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Chapter 37:

  • The enemy crosses the Potomac and Concentrates at Warrenton
  • -- advances upon Fredericksburg -- its position -- our forces -- the enemy crosses the Rappahannock -- attack on General Jackson -- the main attack -- repulse of the enemy on the right -- assaults on the left -- the enemy's columns broken and Fleeing -- casualties -- position during the winter -- the enemy again crosses the Rappahannock -- converging toward Chancellorsville, to the rear of our position -- inactivity on our front -- our forces concentrate near Chancellorsville and encounter enemy -- position of the enemy -- attempt to turn his right -- the enemy surprised and driven in the darkness -- Jackson fired upon and wounded -- Stuart in command -- battle renewed -- Fredericksburg reoccupied -- attack on the Heights -- repulse of the enemy -- the enemy Withdraws in the night -- our strength -- losses -- death of General Jackson.

About the middle of October, 1862, General McClellan crossed the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge and advanced southward, seizing the passes of the mountains as he progressed. In the latter part of the month he began to incline eastwardly from the mountains, moving in the direction of Warrenton, about which he finally concentrated, his cavalry being thrown forward beyond the Rappahannock in the direction of Culpeper Court House.

On November 15th the enemy was in motion. The indications were that Fredericksburg was again to be occupied. Sumner's corps had marched in the direction of Falmouth, and gunboats and transports had entered Aquia Creek.

McLaws's and Ransom's divisions were ordered to proceed to that city; on the 21st it became apparent that the whole army—under General Burnside, who had succeeded General McClellan—was concentrating on the north side of the Rappahannock.

About November 26th Jackson was directed to advance toward Fredericksburg. As some of the enemy's gunboats had appeared in the river at Port Royal, and it was possible that an attempt might be made to cross in that vicinity. D. H. Hill's division was stationed near that place, and the rest of Jackson's corps so disposed as to support Hill or Longstreet, as occasion might require. The fords of the Rappahannock [295] above Fredericksburg were closely guarded by our cavalry, and the brigade of General W. H. F. Lee was stationed near Port Royal to watch the river above and below. The interval before the advance of the foe was employed in strengthening our lines, extending from the river about a mile and a half above Fredericksburg along the range of hills in the rear of the city to the Richmond railroad. As these hills were commanded by the opposite heights, in possession of General Burnside's force, earthworks were constructed on their crest at the most eligible positions for artillery. To prevent gunboats ascending the river, a battery, protected by epaulements, was placed on the bank four miles below the city. The plain of Fredericksburg is so completely commanded by the Stafford Heights that no effectual opposition could be made to the passage of the river without exposing our troops to the destructive fire of the numerous batteries on the opposite heights. At the same time, the narrowness of the Rappahannock and its winding course presented opportunities for laying down pontoon bridges at points secure from the fire of our artillery. Our position was therefore selected with a view to resisting an advance after crossing, and the river was guarded by detachments of sharpshooters to impede the laying of pontons until our army could be prepared for action.

Before dawn, on December 11th, General Burnside was in motion. About 2 A. M. he commenced preparations to throw two bridges over the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, and one about a mile and a quarter below, near the mouth of Deep Run. From daybreak until 4 P. M. the troops, sheltered behind the houses on the river bank, repelled his repeated efforts to lay bridges opposite the town, driving back his working parties and their supports with great slaughter. At the lower point, where there was no such protection, he was successfully resisted until nearly noon, when, being exposed to the severe fire of the batteries on the opposite heights and a superior force of infantry on the river banks, our troops were withdrawn, and about 1 P. M. the bridge was completed. Soon afterward, one hundred fifty pieces of artillery opened a furious fire upon the city, causing our troops to retire from the river bank about 4 P. M. The enemy then crossed in boats, and proceeded rapidly to lay down the bridges. His advance into the town was bravely contested until dark when our troops were recalled, the necessary time for concentration having been gained.

