Battlefield Guide Services

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Year - Old Sites: Juxtaposition - Chancellorsville

The Chancellorsville intersection, circa 1900. Photo by John Okie.
Hunting dogs of Thomas P. Payne, a Spotsylvania County deputy
 commissioner of revenue. Image is courtesy of Kathleen Colvin,
Payne's granddaughter. View looks north along the Old Plank Road.

The Chancellorsville intersection, January 1, 2012.

The top image was taken about thirty-seven years after the 1863 battle of Chancellorsville. Life had begun to assume a feeling of normalcy at this once hotly contested intersection. The Chancellor house, which had been destroyed during the fighting, was rebuilt, but would survive just another twenty-seven years until it would be, yet again, consumed by fire.

One hundred and twelve years have gone by since these dogs sniffed about the muddied road, always dutiful, always vigilant. Man's best friend. Tens of thousands of sunrises have crossed the landscape. Inside the house the day-to-day human dramas would unfold. Children would laugh and cry. Words were spoken in love and anger. Joy over births, and sorrow over deaths. The gamut of human emotions lived out within the walls, echoing in the hallways, until they were no more. Gnarled remnants of once great shade trees now sway in the winds. The surrounding fields that had provided generations of crops turned fallow and returned to grassland, yet no cattle graze today.

An eerie silence hangs in the air. The ghosts of over three thousand soldiers, killed near here, bide their time in eternity.


Corey Meyer said...


How much did the rebuilt Chancellorsville house resemble the 1863 version?

John Cummings said...


Based on what we know from period art renderings, and ground level archaeology, the main difference is that there was a symmetrical wing on the right of the central porch that was not rebuilt, as well as an extension from that wing going north. Also, the roof line went from a multi-level, gable and possible combination shed roof design, to an overall, one height, mansard style for the reconstruction.

John Cummings

Unknown said...

Hi John, I live near the Chancellorsville house and enjoy the old pictures of the house and Plank Road. Can you recommend any other resources where I can see more old pictures of Chancellorsville house and Plank Road like the one you posted courtesy of Kathleen Covin?

John Cummings said...

For those interested in other images of the Chancellor House, I would suggest going to the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs website. In the search criteria simply type in Chancellorsville and you should find numerous images of the house after it burned as well as some great archaeological report renderings. There are also numerous images to be found drawn on site by newspaper artists of the day. That link is :
The staff of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park also produce a fine blog that has featured many posts about the area. It is well worth browsing. That link is here:
And, there is also a wealth of information to be had about the family at:
Thanks for commenting.
John Cummings

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
I've been interested in the house for years and wanted to find out when it was rebuilt, and burned down (1927?). I came across a photo of the building supposedly taken in 1876, as well as a drawing from 1884 from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. They were uploaded on the whatwasthere website hopefully oriented at their proper locations against Google Streetview.
Dave G, Halifax NS

John Cummings said...

You are correct, the second incarnation was destroyed by fire in 1927. It had been rebuilt by 1872, per Noel Harrison's excellent book on Chancellorsville Battlefield Sites, published by H. E. Howard in 1990.
Thank you for following my blog.