of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, U.S. Army,
Commanding First Division.
Battle of Chancellorsville
NEAR FALMOUTH, VA.,
May 19, 1863.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following summary of the operations of my division during the late engagements with the enemy:
At 7 a.m. on April 27, the Second Brigade (Meagher's) marched to Banks' and the United States Fords, the command at Banks' Ford being under the direction of Col. Patrick Kelly, Eighty-eighth New York, consisting of the Eighty-eighth and Sixty-third Regiments New York Volunteers, Brigadier General Meagher, with the Sixty-ninth New York, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, and One hundred and sixteenth Battalion Pennsylvania Volunteers being posted at the United States Ford.
On April 28, the remainder of the division marched to Banks' Ford. On April 29, the division moved from near Banks' Ford, and encamped that evening within 1 miles of the United States Ford, leaving one company, of 60 men, at Banks' Ford.
At 10.30 a.m., April 30, the command marched, arriving at General Couch's headquarters at 11 a.m., and from thence proceeded, at 4 p.m., the delay being caused in building the bridges, to the United States Ford. At 8 p.m. the entire division had crossed the pontoon bridges at that point. It immediately proceeded through the Wilderness, and encamped within half a mile of Chancellorsville at 10 p.m. The Fifth New Hampshire, Eighty-first Pennsylvania, and Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers, under command of Col. E. E. Cross, Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, were left to serve as a rear guard to the ammunition train of the corps until it had crossed the United States Ford. By direction of General Couch, four regiments of the Irish Brigade, under command of Col. R. Byrnes, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Volunteers, were posted on a road leading from the main road toward Banks' Ford.
On May 1, at 1.30 p.m., that portion of the division not heretofore mentioned as detached marched in the direction of Chancellorsville, and from thence proceeded, on the old turnpike road, toward Fredericksburg, to the assistance of Major-General Sykes, who was then engaged with the enemy, about 1 miles from Chancellorsville. Having arrived on the ground, orders were received to withdraw all the troops. The division took post, in order to allow General Sykes' command to be relieved. After that command had retired, I commenced withdrawing the division. Some artillery shots were exchanged with the enemy, and during the time I remained in that position the skirmishers on my right flank, under command of Colonel Miles, Sixty-first New York Volunteers, and Colonel Frank, Fifty-second New York Volunteers, became engaged, and lost some men. With this exception, the command was retired safely, it being threatened in flank and rear during its march by the same command of the enemy which had engaged the skirmishers. Just as the rear of the column had passed the left of General Sykes' command, which was then massed on the side of the road from which the enemy was advancing, the enemy appeared and attacked General Sykes, but was immediately repulsed by a portion of his command. I immediately commenced forming my division on the right of General Sykes, in order to meet the enemy, when I received an order, in person, from General Hooker, to form on his left, on the other side of the road, with my right resting on the road, and facing toward Fredericksburg. I formed the division in three lines of battle, Colonel Brooke, commanding Fourth Brigade, occupying the right, Brigadier-General Caldwell, commanding First Brigade, on the left, their reserves forming the second line, and Brigadier-General Zook's brigade forming the third line. Colonel Cross, with the Fifth New Hampshire, Eighty-first Pennsylvania, and Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers arriving shortly afterward, I placed them in reserve, along the turnpike. The combat was not renewed, except by the fire of artillery down the turnpike, from the position we had abandoned, and we bivouacked for the night. A rifle-pit was dug along our entire line and an abatis felled in front.
At 1.30 a.m. on May 2, General Sykes' command was withdrawn. I was ordered to withdraw immediately afterward. I formed a new line, with my right resting on General Geary's left, near the Plank road, diagonally to the front until it struck the old turnpike leading to Fredericksburg; thence toward the United States Ford to the front of and nearly parallel to the road leading to that point from the Chancellor house. All my troops present were disposed on this line in one line of battle. General French connected with me and extended the line on my left. A rifle-pit was dug along my line and an abatis made. General Sykes' troops the night previous had felled an abatis on their front connecting with the abatis and rifle-pits of my line first referred to. This abatis and rifle-pit I filled with skirmishers about 3 paces apart. They were supported by reserves. Skirmishers were also thrown in front of my main line of battle, connecting on the right and left with those of the advance line, the whole under the command of Colonel Miles, Sixty-first New York Volunteers. A section of artillery was placed on the turnpike, where my line of battle crossed it, and one piece in a woods road nearly parallel to it, and about 200 yards to the left.
The troops were disposed and commanded as follows: On the right, under the immediate command of Colonel Cross, the Fifth New Hampshire, Eighty-first Pennsylvania, and Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers; next, under the command of Brigadier-General Caldwell, the Sixty-sixth New York, One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania, and Sixty-first New York Volunteers; on his left, Col. J. R. Brooke, commanding the Second Delaware, One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania, Twenty-seventh Connecticut, Sixty-fourth New York, and Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers; on the left of Colonel Brooke, Brigadier-General Zook, commanding the One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania, Fifty-seventh and Fifty-second New York Volunteers. The Sixty sixth New York, of General Zook's brigade, was placed under the command of Brigadier-General Caldwell, in order to fill a vacant space near the turnpike between the Eighty-eighth New York and One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Brigadier-General Meagher, with the Sixty-ninth and Sixty-third New York, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, and the battalion of the One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, did not return from detached service until the morning of May 3, and did not report to me until the action was nearly decided--about 10.30 p.m.