Brigadier General William Barksdale, who commanded the force placed in Fredericksburg to resist the crossing, performed that service with his well-known gallantry. The enemy was prevented from [296] constructing bridges, and his attempts to cross in boats under the cover of artillery and musketry fire were repelled until late in the afternoon, when General Barksdale was ordered to retire; he had directed Lieutenant Colonel Fizer, commanding the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment of Barksdale's brigade, to select some skillful marksmen, and proceed to check the operations of the pioneers, who had commenced to lay pontons above the city. Colonel Fizer described to me the novel and bold expedient to which he successfully resorted. He said his sharpshooters were placed in rifle pits, on the bank opposite to that from which the bridge was started, and that his men were instructed to aim only at the bridge-builders. At dawn the workmen came forward to lay the cover on the bridge; fire was opened, some were killed, and the rest of the party driven ashore. Then the enemy's batteries and riflemen opened a heavy fire on his position, when his men would sit down in the rifle pits and remain quiet until the cannonade ceased. Probably under the supposition that our sharpshooters had been driven off, the workmen would return; our sharpshooters would arise and repeat the lesson lately given. This, he said, with intervals of about an hour, during which a continuous and heavy fire of artillery was kept up, occurred nine times, with the same result—a repulse with severe loss; for twelve hours, every attempt to construct a bridge at that point was defeated. Then, under orders, they withdrew.

During the night and the succeeding day the enemy crossed in large numbers at and below the town, secured from material interruption by a dense fog. Longstreet's corps constituted our left, with Anderson's division resting on the river, and those of McLaws, Pickett, and Hood extending to the right. A. P. Hill, of Jackson's corps, was posted between Hood's right and Hamilton's Crossing, on the railroad. His front line occupied the edge of a wood. Early and Taliaferro's divisions constituted Jackson's second line, D. H. Hill's division his reserve. His artillery was distributed along this line in the most eligible positions, so as to command the open ground in front.

Shortly after 9 A. M. the partial rising of the mist disclosed a large force moving in line of battle against Jackson. Dense masses appeared in front of A. P. Hill, stretching far up the river in the direction of Fredericksburg. As they advanced, Major Pellham of Stuart's horse artillery opened a rapid and well-directed enfilade fire, which arrested their progress. Four batteries immediately turned upon him and, upon his withdrawal, the enemy extended his left down the Port Royal road, his numerous batteries opening with vigor upon Jackson's line. Eliciting no [297] response, his infantry moved forward to seize the position occupied by Lieutenant Colonel Walker. The latter, reserving the fire of his fourteen pieces until their line had approached within less than eight hundred yards, opened upon it with such destructive effect as to cause it to waver and soon retreat in confusion.

About 1 P. M. the main attack on the right began by a furious cannonade, under cover of which three compact lines of infantry advanced against Hill's front. They were received as before and momentarily checked, but, soon recovering, they pressed forward until, coming within range of our infantry, the contest became fierce and bloody. Archer and Lane, who occupied the edge of a wood, repulsed those portions of the line immediately in front of them; before the interval between these commands could be closed, however, the assailants pressed through in overwhelming numbers and turned the left of Archer and the right of Lane. Attacked in front and flank, two regiments of the former and a brigade of the latter, after a brave resistance, gave way. Archer held his line until the arrival of reenforcements. Thomas came to the relief of Lane and repulsed the column that had broken his line, driving it back to the railroad. In the meantime a large force had penetrated the wood as far as Hill's reserve, where it was met by a fire for which it was not unprepared. General Hill says:1 ‘The advancing columns of the enemy encountered an obstacle at the military road which they little expected. Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians stood in the way.’ The advancing Federals were allowed to approach quite near, when that brigade poured a withering fire into the faces of Meade's men, and Early's division from the second line swept forward, and the contest in the woods was short and decisive. The enemy was quickly routed and driven out with very heavy loss, and, though largely reenforced, was pressed back and pursued to the shelter of the railroad embankment. Here he was gallantly charged by the brigades of Hoke and Atkinson, and driven across the plain to his batteries. The attack on Hill's left was repulsed by the artillery on that part of the line, against which a hot fire from twenty-four guns was directed. The repulse of the foe on our right was decisive and the attack was not renewed, but his batteries kept up an active fire at intervals, and sharpshooters skirmished along the front during the afternoon.

