Report of Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell, U. S. Army,
commanding First Brigade
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
HEADQUARTERS CALDWELL'S BRIGADE,
May 12, 1863.
Maj. JOHN HANCOCK,
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the movements commencing April 28 and terminating May 6:
In company with the rest of the division, we broke camp on the morning of Tuesday, April 28, and marched to within a short distance of Banks' Ford, where we bivouacked for the night, with pickets covering our right and front. Here the Fifth New Hampshire and Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers were detailed to guard the houses in the vicinity and picket the road between our camp and the United States Ford, and did not rejoin the brigade until the morning of the [2d of May].
On April 29, we marched forward to within 2 miles of the ford and bivouacked. We resumed the march on the morning of the 30th, and crossed the Rappahannock on pontoons, and bivouacked in the edge of the woods, near a white house, about 5 miles from the ford.
The next morning we marched to Chancellorsville, and out on the road toward Fredericksburg, a distance of over a mile from Chancellorsville. I here formed the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers in line of battle on the right of the road, and deployed the Sixty-first New York Volunteers some 200 yards in front as skirmishers. General Sykes' pickets were then in our front, retiring, skirmishing. On our right a brigade of the Twelfth Corps was retreating at double-quick, as Colonel Miles reports, without a rear guard. After remaining in our position for more than an hour, in obedience to orders from General Hancock, I fell back along the road. The enemy followed up very rapidly, and the troops of General Sykes soon became engaged. I formed my brigade in line of battle in the open field near Chancellorsville, the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers on the right and the Sixty-first New York Volunteers on the left. My troops lay down and the artillery fired over them. One man of the One hundred and forty-eighth was here killed by a shell and a few wounded.
After the enemy was repulsed my line was again changed, and I formed a line of battle on the left of the road, and on the left of Colonel Brooke. It was now nearly dark, and we worked all the evening cutting an abatis. About dark the enemy shelled our line, but without doing any harm.
About 3 o'clock on the morning of the 2d, I received from General Hancock the order to fall back to a line that had been previously designated, near Chancellorsville. Here I found the rest of my brigade established in line, and with them the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers. We immediately set to work digging intrenchments and constructing an abatis, and before noon had a line of great strength; the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers on the extreme right; next came the Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers; then the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers; then the Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, which was afterward relieved; then the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania and Sixty-first New York Volunteers, on the extreme left. Colonel Cross was placed in immediate command of the three regiments on the right, and I refer you to his report for a more circumstantial account of the part taken by those regiments. Colonel Miles, of the Sixty-first New York Volunteers, was placed by General Hancock in command of the picket line of the division, which consisted of six companies of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, the Fifty-seventh New York, two companies of the Fifty-second New York Volunteers, and four companies of the Second Delaware, supported by the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel Blaisdell, from General Carr's command.
With this force Colonel Miles skirmished all day long with the enemy, and at 3 p.m. repulsed, with signal loss, a determined attack of the enemy, made in two columns on each side of the road. I do not doubt that this repulse of the enemy, which kept them from our main lines, was due principally to the skill and gallantry of Colonel Miles, who, with a single line of skirmishers, deployed at 3 paces, repelled a determined attack of the enemy made in column, a feat rarely paralleled.
We lay in our intrenchments, under a heavy artillery fire, on the morning of the 2d and the morning of the 3d, the men behaving with the greatest coolness.
Between 9 and 10 o'clock on the morning of the 3d, I was ordered by a member of General Hancock's staff' to report with my brigade to General Hooker. By direction of General Hancock I took four companies of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, the other six being on picket; the Sixty-first, Fifty-second, and Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, in all between 500 and 600 men, and marched by the right flank down the road toward the United States Ford, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile, and halted, facing the woods, on the right of the road. I deployed a company from the road to intrenchments on the left, to arrest the crowd of fugitives and stragglers who were going down the road in great disorder. About twenty minutes afterward I was ordered by General Hooker in person to conduct my brigade into the open field and through the woods from a point designated. The four companies of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Colonel Beaver, were on the right; next to them the Sixty-first New York, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Broady. The Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers was on the left, with the Fifty-second New York Volunteers on their right. These two regiments were consolidated, under the command of Col. Paul Frank, of the Fifty-second New York Volunteers. We advanced in this order through the woods, under a fire of grape and canister, passing several of Berdan's sharpshooters, who had been skirmishing through the woods, until we encountered the rebels, in rifle-pits on our right, who opened on us a very severe fire, which killed and wounded many of the officers and men of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, among others Colonel Beaver, of this regiment. The severity of the fire and the fall of their colonel produced a momentary confusion in the One hundred and forty-eighth, but they rallied almost instantly, and poured a steady and most destructive fire into the enemy, who, after a few minutes, broke and fell back. I then gave the command to cease firing, and charged the retreating enemy. The rebels rallied about 300 yards farther on, when we opened fire upon them again, which drove them back. I then advanced to the edge of the woods, where I saw a battery coming into position, and, in a ravine in front of the battery, a line of at least 1,500 of the enemy moving at double-quick around our left flank.
