Ready to cover the Rappahannock — the 150th Pennsylvania, three weeks before the battle of Chancellorsville |
War's heaviest labor
Here a construction corps is rebuilding the railroad bridge across Bull Run.
The men are armed with crowbars and axes, and in the constant wielding of such peaceful implements throughout the war many who never fired a musket became expert in the occupations of peace.
This photograph was taken in March, 1863, while Hooker was reestablishing railway communications to make possible his contemplated advance toward Gordonsville, Virginia, with the expectation of driving Lee back upon Richmond.
During the previous year, in the disastrous campaign of Pope, most of the bridges along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad had been destroyed and much of the line torn up. In order to flank Lee's position at Fredericksburg, it was imperative for the Army of the Potomac to abandon its base at Aquia Creek and draw supplies overland from Alexandria.
In the spring Hooker was pushing the railroad repairs. |
This picture of the almost completed bridge across Bull Run shows how thoroughly the work was done — and how quickly, for the photograph was taken in March, 1863, only a short time after that on the opposite page.
The hopes of Hooker and his army ran high; rested and heavily reinforced, it again outnumbered Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
It seemed certain that such a superior force must at last wrest a decisive victory from the Confederates.
Hooker's plan of campaign was excellent.
Demonstrating strongly against Lee's right, he intended to cross the fords of the Rappahannock and Rapidan with his main body and, flanking Lee by the left, draw him from his fastness at Fredericksburg to battle on the open plain.
Cavalry was to be sent two weeks in advance of the infantry to sweep around in Lee's rear toward Gordonsville and cut his communications, to compel a retreat upon Richmond.
But it was not Lee who retreated after Chancellorsville! |
The interval of two months between the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg was for the South--notwithstanding the irreparable loss it sustained in the death of Jackson — the brightest period of the Civil War. But its brightness was that of a false and treacherous light.
The overconfidence born of the victory of Chancellorsville carried the Army of Northern Virginia against the impregnable front of the Federal lines at Gettysburg; and it was the victory of Gettysburg that sustained the Army of the Potomac in its desperate wrestling in the Wilderness, and in gaining the point of vantage from which it finally started on the arduous, decisive, and fateful race to Appomattox. --Major John Bigelow, Jr., U. S.A., in The campaign of Chancellorsville.
The Rappahannock River
flows out of the hills at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains
in a southeasterly course.
is on the north bank, about a mile from Fredericks-burg, which lies on the opposite shore.
Along the banks of this peaceful river were fought some of the most important battles of the Civil War
. This region was the scene of the conflict of Fredericksburg
, December 12-13, 1862, and the later battle of May 1-5, 1863.
is a little over two miles south of the river and about ten miles west of Fredericksburg
After the Fredericksburg
campaign the Union
forces encamped at Falmouth
for the winter, while Lee
remained with the Southern
army on the site of his successful contest at Fredericksburg
Thus the two armies lay facing each other within hailing distance, across the historic river, waiting for the coming of spring.
Major-General Joseph Hooker
, popularly known as “Fighting Joe” Hooker
, who had succeeded Burnside
in command of the Army of the Potomac, soon had
A man of whom much was expected
General Joseph Hooker. A daring and experienced veteran of the Mexican War, Hooker had risen in the Civil War from brigade commander to be the commander of a grand division of the Army of the Potomac, and had never been found wanting.
His advancement to the head of the Army of the Potomac, on January 26, 1863, was a tragic episode in his own career and in that of the Federal arms.
Gloom hung heavy over the North after Fredericksburg.
Upon Hooker fell the difficult task of redeeming the unfulfilled political pledges for a speedy lifting of that gloom.
It was his fortune only to deepen it. |
the troops on a splendid campaign footing by a positive and vigorous method of reorganization, and aroused them to enthusiastic loyalty.
It was the month of April, and field and woodland had begun to put on the bright colors of spring.
There was activity about the Federal
army headquarters that indicated a renewal of hostilities.
The hospitals had been well cleared, the forces had been recruited, ammunition and arms replenished and put in order, horses groomed and well fed, uniforms renewed, and the Army of the Potomac was in excellent condition to advance against its foe. President Lincoln
had visited the camp, and reviewed the army, thrilling the men with his inspiring presence and personality.
It was well known that he had a very deep concern in the welfare of the soldiers.