While these events were transpiring on our right, the enemy, in formidable numbers, made repeated and desperate assaults upon the left of our line. About 11 A. M., having massed his troops under cover of the [298] houses of Fredericksburg, he moved forward in strong columns to seize Marye's and Willis's Hills. All his batteries on the Stafford Heights directed their fire upon the positions occupied by our artillery, with a view to silencing it and covering the movement of the infantry. Without replying to this furious cannonade, our batteries poured a rapid and destructive fire into the dense lines of the infantry as they advanced to the attack, frequently breaking their ranks and forcing them to retreat to the shelter of the houses. Six times did he, notwithstanding the havoc inflicted by our batteries, press on with great determination to within one hundred yards of the foot of the hill; here, encountering the deadly fire of our infantry, his columns were broken, and fled in confusion to the town. The last assault was made shortly before dark. This effort met the fate of those that preceded it, and when night closed in his shattered masses had disappeared in the town, leaving the field covered with his dead and wounded.

During the night our lines were strengthened by the construction of earthworks at exposed points, and preparations were made to receive the enemy on the next day. The 14th passed, however, without a renewal of the attack. The hostile batteries on both sides of the river played upon our lines at intervals, our own firing but little. On the 15th General Burnside still retained his position, apparently ready for battle, but the day passed as the preceding. On the morning of the 16th, however, it was discovered that he had availed himself of the darkness of the night and the prevalence of a violent storm of wind and rain to recross the river. The town was immediately reoccupied, and our positions on the river bank resumed.

In the engagement we captured more than 900 prisoners and 9,000 stand of arms. A large quantity of ammunition was found in Fredericksburg. On our side 458 were killed and 3,743 wounded; total, 4,201. The loss of the enemy was 1,152 killed, 9,101 wounded, and 3,234 missing; total, 13,771.

General Burnside testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War that he ‘had about 100,000 men on the south side of the river, and every single man of them was under artillery-fire, and about half of them were. at different times formed in columns of attack.’2

Less than 20,000 Confederate troops were actively engaged. This number composed about one-fourth of the army under General Lee. The returns of the Army of Northern Virginia show that on December 10, [299]

Map: battle of Fredericksburg.

[300] 1862, General Lee had present for duty 78,228, and, on December 20th, 75,524 of all arms.3

Upon being asked what causes he assigned for the failure of his attack, General Burnside replied to the Committee on the Conduct of the War: ‘It was found impossible to get the men up to the works. The enemy's fire was too hot for them.’4

After the battle of Fredericksburg the Army of Northern Virginia remained encamped on the south side of the Rappahannock until the latter part of April, 1863. The Federal army occupied the north side of the river opposite Fredericksburg, extending to the Potomac. Two brigades of Anderson's division—those of Mahone and Posey—were stationed near United States Mine or Bank Mill Ford. The cavalry was distributed on both flanks—Fitzhugh Lee's brigade picketing the Rappahannock above the mouth of the Rapidan and W. H. F. Lee's near Port Royal. General Longstreet, with two divisions of his corps, was detached for service south of James River in February, and did not rejoin the army until after the battle of Chancellorsville. Excepting a cavalry engagement near Kelly's Ford, on March 17th, nothing of interest transpired during this period of inactivity. On April 14, 1863, the enemy's cavalry was concentrating on the upper Rappahannock, but his efforts to establish himself on the south side of the river were successfully resisted. About the 21st, small bodies of infantry appeared at Kelly's Ford and the Rappahannock Bridge; at the same time a demonstration was made opposite Port Royal. These movements indicated that the army, now commanded by Major General Hooker, was about to resume active operations. On the 28th, early in the morning, the enemy crossed the river in boats near Fredericksburg, laid a pontoon bridge, and built another about a mile below. A considerable force crossed on these bridges during the day, and was massed under the high banks of the river, which afforded protection from our artillery, while the batteries on the opposite heights completely commanded the wide plain between our lines and the narrow river. As in the first battle at Fredericksburg, our dispositions were made with a view to resisting a direct advance against us. But the indications were that the principal effort would be made in some other quarter. On the 29th it was reported that he had crossed in force near Kelly's Ford, and that a heavy column was moving from Kelly's toward Germania Ford on the Rapidan, and another toward Ely's Ford. The routes they were pursuing, after crossing the ** [301] Rapidan, converged near Chancellorsville, whence several roads led to the rear of our position at Fredericksburg. General Anderson proceeded to cover these roads on the 29th, but, learning that the enemy had crossed the Rapidan and was approaching in strong force, he retired early on the next morning to the intersection of the Mine and plank roads near Tabernacle Church, and began to entrench himself. His rear guard, as he left Chancellorsville, was attacked by cavalry, but, being vigorously repulsed, offered no further opposition to his march.

