battle enabled General Lee to subdue the Union forces.


Commanders assess the situation continually in order to understand current operational conditions as well as determine the progress of the operation. Continuous evaluation enables commanders to adapt or anticipate the force to changing situations.  The commander incorporates the evaluation of the subordinate commanders, staff and their personal evaluation of the operational situation. Depending on this evaluation, the commanders can modify plans or orders in order to suitchanging situations within the force. By assessing the situation, Lee adjusted his plans in order to ensure that he keeps the Union soldiers from advancing to Richmond. Lee utilized this advantage to move the Confederate forces into positions that are more suitable. Mission control and command offer the flexibility to handle changing circumstance and exploit opportunities. As Hooker and his men attempted to advance from Fredericksburg, Lee organized his men to attack the Union soldiers leading to their defeat. Lee assessed situations and provided adjusted plans and orders in order to keep the Union soldiers from reaching Richmond.


The Battle of Chancellorsville is one a very significant event that modern times military professionals analyze to understand the art of warfare. The battle experienced massive courage, suffering and chaos on an expansive scale. The battle resulted in the Confederate casualties totaling to approximately 13, 000 constituting approximately 9,000 wounded soldiers, 1,700 killed, and 2, 200 imprisoned. The Union, on the other hand, also had close to 16, 500 casualties. General Lee decision to go against military strategy by dividing his army twice was a risky adventure but proved to be very effective in holding the Union soldiers. Lee managed to protect Richmond from the Union as well as the independence of Virginia. The Battle at Chancellorsville was well organized and executed effectively.  The command of general Lee and his subordinate generals including General Jackson understood, visualized, described, directed, led and assessed operational process leading to the immense success that the confederate soldiers registered in spite of having less soldiers as compared to those of the Union. Lee’s military wit played an essential role towards the victory.

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