of Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, U. S. Army,
Commanding Third Army Corps.
The Chancellorsville Campaign
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD ARMY CORPS,
May 20, 1863.
Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Army of the Potomac
GENERAL: I have the honor to transmit the following report of the operations of this corps during the recent movements of the army:
On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 28, five of my batteries (Seeley's, Huntington's, Dimick's, Randolph's, and Lewis') were ordered to report to Brigadier-General Hunt, chief of artillery, and during the night were placed in position as follows: Seeley on the river bank at the bridgehead, covering Sedgwick's crossing; Huntington on the crest to the right and rear of Franklin's crossing; Dimick, Randolph, and Lewis in reserve between the railroad and Lacy house.
The infantry and remaining artillery broke camp about 4 p.m., and, marching about 4 miles down the river, took position between Sedgwick's and Reynolds' crossings, and within supporting distance of either. The troops of all arms moved forward with the greatest alacrity and ardor. I reported to General Sedgwick about sunset.
On the morning of the 29th, in obedience to orders of Major-General Sedgwick, my command moved nearer the upper bridges, which had meanwhile been successfully laid by the engineers, where I occupied the ground previously held by the Sixth Corps, one division of which (Brooks') had crossed to the south bank, near the mouth of Deep Run, early in the morning.
On the morning of the 30th, in compliance with General Newton's wishes, sanctioned by Major-General Sedgwick, I placed my artillery in battery on the north bank of the river, to protect the bridges and repel any attack upon Brooks, who remained on the south side.
At 1 p.m. 1 received orders from the general-in-chief to march my command to the United States Ford, and report to him at or near Chancellorsville, concealing my movement from the enemy and moving expeditiously, so that the heads of my column should pass the bridges not later than 7 o'clock on the following morning, May 1.
Putting my command in three columns, the artillery following divisions, I marched on parallel lines through ravines and on roads masked from the enemy to Hamet's, that is to say, the intersection of the Warrenton pike with the United States Ford road. There we bivouacked, and at 5 a.m. marched to the ford, which Birney crossed at 7 a.m., Whipple and Berry following, well closed up.
Not observing any force besides the Engineer Battalion on the south side, I left one of Berry's brigades (Mott's) and a battery (Seeley's) to cover the bridges and my trains, which were parked near the north bank, and pushed ahead with the rest of my column to the front, where I had the honor to report at 9 a.m. to the commanding general, at Chancellorsville. In compliance with orders then received, I massed my forces in the forest, near the junction of the roads leading to Ely's and the United States Fords.
About noon, my attention was directed by the general-in-chief to a demonstration of the enemy's cavalry on our right, in the direction of the United States Ford, and at the same time 1 was ordered to send a brigade and a battery to Dowdall's Tavern, on the Plank road. Graham's brigade, of Birney's division, and Turnbull's battery were at once moved to that position, with orders to picket well out and to connect with Whipple, toward the United States Ford, who was directed to connect by outposts with Berry, who, in turn, reached the river. Graham soon reported that Major General Howard occupied the tavern as his headquarters; that General Howard picketed on our right and to the rear, and that, as he had no orders to move and needed no assistance, General Howard suggested there might be some mistake in Graham's order, and meanwhile directed him to halt near the tavern and wait further orders. Berry and Whipple established a line of outposts, with strong supports, from the Plank road to the United States Ford.
At 4 p.m. the general-in chief directed me to bring forward my whole command, except Mott, who still protected the ford, and get rapidly into position parallel to the Plank road at Chancellorsville. Graham was recalled at once, Whipple's and Berry's outposts were withdrawn, and, with celerity and precision of movement never surpassed, Birney, with Ward's and Hayman's brigades, formed in two lines, and Berry's and Whipple's were massed in column of battalions in the open ground north and to the right of Chancellorsville, the rear of the column covered by the woods. Graham had barely reported to me when I sent him, under a brisk and well-directed artillery fire, to support Major-General Slocum, who was apprehensive about his position at Fairview. Toward sunset, Birney, with Ward's and Hayman's brigades, moved up the Plank road near the junction of the left flank of the Eleventh Corps with the right of the Twelfth Corps, and within supporting distance. Finding the right of Major-General Slocum's (Twelfth) weak, Birney, with two brigades, bivouacked in the rear of Slocum's line, throwing out the Twentieth Indiana and Thirty-seventh New York to the front, where they replaced two of the regiments of Williams' division of the Twelfth Corps. In order to gain some advantageous ground, a strong line of skirmishers was advanced, who quickly dislodged the enemy from the cleared fields and houses in front, giving us the high and commanding position he had been holding. Berry's and Whipple's divisions bivouacked at Chancellorsville; Berry's artillery was held in reserve near the junction of Ely's and the United States Fords roads.