On May 2, the enemy frequently opened with artillery from the heights toward Fredericksburg and from those on my right, and with infantry assaulted my advanced line of rifle-pits, but was always handsomely repulsed by the troops on duty there, consisting of the Fifty-seventh, Sixty-fourth, and Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, and detachments from the Fifty-second New York, Second Delaware, and One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers. These troops were ably assisted on the right of the road by Colonel Blaisdell's fine regiment (Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers), of General Berry's division.
Toward evening, after the enemy had driven in the Eleventh Corps, the shot from the enemy's artillery fell over my lines from both rear and front. During the sharp contest of that day, the enemy was never able to reach my principal line of battle, so stoutly and successfully did Colonel Miles contest the ground. The action in the rear continued until after midnight, the Twelfth Corps, on my immediate right, having been heavily engaged during the day.
On the morning of the 3d instant, the battle was renewed at 5.30 a.m. Previous to this time, expecting to meet the enemy on my main line of battle, I had not held a very heavy force on my first line, but now, knowing the danger and confusion that would arise from the musket-balls of the enemy crossing our line of communication at Chancellorsville from that direction, I strengthened the advanced position, believing, from the experience of the previous day and the well-known ability and gallantry of Colonel Miles, that it could be held. That line was frequently assaulted during the morning with great gallantry, the enemy marching their regiments up into the abatis. The Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers behaved with great distinction, repulsing regiment after regiment. The same may be said of the Sixty-first and Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, the detachments from the Fifty-third Pennsylvania, Second Delaware, One hundred and fortieth, One hundred and forty-fifth, and One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania, and the Twenty-seventh Connecticut Volunteers.
Later in the morning I was directed by Major-General Couch to face to the rear with the men on the second line, excepting Colonel Cross' command, and march to the road running between Chancellor's house and the United States Ford, and to be ready to advance against the enemy, who were then threatening that line of communication from my rear.
Having arrived at that point, General Hooker directed me to leave one brigade there, subject to his orders (I left Brigadier-General Caldwell's command, consisting of the Sixty-first, Fifty-second, and Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, and four companies of the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, numbering between 500 and 600 men), and to return to my first line of battle, commanding the old turnpike road, with the remainder of my troops. I obeyed the order, closing the regiments to the right to connect again with Colonel Cross, on the turnpike leading toward Fredericksburg. The enemy threatening General Geary's right, I was directed to face Colonel Cross' command about, establishing a line of battle to protect that point. Shortly afterward Colonel Cross was ordered back, by General Couch, to occupy his original line.
General Sickles' command had now retired from the position west of Chancellorsville, and, seeing the enemy advancing in line of battle in the open plain toward the Chancellor house, I immediately faced my line about, and took position on the Plank road, in line with Colonel Cross' command, his right resting on the turnpike and the other portion of his command on the same prolongation on his right, supporting Pettit's battery, a half battery of Thomas', on its left, in Colonel Cross' front, and Leppien's battery, on the right of Chancellor's house.
The enemy, who had threatened to advance, was soon dispersed by the fire of the artillery. He, however, immediately planted several batteries in the open plain, about 900 yards to my front, and, with the batteries on the Fredericksburg road, immediately in my rear, and those near the Plank road to my left, opened a tremendous fire upon my line.
An infantry assault was made at the same time on General Geary's command, of the Twelfth Corps, on my left; success alternating from one side to the other, my artillery assisting our forces, until finally that command was forced to quit its ground and retire from the field. Its resistance was stern, but unsuccessful.
I was now fighting in opposite directions, one line faced toward Fredericksburg, the other toward Gordonsville, these two lines being about half a mile apart. Projectiles from the enemy's artillery, from the front and rear, passed over both lines, while other pieces, in different positions, enfiladed both. Notwithstanding that my flank, which had been covered by General Geary, was entirely exposed, our fourteen pieces of artillery prevented him from advancing, although his battle-flags were within a few hundred yards of us. The troops, however, suffered very heavy losses from the enemy's artillery. The Chancellor house, which was being used as a hospital, was fired by shells. With a detail from the Second Delaware, of Brooke's command, under direction of Lieut. W. P. Wilson, of my staff, the wounded were removed from within and around the building.
Leppien's battery, of five guns, then under command of First Lieut. Edmund Kirby, First Artillery, on the right of the Chancellor house, having lost all its officers, cannoneers, and horses for the guns, I made a detail of men, who removed the pieces by hand to a place of safety.' The information announcing the condition of the battery was brought to me by Corp. J. H. Lebroke, of that battery, from Lieutenant Kirby (then wounded), who requested that the battery might be removed. The detail made for the purpose, who faithfully performed their duty, was from the Fifty-third, One hundred and fortieth, and One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania (Battalion) Volunteers.