The enemy on our front near Fredericksburg continued inactive, and it was now apparent that the main attack would be made upon our flank and rear. It was therefore determined to leave sufficient troops to hold our lines, and with the main body of the army to give battle to the approaching column. Early's division of Jackson's corps and Barksdale's brigade of McLaws's division, with part of the reserve artillery under General Pendleton, were entrusted with the defense of our position at Fredericksburg, and at midnight on the 30th General McLaws marched with the rest of his command toward Chancellorsville. General Jackson followed at dawn next morning with the remaining divisions of his corps. He reached the position occupied by General Anderson at 8 A. M., and immediately began to make preparations to advance. At 11 A. M. the troops moved forward on the plank and old turnpike roads. The enemy was soon encountered on both roads, and heavy skirmishing with infantry and artillery ensued, our troops pressing steadily forward. A strong attack upon McLaws was repulsed with spirit by Semmes's brigade; General Wright, by direction of General Anderson, diverging to the left of the plank road, marched by way of the unfinished railroad from Fredericksburg to Gordonsville and turned the Federal right. His whole line thereupon retreated rapidly, vigorously pursued by our troops until they arrived within about one mile of Chancellorsville. Here the enemy had assumed a position of great natural strength, surrounded on all sides by a dense forest filled with a tangled undergrowth, in the midst of which breastworks of logs had been constructed with trees felled in front so as to form an almost impenetrable abatis. His artillery swept the few narrow roads by which his position could be approached from the front, and commanded the adjacent woods. The left of his line extended from Chancellorsville toward the Rappahannock, covering the Bank Mill Ford, where he communicated with the north bank of the river by a pontoon bridge. His right stretched westward along the Germania Ford road more than two miles. Darkness was approaching before the strength and extent of his line could be ascertained; as the nature of the [302] country rendered it hazardous to attack by night, our troops were halted and formed in line of battle in front of Chancellorsville at right angles to the plank road, extending on the right to the Mine road, and to the left in the direction of the ‘Furnace.’

