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Chapter 10:

After the battle at Fredericksburg, General Lee's army went into winter quarters along the south side of the Rappahannock, and the Federal army made itself comfortable on the north side of the same river. It was a rigorous winter, and many of the Confederates suffered severely from lack of proper uniforms and shoes, and from want of proper food. In April, General Hooker, who had succeeded Burnside in command of the Federal army, began a demonstration against the Confederate front and right, and under cover of this movement, marched the Eleventh, Twelfth and Fifth corps up the Rappahannock, crossed at Kelly's ford, and concentrated at Chancellorsville on Thursday afternoon, the 30th of April. The Second corps crossed at United States ford, and the Third was ordered to follow by the same route. Four corps were thus massed on Lee's left flank, and a fifth was nearly in position, with ‘scarcely a man lost.’ The initial success was certainly with Hooker, and a continuation of this vigorous offensive would have ‘desperately compromised’ the army of Northern Virginia. But Hooker's energy seemed to expend itself in the movement. ‘Lee had not been,’ says Dodge,
unaware of what the Federals had been doing, but he had been largely misled by the feint below the town, and had so little anticipated Hooker's movement by the right, that less than 3,000 of his cavalry were on hand to observe the crossing of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan. Stuart had not until Thursday fully gauged [157] the importance of this movement, and only on Thursday night had Lee ascertained the facts, and been able to mature his plans for parrying Hooker's thrust. Dodge: Lowell Institute Speech.

On the night of the 29th, R. H. Anderson's division was directed to proceed toward Chancellorsville and cover the important roads leading to the Confederate rear. When Anderson arrived at Chancellorsville about midnight, he found two of his divisions—Mahone's and Posey's—already there. These two brigades had been stationed at Bark Hill ford (or United States ford). As the crossing of the enemy flanked their position, they retired with a view to check his advance on the Confederate flank.1 General Anderson took position at the intersection of the mine and plank roads, near Tabernacle church, and began to intrench himself. As Anderson withdrew from Chancellorsville to take this position, his rear guard was attacked by Federal cavalry, but this was soon driven off by Mahone's brigade. Up to this point no North Carolina troops were on the field. By this time, General Lee was satisfied that Hooker's objective point was his flank; so leaving Early's division, Barksdale's brigade and part of the reserve artillery under Pendleton, to guard his lines at Fredericksburg, he ordered McLaws to move toward Anderson's position at midnight on the 30th, and Jackson to move at dawn. General Jackson reached Anderson's ‘hasty works’ at 8 o'clock, and at once prepared to advance the whole Confederate force. Gen. R. F. Hoke's North Carolina brigade of four regiments and one battalion remained with Early. With Jackson there moved four North Carolina brigades and two regiments. Two of these brigades, Lane's and Pender's, were in A. P. Hill's division, commanded by General Rodes; the First and Third regiments were in Colston's division.

Hooker's plan was to uncover Banks' ford so as to get in easy communication with his troops left at Fredericksburg, [158] and advance to the open ground beyond Chancellorsville. He had already lost a day, and the day was very valuable to Lee. His troops moved forward, and Sykes and Hancock ran against and engaged McLaws and Anderson; and Slocum, commanding the Eleventh and Twelfth corps on the plank road, also engaged the Confederates. Sykes for a while drove McLaws back, but Anderson and Ramseur's Carolinians came to his support and drove him back of Hancock, who advanced to strengthen the fight. Hancock and Slocum then both formed line. The position of each of these officers was good, being free from the undergrowth of the wilderness, and open enough for advantageous use of cavalry and artillery. ‘Suddenly,’ says Dodge,

every one concerned was surprised by an order from Hooker to withdraw again into the wilderness. Here may be said to have begun the certain loss of the campaign. The proceeding was absurd. . . . Hooker had come to the end of his mental tether. The march had taxed his powers to their limit. Colonel Dodge: Boston Speech.