During the night, with the approval of the general-in-chief, General Birney was ordered to occupy at daybreak a portion of the front line on the left of Major-General Howard (Eleventh Corps), extending from the Plank road southwesterly through the Wilderness and connecting with the right of Major-General Slocum (Twelfth Corps), thereby relieving portions of the troops of each of those corps and enabling them to strengthen materially their lines. Accompanying the general-in-chief at sunrise on Saturday in a tour of inspection along our lines on the right flank, I found General Birney, who had also brought up Graham's brigade and Clark's, Randolph's, and Turnbull's batteries, making his dispositions with admirable discernment and skill, holding the crest along Scott's Run, from the farm-house on the left toward Dowdall's Tavern. It is impossible to pass over without mention the irrepressible enthusiasm of the troops for Major-General Hooker, which was evinced in hearty and prolonged cheers as he rode along the lines of the Third, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps.
On returning to general headquarters, I was directed to make a reconnaissance in front and to the left of Chancellorsville. Major-General Berry was requested to detail for this duty two reliable regiments, led by circumspect and intrepid commanders. The Eleventh Massachusetts, Col. William Blaisdell commanding, moving out to the left, toward Tabernacle Church, and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, Col. B.C. Tilghman commanding, in front, gallantly pressed back the enemy's pickets and skirmishers until he was discovered in force. A detachment of Berdan's Sharpshooters, from Whipple's division, accompanied each regiment. A number of prisoners and full reports of the enemy's dispositions were among the satisfactory results of this brilliant reconnaissance. Colonel Blaisdell was not withdrawn until night, when he received the emphatic commendation of Major-General Hancock, from whose front the advance was made.
My attention was now withdrawn from Chancellorsville, where Berry and Whipple remained in reserve, by several reports in quick succession from General Birney, that a column of the enemy was moving along his front toward our right. This column I found on going to the spot to be within easy range of Clark's battery (about 1,600 yards), and Clark so effectually annoyed the enemy by his excellent practice that the infantry sought cover in the woods or some other road more to the south, while the artillery and trains hurried past in great confusion, vainly endeavoring to escape our well-directed and destructive fire.
This continuous column--infantry, artillery, trains, and ambulances--was observed for three hours moving apparently in a southerly direction toward Orange Court-House, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, or Louisa Court-House, on the Virginia Central. The movement indicated a retreat on Gordonsville or an attack upon our right flank--perhaps both, for if the attack failed the retreat could be continued. The unbroken mass of forest on our right favored the concealment of the enemy's real design. I hastened to report these movements through staff officers to the general-in-chief, and communicated the substance of them in the same manner to Major-General Howard, on my right, and also to Major-General Slocum, inviting their cooperation in case the general-in-chief should authorize me to follow up the enemy and attack his columns.
At noon I received orders to advance cautiously toward the road followed by the enemy, and harass the movement as much as possible. Immediately ordering Birney to push forward over Scott's Run and gain the heights in the Wilderness, I brought up two battalions of sharpshooters, under Colonel Berdan, to be deployed as skirmishers and as flankers, so as to get all possible knowledge of the enemy's movement and of the approaches to his line of march. At the same time I communicated again with Major-Generals Slocum and Howard, and was assured of their prompt co-operation.
Two budges having been rapidly thrown over Scott's Run, Birney's division, the Twentieth Indiana leading, pressed forward briskly, meeting considerable opposition from skirmishers thrown out by McLaws' division of the enemy's forces, which was found in position to cover the enemy's movement. I then directed Whipple to come up within supporting distance. Reaching the iron foundry, about a mile from his first position, Birney's advance was checked by a 12-pounder battery of the enemy, which, at short range from Welford's house, near the road, poured in a destructive fire. Livingston's battery was sent forward and put in position between the foundry and the front, and soon silenced the enemy's battery. This battery was afterward relieved by Randolph's, and effectually held this important point, upon which the success of the movement depended. Ascertaining from a careful examination of the position that it was practicable to gain the road and break the enemy's column, I so reported to the general-in-chief; adding that as I must expect to encounter a heavy force and a stubborn resistance, and bearing in mind his admonition to move cautiously, I should not advance farther until the supports from the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps closed up on Birney's right and left.