It was evident that a direct attack by us would be attended with great difficulty and loss, in view of the strength of his position and his superiority of numbers. It was therefore resolved to endeavor to turn his right flank and gain his rear, leaving a force in front to hold him in check and conceal the movement. The execution of this plan was entrusted to Lieutenant General Jackson with his three divisions. The commands of Generals McLaws and Anderson, with the exception of Wilcox's brigade which during the night had been ordered back to Banks's Ford, remained in front of the enemy. Early on the morning of the 2d General Jackson marched by the Furnace and Brock roads, his movement being effectually covered by Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry under General Stuart in person. As the rear of his train was passing the furnace a large force of the enemy advanced from Chancellorsville and attempted its capture, but this advance was arrested. After a long and fatiguing march General Jackson's leading division under General Rodes reached the old turnpike about three miles in rear of Chancellorsville at 4 P. M. As the different divisions arrived, they were formed at right angles to the road—Rodes's in front, Trimble's, under Brigadier General Colston, in the second, and A. P. Hill's in the third line. At 6 P. M. the advance was ordered. The enemy was taken by surprise, and fled after a brief resistance. General Rodes's men pushed forward with great vigor and enthusiasm, followed closely by the second and third lines. Position after position was carried, the guns captured, and every effort of the foe to rally defeated by the impetuous rush of our troops. In the ardor of pursuit through the thick and tangled woods, the first and second lines at last became mingled and moved on together as one. The fugitives made a stand at a line of breastworks across the road, but the troops of Rodes and Colston dashed over the entrenchments together, and the flight and pursuit were resumed and continued until our advance was arrested by the abatis in front of the line of works near the central position at Chancellorsville. It was now dark, and General Jackson ordered the third line under General Hill to advance to the front and relieve the troops of Rodes and Colston, who were completely blended and in such disorder from their advance through intricate woods and over broken ground that it was necessary to reform them. As Hill's men moved forward, General Jackson, with his staff and escort, returning from the [303] extreme front, met the skirmishers advancing, and in the obscurity of the night were mistaken for the enemy and fired upon. Captain Boswell, chief engineer of the corps, and several others, were killed and a number wounded, among whom was General Jackson, who was borne from the field. The command devolved upon Major General Hill, whose division under General Heth was advanced to the line of entrenchments which had been reached by Rodes and Colston. A furious fire of artillery was opened upon them, under cover of which infantry advanced to the attack, but was handsomely repulsed. General Hill was soon afterward disabled, and the command was turned over to General Stuart. He immediately proceeded to reconnoiter the ground and make himself acquainted with the disposition of the troops. The darkness of the night and the difficulty of moving through the woods and undergrowth rendered it advisable to defer further operations until morning, and the troops rested on their arms in line of battle.

As soon as the sound of cannon gave notice of Jackson's attack on the enemy's right, the troops in front began to press strongly on the left to prevent reenforcements being sent to the point assailed. They advanced up to the entrenchments, while several batteries played with good effect until prevented by the increasing darkness.

Early on the morning of May 3d General Stuart renewed the attack upon General Hooker, who had strengthened his right wing during the night with additional breastworks, while a large number of guns, protected by entrenchments, were posted so as to sweep the woods through which our troops had to advance. Hill's division was in front, with Colston in the second line, and Rodes in the third. The second and third lines soon advanced to the support of the first, and the whole became hotly engaged. The breastworks at which the attack was suspended on the preceding evening were carried by assault, under a terrible fire of musketry and artillery. In rear of these breastworks was a barricade, from which the enemy was quickly driven. The troops on the left of the plank road, pressing through the woods, attacked and broke the next line, while those on the right bravely assailed the extensive earthworks behind which General Hooker's artillery was posted. Three times were these works carried, and as often were the brave assailants compelled to abandon them—twice by the retirement of the troops on their left, who fell back after a gallant struggle with superior numbers, and once by a movement of the enemy on their right caused by the advance of General Anderson. The left, being reenforced, finally succeeded in driving back the enemy, and the artillery under Lieutenant Colonels Carter and Jones, [304]

Operations in Northern Virginia

[305] [306] being thrown forward to occupy favorable positions secured by the advance of the infantry, began to play with great precision and effect. Anderson, in the meantime, pressed gallantly forward directly upon Chancellorsville, his right resting upon the plank road and his left extending around the furnace, while McLaws made a strong demonstration to the right of the road. As the troops advancing upon the enemy's front and right converged upon his central position, Anderson effected a junction with Jackson's corps, and the whole line pressed irresistibly. General Hooker's army was driven from all its fortified positions with heavy loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and retreated toward the Rappahannock. By 10 A. M. we were in full possession of the field. The troops, having become somewhat scattered by the difficulties of the ground and the ardor of the contest, were immediately reformed, preparatory to renewing the attack. The enemy had withdrawn to a strong position nearer to the Rappahannock, which he had fortified. His superiority of numbers, the unfavorable nature of the ground, which was densely wooded, and the condition of our troops, after the arduous and sanguinary conflict in which they had been engaged, rendered great caution necessary. Our operations were just completed when further movements were arrested by intelligence received from Fredericksburg.