When the Federals retired, they were followed by the Confederate advance, but no more serious fighting took place that day. During the night the Federals intrenched themselves, as Hooker had, in spite of his numbers, resolved to fight a defensive battle. ‘It was evident,’ says General Lee in his report, ‘that a direct attack on the enemy would be attended with great difficulty and loss, in view of the strength of his position and his superiority of numbers.’ General Jackson was therefore sent with his corps, on the 2d, to assail the Federal right, held by General Howard with the Eleventh corps. Although Jackson's men had just seen arduous service, they set out with great cheerfulness, and by 5 p. m. had reached the Federal right. ‘To cover Jackson's march, Lee at intervals during the day tapped at the lines in his front, principally where Hancock lay.’

At 6 o'clock, General Jackson advanced. D. H. Hill's [159] division, under Rodes, held the front line. On the left of this division was Iverson with the Fifth, Twelfth, Twentieth and Twenty-third North Carolina regiments. In reserve just behind Rodes' right brigade (Colquitt's), was Ramseur, with the Second, Fourth, Fourteenth and Thirtieth North Carolina regiments. Trimble's division under Colston composed the second line; in this were the First and Third North Carolina regiments. A. P. Hill's formed the third line. Two of his brigades, Lane's and Pender's, were entirely composed of North Carolinians.

General Howard, in spite of repeated warnings, had not strengthened his position, and when Jackson's troops rushed fiercely upon his command, over half of which was composed of Germans, his men were cooking supper and amusing themselves. Colonel Dodge, of the Federal army, writes:

At 6 p. m. the order was given, and 22,000 of the best infantry in existence closed rapidly down upon the flank of 10,000 of the least hardened of the troops of the army of the Potomac. . . . The fight was short, sharp, deadly, but partial only. But the force on the right was swept away like a cobweb by Jackson's mighty besom. . . .Never was an army more completely surprised, more absolutely overwhelmed. . . . Happily, night was approaching and Jackson's troops had to be halted and reformed, his three lines having become inextricably mixed. Boston Speech.

With the exception of some of Schurz's regiments and Buschbeck's brigade, which made a gallant stand in some breastworks from which Doles drove it, there was no severe fighting until Berry's division could be placed in position. Then the lines were exposed to much hotter fire. However, the North Carolinians, as well as their comrades, had, although their success was marvelous, no such arduous battling as came on the next day. Col. H. A. Brown, in his Regimental History, says: ‘We captured piles of fat knapsacks and piles of fatter [160] Dutchmen. Private Faw, of Company B, remarked that the thick woods that we were passing through were like a strainer, letting the lean and lesser Dutchmen through, and holding the fat ones.’ Colonel Parker, of the Thirtieth, says that ‘upon the attack, many of these surprised Germans broke to the rear, shouting in terror the ominous word, “Shackson! Shackson!” ’

During this rapid advance, the front lines, in the ardor of the pursuit and by the entanglement of the wilderness, became so mixed that it was necessary to halt for adjustment, and A. P. Hill's line was ordered forward to relieve the two front lines. It was during this change in his lines that General Jackson, one of the pillars of Lee's success, was wounded by the relieving line. These troops, having just come into position, did not know that he was reconnoitering in front. When Hill's regiments reached the front, line of battle was formed. Lane's brigade was in advance. His Thirty-third regiment was deployed in front as skirmishers; the Seventh and Thirty-seventh were on the right of the road, the Eighteenth and Twenty-eighth on the left. Jackson meant to push his attack immediately on with these fresh lines, but his fall and the wounding of General Hill stopped the further attack. During the night, when Sickles was pushing his way back to his friends, the Eighteenth, Twenty-eighth and portions of the Thirty-third North Carolina regiment distinguished themselves by effective work against him, and won General Heth's hearty praise. During Jackson's triumphant progress, Anderson hotly attacked the Federal front, but there were no North Carolina troops on his part of the field.

Before the renewal of combat, Sunday, May 3d, each of the contestants formed new battle order. Hooker drew Sickles back from Hazel Grove in the morning, and posted the whole of Sickles' corps and Williams' division of the Twelfth corps in works on a crest to the right of Fairview, and at right angles to the plank road. Fairview [161] was covered with artillery from the Third, Twelfth and Eleventh corps. French of Couch's division was on the right of Sickles, and Humphreys of Meade's corps was near by. This new line was at right angles to Geary and Hancock, who were still in front of Anderson and McLaws.