The considerable interval on the left, between Birney's and Williams' division, of Slocum's corps, yet remaining unoccupied, and, suffering from a galling fire of musketry in that direction, I was compelled reluctantly to draw largely upon my reserves (Whipple) to enable me to connect on the left with Slocum. Barlow's brigade (of the Eleventh Corps) having got into position on the right, I was again in readiness for a farther advance, which was gallantly maintained by the sharpshooters, supported by the Twentieth Indiana and Fifth Michigan.
From this advance, 300 prisoners were soon reported to me, besides nearly 100 previously captured at the foundry by the sharpshooters. Hayman's brigade soon gained the road, supported by Graham and Ward, the latter keeping up communication on the right and rear, at the foundry. The road gained, Randolph's battery was advanced and poured a destructive fire on the retreating column of the enemy. The movement was successfully completed.
Brigadier-General Pleasonton, with three regiments of cavalry (the Sixth new York, and Eighth and Seventeenth Pennsylvania) and Martin's battery of horse artillery, had already reported to me, and was moving over the hill through the woods toward the foundry, but not deeming it quite time for the effective employment of cavalry in the attack, in compliance with my suggestion, General Pleasonton returned to the opening near Scott's Run, formed his command, and waited until the way could be cleared for his operations.
Returning to the front, I found every indication that looked to a complete success as soon as my advance could be supported. The resistance of McLaws' division had almost ceased, and although our scouts reported a considerable force on the right and in front, it was evident that in a few minutes five or six regiments would be cut off and fall into our hands. Regarding the moment opportune for the advance of General Pleasonton with his cavalry and horse battery, I was about to dispatch a staff officer to bring him forward when it was reported to me that the Eleventh Corps had yielded the right flank of the army to the enemy, who was advancing rapidly, and, indeed, was already in my rear. I confess I did not credit this statement until an aide-de-camp of General Warren, of General Hooker's staff, confirmed the report, and asked for a regiment of cavalry to check the movement. The Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry was immediately sent by General Pleasonton, and brilliantly was the service performed, although with fearful loss. I had only time to dispatch staff officers to recall Birney and Whipple, when the enemy's scouts and some dragoons disclosed themselves as I rode toward the bridge across Scott's Run for the purpose of making disposition to meet and arrest this disaster. Meeting General Pleasonton, we hastened to make the best available disposition to attack Jackson's columns on their right flank.
I confided to Pleasonton the direction of the artillery--three batteries of my reserved--Clark's, Lewis', and Turnbull's, and his own horse battery. The only supports at hand comprised two small regiments of cavalry (Sixth New York and Seventeenth Pennsylvania)and one regiment of infantry (One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, of Whipple's division). Time was everything. The fugitives of the Eleventh Corps swarmed from the woods and swept frantically over the cleared fields, in which my artillery was parked. The exulting enemy at their heels mingled yells with their volleys, and in the contusion which followed it seemed as if cannon and caissons, dragoons, cannoneers, and infantry could never be disentangled from the mass in which they were suddenly thrown. Fortunately there was only one obvious outlet for these panic-struck hordes after rushing between and over our guns, and this was through a ravine crossed in two or three places by the headwaters of Scott's Run. This was soon made impassable by the reckless crowd choking up the way. A few minutes was enough to restore comparative order and get our artillery in position. The enemy showing himself on the plain, Pleasonton met the shock at short range with the well-directed fire of twenty-two pieces, double-shotted with canister. The rebels pressed up the Plank road rapidly, and, as General Pleasonton justly observes in his report, herewith transmitted--
They advanced in silence, and with that skill and adroitness they often display to gain their object. The only color visible was an American flag with the center battalion. To clear up this doubt my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Thomson, First New York Cavalry, rode to within 100 yards of them, when they called out to him, "We are friends; come on!" and he was induced to go. 50 yards closer, when the whole line, in a most dastardly manner, opened on him with musketry, dropped the American color, and displayed 8 or 10 rebel battle-flags.
Lieutenant Thomson escaped unhurt, and our batteries opened on the advancing columns with crushing power. The heads of the columns were swept away to the woods, from which they opened a furious but ineffectual fire of musketry. Twice they attempted a flank movement, but the first was checked by our guns, and the second and most formidable was baffled by the advance of Whipple and Birney, who were coming up rapidly, but in perfect order, and forming in lines of brigades in rear of the artillery, and on the flanks. My position was now secure in the adequate infantry support which had arrived; the loud cheers of our men as twilight closed the combat vainly challenged the enemy to renew the encounter.
