Report of Col. John R. Brooke, Fifty-third
Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Fourth Brigade
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., May 7, 1863.
Maj. JOHN HANCOCK,
SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my brigade during the recent movements:
On the evening of April 30, we crossed the Rappahannock at the head of the division, and reached Chancellorsville about 12 midnight, when we bivouacked in line of battle for the night.
On the following day, May 1, at about 11 a.m., I received the order of march from the general commanding, and, forming the rear of the column, marched down the Fredericksburg road to the hill beyond Chancellorsville, where, by his direction, I formed on the left of the batteries, then firing, in the following order: The Twenty-seventh Connecticut and One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania in the first line, the Twenty-seventh Connecticut on the right, and the Fifty-third Pennsylvania and Second Delaware in the second line, the Sixty-fourth New York having been sent, by direction of the general commanding, to strengthen General Caldwell's brigade, on the right. After standing thus for about one hour, I received orders to retire to Chancellorsville by the road we came, which was accomplished in good order.
At about 2 p.m. I received the order to move down the Fredericksburg road at a double-quick, and form on the left of the road, which movement was accomplished quickly. My line extended into the woods on the right, two regiments forming the second line (the Fifty-third Pennsylvania and Second Delaware). I here, at the suggestion of the commanding general, felled trees and formed an abatis, which I afterward strengthened by a rifle-pit.
An hour before daybreak on the following day (May 2), I received the order from the general commanding to fall back from this position. I immediately marched to the rear, when I was ordered to form on the left of General Caldwell (this was about 150 yards in the woods on the left of Chancellorsville). Here also I felled an abatis and threw up a rifle pit, and, with skirmishers well to the front, awaited the attack. The enemy was engaged feeling our lines all day, but could make no impression.
At about 4 p.m., the attack commenced on the right (the Eleventh Corps), when our front was comparatively relieved from any vigorous assault by the enemy. At about 7 p.m., the general commanding directed me to send the Sixty-fourth New York to report to Colonel Miles, who was in command of the pickets.
During the night, heavy firing occurred, and, early on the morning of May 3, the attack on the right was reopened with great vigor. A large detail of officers and men from the One hundred and forty-fifth and Fifty-third Pennsylvania, and Second Delaware (271), under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCreary, was, by direction of the general commanding, sent to re-enforce the pickets. Up to this time my loss was very slight, although we were under a heavy artillery fire. This detail, with few exceptions, was either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners on the outposts. I have no knowledge of them, nor can I ascertain the true facts of the case from those who came off in safety. The detail, I understand, was divided by the commander of the pickets, and part sent to one point and part to another.
At about 8 a.m. the general commanding directed me to send the Twenty-seventh Connecticut to re-enforce the pickets. I sent eight companies, the other two companies being on duty at that time, and not available. This regiment was also lost, as I have heard nothing from them since. At about 9 a.m., our right was evidently beaten back. I received the order of the general commanding to move directly to my rear and meet the enemy. When I arrived upon the ground, General Caldwell's brigade was interposed, and I was ordered to occupy his old place in the rifle-pits. I remained there until 1 p.m. During this time the whole or a large part of the Twelfth Corps passed to the rear, when, by direction of the general commanding, I moved up to the plain, near Chancellor's house, and formed line between two batteries--Pettit's on my left, and a brass battery on my right. Here we experienced a most destructive fire of artillery, many officers being killed and wounded; but the presence of Generals Couch and Hancock seemed to add to the veteran bravery of the troops; none wavered. While lying in this position, Chancellor's house took fire. It was filled with wounded, and, after strenuous exertions, the wounded were removed by a company of the Second Delaware Volunteers, Lieutenant Wilson, of General Hancock's staff, having charge of the party. It was in the execution of this duty that the veteran Captain McCullough was dangerously, and the gallant Lieutenant Jordan (both of the Second Delaware Volunteers), mortally, wounded. Major Patton, of the One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania, was also dangerously wounded while occupying this position.
At about 11 a.m., I was directed to move off to the rear and form in the open field occupied on the night of April 30 as a camp for the division. While moving, the general commanding directed that I should send men and draw off the pieces of the Fifth Maine Battery, which were abandoned by the men of the battery. I sent a party of the Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, who drew off two of the pieces. They also drew one other as far as the road in rear of the position of the battery, when some men of another regiment took hold and draw it to the rear. After reaching the open field, I was shown by a staff officer the position we were to occupy. I immediately took up the position. Soon alter, the enemy opened upon us with a terrific fire of artillery, which soon ceased.
Nothing of importance occurred after this until the retreat of the army, which commenced on the night of the 5th. I had the honor to cover the retreat of the Second Corps as it moved to the river. As to the conduct of the officers and men, I cannot particularize, as all the regimental commanders and their officers behaved extremely well and bravely.
Of my staff I can say that officers could not behave better; cool and efficient, they deserve the honorable notice of the general commanding. I have the honor to refer to the reports of the regiments for those details which are not here mentioned. I also forward herewith the list of casualties.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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