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[358] Back upon Steinwehr's division rolled the rabble rout, in spite of Howard's frantic exertions; and, although a semblance of organization and consistency was here maintained, the great majority of the corps poured down to Chancellorsville and beyond, spreading the infection of their panic, and threatening to stampede the entire army.

Sickles had been preparing to strike a still heavier blow than that of Birney, and had, to that end, obtained from Hooker Pleasanton's cavalry, perhaps 1,000 strong, with permission to call on Howard and Slocum fir aid; when he was thunderstruck by tidings that Howard's corps was demolished. As he had heard no firing of consequence, he refused at first to credit the story; but he was soon constrained to believe it. Not only was the 11th corps gone, but the triumphant Rebels were in his rear, between him and Headquarters; so that when, recalling Birney from his advanced position, he sent to Hooker for his 3d division, he was informed that it could not be sent — Hooker having been obliged to use it to arrest the progress of the enemy, and prevent their driving him from Chancellorsville.

Sickles was in a critical position; but he had now his two divisions in hand, with his artillery — which had not been used in Birney's advance — massed in a cleared field; where Pleasanton, coming in from the front with a part of his force, met the rushing flood of fugitives from the right, and was told that a charge of cavalry was required to stop the enemy's advance. (He had at most 500 men, wherewith to arrest a charge of 25,000, led by Stonewall Jackson.) Turning to Maj. Keenan, 8th Pennsylvania, he said, “You must charge into those woods with your regiment, and hold the Rebels until I can get some of these guns into position. You must do it, at whatever cost.” “I will.” was the calm, smiling response of the patriot, who well understood that the order was his death-warrant. Ten minutes later, he was dead, and a good part of his regiment lay bleeding around him; but their charge had stayed the Rebel rush, and enabled Pleasanton to get his own battery of horse artillery into position, his guns double-shotted with canister, and trained on the ground, 200 yards distant, over which the enemy must come on. And now, clearing the field of fugitives, picking up what guns and ammunition he could from the wreck of the 11th corps, and adding these to Sickles's, he had them all properly posted and double-shotted, and was ready for his expected visitors.

He had not long to wait. The woods in his front were by this time full of them; darkness was falling; and some of the enemy resorted to the unworthy stratagem (quite too common on either side) of displaying a false flag, and pretending to be friends. One of our gunners exclaimed, “General, that is our flag!” whereupon he sent forward an aid to ascertain. “Come on, we are friends!” was called out; and, in another moment, the woods blazed with musketry, and the Rebels charged out of them, rushing upon our guns; which that instant opened, and swept whole ranks of them away. Three charges were thus made--one of them to within fifty yards of the guns — but each was repelled with great slaughter; though Pleasanton had no infantry

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Hooker Pleasanton (4)
Sickles (3)
Oliver O. Howard (3)
D. B. Birney (3)
Joseph Hooker (2)
Steinwehr (1)
H. W. Slocum (1)
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