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Doc. 58.-battle of Chancellorsville, Va.

Brigadier-General Howe's report.1

headquarters Second division, Sixth corps, May 10, 1863.
Lieutenant-Colonel McMahon, Assistant Adjutant-General Sixth Corps:
sir: I have the honor to report the operations of the Second division, Sixth corps, from the time it crossed the Rappahannock on the evening of the second of May, until it recrossed on the night of the fourth and fifth of May.

The division crossed the river early in the evening of the second, and about twelve that night I received notice to march in rear of General Newton's division to Fredericksburgh. About three A. M., the rear of General Newton's division marched, and the head of my column reached Hazel Run some time after daylight, uninterrupted except by the troops in front. About eleven o'clock A. M. on the third, I received notice from the commanding officer of the Sixth corps that he was about to attack the enemy's position between Hazel Run and Fredericksburgh, and wished me to assist. I immediately formed three storming columns, the first column commanded by General Neill, composed of the Seventh Maine, Lieutenant-Colonel Conner, the Seventy-seventh New-York, Lieutenant-Colonel French, the Thirty-third New-York, Colonel Taylor, and a portion of the Twenty-first New-Jersey, Lieutenant-Colonel Mettler. The second column, under the command of Colonel Grant, Acting Brigadier-General, was composed of the Second Vermont, Colonel Woolbridge the Sixth Vermont, Colonel Barney, and the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey, Colonel Morrison. The third column was composed of the Third Vermont, Colonel Seaver, the Fourth Vermont, Colonel Stoughton, and a portion of the Twenty-first New-Jersey, Colonel Van Hauten, led by Colonel Seaver, of the Third Vermont.

I also placed the division artillery in favorable range, and where they could have an effective fire upon the enemy's works, at the same time allowing the most practicable lines of advance for our assaulting columns, so that they would not interfere with the line of artillery fire.

As soon as the fire was heard on my right I opened my artillery fire with full force, and advanced the two columns under Neill and Grant with the bayonet on Cemetery Hill. This point was gallantly carried without any check to our columns.

From this point Neill's and Grant's columns were moved to assault, on our right, the main work on Marye Hill. I at once brought all the division artillery to bear upon the works on those heights, and advanced the column led by Colonel Seaver to make an assault, on our left, of the same work.

Neill's column charged and successfully carried the strong covered way leading from the first work on Marye Heights to Hazel Run, and then threw itself to the right and rear of the work. Grant's point of assault was on our right and front, while Seaver's was on our left.

The enemy kept up his artillery and infantry fire upon our columns, doing some execution, but wholly failing to check any one of them. Each of our columns gallantly dashed on and carried with the bayonet the first work and then successfully the three other works on the Heights, taking two stands of arms, all of the armament of the works, except one section of a field battery, some two hundred prisoners, and all the enemy's camp equipage.

Much credit is due to Captain Martin, commanding regular battery, and Captain Cowen, commanding the New-York battery, for the skill and efficiency with which they worked their batteries. The severe and well-directed fire which they poured upon the enemy's works very materially impaired the force of the enemy's fire upon our storming columns.

I desire specially to mention General Neill, Colonel Grant, and Colonel Seaver for the gallant and intrepid manner in which they led the storming [283] columns to the assault. Nothing has been more handsomely or successfully done. My thanks are due to Major Mundee, Assistant Adjutant-General; Lieutenant Egerton, Aid-decamp; Lieutenant-Colonel Stone, Division Inspector; Lieutenant Hoag, Division Commissary; Lieutenant Cole, Provost-Marshal; and Lieutenant Matlock, Commissioner of Musters, for the able assistance they gave me in preparing and executing the attack.

Soon after the attack was completed, I received orders to move my division on the Chancellorsville road, and join the other divisions of the corps. I did so, and after marching some three miles from Fredericksburgh, the advance of the corps became engaged. I soon received orders to throw my division to the left to check a flank attack. I did so. No flank attack being made, and night coming on, I encamped my division on the road.

Early on the morning of the fourth, the enemy showed himself on my left and rear, on the Richmond and Fredericksburgh road. I then threw back my left, resting it on the river, between Fredericksburgh and Banks's Ford, my right resting on the Chancellorsville road, and connecting with the division on my right. My line was now some two miles in length, with less than six thousand men upon it. About eleven A. M. the enemy in force attacked my right centre. This attack was successfully repulsed by a portion of General Neill's brigade and Martin's battery, in which repulse three companies of the Nineteenth New-York and one of the Seventh Maine gallantly captured a stand of colors and between one and two hundred prisoners.