While these movements were in progress on the flank, the First and Second Brigades of the Second Division (Berry's), which had been held in reserve at Chancellorsville, were ordered by the general-in-chief to take a position perpendicular to the Plank road and check the enemy's advance.
Captain Poland. General Berry's chief of staff, led the Excelsior Brigade into the woods to the right of the road, except the Fourth Excelsior, Major Burns commanding, which was placed on the edge of the timber to the left.
The First Massachusetts, Colonel McLaughlen, was detached from the First (Carr's) Brigade and posted on the left of the Second (Excelsior) Brigade, prolonging the line to the Plank road.
The remaining regiments of Carr's brigade (First) formed a second line 150 paces to the rear.
These dispositions were made without the steadiness of these veteran troops being in the least disturbed by the torrents of fugitives breaking through their intervals. The regiments of the first line, covered by their skirmishers, immediately threw up a strong breastwork of logs and abatis.
Prisoners captured (among them an aide of General Stuart's, who had come forward with a party to remove a caisson left by the Eleventh Corps) disclosed to us the enemy's lines of battle, about 300 yards in front, in the woods.
Osborn, Berry's chief of artillery, during these dispositions of the infantry, placed Dimick's and Winslow's batteries on the crest of the hill, perpendicular to the road and 300 or 400 yards in rear of the line of battle. A section of Dimick's was thrown forward on the Plank road, near the infantry.
These admirable dispositions, promptly made, the splendid fire of the artillery, and the imposing attitude of an iron wall of infantry co-operated with our flank attack to check the enemy's advance, which was effectually accomplished before dark.
General Berry, having established his front line, dispatched an aide and patrols to the right of our position, in search of the troops who were supposed to protect that flank or connect with it. These efforts were futile. Report was made to the commanding general of the fact, and information obtained that the Second Corps would connect with our right. At 9 p.m. General Hays, of the Second Corps, reported to General Berry with a brigade, which was placed obliquely in rear of the second line (Carr's brigade) and facing toward the left.
After dark, the enemy's line could only be defined by the flash of his musketry, from which a stream of fire occasionally almost enveloped us. As often as these attacks were renewed, generally with fresh troops, and aided by his artillery, they were repulsed by our guns, now directed by Randolph on the flank and by Osborn in front. Ascertaining the enterprise of cutting us off from the army to be hopeless, the enemy sullenly withdrew to the line of rifle pits and breastworks formerly held by the Eleventh Corps. Several of our guns and caissons were immediately recovered from the woods the enemy had occupied, and, again to quote the felicitous observations of General Pleasonton--
Such was the fight at the head of Scott's Run--artillery against infantry at 300 yards; the infantry in the forest, the artillery in the clearing. War presents many anomalies, but few so strange in its results as this.
I now hastened to open communication with General Slocum on my right and with headquarters at Chancellorsville--the last communication which I had received from the general-in chief having been the order to assail the enemy on his right flank and check his advance, which was conveyed to me about 5 p.m., adding that I must rely upon the force I had, as Berry's division, of my corps, could not be spared from the front. To open communication, I sent Lieutenant Colonel Hart, assistant adjutant-general, and a small mounted escort, detailed by General Pleasonton, first taking the precaution to be sure that no orders, communications, or memorandum of the countersign should compromise us, if capture resulted in the search of his person. Colonel Hart, taking the route through the ravine and by Fairview, performed this duty with his usual address and zeal, and brought me orders to hold my position.
Colonel Hart was instructed to report to the general-in-chief that a portion of Whipple's ammunition (mule) train, some of the caissons of his batteries, and two or three of his cannon were in the woods occupied by the enemy between my line of battle and the road, and that to recover these, as well as the line of the Plank road, I would, with his sanction, make a night attack, if supported by Williams' division, of Slocum's corps, and by Berry's division, of this corps, now forming a connected line. About 11 o'clock I received, through Colonel Hart, permission to make this advance, and immediately confiding the dispositions on the flank to General Birney, and in front to Major-General Berry, directed the attack to be made on the flank in two lines of battle (with the bayonet), supported by heavy columns.
Colonel Hart was sent to communicate with Major-General Berry and General Williams, who intervened between Birney's right and Berry's left, Berry's lines crossing the Plank road in the woods in front of Fair-view. Colonel Hart having reported to me that Berry and Williams were ready, at midnight I ordered Birney to advance.
It is difficult to do justice to the brilliant execution of this movement by Birney and his splendid command. Ward's brigade formed the first line; Hayman's second, about 100 yards in the rear, pieces all uncapped, and strict orders not to fire a musket until the Plank road and earthworks were reached, the movement to be by the right of companies. On the left a wide road led through the woods perpendicular to the Plank road, on which the Fortieth -New York, Seventeenth Maine, and Sixty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers were pushed forward by column of companies at full distance.
The night was very clear and still; the moon, nearly full, threw enough light in the woods to facilitate the advance, and against a terrific fire of musketry and artillery, some twenty pieces of which the enemy had massed in the opening (Dowdall's), where General Howard's headquarters had been established, the advance was successfully executed, the line of the Plank road gained, and our breastworks reoccupied.
I commend to the particular notice of the general-in-chief the high praise bestowed by General Birney upon Col. Thomas W. Egan, Fortieth New York, for the energy and dash which he threw into this attack. All our guns and caissons and a portion of Whipple's mule train were recovered, besides two pieces of the enemy's artillery and three caissons captured.
Thrown into hopeless confusion upon his right flank, the enemy advanced upon the front of the Second Division (Berry's) in connected lines on the right and left of the road, but was repulsed in less than thirty minutes by the combined and effective fire of infantry and Dimick's and Osborn's batteries, excellently posted on and near the road.
At about 2 a.m. the Third (Mott's) Brigade arrived from the ford, from whence it was ordered before dark, and was placed in reserve in two lines to the left of the Plank road, in the rear of the right of General Williams' division and in front of the division artillery, the right of each line resting on the road.
At daylight on Sunday morning, I received orders from the general-in-chief in person to withdraw from my position on the flank, and march my command by the most practicable route to Fairview, and there occupy the new line of intrenchments along the skirt of the woods perpendicular to and on either side of the Plank road, my artillery to occupy the field-works on the crest of the hill, in the rear of the lines of battle. Major-General Berry I found already in position in the front line, with the Second Division, connecting on his left with Williams' division (Twelfth Corps). An examination of his dispositions left me nothing to desire. General Whipple commenced the movement from the Wilderness by the left flank, preceded by the artillery of his own and Birney's divisions, except Huntington's battery, which was well posted on the right flank, to cover the withdrawal of the columns. Birney followed in good order. When the rear of his column (Graham's brigade) had descended the ravine, the enemy assailed Graham fiercely, and charged Huntington's battery, but were handsomely repulsed. Directing a battery to open fire from the crest of a hill to the left of the Fairview house, and a brigade to be formed in column of regiments within supporting distance of Graham, he was withdrawn in good order, although not without considerable loss. Huntington's battery, of Whipple's division, swept with a most destructive fire the plain on which the rebels deployed for their attack on Graham. In withdrawing over the branches of Scott's Run, this battery lost some of its horses and material.
Along the heights in front of Fairview, commencing near the Plank road on the right, were Dimick's and Osborn's batteries; near the dwelling, Randolph's and Clark's were posted; on the extreme left of the crest, Seeley, Lewis, Livingston, and Puttkammer in reserve. Huntington was sent to the ford. The Third (Mott's) Brigade, Second Division, after the retreat of the Third Maryland Regiment, moved forward to the breastwork, by command of General Mott, and drove the enemy back upon himself with incalculable slaughter. The Fifth New Jersey advanced into the woods beyond the line of breastworks, capturing many prisoners and colors. The Seventh New Jersey on the left vied with the Fifth in repelling the rebel masses. Graham's brigade (the One hundred and fourteenth, Fifty-seventh, Sixty-third, Sixty-eighth, One hundred and fifth, and One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Infantry) was almost immediately sent to the front to relieve one of General Slocum's brigades, which was reported to me to be without ammunition. The First Brigade (Colonel Franklin commanding), of Whipple's division, in two lines (the One hundred and twenty-fourth and Eighty-sixth New York and One hundred and twenty-second Pennsylvania), supported Berry, on the right of the Plank road, most gallantly. The battery on the left of the road and in rear of the line having been withdrawn, these regiments relieved the front line on the left of the road, and by a brilliant charge drove back the enemy, who were coming down the road and over our breastworks. It was in this charge that the intrepid Lieutenant-Colonel Chapin and Major Higgins were wounded, the former mortally. The Second Brigade, Colonel Bowman commanding (the Twelfth New Hampshire, Colonel Potter; One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Crowther commanding, and Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Opp commanding), formed the third line in front and to the left of the batteries at Fairview. These troops behaved with the utmost gallantry, and were boldly led, maintaining their ground to the last under the most adverse circumstances. Their loss was necessarily severe. Besides Lieutenant-Colonel Crowther, who was killed, Colonel Potter, Lieutenant-Colonel Maish, and Major Savage, of the Twelfth New Hampshire, and Major Jones, One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, were all dangerously wounded.
The sharpshooters, under Colonel Berdan, supported the First Brigade on the right, throwing out a strong line of skirmishers to the front in the woods. These splendid light troops rendered the most effective service. Major Hastings was severely wounded while upon this duty with his battalion.
The vigor and tenacity of the enemy's attack seemed to concentrate more and more upon my lines near the Plank road and on my left flank. As fast as their lines were broken by the terrible fire of artillery and musketry, fresh columns were deployed. My last reserve (Ward's brigade, of Birney's division) had been sent to support Berry, on the right of the Plank road, but that heroic commander had fallen in the thickest of the fight, while Ward was on his way, who failed to get into position before the enemy had turned Berry's left flank, which was held by the Third Maryland, of the Twelfth Corps.
Thirty cannon, in a commanding position and admirably served, inflicted terrible blows upon the enemy. Often repulsed by the concentration of this fire, and by repeated charges of infantry, his unexhausted reserves enabled him to press forward rather in crowds than in any regular formation.
My last round of ammunition having been expended, except canister, which could not be used on account of the position of our own troops, the artillery retired toward Chancellorsville and took a new position. The infantry, except that portion of the Second Division which General Revere without authority led to the rear, was then reformed under my own supervision, and while being supplied with ammunition took up a second position on the plain in the rear of Fairview, the front line occupying the artillery breastworks.
It was here that the First Brigade (Franklin's), of the Third Division, vied with the Third Brigade (Mott's), Second Division, in its repeated assaults upon the enemy. Charge after charge was made by this gallant brigade, under Colonel Sewell, Fifth New Jersey, upon whom the command devolved (after the loss of General Mott and Colonel Park, Second New York Volunteers, wounded), before it was withdrawn, terribly reduced and mutilated, from the post assigned it. Its stern resistance to the impulsive assaults of the enemy, and the brilliant charges made in return, were worthy of the "Old Guard." No soldier could refuse a tribute of admiration in remembrance of the last charge made. A small body, for a regiment, drove the enemy out of the rifle-pits near Fairview before withdrawing, and returned with 40 men, whose sole reliance in this charge was in the bayonet, every cartridge having been expended moments before.
Finally, retiring to Chancellorsville, I reformed in three lines on the right of Major-General Hancock, of Couch's corps; Lewis' battery, four pieces of Seeley's, and a section of Randolph's, under Lieutenant Bucklyn, took position about half-way between Chancellorsville and Fairview, and, although exposed to a terrible fire, were effectively served until not a round of ammunition was left. The severe loss in men and horses now rendered the withdrawal of my batteries imperative--Seeley, as he fell back, bringing with him all the harness from 30 or 40 of his dead and wounded horses, leaving no trophy of his battery on the field except the memorable loss it had inflicted on the enemy.
Graham's (Pennsylvania) brigade had gallantly held the left for two hours, driving the enemy with the bayonet out of some barricades he had taken early in the action. The right giving way toward the Plank road, General Birney, in person, led a portion of Hayman's brigade to the charge, driving the enemy back in confusion, capturing several hundred prisoners, and relieving Graham from a flank movement of the enemy, which exposed him to great peril, when he withdrew in good order.
After the fall of the lamented Berry, some confusion occurred in the withdrawal of the Second Division, owing to the assumption of command by Brigadier-General Revere, who, heedless of their murmurs, shamefully led to the rear the whole of the Second Brigade and portions of two others, thus subjecting these proud soldiers for the first time to the humiliation of being marched to the rear while their comrades were under fire. General Revere was promptly recalled with his troops, and at once relieved of command.
Although the stubborn resistance made by the Second Division to the heavy column of the enemy could not, unsupported, have been protracted much longer for the want of ammunition, there is no doubt that part of my line was needlessly exposed by the premature and hasty retirement of the Third Maryland Regiment, which had at daybreak relieved the Fourth Excelsior, on the left of the Plank road. The enemy seized the advantage instantly, and, penetrating my line in the center, near the road, exposed the wings to a fearful enfilading fire. If Ward had not unfortunately failed to get into position, this might have been averted for some time, at least. The claim of Revere to command, added to the hesitation of Colonel McAllister, of the Eleventh New Jersey, to recognize the orders of Captain Poland, chief of staff, lost us precious moments of time, and before I could reach that part of the field from the left, where I was then occupied, the position had been yielded by the infantry, the artillery having a few minutes before exhausted its ammunition and retired.
The front line near the Plank road early in the morning comprised, beginning on the left of the road, the Third Maryland (Twelfth Corps), First Massachusetts, Fifth Excelsior, One hundred and twentieth New York, the Second, First, and Third Excelsior, and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania (Second Division, Third Corps). This line gallantly resisted the assaults of the enemy for more than an hour, when its left was turned, and Colonel Stevens, of the Second Brigade, in the absence of General Revere, changed front to repel the advance of the enemy on the flank. Before the movement was completed, this brilliant officer fell, mortally wounded. Captain [H. J.] Bliss and several men who approached to remove him from the field were wounded. Then followed a fierce hand-to-hand struggle for the colors of the Regiment (the Third Excelsior); they were seized by the enemy, but every rebel who touched them was either shot or bayoneted, and the brave Stevens saw his colors proudly borne to the next position assigned to the regiment.
With the exception of his artillery, which sustained its fire and advanced toward Fairview, there was nothing like ardor--indeed, there was every indication of exhaustion--in the advance of the enemy after occupying our lines at Fairview.
I took at least 400 prisoners, including many officers, as I retired slowly upon Chancellorsville. There was no serious demonstration by the enemy's infantry on my artillery or supports after it had taken a second position near the brick mansion, which had been occupied as the headquarters of the general-in-chief until it was set on fire by the enemy's shells. It would not have been difficult to regain the lost ground with the bayonet, as I proposed to do, but the attempt was not deemed expedient (for the want of supports to hold it) by the senior officer present upon that part of the field, upon whom the direction of operations in front had devolved in the temporary absence of the general-in chief.
In conformity with orders, I marched my command in several columns, by the flank, to the junction of Ely's and the United States Fords roads, taking position as supports to General Meade. These dispositions were afterward changed by order of the general in-chief, by whose direction I moved to the front of the new lines near the white house, connecting with General Meade on the right and General Couch on the left. Here we intrenched, and, after throwing forward strong lines of supports for the artillery in my front (thirty cannon in position, under the direction of Captain Randolph, my chief of artillery), I massed my reserves in the woods in columns by divisions, opening débouchés in all directions. These works were begun under an annoying fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, who were soon handsomely driven by Berdan, to whom the outposts were confided, but not until the brave and accomplished Brig. Gen. A. W. Whipple, commanding Third Division, had fallen, mortally wounded, while directing in person the construction of field-works in his front.
These dispositions continued until Wednesday morning, a deluging rainstorm intervening, which caused a great and sudden rise in the Rappahannock and its tributaries, endangering our bridges and making the roads impracticable for trains. The supply of rations had become so reduced as to render an advance impossible without our trains.
During Tuesday afternoon and night, my pioneers, under the energetic direction of Captain Briscoe, aide-de-camp to General Birney, made a road 2 rods wide, through 3 miles of forest, to the United States Ford.
At daylight I was ordered to follow the artillery simultaneously with the Fifth and First Corps, these to be followed by the Second Corps as fast as the covering column closed in on its left, and this corps in turn to be followed by the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps in the same order. This movement was thrown into some confusion and its success imperiled by the premature withdrawal of the pickets of the Fifth Corps and the premature movement of the Second and Eleventh Corps, the former taking my bridge, on the right, and crossing the river in advance of my First Division.
My command having been withdrawn in good order, Colonel McLaughlen, First Massachusetts Infantry, general officer of outposts, reported to me near the ford with the outpost detail, and my column, after passing without confusion or loss to the north side of the Rappahannock, moved to the old camps at Boscobel and Bellair, which they reached during the afternoon of the 6th.
Herewith I have the honor to transmit nominal and tabular returns of casualties, together with the reports of division and brigade commanders and the chief of artillery. In none of the sanguinary combats in which the troops of this corps have been engaged have they had better opportunities than on Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3, to inflict great injury upon the enemy and to render signal service to this army and the cause. Soldiers and commanders performed their duties with ardor, alacrity, and devotion. As long as the history of this war shall be read, conspicuous upon its pages will be the record of the achievements and the sacrifices of the Third Army Corps in the battles of the Wilderness and of Fairview. The most difficult and painful of duties remains to be performed--an appropriate tribute to the fallen and the just commendation of those most distinguished for good conduct. Such losses as those of Berry, Stevens, McKnight, Lancaster, Crowther, and Dimick, are irreparable. It is a consolation to know that they and their noble associates among the dead did not fall unrevenged, for in the loss of Jackson and Hill, and the flower of the rebel army on Saturday and Sunday, the enemy learned to respect the prowess of the Third Army Corps.
