previous next
[363] before Sedgwick had completed such dispositions as he deemed requisite to storm the heights; when, advancing resolutely, those heights were quickly carried; Gen. Howe's (2d) division forming three storming columns, under Gen. Neill and Cols. Grant and Seaver, and carrying Cemetery hill under a heavy fire of artillery, pushing thence to Marye's hill, which was likewise carried with little loss; our columns having scarcely been checked in their advance: the Rebel force (the 19th and 20th Mississippi, under Barksdale) being too light. Among the trophies of this success were 200 prisoners, some guns, camp equipage, &c.

Having reformed his brigades, Sedgwick, leaving Gibbon at Fredericksburg, moved out on the Chancellorsville road on the track of Barksdale, following him three or four miles to Salem church, where the Rebels halted and began to fight in earnest; being joined by Wilcox, who had fallen back from Banks's ford. The position was strong, its flanks well covered by woods, and repeated attempts to carry it proved abortive.

By this time (5 P. M.), Lee — the fighting around Chancellorsville being over — had thrown McLaws this way, with orders and men to stop Sedgwick's progress; and they did it. The fight continued till dark; but the enemy were on high ground, and held it; McLaws now taking command against us, with his force continually augmenting. Being the assailants, we of course lost the greater number; and our men lay down on their arms, with little hope of forcing their way through to Hooker on that line, especially since he gave no signs of vitality, and afforded no promise of vigorous cooperation.

Morning broke;1 and Sedgwick's position was fast becoming critical. The enemy were not only in force on his front, but were feeling around his left, and even back to the heights above Fredericksburg. He was not strong enough to fight the whole Rebel army; yet, should Hooker remain torpid, that luxury was just ahead. He received several dispatches from his chief during the day, evincing a very unsettled frame of mind: one, written early in the morning, saying, “You must not try to force the position you attacked at 5 P. M. Look to the safety of your corps ;” another, dated 11 A. M., saying, “If it is practicable for you to maintain a position on the south side of the Rappahannock, near Banks's ford, do so ;” and another, dated fifty minutes later:

If the necessary information can be obtained to-day, and, if it shall be of the character the commanding General anticipates, it is his intention to advance upon the enemy to-morrow. In this event, the position of your corps on the south bank of the Rappahannock will be as favorable as the General could desire. It is for this reason that he desires that your corps should not cross the Rappahannock.

While Hooker was thus hesitating and vacillating,2 the Rebels were acting. No longer dreading an offensive

1 Monday, May 4.

2 At 1 A. M., May 5, Hooker telegraphed him:

Dispatch this moment received. Withdraw; cover the river, and prevent any force crossing. Acknowledge receipt.

Sodgwick had accordingly brought across most of his force, under a heavy fire of shell; when, at 3:20 A. M., he received this dispatch, dated 20 minutes later than the foregoing. but of course based on one intermediately received from him, (S.) saying that he could hold on south of the river if required:

Yours received, saying you could hold position. Order to withdraw countermanded. Acknowledge both.

When this came to hand, it is needless to add that its execution was impossible.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Sedgwick (4)
Joseph Hooker (4)
McLaws (2)
Barksdale (2)
C. M. Wilcox (1)
Seaver (1)
Neill (1)
Fitz Hugh Lee (1)
A. P. Howe (1)
Ulysses S. Grant (1)
Gibbon (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 5th (1)
May 4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: