The fighting was heaviest and most continuous on the Confederate left.
It is established by Federal evidence that the three corps of Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner were completely shattered in the repeated but fruitless efforts to turn this flank, and two of these corps were rendered useless for further aggressive movements.
The aggregate strength of the attacking column at this point reached forty thousand men, not counting the two divisions of Franklin's corps, sent at a late hour in the day to rescue the Federal right from the impending danger of being itself destroyed; while the Confederates, from first to last, had less than fourteen thousand men on this flank, consisting of Jackson's two divisions, McLaws's division, and the two small divisions, of two brigades each, under Hood and Walker, with which to resist their fierce and oft-repeated assaults.
The disproportion in the center and on our right was as great as, or even more decided than, on our left.
In the ‘Report of Committee on the Conduct of the War
,’ Part I, p. 368, General Sumner
testifies as follows:
General Hooker's corps was dispersed; there is no question about that.
I sent one of my staff-officers to find where they were, and General Ricket's, the only officer he could find, said that he could not raise three hundred men of the corps.
There were troops lying down on the left, which I took to belong to Mansfield's command.
In the mean time General Mansfield had been killed, and a portion of his corps had also been thrown into confusion.
The testimony of General McClellan
in the same report, Part I, p. 441, is to the same effect:
The next morning (the 18th) I found that our loss had been so great, and there was so much disorganization in some of the commands, that I did not consider it proper to renew the attack that day, especially as I was sure of the arrival that day of two fresh divisions, amounting to about fifteen thousand men. As an instance of the condition of some of the troops that morning, I happen to recollect the returns of the First Corps, General Hooker's, made on the morning of the 18th, by which there were thirty-five hundred men reported present for duty.
Four days after that, the returns of the same corps showed thirteen thousand five hundred.
On the night of the 19th our forces crossed the Potomac
, and some brigades of the enemy followed.
In the morning General A. P. Hill
, who commanded the rear guard, was ordered to drive them back.
Having disposed his forces, an attack was made, and as the foe massed in front of General Pender
's brigade and endeavored to turn his flank, General Hill
says, in his report:
A simultaneous daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river.
Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed.
The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale.
By their own account, they lost three thousand men killed and drowned from one brigade alone.
Some two hundred prisoners were taken.