My aide, Lieutenant Cross, had previously reported to General Meade for re-enforcements, as we had no support whatever, and our left was entirely unprotected.
General Meade said that his orders were peremptory to send no troops into the woods, and that if the force of the enemy was too strong for us we must fall back. The enemy, in numbers far superior to mine, was rapidly moving around our left flank. The fire on our right of General French was receding, and was now some distance in the rear, when, finding it impossible to advance or hold our position without re-enforcements, I reluctantly gave the order to fall back, which I did in good order, facing about in line every 100 yards. I formed my line at the edge of the woods where I had gone in, and, finding some boxes of ammunition of the right caliber at that place, I ordered my men to fill their boxes, which was done.
I then reported to General Couch, in person, who ordered me to take my men to the corner of the woods where I had first bivouacked after crossing the river. Here I formed a line, with my right connecting with the Third Corps, and my left with the Irish Brigade. We threw up strong intrenchments, and remained in this position, exposed at intervals to a heavy fire of artillery, until the morning of the 6th, when, with the rest of the corps, we recrossed the river, and came back to our old camp in good order, there being but one straggler reported in the brigade.
Of the conduct of officers and men during the entire movement, I cannot speak in terms of too high praise. I confess I was somewhat anxious for the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, it being a new regiment, and never having been exposed to fire. It behaved, however, throughout with the greatest coolness, vying with the old troops in steadiness. Colonel Miles speaks in high terms of the six companies that were on picket, and the other four companies fought with the greatest gallantry under my own eye. I have seldom seen a more steady or better-directed fire than theirs was in the woods on Sunday. The Sixty-first New York Volunteers maintained its well-earned reputation for steadiness, bravery, and all good soldierly qualities.
I greatly regret to report that Colonel Miles was severely, if not mortally, wounded on Sunday morning, while handling the picket line with masterly ability. I have had occasion heretofore to mention the distinguished conduct of Colonel Miles in every battle in which the brigade has been engaged. His merits as a military man seem to me of the very highest order. I know of no terms of praise too exaggerated to characterize his masterly ability. If ever a soldier earned promotion, Colonel Miles has done so. Providence should spare his life, and I earnestly recommend that he be promoted and intrusted with a command commensurate with his abilities.
Colonel McKeen, of the Eighty first Pennsylvania Volunteers, was wounded by a fragment of a shell while supporting a battery near Chancellor's house. He has always behaved with the greatest gallantry, and on this occasion added to his high reputation for bravery and skill. Though severely wounded, he remained with his regiment, and would not go to the rear until peremptorily ordered to do so.
Colonel Cross was separated from me for a large portion of the time, but when present behaved with his usual bravery.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hapgood, commanding the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, while under my eye behaved with coolness and decision, which gave abundant promise of future distinction.
Lieutenant Colonel Broady, commanding the Sixty-first New York Volunteers, behaved on every occasion with the utmost bravery, and in the action in the woods on the 3d kept his men to their work in a manner to merit the highest commendation.
Colonel Beaver, of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, deserves the highest praise for the discipline and efficiency which he has secured in his regiment. To him belongs almost exclusively the praise that his men, in their first battle, did their work so handsomely. He was, unfortunately, wounded severely at the first fire, and was borne from the field before he could see the heroism of his men. The command, however, devolved on worthy shoulders. Major Fairlamb rallied and fought the regiment in the noblest manner. G eater coolness and bravery could not be displayed by any man than was shown by him. It inspirited the men, and in a measure compensated for the loss of their beloved colonel.
To Lieutenant [Daniel K.] Cross, of my staff, something more than a word of passing praise is due. He was indefatigable, and seconded me in the noblest manner. It was he that reported to General Hancock that the picket line was flanked; that brought to the notice of General Hooker the disgraceful flight on the left of the road, which the commanding general at once caused to be checked by cavalry. He also reported to General Meade for re enforcements, and brought back his order. Whatever praise should be awarded to a gallant, intelligent, and indefatigable staff officer is due to him. At Antietam and Fredericksburg he distinguished himself, and has richly earned promotion.
The other members of my staff behaved to my entire satisfaction. Captain [George H.] Caldwell was early wounded and taken to the rear. Lieutenant [Corydon A.] Alvord behaved with his accustomed bravery, and his gallant bearing was highly encouraging to the men. Lieutenant [John H.] Root was present in the hottest of the fight, and rendered efficient service.
I cannot pass over in silence the services of my orderly, Corpl. Uriah N. Parmelee, Company D, Sixth New York Cavalry. In the fight of the 3d, when the One hundred and forty-eighth was staggered by the first volley of the rebels, he rendered most efficient service in rallying them and urging them on. I think him worthy of promotion, both for his gallantry and other high qualities.
The Fifty-second and Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, from General Zook's brigade, behaved admirably, both before and after the wounding of their commander, Colonel Frank.
I respectfully refer to the reports of regimental commanders for mention of officers of the line who distinguished themselves.
A nominal list and tabular statement of the killed, wounded, and missing has already been forwarded.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. CALDWELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.
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