Stuart formed his lines with A. P. Hill's division in front. Pender and Thomas were on the left of the plank road, Pender's right resting on the road; Lane, McGowan and Archer were on the right of the road and in the order named from the left. Lane's left was on the road. Trimble's division, under Colston, composed the second line, and Rodes the third. To aid the infantry attacks, thirty pieces of artillery were placed on the eminence at Hazel Grove, abandoned by Hooker's order. The whole line moved forward shortly after daylight, with ‘Remember Jackson’ as a watchword. The breastworks, where the night attack stopped, were carried after desperate effort. The troops on the left of the plank road carried the next line, and then the Federals took refuge in their third, and strongly intrenched, line. The Confederates three times ran over these works, and three times were they driven back. French fell on their left flank, but they brought up their reserves and renewed the fiery onslaught. How fierce the fighting was may be gauged by the fact that 9,000 Federals fell here.2 Dodge comments: ‘No praise is too high for the staunchness of the attack or the stubbornness of the defense.’ Finally the Confederate left and right joined and drove the Federals from their lines.

This general sketch of the battle has been necessary for a proper understanding of the service of the North Carolina brigades. Pender and Thomas attacked to the left of the road. General Heth, commanding the division after its senior commander's wound, says in his report: ‘Generals Pender and Thomas, on the left, found the enemy posted behind a breastwork of logs and brush immediately in their front, at a distance of 150 yards [162] The breastworks were charged and carried, the men never hesitating for a moment, driving the enemy before them until a second line was reached, which was in like manner broken. A third line of the enemy was now encountered. After a desperate and prolonged fight, without supports or a piece of artillery to aid them, but on their part subjected to heavy artillery fire of from ten to twelve pieces, these gallant brigades fell back in order to the breastworks from which the enemy had been driven.’ These they held for reinforcements, and joined in the fresh assault that drove the Federals off the field. General Pender says of his men: ‘I can truly say my brigade fought, May 3d, with unsurpassed courage and determination.’ Pender lost 700 men in a few hours.

General Heth reports of Lane's assault: ‘Lane's brigade, supported by the Fortieth and Forty-seventh Virginia regiments, and McGowan's brigade, advanced and charged the enemy (behind his breastworks) who was supported by twenty-nine pieces of artillery. I cannot conceive of any body of men ever being subjected to a more galling fire than this force. The brigades of Lane, McGowan and a portion of Heth's (Colonel Brockenbrough commanding), notwithstanding, drove the enemy from his works and held them for some time, but were finally compelled to fall back, which was unavoidable from the course that affairs had assumed on the right of the line.’ Their flank had been turned. General Lane justly felt proud of his men: ‘I shall always feel proud of the noble bearing of my brigade in the battle of Chancellorsville—the bloodiest in which it has ever taken a part—where the Thirty-third discharged its duty so well as skirmishers, and, with the Eighteenth and Twenty-eighth, gallantly repulsed two night attacks made by vastly superior numbers, and where the Seventh and Thirty-seventh vied with each other as to who should first drive the vandals from their works.’ His losses, 739 killed and wounded, show hard struggling. [163]

Iverson's brigade went into action on the left of the Confederate line and to the left of the plank road; Rodes' brigade was on Iverson's right. Both of these were supporting brigades and in the third line. The Fifth regiment, the left regiment, became entangled in the dense undergrowth and had to be moved to the right to get forward. This left the Twelfth on the flank. Lieut.-Col. R. D. Johnston, of the Twenty-third, was that day in command of the Twelfth and he deployed skirmishers on the flank and the brigade moved on the enemy. Iverson reached the front line as it was falling back from its assault on the third Federal position. General Doubleday, of the Union army, says:

Then another front attack was organized by the enemy, and Nicholls', Iverson's and O'Neal's brigades charged over everything, even up to Best's batteries at Fairview. Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, p. 48.

