Inside Night Friendly Fire Killed Stonewall Jackson

From May 1862 through the Army of Northern Virginia's bitter end at Appomattox in April 1865, a five-regiment infantry brigade of North Carolina “Tar Heels” fought gallantly in 35 battles and engagements. Known as the Branch-Lane Brigade after its two commanders, Brig. Gens. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch and James H. Lane, the unit consisted of the 7th, 18th, 28th, 33rd, and 37th North Carolina Infantry. The courage, sacrifice, and fighting prowess exhibited on many of the war's bloodiest battlefields by the brigade's soldiers—hailed by one of their number, Captain Riddick Gatling Jr. of the 33rd North Carolina, as “these more than immortal men”—has been unfairly overshadowed by a tragic accident on the night of May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville. In the darkness and confusion following Robert E. Lee's rout of the Union Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, members of the brigade's 18th North Carolina mistakenly fired into a party of Confederate officers returning from a nighttime reconnaissance, mortally wounding Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

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