About one P. M., I received reliable information that the enemy was assembling a force largely outnumbering my division, immediately in rear of Fredericksburgh, for another attack.

After the repulse which the enemy had met with in the morning, I expected, if he made a second attack, it would be mainly directed on my left. I therefore carefully examined the ground, and made arrangements so that in case my left was unable to hold its position, it could fall back some little distance behind the left of a small covering of wood which was immediately in rear of the centre of my first line. In this covering of wood I held a portion of my reserve force ready, in case the enemy should force my left, to make a flank attack, should he attempt to advance.

My first line was held by General Mills's brigade, strengthened by two regiments of Colonel Grant's brigade. About five P. M. the enemy advanced with a strong line of battle, and attacked my left and centre, and followed this with a heavy column upon my left. The attack from the enemy's left was successfully broken, and my right advancing, we succeeding in taking a large number of prisoners, among them twenty-one officers and nearly all of the men of the Eighth Louisiana regiment. I then immediately withdrew a portion of my force to my right, and reenforced my left, and sent to the corps commanders for additional force. At this time our left was vigorously and stubbornly contending against large odds, and after contesting the ground as long as advantageous, our artillery and its support moved a short distance to the rear to the position before indicated.

At this time Lieutenant Butter's regular battery and two regiments reported to me, and were quickly thrown into position on our left. The enemy apparently thinking our left was giving way, rallied and confidently advanced until they brought their flank opposite the wood, in which was placed those sterling soldiers of the Vermont brigade at the favorable moment. This brigade opened its fire upon the flank of the enemy's columns, and immediately the batteries in front opened a direct fire. The effect of this flank and direct fire upon the enemy was most marked. In a short time not a hostile shot came into our lines. Darkness now came on, but soon the moon rose and again lighted up the field, and not a rebel could be seen between our lines and the heights of Fredericksburgh.

At half-past 10 P. M., I was ordered to move the division back to Banks's Ford, and that night the division recrossed the Rappahannock. Great credit is again due our artillery for their services in repulsing the attack. In the action of Guest's farm the section under Lieutenant Simon, Fifth artillery, and Captain Rigsby's battery, were largely instrumental in breaking the attack of the enemy's left, and the artillery on our left, under Captain Martin, was used with great effect in checking the advance of the enemy on that point, and afterward in connection with Lieutenant Butler's battery, in wholly breaking the attack.

I would again make mention of the efficient services of Brigadier-General Neill and Colonel Grant, commanding brigades. The great extent of our line, and the large odds with which we were attacked, rendered it necessary during the action to make several important charges, all of which they successfully and skilfully executed. Brigadier-General Neill, although partially disabled by being fallen upon by his horse, which was shot under him, continued in command of his brigade until the action was over.

My thanks are again due to Major Mundee, Assistant. Adjutant-General; Lieutenant-Colonel Stone, Division Inspector; Lieutenant Egerton, Aid-de-Camp; Lieutenant Cole, Provost-Marshal; Lieutenant Hoag, Division Commissary, and Lieutentant Matlock, Commissary of Musters, of the division staff, for the able and prompt assistance they gave me on the field, in the action of the fourth.

Much credit is due to Captain Hickman, Ordnance officer for the division, for the gallantry and energy displayed in supplying the division on the field with necessary ammunition in the actions of the third and fourth.

The list of casualties in the division on the third and fourth (amounting in the aggregate to one thousand five hundred and fifteen) has been previously forwarded.

The importance of the action fought by the [284] Second division on the fourth will be understood when it is known that it was attacked by three strong divisions of the enemy, (McLaws's, Anderson's, and Early's,) the attack directed by the senior General of the army, (General Lee,) and with a view to cut the communication of the Sixth corps with its river crossing, which attack, if successful, must have resulted either in the destruction or capture of the Sixth corps. Yet the Second division, almost unaided, successfully repulsed the attack, and without losing a gun or prisoner to the enemy.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. P. Howe, Brigadier-General Commanding Division.

1 see volume VI. rebellion record.

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Neill (8)
Ulysses S. Grant (7)
Seaver (5)
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Newton (2)
Mundee (2)
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A. P. Howe (2)
Hoag (2)
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James A. Lee (1)
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Hauten (1)
Guest (1)
French (1)
J. A. Early (1)
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James M. Conner (1)
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