I shall fail in giving adequate expression to the obligations I feel toward division, brigade, regimental, and battery commanders. The gallantry of Whipple was gracefully acknowledged by his promotion before his wound proved to be mortal. The dashing leadership of Birney has already received a like recognition. The chivalrous Berry proved but too soon how well he had deserved the highest rank in our service, and I trust that Pleasonton's brilliant conduct on Saturday--calm in the midst of tumult, and full of resources when others yielded to the pervading dismay--may be the occasion of his deserved advancement. General Carr, commanding Second Division, temporarily; General Graham, commanding Third Division, temporarily; General Mort, of the New Jersey brigade (who was seriously wounded); Colonel Sewell, who succeeded to the command; Colonels Bowman and Berdan, commanding brigades in the Third Division; Colonel Potter, Twelfth New Hampshire, (dangerously wounded); Colonel Blaisdell, Eleventh Massachusetts; Colonel Egan, Fortieth New York; Colonel Ellis, One hundred and Twenty-fourth New York, and Colonel Tilghman, Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania (dangerously wounded), deserve especial mention for the gallant and skillful handling of their several commands.
My artillery was served with such uniform ability and power that to discriminate among the battery commanders is not a little embarrassing. I must refer you on this subject to the report of Captain Randolph, than whom it would be difficult to name a more accomplished, judicious, and energetic chief of artillery. Osborn and Clark, chiefs of the First and Second Divisions, sustained their reputations as cool and reliable officers. Lewis established a high name for his battery; Seeley was pre-eminent, as usual; Dimick won the applause of commanders and comrades by his heroic conduct, and there is nothing in war more splendid than the exploit of Lieutenant Sanderson, of Battery H, First U.S. Artillery, who advanced with a limber through a storm of musketry, disdaining death, and withdrew the last gun of his battery from the grasp of the enemy.
In compliance with orders, I shall forward at an early day a list of recommendations for brevets and promotions.
The staff departments, upon which so much depends, present no ordinary claim to consideration. The medical director, Dr. Sire, already distinguished for unsurpassed zeal and ability, was ever at his post and always efficient.
The ambulance corps, under the direction of Lieut. J. R. Moore, deserves the very highest praise. More than 2,000 of my wounded were in the hospitals at Potomac Creek, 15 miles from the front, on Tuesday, May 5. (Lieutenant Webster joined in season to take charge of the removal of the wounded under the flag of truce.)
The chief commissary of subsistence, Lieutenant-Colonel Woods, discharged all his duties satisfactorily. Captain [Harrison D. F.] Young, chief ordnance officer, always prompt and foremost, was reluctantly compelled by indisposition to remain with his trains in the rear.
To Lieutenant-Colonel Hayden, inspector general; Captain Randolph, chief of artillery; Lieutenant-Colonel [Orson H.] Hart, assistant adjutant general; Major Tremain, aide-de-camp; Captain Fry, aide-de-camp (seriously wounded); Captains Briscoe and Fassitt, of General Birney's staff; Lieut. W. C. Banks, deputy provost marshal; Lieutenant Moore, ambulance officer and volunteer aide-de-camp; Lieutenant [Jeannotte] Macduff, aide-de camp, and Mr. T. M. Cook, a civilian who volunteered his services early on Saturday, I am under the greatest obligations for the gallantry, intelligence, and zeal with which their laborious and important duties were performed.
Capt. George E. Randolph, chief of artillery; Maj. H. E. Tremain, aide-de-camp; Lieut. Col. Julius Hayden, inspector-general (major Tenth U.S. Infantry), and Capt. T. W.G. Fry, commissary of subsistence and aide-de-camp, are earnestly recommended for brevets.
The fall of Berry and Whipple deprived them of the opportunity of doing justice to the conspicuous merit and gallantry of their respective staffs. I am sure that I only give expression to the feelings of these commanders while they lived when I commend to the notice of the general-in-chief the distinguished conduct of Captain [John S.] Poland, inspector-general and chief of staff of the Second Division, and of Capt. Le Grand Benedict, assistant adjutant-general, of the Second Division; also of Captain [Henry R.] Dalton and the other members of General Whipple's accomplished staff. I shall have the honor again to solicit attention to their claims when forwarding in detail my list of recommendations for promotions and brevets.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. E. SICKLES,
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