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[361] his cartridges running low, sent word to Hooker that he could not hold his ground without assistance.

Major Tremaine, who bore this message, found the General stunned and senseless. A cannon-ball had just now struck a pillar of the Chancellorsville house, against which he was leaning, and hurled him to the floor. He was supposed by his staff to be dead or dying; so Tremaine could get no response to Sickles's message; and, after sending once more to headquarters in vain, Sickles — his artillery being now out of ammunition — was obliged to recede to his second line of defenses, expecting to be sharply followed, and to be compelled to hold his ground with the bayonet. But the enemy's formation had been so completely pulverized by our guns, and their losses had been so fearful, that half an hour elapsed before they renewed their attack. Had a corps been promptly sent to his assistance, Sickles believes that victory was his own.

The precious hour passed, while our army was without a head. Gen. Couch was next in rank, and might have assumed active command during Hooker's insensibility, but hesitated to do so. Nothing had been done to relieve Sickles's corps of the weight of all Jackson's force, save that French and Hancock, with two divisions of Couch's corps,had charged the left of the Rebel attacking force, then threatening Meade's front, and forced it back. But this scarcely abated the pressure on Sickles, who was freshly assailed in his new position, and — being still nearly destitute of ammunition — was again compelled to recoil, after repelling, mainly with the bayonet, five fierce charges, and capturing eight flags. Under Couch's orders, our army was generally withdrawn a mile northward, or toward the Rappahannock,leaving the wreck of the Chancellorsville house to the enemy, whose guns had by this time reduced it to a heap of ruins.

Sickles testified, when before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, that only his and a part of the 12th (Slocum's) corps were engaged when he first sent to Hooker for help; and that, with 10,000 of the 30,000 then unengaged, he could have won a decided victory. As it was, the fact that he lost no prisoners, while he took several hundred, and that nearly 4,000 of his 18,000 men were that day disabled, including two of his three division commanders (Berry and Whipple) killed, and Gen. Mott, of the New Jersey brigade, wounded, without the loss of a gun1 on his repeated retreats,

1 Sickles, in his testimony, says:

At the conclusion of the battle of Sunday, Capt. Seeley's battery, which was the last that fired a shot in the battle of Chancellorsville, had 45 horses killed, and in the neighborhood of 40 men killed and wounded; but, being a soldier of great pride and ambition, and not wishing to leave any of his material in the hands of the enemy, he withdrew so entirely at his leisure that he carried off all the harness from his dead horses, loading his cannoniers with it; he even took a part of a set of harness on his own arm, and so moved to the rear. I think this is as significant a fact as I can state to you. indicating the inability of the enemy to follow up.

Gen. Hancock, commanding a division of the 2d corps, thus describes, in his testimony, the retirement of our army from Chancellorsville:

My position was on the other side of the Chancellor house: and I had a fair view of this battle, although my troops were facing and fighting the other way. The first lines referred to finally melted away, and the whole front appeared to pass out. First the 3d corps went out; then the 12th corps, after fighting a long time; and there was nothing left on that part of the line but my own division — that is, on that extreme point of the line on the side of the Chancellor house toward the enemy. I was directed to hold that position until a change of line of battle could be made, and was to hold it until I was notified that all the other troops had gotten off. This necessitated my fighting for a time both ways. I had two lines of battle; one facing toward Fredericksburg, and the other line behind that. And I had to face about the troops in the rear line, so as to be ready for the enemy in that direction, who were coming on. I had a good deal of artillery; and, although the enemy massed their infantry in the woods very near me, and attempted to advance, and always held a very threatening attitude, I judge they had exhausted their troops so much that they dared not attack me, although I remained there for some time alone in this position, very heavily engaged with artillery all the time, and some of my men of the rear line occasionally being shot by their infantry at a distance of several hundred yards. There was no forcible attack on me; and, when the time came, I marched off to my new position, probably three-quarters of a mile from the old position, toward Untied States ford, where the new line of battle was laid out.

We immediately commenced to fortify that position by throwing up rifle-pits, and held it until we recrossed the river. In the mean time, we had given up all those great roads connecting with Fredericksburg. The enemy took possession of the belt of woods between us and those roads, and held us in the open space, and commenced using the roads we had abandoned, and marched down and attacked Sedgwick, as it proved afterward.

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Sickles (7)
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