This attack, however, divided itself into two parts. A portion of Iverson's brigade and a portion of Pender's and two regiments of O'Neal's, under the personal leadership of Pender, assailed the part of the enemy's battery and line resting on the road. General Rodes said of this movement:
The enemy was compelled to fall back, and pressing on, Colonel Hall's two regiments (Fifth and Twenty-sixth Alabama), together with the Twenty-third North Carolina, Colonel Christie, carried the heights in magnificent style, planting their flags inside the works. Official Report.

The rest of Rodes', Iverson's and Pender's troops were repulsed, and this exposing the three regiments Pender had in advance, they, too, fell back. At this juncture the flank attack of French, and later Humphreys, struck the Confederate left. Iverson and Thomas hurried some troops there, and Colston and Colquitt soon stopped the movement, and the general Confederate advance followed. Iverson's brigade loss was 370 men.

While these North Carolinians and others were striking [164] so manfully on the left, Ramseur's Carolinians and Doles' Georgians were warmly at work on the right. Ramseur, as he had been on the front the day before, was on the last line at the opening of the battle. As Ramseur went in, the Thirtieth North Carolina, Colonel Parker, was detached, with discretionary orders to support Pegram's battery. When Ramseur reached the first line of works from which the Federals had been driven, he found a small part of one of the Confederate divisions so demoralized by the death of some of its officers, as to be lying behind the works for protection. Ramseur, after futile efforts to induce them to do their duty, marched his men over them and over the works, and formed in face of a murderous fire.3 As soon as he had established his line, Ramseur rushed forward without firing a gun and captured the enemy's works. General Cox says: ‘This was one of the few times during the war when the opposing troops actually crossed bayonets, and where an inferior force, in broad daylight, without firing a gun, captured breastworks held by superior numbers and drove them out at the point of the bayonet.’ General Ramseur says of his regiments: ‘The Fourth North Carolina, Colonel Grimes, and seven companies of the Second, Colonel Cox, drove the enemy before them until they had taken the last line of his works, which they held under a severe direct and enfilading fire, repulsing several assaults on this portion of our front.’ The Fourteenth and three companies of the Second could not get as far as the other part of the brigade, for they found no troops on their right and the enemy was in force on that flank. Ramseur tried in vain to get his right protected. Colonel Parker, however, returning with the Thirtieth regiment to join him, saw this flanking force, and always prompt and brave, he charged and stayed its progress. Grimes and Cox had now to be withdrawn until reinforcements came. But for Colonel Bennett's coolness and Colonel Parker's [165] charge, Grimes and Cox, after their handsome efforts, would doubtlessly have been captured or severely cut up.

The First and Third North Carolina regiments were in Colston's brigade and division. Colonel Warren was in command of Colston's brigade. This brigade was, however, under its fifth commander when Sunday's battle ended. Colonel Warren fell severely wounded, as did in turn his successors, Col. T. V. Williams, Col. John A. McDowell, and Lieut.-Col. S. D. Thruston. Lieut.-Col. H. A. Brown, of the First North Carolina, was fortunate enough to be the only uninjured commander. This list of wounded officers proves that the brigade fought unflinchingly. The Regimental History of the Third regiment gives this account of the brigade's part in the action: ‘On Sunday, the 3d, the regiment was formed on the right of the road, and advancing, captured the first line of the enemy's works—a barricade of huge logs with abatis in front. The portion of these works that crossed a ravine and swamp, and which was favorable to the occupancy of the enemy, was assaulted three times by the Confederates before it was finally held. This regiment (also the brigade) participated in the last two of these charges. It was then that Gen. J. E. B. Stuart ordered the whole line forward. The enemy's earthworks were carried by storm, and many pieces of artillery which had occupied them were captured. We were now in full view of the Chancellor house. . . . . Soon the Chancellor house was on fire and a glorious victory perched on our banners.’