After the review he asked, “What will become of all these men when the war is over?”
His parting admonition to Hooker
was this wise advice, “In your next battle, put in all your men.”
By a strange fatality that is just what Hooker
failed to do, and a great misfortune overtook his army.
's method of organization.
Under “Fighting Joe,” instead of three grand divisions, there were seven army corps, each under a major-general, and a cavalry corps.
At this time the Union
forces aggregated between one hundred and twenty-five and one hundred and thirty thousand men; Lee
's forces were estimated at about sixty thousand.
's corps commanders were: Reynolds
, in command of the First; Couch
, the Second; Sickles
, the Third; Meade
, the Fifth; Sedgwick
, the Sixth; Howard
, the Eleventh; Slocum
, the Twelfth, and Stoneman
, who was in command of the cavalry corps.
conceived, a plan of campaign which was ingenious and masterful, and had he carried it out there would have been a different story to tell about Chancellorsville
The plan was to deploy a portion of the army to serve as a decoy to Lee
, while the remainder of the host at the same time
New leaders and New plans
General Joseph Hooker and his Staff.
These were the men whose work it was, during the winter after Fredericksburg, to restore the esprit du corps of the Army of the Potomac.
The tireless energy and magnetic personality of Hooker soon won officers from their disaffection and put an end to desertions — which had been going on at the rate of two hundred per day before he took command.
By spring everything seemed propitious for an aggressive campaign, the plans for which were brilliantly drawn and at first vigorously carried out, giving truth to Lincoln's expressed belief that Hooker was “a trained and skilful soldier.”
In that remarkable letter of admonition to Hooker upon assuming command, Lincoln added: “But beware of rashness, beware of rashness; with energy and with sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.”
By some strange fate it was not rashness but quite the contrary which compassed the failure of “Fighting Joe” Hooker at Chancellorsville.
His first forward advance was executed with his usual bold initiative.
Before Lee could fully divine his purpose, Hooker with thirty-six thousand men was across his left flank in a favorable position, with the main body of his army at hand ready to give battle.
Then came Hooker's inexplicable order to fall back upon Chancellorsville.
That very night, consulting in the abandoned Federal position, Lee and Jackson formed the plan which drove Hooker back across the Rappahannock in ignominious defeat. |
occupied the vicinity of Chancellorsville
, a country mansion, in the center of the wilderness that stretched along the Rappahannock
The movement of the army began on the 27th of April when Sedgwick
was sent east of Fredericksburg
with a large force to attract the attention of the Confederates
Another force was left in Camp to give the appearance that the main army was still there, while in fact it was secretly being moved to Chancellorsville
The strategy was carried out successfully.
On April 30th the army, except a force under Sedgwick
composing the First, Third, and Sixth Corps, was concentrated on Lee
's left flank, the entire field and its approaches being commanded by the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps, part of the Second Corps, and Stoneman
's cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
Victory seemed assured.
, in an order issued on that day, said, “Now the enemy must flee shamefully or come out of his defenses to accept battle on our own ground, to his certain destruction.”
The contemplated field of battle was high ground about half way between this plateau and the Chancellor house
The Federal army was not yet in position on this open and favorably located field.
At eleven o'clock in the morning Hooker
started the movement of the army to the point where he intended it to be in line of battle at two o'clock on the afternoon of May 1st.
was a great general and a master in strategy.
He had learned of Hooker
's plan and, paying but little attention to Sedgwick
, had collected his forces and turned to face Hooker
By a rapid night march he met the Union
army before it had reached its destination.
He was pushed back, however, by Sykes
, of Meade
's corps, who occupied the position assigned to him. Meade
was on the left, and Slocum
on the right, with adequate support in the rear.
All was in readiness and most favorable for the “certain destruction” of the Confederates
predicted by “Fighting Joe” when, to the amazement and consternation of all his officers, Hooker
Leaders of the fruitless raid
Major-General George Stoneman and Staff; photographed in April, 1863, a month before it fell to the lot of these gallant cavalry officers to lead ten thousand sabers on a daring but futile expedition.
Sweeping around in the rear of the Confederate army, it was their intention to cut Lee's railroad communication with Richmond.
According to Hooker's plan, this advance movement was to begin April 13th, two weeks before that of his main army, but heavy rains delayed the expedition until the 27th and Hooker's whole force set out simultaneously with the cavalry.