Before dawn, on the morning of the 3d, it was known that the enemy had occupied Fredericksburg in large force, and laid down a bridge at the town. He made a demonstration against the extreme right of the force left to hold our lines, which was easily repulsed by General Early. Soon afterward a column moved from Fredericksburg along the river banks, as if to gain the heights on the extreme left which commanded those immediately in rear of the town. This attempt was foiled. Very soon the enemy advanced in large force against Marye's, and the hills to the right and left of it. Two assaults were gallantly repulsed. After the second a flag of truce was sent from the town to obtain permission to provide for the wounded. Three heavy lines advanced immediately upon the return of the flag and renewed the attack. They were bravely repulsed on the right and left, but the small force at the foot of Marye's Hill, overpowered by more than ten times their numbers, was captured after an heroic resistance and the hill carried. The success of the enemy enabled him to threaten our communications by moving down the Telegraph road, or to come upon our rear at Chancellorsville by the plank road. He began to advance on the plank road, his progress being gallantly disputed by the brigade of General Wilcox, who fell back slowly until he reached Salem Church on the plank road, about five miles from Fredericksburg. [307]

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. [308]

Some delay occurred in getting the troops into position, owing to the broken and irregular nature of the ground, and the difficulty of ascertaining the disposition of the opposing forces. The attack did not begin until 6 P. M., when the enemy's troops were rapidly driven across the plank road in the direction of the Rappahannock. The speedy approach of darkness prevented General McLaws from perceiving the success of the attack, until the foe began to recross the river a short distance below Banks's Ford, where he had laid one of his pontoon bridges. His right brigades advanced through the woods in the direction of the firing, but the retreat was so rapid that they could join only in the pursuit. A dense fog settled over the field, increasing the obscurity and rendering great caution necessary to avoid collision between our own troops. Their movements were consequently slow. The next morning it was found that the enemy had made good his escape and removed his bridges. Fredericksburg was evacuated, and our rear no longer threatened. But, as General Hooker had it in his power to recross, it was deemed best to leave a force to hold our lines as before. McLaws and Anderson being directed to return to Chancellorsville, they reached their destination during the afternoon, in the midst of a violent storm which continued throughout the night and most of the following day. Preparations were made to assail the enemy's works at daylight on the 6th, but, on advancing our skirmishers, it was found that, under cover of the storm and darkness of the night, he had retreated over the river. A detachment was left to guard the battlefield, while the wounded were removed and the captured property collected. The rest of the army returned to its former position.

The loss of the enemy, according to his own statement, was 1,512 killed and 9,518 wounded; total, 11,030. His dead and a large number of wounded were left on the field. About 5,000 prisoners, exclusive of the wounded, were taken, and 13 pieces of artillery, 19,500 stand of arms, 17 colors, and a large quantity of ammunition fell into our hands.

Our loss was much less in killed and wounded than that of the enemy, but of the number was one, a host in himself, Lieutenant General Jackson, who was wounded, and died on May 10th. Of this great captain, General Lee, in his anguish at his death, justly said, ‘I have lost my right arm,’ As an executive officer he had no superior, and war has seldom shown an equal. Too devoted to the cause he served to have any personal motive, he shared the toils, privations, and dangers of his troops when in chief command; in subordinate position his aim was to understand the purpose of his commander and faithfully to promote its success. He was the complement of Lee; united, they had achieved such results that [309] the public felt secure under their shield. To us his place was never filled.

