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[258] They reached their destination during the afternoon, in the midst of a violent storm, which continued throughout the night and most of the following day.

Preparations were made to assail the enemy's works at daylight on the sixth; but, on advancing our skirmishers, it was found that, under cover of the storm and darkness of the night, he had retreated over — the river. A detachment was left to guard the battle-field while the wounded were being removed and the captured property collected. The rest of the army returned to its former position.

The particulars of these operations will be found in the reports of the several commanding officers, which are herewith transmitted. They will show more fully than my limits will suffer me to do, the dangers and difficulties which, under God's blessing, were surmounted by the fortitude and valor of our army. The conduct of the troops cannot be too highly praised. Attacking largely superior numbers, in strongly intrenched positions, their heroic courage overcame every obstacle of nature and art, and achieved a triumph most honorable to our arms. I commend to the particular notice of the department the brave officers and men mentioned by their superiors for extraordinary daring and merit, whose names I am unable to enumerate here. Among them will be found some who have passed, by a glorious death, beyond the reach of praise, but the memory of whose virtues and devoted patriotism will ever be cherished by their grateful countrymen. The returns of the medical director will show the extent of our loss, which, from the nature of the circumstances attending the engagement, could not be otherwise than severe. Many valuable officers and men were killed or wounded in the faithful discharge of duty. Among the former, Brigadier-General Paxton fell while leading his brigade, with conspicuous courage, in the assault on the enemy's works at Chancellorsville. The gallant Brigadier-General Nichols lost a leg; Brigadier-General McGowan was severely, and Brigadier-Generals Heth and Pender were slightly wounded in the same engagement. The latter officer led his brigade to the attack under a destructive fire, bearing the colors of a regiment in his own hands, up to and over the intrenchments, with the most distinguished gallantry. General Hoke received a painful wound in the action near Fredericksburg. The movement by which the enemy's position was turned, and the fortune of the day decided, was conducted by the lamented Lieutenant-General Jackson, who, as has already been stated, was severely wounded near the close of the engagement on Saturday evening. I do not propose here to speak of the character of this illustrious man since removed from the scene of his eminent usefulness by the hand of an inscrutable but all-wise Providence. I nevertheless desire to pay the tribute of my admiration to the matchless energy and skill that marked this last act of his life, forming as it did a worthy conclusion of that long series of splendid achievements which won for him the lasting love and gratitude of his country. Major-General A. P. Hill was disabled soon after assuming command, but did not leave the field until the arrival of Major-General Stuart. The latter officer ably discharged the difficult and responsible duties which he was thus unexpectedly called to perform. Assuming the command late in the night, at the close of a fierce engagement and in the immediate presence of the enemy, necessarily ignorant, in a great measure, of the disposition of the troops, and of the plans of those who had preceded him, General Stuart exhibited great energy, promptness, and intelligence. During the continuance of the engagement the next day he conducted the operation on the left with distinguished capacity and vigor, stimulating and cheering the troops by the example of his own coolness and daring. While it is impossible to mention all who were conspicuous in the several engagements, it will not be considered an invidious distinction to say that General Jackson, after he was wounded, in expressing the satisfaction he derived from the conduct of his whole command, commended to my particular attention the services of Brigadier-General (now Major-General) Rodes and his gallant division. Major-General Early performed the important and responsible duty intrusted to him in a manner which reflected credit upon himself and his command. Major-General R. H. Anderson was also distinguished for the promptness, courage, and skill with which he and his division executed every order; and Brigadier-General (now Major-General) Wilcox is entitled to especial praise for the judgment and bravery displayed in impeding the advance of General Sedgwick towards Chancellorsville, and for the gallant and successful stand at Salem Church. To the skilful and efficient management of the artillery the successful issue of the contest is in great measure due.

The ground was not favorable for its employment, but every suitable position was taken with alacrity, and the operations of the infantry supported and assisted with a spirit and courage not second to their own. It bore a prominent part in the final assault which ended in driving the enemy from the field at Chancellorsville, silencing his batteries, and, by a destructive enfilade fire upon his works, opened the way for the advance of our troops. Colonels Crutchfield, Alexander, and Walker, and Lieutenant-Colonels Brown, Carter, and Andrews, with the officers and men of their commands, are mentioned as deserving especial commendation. The batteries under General Pendleton also acted with great gallantry. The cavalry of the army at the time of these operations was much reduced. To its vigilance and energy we were indebted for timely information of the enemy's movements before the battle and for impeding his march to Chancellorsville. It guarded both flanks of the army during the battle at that place, and a portion of it, as has been already stated, rendered valuable service in covering the march of Jackson to the enemy's rear. The horse artillery accompanied the infantry, and participated, with credit to itself, in the engagement.

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