Thus Stoneman's work was wasted, for the Army of the Potomac was defeated and in full retreat before the cavalry could strike.
On the 5th of May Stoneman recalled his detachments and, leaving his headquarters at Louisa Court House, rejoined the army at Falmouth on the 8th.
The most daring raid of the expedition was performed by Colonel Kilpatrick, with his Second New York Cavalry.
Dashing across the country, he passed within two and a half miles of Richmond, creating great consternation.
Turning down the peninsula, he ended his long ride at Gloucester Point, which was garrisoned by the Federals.
With great boldness the regiment rode forth from this refuge.
Eluding the Confederates and repulsing a strong force, it rebuilt a bridge and returned safely to Falmouth on June 3d, bringing two hundred prisoners, forty wagons, and a thousand contraband slaves.
Hooker, dissatisfied with what the cavalry had accomplished, removed Stoneman from his command. |
ordered the whole army to retire to the position it had occupied the day before, leaving the advantage to his opponents.
quickly moved his army into the position thus relinquished, and began feeling the Federal
lines with skirmishers and some cannonading during the evening of May 1st.
By the next morning the two armies were in line of battle.
The danger in which the Confederate army now found itself was extreme.
One large Federal army was on its front, while another was at its rear, below Fredericksburg
threw the hopes of success into one great and decisive blow at Hooker
Dividing an army in the face of the foe is extremely dangerous and contrary to all accepted theories of military strategy; but there comes a time when such a course proves the salvation of the legions in peril.
Such was the case at Chancellorsville
on May 2, 1863.
At 7 A. M. the cannonading began its death-song and was soon followed by infantry demonstrations, but without serious results.
The action was continued.
Early in the afternoon, Hooker
by a ruse was beguiled into the belief that Lee
's army was in full retreat.
had seen and believed to be a retreat was the marching of Jackson
's forces, about twenty-six thousand strong, from the battlefield.
What he did not see, however, was that, after a few miles, Jackson
turned abruptly and made for the right flank of the Federal
host, the Eleventh Corps, under Howard
It was after half-past 5 when Jackson
broke from the woods into which he had marched in a paralyzing charge upon the unprepared troops of Howard
The approach of this Confederate force was first intimated to the Federals
by the bending of shrubbery, the stampede of rabbits and squirrels, and the flocks of birds in wild flight, as before a storm.
Then appeared a few skirmishers, then a musket volley, and then the storm broke in all its fury — the war scream, the rattling musketry, the incessant roar of cannon.
The Confederates fought heroically.
The corps that stood alone
Major-General John Sedgwick and Staff.
Sedgwick's Sixth Corps alone and unaided executed the most successful maneuver during the Chancellorsville battles of May 1-4, 1863.
For two days Sedgwick had been keeping up a strong demonstration against Lee's extreme right below Fredericksburg.
On the night of May 2d, after Jackson had routed the entire Eleventh Corps, came the order from Hooker for Sedgwick to move forward toward Chancellorsville, “attack and destroy any forces met with on the march,” then fall upon Lee's rear.
By midnight the Sixth Corps was in motion and at dawn advanced against Marye's Heights.
Only after a fierce uphill fight was that bloody field won from Early's 9,000 Confederates.
At night, forced back by Lee, he established communication with Hooker, but could get no definite orders.
Next morning word came not to attack unless Hooker did likewise.
But Hooker's inactivity encouraged Lee to send heavy forces to crush the Sixth Corps.
All the afternoon, cut off from help, the corps fought off assault after assault till nightfall of May 4th.
Then, upon the receipt of orders, Sedgwick retired north of the Rappahannock. |
Sickles reviews his eighteen thousand troops, unaware of Jackson's flanking March
The photograph, presented one-half above and one-half below, is a reflection of history in the very making.
It was at midnight on May 1, 1863, that Lee and Jackson sat on two cracker-boxes before their fire in the abandoned Union camp, and conceived the audacious idea of flanking the Federals.
It was 5.30 the next morning that Jackson formed his devoted veterans in column, then bade his last farewell to his chief, and rode into the tangled forest.
And it was the same morning that a Union photographer made this picture of Major-General Daniel E. Sickles reviewing his Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac, 18,000 horse, foot, and artillery — all unsuspecting that a couple of miles distant 31,000 in gray were pushing across their front and around to the unprotected rear of the Union encampment: The confidence of the Federals was only natural.
