Report of Brig. Gen. A. R. Wright, C. S. Army, Commanding Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
CAMP NEAR GUINEY'S STATION, VA.,
May 13, 1863.
Maj. THOMAS S. MILLS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Anderson's Division.
MAJOR: I herewith inclose a report of the part taken by my brigade in the recent engagements near Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, together with a correct list of casualties sustained by this command.
At 10.15 a.m. on the 29th ultimo, I received orders to move with my command to or near Hamilton's Crossing, and within supporting distance of General Early's left. I immediately put my brigade in motion, and at 12 m. reached the position indicated, with my right near to Early's left. Here I remained until late in the afternoon, when, in obedience to orders from Major-General Anderson, I moved my command near to his headquarters on the Military road. Here we bivouacked, as we hoped, for the night, but at 12 o'clock I was ordered to move rapidly with my command to Chancellorsville, distant some 12 or 15 miles, where I would report to Major-General Anderson. During a drenching rain and impenetrable darkness, we commenced the march, and, moving by the Fredericksburg and Orange Plank road, at daylight on Thursday, May 30, I reported in person the arrival of my brigade at Chancellorsville. Here I received orders to retrace my steps and fall back toward Fredericksburg as far as the crossing of the Old Mine road on the Plank road, and there await the approach of the enemy, then reported as advancing in heavy force by the Ely's Ford and Germanna roads.
At 8 a.m. I reached the desired position, and formed line of battle on a range of hills in rear of Hopewell Nursery, with my right resting upon the Plank road. My men had marched 27 miles in less than twenty-one hours, and most of the time in a heavy rain and through deep mud, and when I halted were almost completely exhausted. After a hasty reconnaissance of the position, I concluded to change my line to the crest of a range of hills upon which the small-pox hospital and an old church were situated, and about three-fourths of a mile in rear of my first position. Here I formed as before, with my right resting upon the Plank road and my left upon the Fredericksburg and Gordonsville Railroad. During the afternoon, having received a few intrenching tools, I commenced digging a line of rifle.pits in front of my position, and, by working during the whole night, I had by 7 o'clock on Friday morning my entire line well protected, having also during the night kept a detail at work throwing up an epaulement for two pieces of artillery on the right of the Plank road.
No enemy having appeared in sight in front of my position, at about noon on Friday, May l, I was ordered to move my brigade up the Plank road, and, feeling for the enemy, to drive him before me, should he be found. Having proceeded about I mile, my skirmishers became engaged with the enemy's advance, who began very soon to give way, while I pressed forward with the main body of my command until, having reached within 1 or 2 miles of Chancellorsville, I discovered the enemy in considerable force occupying a position on both sides of the Plank road, along the skirt of a heavy forest, with a large clearing in his front. At this point, by command of Lieutenant-General Jackson, [E. P.] Alexander's battalion of artillery was placed in position, and, supported by my brigade, opened a heavy fire upon the enemy's line. Meanwhile I threw forward a strong body of skirmishers from the Third Georgia Regiment on both sides of the road, and, pushing them well to the front, those on the right soon became actively engaged with a considerable body of the enemy's infantry. The firing continuing very heavy on my right, I ordered Captain [George S.] Jones' company, Second Georgia Battalion, to the support of Company H, Third Georgia Regiment, then on the right. In a very few minutes the enemy began to give way, and Captain Jones continued to press them for some distance through the dense wood.
About the middle of the afternoon I received orders from General Anderson to move my brigade across and to the left of the Plank road, and, bearing well off from the road, endeavor to get upon the enemy's right flank and rear. I immediately commenced the movement, and, reaching the Gordonsville and Fredericksburg Railroad, I moved rapidly up that road, keeping Captain [R. J.] Wilson's company, Forty-eighth Georgia Regiment, and Captain [E. G.] Scruggs' company, Twenty-second [Forty-eighth] Georgia Regiment, well in advance as skirmishers.
About 6 p.m. I reached Welford's Iron Furnace, 1 miles southwest of Chancellorsville, where I found Major-General Stuart, who informed me that the enemy in considerable force were occupying the thick woods north of and near the furnace, in the direction of Chancellorsville. I immediately prepared to give him battle, and ordered Lieutenant-Colo-nel [R. W.] Carsell, commanding Forty-eighth Georgia Regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel [.J.] Wasden, commanding Twenty-second Georgia Regiment, to move cautiously forward through the almost impenetrable forest, with one company from each regiment thrown forward as skirmishers, and, finding the enemy, to press him vigorously. The Third Georgia Regiment and Second Georgia Battalion I held in reserve, to be used as occasion might require. Lieutenant-Colonels Carswell and Wasden, moving rapidly forward, were soon engaged with a heavy force of the enemy's infantry, and the firing for a few minutes was very severe. Through this heavy fire Carswell and Wasden continued to press, and their gallant commands soon cleared the woods, and, reaching the edge of an open field, charged upon and drove the enemy up a high hill in rear of a farm-house, where he took shelter under cover of a dense pine thicket. Fearing lest my small command should fall into a Yankee trap, I ordered my line to halt, and dispatched a messenger to General Stuart, asking that he send me a portion of his artillery, under cover of whose fire I intended again to charge the enemy, unless our artillery should show them to be in very greatly superior force. Some time elapsed before our guns could be got into position, owing to the character of the ground and the very bad roads over which they had to pass, and it was nearly sunset before we opened our fire. Immediately the enemy responded with two heavy batteries, one immediately in front and one upon our right, and very soon a third opened upon us from a high hill on our left. Our guns replied with spirit, but owing to the superior number of guns opposed to them, and their advantageous position, the result was not as favorable to us as I had hoped and anticipated. Ascertaining the locality of the enemy's guns, I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Carswell to move off by his left flank through a deep ravine near the edge of the field in which the enemy's guns were posted, and, gaining the right and rear of the enemy's battery upon our left, to charge upon and take it. But owing to the near approach of night, and the dense undergrowth through which he had to pass, it was found impossible to accomplish my object, and at dark the firing ceased on both sides, and I withdrew my men; and, in obedience to orders from Lieutenant-General Jackson (received through Major-General Stuart), I marched by the Furnace road, and at 11 p.m. rejoined my division, then on the Plank road, about 1 mile from Chancellorsville.
My loss during the day amounted to 2 killed and 22 wounded. The enemy's loss I had no means of discovering, as I left the scene of conflict so soon, but it must have been very considerable, including quite a number of prisoners.
Early on Saturday morning, the 2d instant, I was ordered to form my brigade on the left of and perpendicular to the Plank road, with my right resting upon it, keeping one regiment deployed as skirmishers well to the front in the dense woods. In this position I continued until 2 p.m., when I received orders to move quickly in the direction of the iron furnace to the support of General Posey, who was then threatened by a heavy force of the Yankees. Just at this time the enemy advanced two full brigades upon the Third Georgia Regiment, deployed as skirmishers in my front, and commenced a fire upon that regiment. I was compelled to leave it unsupported; but, reporting promptly the fact to the major-general commanding the division, I proceeded rapidly to the support of General Posey, whose brigade I found in line extending on both sides of the road to the furnace, and distant from the latter about 1,000 yards. The enemy appeared in considerable force upon the hills around the furnace, and had a strong line of sharpshooters advanced as far as the small run which flows at the foot of the Furnace Hill. After a brief consultation with General Posey, I formed my brigade on his right, with my line extending well to the right in the direction of the left of the Third Georgia Regiment, left, as before stated, hotly engaged by a large force of the enemy. The firing continuing so incessant and terrific in the direction of the latter regiment, I dispatched a messenger to Major [John F.] Jones, commanding, to ascertain the condition of things in his immediate front, and to inform him of my readiness to re-enforce him if he should require it, but ordering him to hold his position at all hazards, as he held the key to our whole line in this quarter. Having received an answer from Major Jones that he was not only able to hold his own against the terrible odds to which he was opposed, but that he was actually advancing upon and driving the enemy before him, I drew in my line upon the left and concentrated the balance of my brigade there, in order to co-operate more favorably with Posey, who was about this time threatened with a heavy force which was seen advancing down the hill from the furnace, and approaching his position with loud cheers. This was about dark on Saturday, and as the enemy's threatened movement against General Posey was not made, I again directed my attention in the direction of Major Jones' position, on my right. Shortly after dark the firing ceased along my whole front, and at 8.30 p.m. Major Jones' Third Georgia Regiment, having been relieved from its position in the woods as skirmishers, returned to the brigade, and was formed upon its right.
My loss during the day was very slight, though I regret to add that some of my men, who were wounded the day before and left at the furnace in hospital, were to-day captured, together with two ambulances which had been sent up to bring them off. When the depot for my wounded was established at the furnace, it was at least a mile within our lines, but by some means unknown to me the enemy retook the position on this day (Saturday, the 2d), and thus got possession of some of my wounded men.
Early on Sunday morning, I received orders to advance my brigade through the woods in the direction of Chancellorsville, connecting my right with General Mahone's left and my left with General Posey's right. This gave me a line of over a mile to cover with less than 1,600 men. I soon found that this was entirely impracticable, and pushed forward through the woods, endeavoring to keep equidistant from Mahone and Posey, keeping my flanks protected by a strong line of skirmishers and flankers. In this order I moved steadily on, my right about three-fourths of a mile to the left of the Plank road, until I full upon a strong body of Yankee infantry posted in the woods about one-half mile in the front (as I afterward discovered) of a strong line of rifle-pits, protected by abatis formed by the felling of the thick forest timber for some distance in front of their intrenchments. Quickly engaging the enemy with vigor, he gave way, and I pursued him up and into his strong works. Here my small command encountered the most terrible fire of artillery and musketry I have ever witnessed, and our farther advance was temporarily checked.
About this time firing on my left was heard, and I felt assured Posey was up to his work. Not having heard from or of General Mahone, I dispatched an officer of my staff to seek him and inform him of my position, and beg him to move forward to my support. Immediately after this messenger left me, Major [Fielding L.] Taylor, an officer in command of General Mahone's line of skirmishers, approached me, and informed me that he knew nothing of the locality of General Mahone's brigade, except when last heard from it was very far in the rear, and that he (Taylor) should wait or fall back with his skirmishers until he could be brought near to his brigade. I urged him not to do so, as I had just sent word to General Mahone informing him of the condition of things in front, and urging him to come to my support, and which I thought he would speedily do. Directly after this, Major Taylor left me, and I saw no more of him or General Mahone's forces during the day.
Being thus without support on my right, I determined to move a little toward the left, where I continued to hear Posey's fire, and ordered Major Jones, with his Third Georgia Regiment, to deploy his line, and, pushing up to the enemy's works, examine his position and report. About this time the firing far on the left of Posey's position became heavy, and I felt assured that Jackson was advancing there. Major Jones moved his regiment rapidly up to within a few rods of the enemy's works, where, pressed by Posey and Perry on my immediate left, and Jackson farther on, the Yankees gave way, and fled from their intrenchments. We pressed forward, and immediately occupied them, although on my right the enemy still retained possession of their works, and opened a pretty sharp fire of shell and musketry upon us as we took possession of their abandoned rifle-pits. I was then ordered by Major-General Anderson to move up the Third Georgia Regiment and dislodge the enemy's sharpshooters on our right, and then push forward for the enemy's battery which was so incessantly playing upon us. The order was given, and the Third Georgia commenced its movement along the line of rifle-pits toward the Plank road, led by Major Jones. In a few minutes he received a severe wound in the right arm (since amputated), and the command devolved upon Captain [C. H.] Andrews, who continued to advance until, having reached the Plank road, about 200 yards from Chancellorsville, I ordered him to charge the enemy, then in some confusion around and in the rear of the brick house. This charge was made with spirit, and the enemy fled, leaving us in entire possession of his strong position. At this point we captured 3 pieces of artillery and 8 caissons, and about 300 prisoners. I immediately reformed my brigade (now somewhat scattered in running through the woods and timber) along the road in front of the brick house, and ordered four companies of the Third Georgia forward on both sides of the Ely's Ford road as skirmishers to feel for the fleeing foe.
Soon as I had my line formed and ready to press on, I reported the fact to Major-General Anderson, who, with General Lee, had -ridden upon the field, and then received orders to move down the Plank road for a few rods and await further orders. Meantime my skirmishers had overtaken the running Yankees, and had succeeded in capturing an entire Yankee regiment (the Twenty-seventh Connecticut), with all its field officers and about 600 or 700 men. I continued to scour the woods for an hour or two, and captured quite a number of straggling Yankees.
Late in the afternoon I was ordered down a byroad in the direction of United States Ford, following Posey's brigade. Nothing of importance occurred during this march, and at night we bivouacked near Childs' farm. My loss during this day was pretty severe, amounting to 17 killed and 163 wounded, including in the list of killed some of my best officers.
