Report of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, U.S. Army,
commanding Eleventh Army Corps
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
CAMP NEAR BROOKE'S STATION, VA.,
May 13, 1863.
Maj. Gen. JOSEPH HOOKER.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this corps during the recent movement:
First day, Monday.--The corps left this camp at 5.30 a.m., April 27, and marched toward Kelly's Ford, via Hartwood Church. We made 14 miles, and encamped about 1 mile beyond Hartwood. The troops were in position by 4 p.m. My main wagon train was parked near the road that leads from the Ridge road to Banks' Ford.
Second day, Tuesday.--The head of the column left camp promptly at 4 a.m., and the entire corps was in camp near Kelly's Ford at 4 p.m., having marched 14 miles. At 2 p.m. on the same day, I visited the commanding general at Morrisville, where I received specific instructions and intimations of his general plan. At 6 p.m. the pontoon bridge was commenced, under charge of Captain Comstock, of the Engineers. The bridge-layers were mostly by detail from my command, and were new at the work. Some 400 men of Colonel Buschbeck's brigade crossed in boats. The enemy's picket, after a single shot, fell back. At 10 p.m. the bridge was completed and the crossing commenced. A regiment of cavalry (the Seventeenth Pennsylvania, Colonel Kellogg) reported to me, and was crossed, following the infantry advance guard. The colonel was ordered to send scouts and patrols up the different roads and to picket our front. Owing to the darkness of the night and the ignorance of the guides, it was nearly daylight before the troops were all in position.
Third day, Wednesday.--The Twelfth Corps, General Slocum, took the advance on the march toward Germanna Bridge. The Eleventh Corps followed. The Twelfth had some skirmishing in front, and the Eleventh had its rear of column shelled by a couple of light pieces, supported by cavalry. The Seventeenth Pennsylvania. Cavalry was ordered to cover the rear and protect the train against this annoyance, which it failed to do; but a portion of Stoneman's cavalry came up and relieved our right flank. This corps commenced crossing the Rapidan at 11 p.m., and by 4 a.m. was in camp, except the rear guard and train.
Fourth day, Thursday.--The corps followed the Twelfth, leaving camp at 7 a.m., and encamped near Dowdall's Tavern at 4 p.m. As soon as the head of my column reached this point, I went to Chancellorsville and received my orders from General Slocum. He told me I was to cover the right, posting my command near Hunting Creek. General Slocum gave me to understand that he would take care of the entire front from Chancellorsville to my position; but afterward one of his division commanders sent me word that I would have to take about three-fourths of a mile of the front, so as to connect with General Slocum's right, as ordered. This I did, and located my command with reference to an attack from the front in a direction perpendicular to the Plank road; also from the right along the Plank and old Turnpike roads. My right rested in the vicinity of the point marked "mill" on the map ; but no mill was in existence. I sent a force of two companies to the point where the Ely's Ford road crosses Hunting Creek. At this point General Pleasonton had a force of cavalry and some artillery. My corps was distributed as follows: The First Division occupied the right; the First Brigade, Colonel von Gilsa, deployed two regiments and two companies of another nearly at a right angle with the old range Court-House turnpike, and to the north of it the rest of the First Division, extending along this turnpike, deployed, with two regiments in reserve, and the Third Division, General Schurz, prolonged this line eastward, facing south-southeast. He had three regiments of General Schimmelfennig's brigade deployed and two regiments in reserve. He had also two regiments of Colonel Krzyzanowski's brigade in the front line and two regiments in reserve. On the proper front, General Steinwehr, commanding Second Division, had two regiments deployed and two in reserve--all of Colonel Buschbeck's brigade.
On the morning of May 2, General Birney had relieved a portion of General Steinwehr's division from the front line, viz, General Barlow's brigade. This I placed in position for a general reserve of the corps. The artillery was disposed as follows: Two pieces near General Devens' (First Division) right, enfilading old turnpike; the rest of Dieckmann's battery on the left of General Devens, Covering approaches along the Plank road. Four guns of Wiedrieh's battery were placed near Steinwehr's right, and two guns near his left, covering approaches from the front. Dilger's battery was posted near the intersection of the turnpike and the Plank road. Three batteries were in reserve, and so placed as to be used on any of the approaches. Our front was covered with rifle-pits and abatis.
On Friday, May 1, at 12 m., I received the order to march along the Plank road toward Fredericksburg, and take position I mile in rear of the Twelfth Corps. We had hardly left camp before the order was countermanded, and we resumed the old position.
Early Saturday morning, General Hooker visited my corps and rode along my front lines. At one point a regiment was not deployed and at another a gap in the woods was not filled. The correction was immediately made and the position strengthened. The front was covered by a good line of skirmishers.
