previous next

[257] artillery. Very soon the enemy advanced in large force against Marye's and the hills to the right and left of it. Two assaults were gallantly repulsed by Barksdale's men and the artillery. After the second, a flag of truce was sent from the town, to obtain permission to provide for the wounded. Three heavy lines advanced immediately upon the return of the flag, and renewed the attack. They were bravely repulsed on the right and left, but the small force at the foot of Marye's hill, overpowered by more than ten times their numbers, was captured, after a heroic resistance, and the hill carried. Eight pieces of artillery were taken on Marye's and the adjacent heights. The remainder of Barksdale's brigade, together with that of General Hays, and the artillery on the right, retired down the telegraph road.

The success of the enemy enabled him to threaten our communications by moving down the telegraph road, or to come upon our rear at Chancellorsville by the plank road. He at first advanced on the former, but was checked by General Early, who had halted the commands of Barksdale and Hays, with the artillery, about two miles from Marye's hill, and reenforced them with three regiments of Gordon's brigade.

The enemy then began to advance up the plank road, his progress being gallantly disputed by the brigade of General Wilcox, who had moved from Banks's Ford as rapidly as possible to the assistance of General Barksdale; but arrived too late to take part in the action. General Wilcox fell back slowly until he reached Salem Church, on the plank road, about five miles from Fredericksburg.

Information of this state of affairs in our rear having reached Chancellorsville, as already stated, General McLaws, with his three brigades and one of General Anderson's, was ordered to reenforce General Wilcox. He arrived at Salem Church early in the afternoon, where he found General Wilcox in line of battle, with a large force of the enemy, consisting, as was reported, of one army corps and part of another, under Major-General Sedgwick, in his front. The brigades of Kershaw and Wofford were placed on the right of Wilcox, those of Semmes and Mahone on his left.

The enemy's artillery played vigorously upon our position for some time, when his infantry advanced in three strong lines, the attack being directed mainly against General Wilcox, but partially involving the brigades on his left. The assault was met with the utmost firmness, and, after a fierce struggle, the first line was repulsed with great slaughter. The second then came forward, but immediately broke under the close and deadly fire which it encountered, and the whole mass fled in confusion to the rear. They were pursued by the brigades of Wilcox and Semmes, which advanced nearly a mile, when they were halted to re-form in the presence of the enemy's reserve, which now appeared in large force. It being quite dark, General Wilcox deemed it imprudent to push the attack with his small numbers, and retired to his original position, the enemy making no attempt to follow.

The next morning, General Early advanced along the telegraph road, and recaptured Marye's and the adjacent hills without difficulty, thus gaining the rear of the enemy's left. He then proposed to General McLaws that a simultaneous attack should be made by their respective commands, but the latter officer, not deeming his force adequate to assail the enemy in front, the proposition was not carried into effect. In the mean time, the enemy had so strengthened his position near Chancellorsville, that it was deemed inexpedient to assail it with less than our whole force, which could not be concentrated until we were relieved from the danger that menaced our rear. It was accordingly resolved still further to reenforce the troops in front of General Sedgwick, in order, if possible, to drive him across the Rappahannock. Accordingly, on the fourth, General Anderson was directed to proceed, with his remaining three brigades, to join General McLaws--the three divisions of Jackson's corps holding our position at Chancellorsville. Anderson reached Salem Church about noon, and was directed to gain the left flank of the enemy and effect a junction with Early. McLaws's troops were disposed as on the previous day, with orders to hold the enemy in front, and to push forward his right brigades as soon as the advance of Anderson and Early should be perceived, so as to connect with them and complete the continuity of our line.

Some delay occurred in getting the troops into position, owing to the broken and irregular nature of the ground, and the difficulty of ascertaining the disposition of the enemy's forces. The attack did not begin until six P. M., when Anderson and Early moved forward and drove General Sedgwick's troops rapidly before them across the plank road in the direction of the Rappahannock. The speedy approach of darkness prevented General McLaws from perceiving the success of the attack until the enemy began to recross the river a short distance below Banks's Ford, where he had laid one of his pontoon bridges. His right brigades, under Kershaw and Wofford, advanced through the woods in the direction of the firing, but the retreat was so rapid that they could only join in the pursuit. A dense fog settled over the field, increasing the obscurity and rendering great caution necessary to avoid collision between our own troops. Their movements were consequently slow. General Wilcox, with Kershaw's brigade and two regiments of his own, accompanied by a battery, proceeded nearly to the river, capturing a number of prisoners and inflicting great damage upon the enemy. General McLaws also directed Colonel Alexander's artillery to fire upon the locality of the enemy's bridge, which was done with good effect. The next morning it was found that General Sedgwick had made good his escape, and removed his bridges. Fredericksburg was also evacuated, and our rear no longer threatened. But, as General Sedgwick had it in his power to recross, it was deemed best to leave General Early with his division and Barksdale's brigade to hold our lines as before — McLaws and Anderson being directed to return to Chancellorsville.

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)
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.
4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: