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Chapter 37: Chancellorsville.

In the latter part of April, 1863, General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock, above Lee's position at Fredericksburg, with the intention of flanking and forcing him toward Richmond.

His army numbered, by his own report, 132,000 men, and upon reaching Chancellorsville he proceeded to throw up intrenchments.

Lee's army, in the absence of Longstreet's corps, numbered 57,000 of all arms.

General Jackson had not entirely recovered from an attack of diphtheria and was too weak to have been in the field, but he felt the importance of being present at the impending engagement. The Federals under General Hooker made a stand near Chancellorsville, and the west wing of Hooker's rested at Melzi Chancellor's farm, about two miles from Chancellorsville. General Jackson formed his corps into three columns for attack and, as he wrote in his last despatch to General Lee, trusted “That an ever-kind Providence will bless us with success.” The Confederates rushed on [378] the earthworks of the enemy and took them in reverse; here the I i,000 Germans, the mercenaries of General Howard, fled almost without resistance, carrying away with them the troops sent to their support. They did not even pause in General Hooker's intrenched camp, but fled in a wild rout, without hats or muskets, to the fords of the Rappahannock. General Jackson's battle-cry was “Press ouward!” At every success he raised his right hand to heaven in prayer and thanksgiving. Hooker was advancing a powerful body of fresh troops to break General Jackson's cordon about the Federal rear. While General Hooker pressed its front and the front of General Jackson's right, a heavy line of infantry was being sent through the woods, preceded by a flag of truce to cover their advance. It was followed closely by their line of battle, which poured a deadly fire into the Confederates. General Jackson had advanced a hundred yards beyond his line, expecting to meet our skirmishers a volley of musketry from the enemy proclaimed their proximity, and the General turned into the woods and met General A. P. Hill with his staff coming toward the party. General Jackson's officers were mistaken for the enemy's cavalry and a deadly fire poured in from our line of battle, killing Captain Boswell outright and wounding [379] many others, and “woe worth the day,” General Jackson. His right hand was penetrated by a ball, his left forearm was torn and broken near to the shoulder, and the artery severed. His horse dashed toward the enemy and lacerated the General's face and head by dragging him under the boughs of trees; but he seized the rein with his right hand and brought the animal back to our lines. He tried to dismount, but, with an anxious look over toward his troops, he fainted and fell from his saddle. After some little delay he was placed in a litter, but had only been there a few minutes when one of his bearers was shot down and the General fell, but Major Leigh bore him up before he reached the ground. Such a hurricane of shot and shell was poured down the causeway that the rest of the bearers fled and left Jackson on the litter, where he lay with his feet to the foe. Major Leigh and Lieutenant Smith lay down beside their Commander and protected him with their bodies until the firing ceased, then the litter was borne toward our troops, when the party met General Pender, who said he feared he could not hold his ground. In a feeble voice General Jackson gave his last military order, “General Pender, you must keep your men together and hold your ground.” The litter was carried through the [380] woods to avoid the enemy's fire, the boughs of the brushwood tore the sufferer's face and clothing, and at last the foot of one of the bearers became entangled in a vine; he fell and the General was thrown heavily upon his wounded side, which bruised the wounds dreadfully and renewed the hemorrhage.

Next day, when Lee and Stuart, who had succeeded Jackson in command, had joined forces, they captured the works of the enemy.

General Sedgwick, after being delayed twenty-four hours by Early at Fredericksburg, marched to the relief of Hooker, threatening thereby the Confederate rear. General Lee turned with General McLaws's five brigades (including Wilcox's, who had fallen back from Fredericksburg), and General Anderson with three additional brigades, turned upon Sedgwick.

General Early brought up his troops in the afternoon of the 4th, and the corps of Sedgwick was broken and driven to the river, which he crossed during the night.

On the 5th, General Lee concentrated for another assault, but on the morning of the 6th he learned that Hooker “had sought safety beyond the Rappahannock.” 1

When General Jackson arrived at the field [381] hospital his arm was amputated, and he seemed to rally somewhat, and was most anxious to get on by easy journeys to Lexington. The proximity of the enemy made his removal also desirable, and it was determined to remove him to Guinea Station. On the way pneumonia set in, and all now felt this precious life hung on a thread. Mrs. Jackson had been sent for, and came, bringing baby Julia. When the baby was set on his bedside, her father caressed her with his wounded hand, murmuring in a faint voice, “Little darling,” from time to time. Now his darling is “dead in her beauty,” and it may be that he is teaching her the song of the Redeemed in the mansion prepared for her.

He rendered thanks for every service performed by those about him, and many times reaffirmed his submission and trust in God, begged his wife to speak aloud, because he wanted to “hear every word” she said. Mrs. Jackson, though racked by grief, joined those about his bed in singing hymns which seemed to quiet him. When at last he had but a few moments to live, she announced it to him. He answered, “I prefer it. I will be an infinite gainer to be translated.” When his mind wandered, he called out, “A. P. Hill, prepare for action,” and several times, “Tell Major Hawks to send forward provisions [382] for the men,” even in his dying moments being intent on ministering to them.

When General Lee heard of his extremity he said, “Tell him I wrestled in prayer for him last night as I never prayed, I believe, for myself.”

General Jackson died about three o'clock in the afternoon. His last words were, “Let us pass over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” All the evening before, Mr. Davis, unable to think of anything but the impending calamity, sat silent until twelve or one o'clock. When news came that the General was sinking, the burthen of Mr. Davis's regret was that he was helpless to serve or comfort him in any way. We kept a servant at the telegraph office to bring the latest news, and sent one to every train, where other people in crowds were, on the same errand. Before the engine slacked up in Broad Street, the crowd shouted to the engineer, “How is he? Is he better?” At eleven o'clock the next morning the body was brought down, wrapped in a handsome flag Mr. Davis had sent for the purpose. There was not standing room in the broad street as the cortege moved to the Governor's house.

There we went to take a last look at the patriot saint, whose face still bore the marks of the anguish he had suffered. A tear [383] dropped on the face as Mr. Davis leant over the dead hero; and when a man came to the mansion and attempted to talk of some business matter to him, he remained silent for a while and then said, “You must excuse me. I am still staggering from a dreadful blow. I cannot think.”

The body lay in state in the Capitol, where a constant procession of weeping mourners passed slowly by for three days and until late in the night. When at last the beloved form was taken to its last resting-place, the streets, the windows, and the house-tops were one palpitating mass of weeping women and men. The only other scene like it that I saw during the war was the crowd assembled when Mr. Davis was brought through Richmond to be bailed.

1 General Lee's report.

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