The official return of the Army of Northern Virginia, on March 31, 1863, shows as present for duty 57,112, of which 6,509 were cavalry and 1,621 reserve artillery. On May 20th, two weeks after the battle, when Pickett's and Hood's divisions had rejoined the army, the total infantry force numbered but 55,261 effective men, from which, if the strength of Hood's and Pickett's divisions is deducted, there would remain 41,358 as the strength of the commands that participated in the battles of Chancellorsville.5

The Army of the Potomac numbered 120,000 men, infantry and artillery, with a body of 12,000 well-equipped cavalry, and an artillery force of four hundred guns.6

A brief and forcible account of this battle is given by Taylor:7

A formidable force under General Sedgwick was thrown across the river below Fredericksburg, and made demonstrations of an intention to assail the Confederate front. Meanwhile, with great celerity and secrecy, General Hooker, with the bulk of his army, crossed at the upper fords, and, in an able manner and wonderfully short time, had concentrated four of his seven army corps, numbering fifty-six thousand men, at Chancellorsville, about ten miles west of Fredericksburg. His purpose was now fully developed to General Lee, who, instead of awaiting its further prosecution, immediately determined on the movement the least expected by his opponent. He neither proceeded to make strong his left against an attack from the direction of Chancellorsville nor did he move southward so as to put his army between that of General Hooker and the Confederate capital, but, leaving General Early, with about nine thousand men, to take care of General Sedgwick, he moved with the remainder of his army, numbering forty-eight thousand men, toward Chancellorsville. As soon as the advance of the enemy was encountered, it was attacked with vigor, and very soon the Federal army was on the defensive in its apparently impregnable position. It was not the part of wisdom to attempt to storm this stronghold; but Sedgwick would certainly soon be at work in the rear, and Early, with his inadequate force, could not do more than delay and harass him. It was, therefore, imperatively necessary to strike— to strike boldly, effectively, and at once. There could be no delay. Meanwhile, two more army corps had joined General Hooker, who now had about Chancellorsville ninety-one thousand men—six corps except one division of the Second Corps (Couch's), which had been left with Sedgwick at Fredericksburg. It was a critical position for the Confederate commander, but his confidence in his trusted lieutenant and brave men was such that he did not long hesitate. Encouraged by the counsel and confidence of General Jackson, he determined to still further divide his army; and, while he, with the divisions of Anderson and McLaws, less than fourteen thousand men, should hold the enemy in his front, he would hurl Jackson upon his flank and rear, and crush and crumble him as [310] between the upper and nether millstone. The very boldness of the movement contributed much to insure its success.

The flank movement of Jackson's wing was attended with extraordinary success. On the afternoon of the 2d of May, he struck such a blow to the enemy on their extreme right as to cause dismay and demoralization to their entire army; this advantage was promptly and vigorously followed up the next day, when Generals Lee and Stuart (the latter then in command of Jackson's wing) joined elbows; and after most heroic and determined effort, their now united forces finally succeeded in storming and capturing the works of the enemy.

Meantime Sedgwick had forced Early out of the heights at Fredericksburg, and had advanced toward Chancellorsville, thus threatening the Confederate rear. General Lee, having defeated the greater force and driven it from its stronghold, now gathered up a few of the most available of his victorious brigades and turned upon the lesser. On May 3d Sedgwick's force was encountered near Salem Church, and its further progress checked by General McLaws, with the five brigades detached by General Lee for this service, including Wilcox's, which had been stationed at Bank's Ford. On the next day, General Anderson was sent to reenforce McLaws with three additional brigades. Meanwhile, General Early had connected with these troops, and in the afternoon, so soon as dispositions could be made for attack, Sedgwick's lines were promptly assailed and broken, the main assault being made on the enemy's left by Early's troops. The situation was now a critical one for the Federal lieutenant. Darkness came to his rescue, and on the night of the 4th he crossed to the north side of the river.

On the 5th General Lee concentrated for another assault on the new line taken up by General Hooker; but on the morning of the 6th it was ascertained that the enemy, in General Lee's language, ‘had sought safety beyond the Rappahannock,’ and the river flowed again between the hostile hosts.

1 Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, Vol. II, p. 463.

2 ‘Report of Committee on the Conduct of the War,’ Part I, p. 656.

3 Taylor's Four Years with General Lee.

4 ‘Report of Committee on the Conduct of the War,’ Part I, p. 656.

5 Taylor's Four Years with General Lee.

6 Swinton's Army of the Potomac, p. 269.

7 Four Years with General Lee.

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