I should have stated that, just at evening of May 1, the enemy made a reconnaissance on our front with a small force of artillery and infantry. General Schimmelfennig moved out with a battalion and drove him back.
During Saturday, the 2d, the same general made frequent reconnaissance's. Infantry scouts and cavalry patrols were constantly pushed out on every road. The unvarying report was, "The enemy is crossing the Plank road and moving toward Culpeper."
At 4 p.m. I was directed to send a brigade to the support of General Sickles. I immediately took General Barlow's brigade by a short route to General Sickles' right, some 2½ miles from the Plank road to the front.
At about 6 p.m. I was at my headquarters, at Dowdall's Tavern, when the attack commenced. I sent my chief of staff to the front when firing was heard. General Schurz, who was with me, left at once to take command of his line. It was not three minutes before I followed. When I reached General Schurz's command, I saw that the enemy had enveloped my right, and that the First Division was giving way. I first tried to change the front of the deployed regiments. I next directed the artillery where to go; then formed a line by deploying some of the reserve regiments near the church. By this time the whole front on the north of the Plank road had given way. Colonel Buschbeck's brigade was faced about, and, lying on the other side of the rifle-pit embankment, held on with praiseworthy firmness. A part of General Schimmelfennig's and a part of General Krzyzanowski's brigades moved gradually back to the north of the Plank road and kept up their fire. At the center and near the Plank road there was a blind panic and great confusion. By the assistance of my staff and some other officers, one of whom was Colonel Dickinson, of General Hooker's staff, the rout was considerably checked, and all the artillery, except eight pieces, withdrawn. Some of the artillery was well served, and told effectively on the advancing enemy. Captain Dilger kept up a continuous fire until we reached General Betty's position.
Now as to the causes of this disaster to my corps:
1. Though constantly threatened and apprised of the moving of the enemy, yet the woods was so dense that he was able to mass a large force, whose exact whereabouts neither patrols, reconnaissances, nor scouts ascertained. He succeeded in forming a column opposite to and outflanking my right.
2. By the panic produced by the enemy's reverse fire, regiments and artillery were thrown suddenly upon those in position.
3. The absence of General Barlow's brigade, which I had previously located in reserve and en echelon with Colonel von Gilsa's, so as to cover his right flank. This was the only general reserve I had. My corps was very soon reorganized near Chancellorsville, and relieved General Meade's corps, on the left of the general line. Here it remained until Wednesday morning, when it resumed its position, as ordered, at the old camp.
The division and brigade commanders showed the greatest attention to duty and a hearty co-operation with me at all times.
By a reference to the tabular statement, it will be seen that a large proportion of the regimental commanders engaged were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Captain [Francis A.] Dessauer, of my staff, was killed while fearlessly at work rallying the men. The aggregate of killed, wounded, and missing is 2,508.
I feel confident that this command will yet honor itself and the noble cause we sustain, and I ask for it another opportunity for demonstrating its true spirit.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. O. HOWARD,
List of the killed, wounded, and missing of the Eleventh Corps in the engagement of the 2d, 3d and 4th instant.
Command Officers killed Men Killed Officers Severely Wounded Men
First Division First Brigade 1 9 2 14 10 87 3 118 16 228 Second Brigade 6 44 13 233 5 91 12 289 36 657 Total 7 53 15 247 15 178 15 407 52 885 Second Division First Brigade 5 35 10 105 7 85 5 269 27 494 Second Brigade --- --- 1 2 --- 4 --- 10 7 10 Total 5 35 11 107 7 89 5 279 34 504 Third Division --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- First Brigade 2 59 8 59 7 142 1 146 18 406 Second Brigade 9 44 7 115 5 105 6 197 27 461 Total 11 103 15 174 12 247 7 343 45 867 Artillery --- 4 2 20 11 23 --- 3 31 50 Aggregate 23 195 43 548 35 537 27 1,032 134 2,306 Grand total --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 2,440
T. A. MEYSENBERG,
MAY 25, 1863.
GENERAL ORDERS No. 9.
HDQRS. ELEVENTH ARMY CORPS,
May 10, 1863..
As your commanding general, I cannot fail to notice a feeling of depression on the part of a portion of this corps. Some obloquy has been cast upon us on account of the affair of Saturday, May 2. I believe that such a disaster might have happened to any other corps of this army, and do not distrust my command. Every officer who failed to do his duty by not keeping his men together, and not rallying them when broken, is conscious of it, and must profit by the past.
I confidently believe that every honorable officer and every brave man earnestly desires an opportunity to advance against the enemy, and demonstrate to the army and to the country that we are not wanting in principle or patriotism. Your energy, sustained and directed under the Divine blessing, shall yet place the Eleventh Corps ahead of them all.
O. O. HOWARD,
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