On Monday morning, I received orders to move back up the road toward Chancellorsville until I reached the Turnpike road, and from thence was ordered down the turnpike to Salem Church, 5 miles above Fredericksburg, which point we reached about noon, when I halted to receive further orders. Major-General Anderson then directed me to move off to the right of the road, and, passing well to the left of the enemy's line, to take position on the slope of the hills in rear of Downman's farm. Here I formed line of battle, my right upon the left of Hoke's brigade, of Early's division, Posey's right upon my left. The enemy were in position along the north slope of the ridge upon which Downman's house stands, with a strong line of sharpshooters occupying the crest of the ridge and the house and fencing around Downman's yard, with heavy batteries on the hills in their rear. At the appointed signal, just before sunset, I moved forward by the right flank around to the right of the hill on which I had formed, and, passing up a ravine came upon the border of the open field in rear of Downman's house, about 400 yards from it, and here, rapidly forming in line, I charged across the fields, swept by the house, and reached the woods opposite, driving the enemy before me like chaff. Arriving at the skirt of the woods, I halted my command (fearing, if I proceeded farther in that direction, I should encounter Wofford's brigade, which I had been informed would advance in that direction), and sent a messenger to General Anderson informing him of my position, from whom I received instructions to wait in my then position for further orders. During this time the enemy kept up a murderous fire along my whole line, and with considerable effect. I remained in this position until dark, subjected to this murderous fire, without being able to respond to the enemy's guns.
Between 8 and 9 o'clock I was ordered to move up to the Plank road and form on Posey's left, which I did, and soon after we moved down the road in the direction of Banks' Ford, Posey in advance. After proceeding 2 or 3 miles, we were ordered to halt, and were then ordered by Major-General Anderson to bivouac for the night.
My loss during this day was considerable, amounting to 6 killed and 83 wounded.
On Tuesday, the 5th instant, about 2 p.m., I received orders to move my command immediately up the Plank road to Chancellorsville. I commenced the march at once, in one of the hardest rains I have ever seen, and which continued with less violence during the whole afternoon. At dark we encamped about 1 miles from Chancellorsville, and early next (Wednesday) morning we marched to Chancellorsville, and from thence down the Ely's Ford road to a point just behind Brooke's house. Here we were halted until about noon, when I was ordered to retrace my steps (the Yankees having retired beyond the river) and take my men into their camp in the rear of Fredericksburg. Thus ended the eight days of marching and fighting.
I cannot, in justice to the brave men composing this command, close my brief report without expressing my highest admiration for their splendid conduct during this eventful week. No man ever led better or braver soldiers. The Twenty-second Georgia, Lieutenant-Colonel Wasden, and the Forty-eighth Georgia, Lieutenant-Colonel Carswell, on Friday near the iron furnace acted with distinguished coolness and courage, driving a vastly superior force of the Yankees for nearly a mile, and only relinquished farther pursuit by receiving orders from me to halt. On the same day, Company H, Captain [L. F.] Luckie, of the Third Georgia, and Company B, Captain [George S.] Jones, of the Second Georgia Battalion, performed efficient and valuable service as skirmishers during the advance and firing on the Plank road.
On Saturday, the Third Georgia sustained its former reputation in engaging and actually repulsing two brigades of the enemy on the left of the Plank road, near Chancellorsville.
On Sunday, at Chancellorsville, and again on Monday afternoon, near Fredericksburg, the entire command evinced the most heroic fortitude and chivalric daring, charging in both instances and routing the Yankee infantry under a deadly fire from the enemy's batteries. To Lieutenant-Colonel Wasden, Lieutenant-Colonel Carswell, Major [George. W.] Ross, and Major Jones, and the skillful officers and brave men of their commands, is the country in no small degree indebted for the splendid results of the week.
This command and the country have to deplore the untimely loss of Captain [F. M.] Heath, of the Twenty-second Georgia; Captain[William N.] Kendrick and First Lieutenant [William A.] Spier, of the Forty-eighth Georgia, who were killed on Sunday near Chancellorsville.
To Captain [V. J. B.] Girardey, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant [William] Hazlehurst, and Captain [R. H.]. Bell, aides-de-camp, I am greatly indebted for their valuable and efficient services during all the week's operations.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. R. WRIGHT,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.
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