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 In this state of affairs in our rear, General Lee led General McLaws with his three brigades 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—in his front. 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 inmediately 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 reform in the presence of the hostile 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. In the meantime General Hooker had so strengthened his position near Chancellorsville that it was deemed inexpedient to assail it with less than our whole force, which had been reduced by the detachment led to Fredericksburg to relieve us from the danger that menaced our rear. It has been heretofore stated that General Longstreet had been sent with two divisions of Lee's army to cooperate with General French on the south side of the James River, in the capture of Suffolk, the occupation of which by the enemy interrupted our collection of supplies in the eastern counties of North Carolina and Virginia. When the advance of Hooker threatened General Lee's front, instructions were sent to General Longstreet to hasten his return to the army with the large force detached with him. These instructions were repeated with urgent insistence, yet his movements were so delayed that, though the battle of Chancellorsville did not occur until many days after he was expected to join, his force was absent when it occurred. Had he rejoined his command in due time, Lee need not have diminished his force in front of Hooker, so as to delay the renewal of the attack and force him to a precipitate retreat, involving the loss of his artillery and trains. It was accordingly resolved still further to reenforce the troops in front, in order, if possible, to drive Hooker across the Rappahannock.
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