The Federals retreated toward the Rappahannock by 10 a. m., and General Lee halted his men to rest and reform. It was his intention to follow Hooker for a new attack when word from Fredericksburg made other action necessary. General Sedgwick's corps had crossed the Potomac, captured the heights intrusted to Early, and was moving in Lee's rear to help the sorely beset Hooker. General Lee sent first McLaws and then Anderson to [166] meet and check this advance. No force except Jackson's corps was left in front of Hooker's vast army. ‘Here, then,’ is Colonel Dodge's caustic comment upon his commander's allowing Lee to do this with impunity, ‘we have the spectacle, happily rare in war, of a slender force of 20,000 men, who had been continuously marching and fighting for four days, penning in their defenses an army of over 60,000, while its commander cries for aid to a lieutenant who is miles away and beset by a larger force than he himself commands. And this slack-sinewed commander is the very same who initiated the campaign with the watchword: “Fight! Fight!! Fight!!!” and with the motto: “Celerity, audacity and resolution are everything in war.” ’

McLaws took position at Salem church. Brooks and Newton, of Sedgwick's corps, lost 1,500 men in an attempt to move him, but failed. General Lee then ordered the rest of Anderson's division to reinforce McLaws, and directed these forces and Early's command to strike Sedgwick. This was done, and though a loss of 2,000 men was inflicted, Sedgwick after holding his ground until night crossed the river, and Lee's flank was clear. Sedgwick's corps sustained a loss of 4,590 in these engagements.4 In this last battle, Hoke's brigade was most actively engaged in the charge against Howe. The main assault was made upon Howe's left by the brigades of Hoke and Hays. These two brigades, although attacking with ‘an easy contempt of danger,’ were repulsed until Gordon's brigade found opportunity to move down a ravine and take Howe in flank. This compelled Howe's hasty withdrawal. General Hoke was wounded in this charge. His brigade lost first and last 230 men.

As Sedgwick was retreating toward the river, Manly's battery was called into play, and General Wilcox said: ‘Captain Manly's battery rendered valuable service in shelling the retreating enemy near Banks' ford. Twenty [167] of the enemy were wounded by this shelling and fell into our hands the next day, and many were killed.’

The total Federal killed and wounded in this series of battles reached 12,216; they also lost 5,711 prisoners.5 The total Confederate loss in killed and wounded was as follows: killed, 1,581; wounded, 8,700; total, 10,281. North Carolina had fewer regiments than usual with General Lee at this time. Both Ransom's and Cooke's brigades were on other duty. There were present in General Lee's army in these battles, 124 regiments and 5 battalions of infantry. North Carolina had present 24 regiments and 1 battalion. Nearly exactly, then, one-fifth of the Confederate army was from North Carolina, and one-fifth of the battle casualties would have been, therefore, that State's fair share of loss. However, of the total Confederate casualties—killed, 1,581; wounded, 8,700—North Carolina lost in killed, 557; in wounded, 2,394.6 Thus more than one-third of the killed, and considerably over one-fourth of the wounded, were sons of North Carolina. Of the 124 regiments in the army of Northern Virginia, only three regiments7 lost in this battle over 200 men in killed and wounded, and all three of these regiments were from North Carolina. Of the same number of regiments, only twelve lost over 150 men, and six of the twelve were from the same State. These twelve and their losses are as follows: Thirty-seventh North Carolina, 227; Second North Carolina, 214; Thirteenth North Carolina, 209; Third North Carolina, 179; Fiftieth Virginia, 170; Twenty-second North Carolina, 169; Seventh North Carolina, 164; Fourth Virginia, 163; Cobb's legion, 157; Fourth North Carolina, 155; Fifth Alabama, 154; Fourth Georgia, 1500.

No words can ever make such undying attestation to North Carolina heroism as is borne by these simple figures. [168] Among the killed were the following officers from North Carolina: Cols. J. T. Purdie, J. C. S. McDowell; Lieut.-Cols. C. C. Cole, J. L. Hill, and Maj. L. Odell. In the list of wounded were Gens. R. F. Hoke, S. D. Ramseur; Cols. T. M. Garrett, T. F. Toon, W. R. Cox, A. M. Scales, W. M. Barbour, C. M. Avery, E. G. Haywood; Lieut.-Cols. J. W. Lea, R. V. Cowan, W. H. A. Speer, Forney George, J. B. Ashcraft; Majs. M. McR. McLauchlin, W. G. Morris, W. L. Davidson, T. W. Mayhew; Adjt. Ives Smedes.

