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 Of all the great battles of the army, Chancellorsville stands out as the one complete and overwhelming surprise. Many suggestions of danger had been sent in during the day (May 2, 1863) and there had been ample time between 10 A. M. and 6 P. M. for an impregnable defence, but Howard seemed utterly indifferent to all alarms, although Schurz and Devens both took some small precautions by facing a few reserve regiments to the flank, but went no farther. Curiously enough, the first immediate notice of Jackson's attack ‘did not come from our pickets, but from deer, rabbits and other wild animals of the forest, driven from their coverts by his advance.’1 Devens, who was nearest the enemy, was severely wounded in attempting to rally his men. His division taken in flank was driven back on Schurz's division, and that on Steinwehr's; and all retreated, driven in by sheer force of numbers. Among all their retreating body there was but one Massachusetts regiment, the 33d, this being one of tried courage, under a commander worthy of it (Col. A. B. Underwood), and having for a brigade commander one of the most daring and resolute officers in the whole army, Gen. Francis C. Barlow. It is only, therefore, because of the prominent share in the disaster attaching to a Massachusetts general that we need to dwell on it at all. Great injustice was done at the time to General Devens, in the assumption that he could have acted independently of his commanding officer in averting the surprise. General Noble, then colonel of the 17th Connecticut Infantry, asserted that ‘the disaster resulted from Howard's and Devens' utter disregard and inattention under the warnings that came in from the front and flank all through the day.’ But Doubleday has shown clearly that Devens recognized the danger, as did Schurz, by the course they actually took; and that they would have risked a positive reprimand by going any farther.2
2 ‘As for Devens, who was nearest the enemy, it is quite probable that any attempt by him to change front to the west, previous to the attack, would have been looked upon by Howard as a reflection on his own generalship, and would have been met with disfavor, if not by a positive reprimand. . . . Devens could not disgarnish his main line without Howard's permission, and it is not fair, therefore, to hold him responsible for the disaster. As it is, he was severely wounded in attempting to rally his men.’ （Doubleday, p. 30.) For the manly reports of Devens, Schurz and Howard, vindicating their commands from the charge of cowardice, see Official Records, 39, pp. 631, 634, 658. General Hooker somewhat ungenerously reflected on this corps in his letter of May 7 to President Lincoln, saying of his troops, “It is no fault of theirs (if I may except one corps) that our efforts are not crowned with glorious victory.” (Official War Records, 40, p. 438.) The most vivid description of the rout of the 11th Corps—an account by no means flattering—is in the report of Capt. Thos. W. Osborn, 1st New York Artillery, Chief of Artillery, Official War Records, 39, p 483 Good descriptions may also be found in Underwood's 33d Mass. and in Macnamara's Irish Ninth, p. 185.
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