This ridge top now brimming with traffic and commerce once witnessed the clash of armies. On May 3, 1863, 10,000 Confederate troops took position astride the Orange Plank Road (modern Va. Route 3). That afternoon, 20,000 Union soldiers under General John Sedgwick, marching westward from Fredericksburg, attacked the Confederates here, trying to break through to strike the rear of Lee's army at Chancellorsville. The fighting raged along this ridge extending several hundred yards to your right and left.
The climax of the fighting swirled around Salem Church itself. Here Sedgwick's Federals, swarming up the ridge toward you, broke through the Southern line. But the Confederates surged back again, sealed the breach, and drove the Federals down the slope. They would not return. The next day General Lee himself arrived with reinforcements, enveloped the Federals, and pushed them across the Rappahannock.
(Caption, upper right picture): The Confederate victory at Salem Church preserved Lee's position at Chancellorsville, clinching his triumph. Still Lee lamented that the Federal army had escaped at all.
(Caption, main picture): This early 20th-century photograph, taken near this spot, looks east down the Orange Plank Road (modern Va. Route 3). Salem Church is to the right, out of view. Union troops formed in the low ground in the distance before attacking astride the road. Both monuments visible in the photo still stand today.