Who would have suspected that Lee, with less than 45,000 men, all told, would deliberately have detached more than two-thirds of them in the face of Hooker's encamped 70,000?
But Lee was a military genius, and genius knows when to dare — especially with a leader in the field like “Stonewall” Jackson, no less secret than swift.
And so it befell that when the Confederate column was spied passing over a bare hill about a mile and a half from the left of Sickles's line, General Hooker supposed that such a movement could mean only a retreat.
He ordered a pursuit.
This drew a division away from a point where soon it was sorely needed.
For Jackson's Corps, having passed around the Federal right, formed in battle-line, burst through the woods in the rear of the unsuspecting Federals, and drove them in utter rout.
It was a piece of strategy as daring as it was masterly. |
“Stonewall” Jackson-two weeks before his mortal wound
The austere, determined features of the victor of Chancellorsville, just as they appeared two weeks before the tragic shot that cost the Confederacy its greatest Lieutenant-General--and, in the opinion of sound historians, its chief hope for independence.
Only once had a war photograph of Jackson been taken up to April, 1863, when, just before the movement toward Chancellorsville, he was persuaded to enter a photographer's tent at Hamilton's Crossing, some three miles below Fredericksburg, and to sit for his last portrait.
At a glance one can feel the self-expression and power in this stern worshiper of the God of Battles; one can understand the eulogy written by the British military historian, Henderson: “The fame of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson is no longer the exclusive property of Virginia and the South: it has become the birthright of every man privileged to call himself an American.”
that “Old Jack” was on the field was inspiration enough for them.
The charge was so precipitous, so unexpected and terrific that it was impossible for the Federals
to hold their lines and stand against the impact of that awful onslaught which carried everything before it. The regiments in Jackson
's path, resisting his advance, were cut to pieces and swept along as by a tidal wave, rolled up like a scroll, multitudes of men, horses, mules, and cattle being piled in an inextricable mass.
Characteristic of Jackson
's brilliant and unexpected movements, it was like an electric flash, knocking the Eleventh Corps into impotence, as Jackson
expected it would.
This crowning and final stroke of Jackson
's military genius was not impromptu, but the result of his own carefully worked-out plan, which had been approved by Lee
was spending the late afternoon hours in his headquarters at the Chancellor house
To the eastward there was considerable firing, where his men were carrying out the plan of striking Lee
was retreating, of that he was sure, and Sickles
, with Pleasanton
's cavalry and other reenforcements, was in pursuit.
Everything seemed to be going well.
About half-past 6 the sounds of battle grew suddenly louder and seemed to come from another direction.
A staff-officer went to the front of the house and turned his field-glass toward the west.
“ My God, here they come!”
At the startled cry Hooker
sprang upon his horse and dashed down the road.
He encountered portions of the Eleventh Corps pouring out of the forest — a badly mixed crowd of men, wagons, and ambulances.
They brought the news that the right wing was overwhelmed.
sought his old command, Berry
's division of the Third Corps, stationed in support of the Eleventh. “Forward, with the bayonet!”
An officer who witnessed the scene says the division advanced with a firm and steady step, cleaving the multitude
Wilderness church — the scene of Jackson's second rush
The shots that riddled the roof of this humble meeting-house were fired on an evening of triumph and panic.
Beyond the church, as the sun sank low on May 2d, stretched the main Union line, Howard's Eleventh Corps.
The troops had stacked their arms and lay at ease.
Supper was cooking.
Suddenly bugle-calls came from the west.
Then a roar of human voices swept the forest.
A double battle-line in gray burst from the woods, ran over the gunners, and shattered the divisions into fragments.
Gallant Federal officers did their best to re-form their lines.
With the little church at about the center, a stand was made by five thousand men of Schurz's division, with some of Devens'--but without respite Jackson gave the call to advance.
After twenty minutes of furious fighting, the Confederate battle-flag flew in the clearing.
It was then that the fugitives from the Eleventh Corps came in sight. |
of disbanded Federals as the bow of a vessel cleaves the waves of the sea. It struck the advance of the Confederates
obliquely and checked it, with the aid of the Twelfth Corps artillery.
A dramatic, though tragic, feature of the rout was the charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania cavalry, under Major Keenan
, in the face of almost certain death, to save the artillery of the Third Corps from capture.
The guns rested upon low ground and within reach of the Confederates
The Federals had an equal opportunity to seize the artillery, but required a few minutes to prepare themselves for action.
The Confederate advance must be checked for these few moments, and for this purpose Keenan
gallantly led his five hundred cavalrymen into the woods, while his comrades brought the guns to bear upon the columns in gray.
He gained the necessary time, but lost his life at the head of his regiment, together with Captain Arrowsmith
and Adjutant Haddock
, who fell by his side.
The light of day had faded from the gruesome scene.
The mighty turmoil was silenced as darkness gathered, but the day's carnage was not ended.
No camp-fires were lighted in the woods or on the plain.
The two hostile forces were concealed in the darkness, watching through the shadows, waiting for — they knew not what.
Finally at midnight the order “Forward” was repeated in subdued tones along the lines of Sickles
Out over the open and into the deep, dark thicket the men in blue pursued their stealthy advance upon the Confederate
Then the tragedies of the night were like that of the day, and the moon shed her peaceful rays down upon those shadowy figures as they struggled forward through the woods, in the ravines, over the hillocks.
The Federals, at heavy loss, gained the position, and the engagement assumed the importance of a victory.
It was on this day that death robbed the South
of one of her most beloved warriors.
After darkness had
overspread the land, Jackson
, accompanied by members of his staff, undertook a reconnaissance of the Federal
He was planning a night attack.
He came upon a line of Union infantry lying on its arms and was forced to turn back along the Plank Road
, on both sides of which he had stationed his own men with orders to fire upon any body of men approaching from the direction of the Federal
The little cavalcade of Confederate officers galloped along the highway, directly toward the ambuscade, and apparently forgetful of the strict orders left with the skirmishers.
A sudden flash of flame lighted the scene for an instant, and within that space of time the Confederacy
was deprived of one of its greatest captains — Jackson
was severely wounded, and by his own men and through his own orders.
When the news spread through Jackson
's corps and through the Confederate army the grief of the Southern
soldiers was heartbreaking to witness.
The sorrow spread even into the ranks of the Federal
army, which, while opposed to the wounded general on many hard-fought battle-grounds, had learned to respect and admire “Stonewall
The loss of Jackson
to the South
had pronounced him the right arm of the whole army.
Next to Lee
was considered the ablest general in the Confederate army.
His shrewdness of judgment, his skill in strategy, his lightning-like strokes, marked him as a unique and brilliant leader.
Devoutly religious, gentle and noble in character, the nation that was not to be disunited lost a great citizen, as the Confederate army lost a great captain, when a few days later General Jackson
That night orders passed from the Federal
headquarters to Sedgwick
, below Fredericksburg
, eleven miles away.
Between him and Hooker
stood the Confederate army, flushed with its victories of the day. Immediately in his front was Fredericksburg
, with a strong guard of Southern warriors.
Beyond loomed Marye's Heights
, the battle-ground on which
The demolished headquarters
From this mansion, Hooker's headquarters during the battle of Chancellorsville, he rode away after the injury he received there on May 3d, never to return.
The general, dazed after Jackson's swoop upon the right, was besides in deep anxiety as to Sedgwick.
The latter's forty thousand men had not yet come up. Hooker was unwilling to suffer further loss without the certainty of his cooperation.
So he decided to withdraw his army.
The movement was the signal for increased artillery fire from the Confederate batteries, marking the doom of the old Chancellor house.
Its end was accompanied by some heartrending scenes.
Major Bigelow thus describes them: “Missiles pierced the walls or struck in the brickwork; shells exploded in the upper rooms, setting the building on fire; the chimneys were demolished and their fragments rained down upon the wounded about the building.
All this time the women and children (including some slaves) of the Chancellor family, nineteen persons in all, were in the cellar.
The wounded were removed from in and around the building, men of both armies nobly assisting one another in the work.”
had in the preceding winter left so many of his brave men in the vain endeavor to drive the Confederate
defenders from the crest.
The courageous Sedgwick
, notwithstanding the formidable obstacles that lay on the road to Chancellorsville
, responded immediately to Hooker
He was already on the south side of the river, but he was farther away than Hooker
Shortly after midnight he began a march that was fraught with peril and death.
Strong resistance was offered the advancing blue columns as they came to the threshold of Fredericksburg
, but they swept on and over the defenders, and at dawn were at the base of the heights.
On the crest waved the standards of the Confederate Washington Artillery.
At the foot of the slope was the stone wall before which the Federals
had fought and died but a few months before, in the battle of Fredericksburg
Reenforcements were arriving in the Confederate
The crest and slopes bristled with cannon and muskets.
The pathways around the heights were barricaded.
The route to the front seemed blocked; still, the cry for help from Hooker
was resounding in the ears of Sedgwick
Gathering his troops, he attacked directly upon the stone wall and on up the hillside, in the face of a terrific storm of artillery and musketry.
The first assault failed; a flank movement met with no better success; and the morning was nearly gone when the Confederates
finally gave way at the point of the bayonet before the irresistible onset of men in blue.
The way to Chancellorsville
was open; but the cost to the Federals
Hundreds of the soldiers in blue lay wrapped in death upon the bloody slopes of Marye's Heights
It was the middle of the afternoon, and not at daybreak, as Hooker
had directed, when Sedgwick
appeared in the rear of Lee
A strong force of Confederates under Early
prevented his further advance toward a juncture with Hooker
's army at Chancellorsville
Since five o'clock in the
The stone wall at Fredericksburg
Behind the deadly stone wall of Marye's Heights after Sedgwick's men had swept across it in the gallant charge of May 3, 1863.
This was one of the strongest natural positions stormed during the war. In front of this wall the previous year, nearly 6,000 of Burnside's men had fallen, and it was not carried.
Again in the Chancellorsville campaign Sedgwick's Sixth Corps was ordered to assault it. It was defended the second time with the same death-dealing stubbornness but with less than a fourth of the former numbers--9,000 Confederates against 20,000 Federals.
At eleven o'clock in the morning the line of battle, under Colonel Hiram Burnham, moved out over the awful field of the year before, supported to right and left by flanking columns.
Up to within twenty-five yards of the wall they pressed, when again the flame of musketry fire belched forth, laying low in six minutes 36.5 per cent. of the Fifth Wisconsin and the Sixth Maine.
The assailants wavered and rallied, and then with one impulse both columns and line of battle hurled themselves upon the wall in a fierce hand-to-hand combat.
A soldier of the Seventh Massachusetts happened to peer through a crack in a board fence and saw that it covered the flank of the double line of Confederates in the road.
Up and over the fence poured the Federals and drove the Confederates from the heights. |
morning the battle had been raging at the latter place, and Jackson
's men, now commanded by Stuart
, though being mowed down in great numbers, vigorously pressed the attack of the day while crying out to one another “Remember Jackson
,” as they thought of their wounded leader.
While this engagement was at its height General Hooker
, leaning against a pillar of the Chancellor house
, was felled to the ground, and for a moment it was thought he was killed.
The pillar had been shattered by a cannon-ball.
soon revived under the doctor's care and with great force of will he mounted his horse and showed himself to his anxious troops.
He then withdrew his army to a stronger position, well guarded with artillery.
The Confederates did not attempt to assail it. The third day's struggle at Chancellorsville
was finished by noon, except in Lee
's rear, where Sedgwick
fought all day, without success, to reach the main body of Hooker
The Federals suffered very serious losses during this day's contest.
Even then it was believed that the advantage rested with the larger Army of the Potomac and that the Federals
had an opportunity to win. Thirty-seven thousand Union troops, the First, and three-quarters of the Fifth Corps, had been entirely out of the fight on that day. Five thousand men of the Eleventh Corps, who were eager to retrieve their misfortune, were also inactive.
When night came, and the shades of darkness hid the sights of suffering on the battlefield, the Federal
army was resting in a huge curve, the left wing on the Rappahannock
and the right on the Rapidan
In this way the fords across the rivers which led to safety were in control of the Army of the Potomac.
moved his corps close to the bivouacs of the army in blue.
But, behind the Confederate
battle-line, there was a new factor in the struggle in the person of Sedgwick
, with the remnants of his gallant corps, which had numbered nearly twenty-two thousand when they started for the front, but now were depleted by their terrific charge upon Marye's Heights
The work of one shell
Part of the Havoc Wrought on Marye's Heights by the Assault of Sedgwick on May 3, 1863.
No sooner had they seized the stone wall than the victorious Federals swarmed up and over the ridge above, driving the Confederates from the rifle-pits, capturing the guns of the famous Washington Artillery which had so long guarded the Heights, and inflicting slaughter upon the assaulting columns.
If Sedgwick had had cavalry he could have crushed the divided forces of Early and cleared the way for a rapid advance to attack Lee's rear.
In the picture we see Confederate caisson wagons and horses destroyed by a lucky shot from the Second Massachusetts' siege-gun battery planted across the river at Falmouth to support Sedgwick's assault.
Surveying the scene stands General Herman Haupt, Chief of the Bureau of Military Railways, the man leaning against the stump.
By him is W. W. Wright, Superintendent of the Military Railroad.
The photograph was taken on May 3d, after the battle.
The Federals held Marye's Heights until driven off by fresh forces which Lee had detached from his main army at Chancellorsville and sent against Sedgwick on the afternoon of the 4th. |
Over the ruined town: Federal battery before Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863
Here stand the Federal cannoneers at their posts on the last morning of the Chancellorsville struggle, ready to open fire with their 32-pounders against the fateful Marye's Heights across the river — where Sedgwick and his gallant Sixth Corps were to pluck the only shred of victory that remained to the beaten Army of the Potomac at the close of Hooker's futile and costly campaign.
On the night of May 2d came the order to advance.
The men of the Sixth Corps, already drawn up in battle, slept on their arms till dawn, ready to push forward and play their part in the conflict, the distant heavy booming of which had shaken the air as they had stood all day impatiently waiting.
The troops of the Sixth Corps marched out across the plain from the river at four o'clock in the morning; and as they reached the eastern part of Fredericksburg the Confederate batteries opened upon them from above, while the skirmishers rose in swarms before them and poured volley after volley into their ranks, the conflict being hottest around a large mansion in the town, where both sides dodged behind the garden-fence of the outhouses and fought furiously.
For a brief interval the Federals were held in check, but the rifled guns on Stafford Heights were already hurling their huge shells across the river and the wide valley, to burst in the Confederate works on the ridge before which Sedgwick's men waited for the order to charge.
Field batteries were unlimbered and these added their iron hail to the hammering that was being inflicted on Marye's Heights, where so many brave Federals had lost their lives the previous December.
At half-past 10 Sedgwick, seeing that the Heights could be taken only by direct assault, ordered General Newton to command the charge, and the two commanders anxiously watched for the outcome of another hurling of flesh and blood up the slope against the sunken road which held such bitter memories.
The columns went forward as coolly as did Pickett's men at Gettysburg, closing up ranks as men fell, till they swept over the hilltop, and Marye's Heights was won. |
and the subsequent hard and desperate struggle with Early
in the afternoon.
was between two fires — Hooker
in front and Sedgwick
in the rear, both of whose forces were too strong to be attacked simultaneously.
Again the daring leader of the Confederate
legions did the unexpected, and divided his army in the presence of the foe, though he was without the aid of his great lieutenant, “Stonewall
During the night Lee
made his preparations, and when dawn appeared in the eastern skies the movement began.
, weak and battered by his contact with Early
on the preceding afternoon, resisted bravely, but to no avail, and the Confederates
closed in upon him on three sides, leaving the way to Banks's Ford on the Rappahannock
open to escape.
Slowly the Federals
retreated and, as night descended, rested upon the river bank.
After dark the return to the northern side was begun by Sedgwick
's men, and the Chancellorsville campaign
was practically ended.
The long, deep trenches full of Federal and Confederate dead told the awful story of Chancellorsville
If we gaze into these trenches, which by human impulse we are led to do, after the roar and din of the carnage is still, the scene greeting the eye will never be forgotten.
Side by side, the heroes in torn and bloody uniforms, their only shrouds, were gently laid.
The Union loss in killed and wounded was a little over seventeen thousand, and it cost the South
thirteen thousand men to gain this victory on the banks of the Rappahannock
The loss to both armies in officers was very heavy.
The two armies were weary and more than decimated.
It appeared that both were glad at the prospect of a cessation of hostilities.
On the night of May 5th, in a severe storm, Hooker
conveyed his corps safely across the river and settled the men again in their cantonments of the preceding winter at Falmouth
The Confederates returned to their old encampment at Fredericksburg