I next received an order that, after General Sickles' troops had retired, I would also be ordered to follow him to a new position.
Subsequently, at 10 a.m., I received the order to withdraw my forces. I first sent orders to the batteries to retire. After that had been accomplished, I marched my command in good order and without molestatation, save by artillery, to a point about half a mile to the rear, toward the United States Ford, where a new line was established, my division occupying the left salient, toward Chancellor's house. This movement was completed about 11 a.m. At the same time that I received orders to withdraw from Chancellor's house, I sent directions to my line toward Fredericksburg to retire in a direction which would enable them to join me. A portion of this command, deflecting too far to their left, was intercepted by a column of the enemy and captured.
Rifle-pits were immediately thrown up on our new front, abatis felled, and the position made as strong as practicable. I have no doubt that we could have successfully resisted any assault. During our stay here we suffered some from artillery, and also lost a few men by the enemy's sharpshooters.
In retiring from our line at Chancellor's house, I found that Brigadier-General Meagher's command had been posted in the woods on the right of Leppien's battery, supporting it. That command I also withdrew. I found that Brigadier-General Caldwell's command, which had been posted on the right of General Meagher's position, had proceeded through the woods, driving the enemy out, and had been subsequently withdrawn. It joined me immediately, and, with General Meagher's command, occupied the front line of battle in our new position. I am not able to speak of the service of Caldwell's command more particularly nor of General Meagher's while they were engaged with the enemy, as they were detached, and under the immediate orders of General Hooker.
The reports of these commanders will be found inclosed, as well as those of Brig. Gen. S. K. Zook, commanding Third Brigade; Col. J. R. Brooke, commanding Fourth Brigade; Col. N. A. Miles, commanding the advanced line of skirmishers; Col. E. E. Cross, Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, commanding the right of my line; Capt. R. D. Pettit, Battery B, First New York Artillery, commanding artillery, and the reports of subordinate commanders.
We awaited the attack of the enemy in our new position until 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the 6th instant, when the movement to the rear toward the United States Ford commenced by a road which had been cut through the Wilderness for that purpose. We crossed the pontoon bridges at the United States Ford, and marched to our original camp, near Falmouth, where we arrived at 2 p.m.
The commanders of brigades--Brig. Gens. T. F. Meagher, Caldwell, and Zook--performed their duties faithfully and well. Col. J. R. Brooke, commanding Fourth Brigade, was of great assistance to me by his promptness and efficiency. Col. N. A. Miles, Sixty-first New York Volunteers, had great opportunity for distinction, and availed himself thereof, performing brilliant services. Col. E. E. Cross, Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, performed distinguished services.
The artillery was generally detached from my command. However, Pettit's battery (B, First New York Artillery) and one-half of Thomas' (C, Fourth U.S. Artillery), under the command of First Lieut. William O'Donohue, until he was mortally wounded, and subsequently under command of Second Lieut. Edward Field, performed excellent service while under my command.
The following of my staff officers were active in carrying orders on the field, and performed their duties faithfully and well, behaving with great gallantry: Maj. John Hancock, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. G. W. Scott, Sixty-first New York Volunteers, acting assistant inspector-general; Capt. H. H. Bingham, One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, judge-advocate of the division; First Lieuts. W. G. Mitchell, J. B. Parker, and W. D. H. Miller, aides-de- camp; First Lieut. James M. Rorty, ordnance officer, and First Lieut. W. P. Wilson, One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, commissary of musters.
Lieutenant Mitchell, in carrying a message to General Geary's troops at a critical period of the battle, with a view of saving time, rode in front of a battery of nine guns, a few yards from the muzzles, running the gauntlet of the fire in order to save a considerable detour; and Lieutenant Parker personally and alone took prisoners 2 of the enemy in front of our picket-line, and brought them in with him.
Capt. C. H. Hoyt, chief assistant quartermaster; Capt. A. C. Voris, commissary of subsistence, and Maj. R. C. Stiles, surgeon in chief of the division, were actively employed in the operations of their respective departments.
First Lieut. George C. Anderson, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, in charge of the division ambulance corps, together with his assistants, performed their duty faithfully. The ambulances and stretcher-carriers were employed on the field under fire, and the duties of the department were executed as I have not seen them done before during the war. Several of the stretcher-carriers were killed or wounded, and a few made prisoners by the enemy.
The following of my orderlies were much exposed, and deserve mention for their good conduct during the action: Sergt. Owen McKenzie, Corpl. Thomas Watson, Privates James Wells, Alvin Stearns (wounded), John Gollinger, and Donald O'Rourke (horse killed), all of Company K, Sixth New York Cavalry, and Privates Andrew Boudreau and Henry McEnro, of Company D, Sixth New York Cavalry.
On the 15th instant, I transmitted to your headquarters a nominal and tabular statement of the losses of the division, amounting in the aggregate to 1,122.
I transmit also a sketch of the positions occupied by the division in the neighborhood of the Chancellor house.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your
WINF'D S. HANCOCK,
Major-General, Commanding Division.
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