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[357] ridges occupied by his batteries, whence he opened on our left, upon our wagons in the cleared space around the Chancellorsville house, next morning.1

The 3d (Sickles's) corps, having arrived by a hard march from below Fredericksburg, had been mainly posted in reserve near our center, while Hooker, about daybreak, rode along his right, which he apprehended was too far extended, or not strongly posted, and which he found no wise prepared by earthworks and batteries for a flank attack; but he was assured by Slocum and Howard that they were equal to any emergency.

Thus our army stood still, when, at 8 A. M., Birney, commanding Sickles's 1st division, which had been thrown well forward toward our right, between the 12th and the 11th corps, reported a continuous movement of Rebel forces along his front toward our right; whereupon, Sickles, at his own suggestion, was ordered by Hooker to push forward Birney's division, followed by another, to look into the matter.

Birney, at 10 A. M., directed Clark's rifled battery to open on the Confederate wayfarers, which he did with great effect, throwing their column into disorder, and compelling it to abandon the road. The movement being evidently continued, however, on some road a little farther off, Sickles, at 1 P. M., directed Birney to charge the passing column; and he did so; bridging with rails a petty creek in his front, passing over his division and two batteries, and striking the rear of the Rebel column with such force that he captured and brought off 500 prisoners.

Sunset found him thus far advanced, holding the road over which the Rebels were originally marching; his division formed in square, with his artillery in the center; Barlow's brigade of the 5th corps, which had advanced to support his right, being up with him; but Whipple's division of the 3d and one of the 12th corps, which were to have covered his left, being invisibly distant.

Soon, panic-stricken fugitives from the 11th, now almost directly in Birney's rear, brought tidings of a great disaster. The Rebel movement to our right, along our front — which had been either culpably disregarded by Howard, or interpreted as a retreat of the Rebel army on Richmond — had culminated, a little before 6 P. M., in a grand burst of Stonewall Jackson, with 25,000 men, on the exposed flank of that corps. Emerging suddenly from the thick woods which enveloped that flank, and charging it from three sides, as it were, the Rebels caught some of our men preparing their suppers, with arms stacked, and gave them no time to recover. In a moment, the 1st division, Gen. Devens, was overwhelmed; its commander being among the the wounded, and one-third of his force, including every General and Colonel, either disabled or captured. Driven back in wild rout down the Chancellorsville road upon the position of Gen. Schurz, it was found that his division had already retreated — perhaps fled is the apter word — and an attempt made to rally and form here proved abortive; the 17th Connecticut, which bore a resolute part in the effort, had its Lt.-Col. killed and its Colonel severely wounded.

1 Saturday, May 2.

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