On June 9, 1863, at Fleetwood, near Brandy Station, the greatest cavalry engagement of the war occurred. The Union forces, numbering about 10,000 men, under General Pleasanton, attacked General Stuart, commanding the Confederate cavalry, which numbered nearly the same as the Union horsemen. Stuart was caught between the columns of Buford and Gregg, and drove back each in turn in a magnificent battle, in which both sides fought earnestly and courageously. General Hampton led the First North Carolina in a flank attack, and as the front attack succeeded, this regiment, under Colonel Baker, followed in hot pursuit, took many prisoners, and captured the colors of the Tenth New York regiment. General Hampton commends a dashing feat performed by a squadron under command of Capt. W. H. H. Cowles, who, with Capt. W. R. Wood, ‘charged through the ranks of the enemy, following him for some miles and returning around his columns in safety, with sixty prisoners.’ Captain Wood charged successfully an infantry force. The Fifth, Fourth and Second cavalry were also engaged. The Second regiment was severely engaged and lost its brave colonel, Sol. Williams, of whom General Stuart said: ‘He was as fearless as he was efficient.’ Maj. Rufus Barringer, whose conduct is praised by General Hampton, was severely wounded. The Union loss was 837; Confederate, 575.

The day after this battle, General Ewell started on his [169] campaign against General Milroy in the Shenandoah valley. General Ewell's corps embraced the divisions of Rodes, Early and Johnson. In Rodes' division were three North Carolina brigades, Iverson's, Daniel's and Ramseur's; in Early's was Hoke's brigade, commanded during this campaign (General Hoke being wounded) by Col. I. E. Avery, of the Sixth North Carolina; in Johnson's division were the First and Third regiments. General Daniel's brigade had but recently been incorporated into the army of Virginia, and was constituted as follows: Thirty-second, Colonel Brabble; Forty-third, Colonel Kenan; Forty-fifth, Lieut.-Col. S. H. Boyd; Fifty-third, Colonel Owens, and Second battalion Lieut.-Col. H. L. Andrews.

General Rodes was sent to dislodge a force at Berryville, and General Ewell marched directly for Winchester. In the assault made by Early's troops on the fortifications at Winchester, Hoke's brigade was in reserve and not actively engaged. When the enemy evacuated Winchester and attacked General Steuart, of Johnson's division, who had taken position at Jordan Springs to intercept the retreat, the First and Third North Carolina regiments and the two Virginia regiments making up the brigade, became engaged in a brilliant night battle. These regiments were in position along a railroad cut, and were largely outnumbered, but Milroy's men could not move them from their line, and about 1,000 surrendered to General Steuart alone, who had been reinforced by the brigades of Nicholls and Walker. The First North Carolina captured four stand of colors. Lieut. John A. Morgan, of the same regiment, greatly distinguished himself by serving gallantly a piece of artillery commanding a bridge desired by the Federals. The losses in the two regiments were only 9 killed, 28 wounded.

The brigades in General Rodes' division were engaged [170] in a successful pursuit of the enemy at Berryville and Martinsburg, but had no serious engagement until they reached Gettysburg.

The weeks following Chancellorsville were busy weeks with the cavalry. At Middleburg, General Robertson, commanding the Fourth and Fifth North Carolina cavalry, attacked a brigade of Pleasanton's cavalry, and more than held his own in a plucky fight. In this engagement, Maj. James H. McNeill was wounded. Again near Middleburg, on the 19th of June, a sharp skirmish took place, in which the First, Fourth and Fifth cavalry were participants.

At Upperville, on the 21st of June, the two cavalry forces joined in severe saber-to-saber conflicts, and the day was one of repeated and varying combat. The First North Carolina had a hand-to-hand fight with the First United States dragoons, and, Colonel Baker says, broke them by the charge. The Fifth and Fourth were heavily set upon in the rear, and Col. P. G. Evans severely wounded.

On the 27th, at Fairfax Court House, the First North Carolina had, as General Stuart reported, ‘a spirited encounter with and chase after a detachment of Federal cavalry denominated Scott's Nine Hundred, killing, wounding and capturing the greater portion, among them several officers; also horses, arms and equipments. The First North Carolina cavalry lost its major in the first onset—Maj. John H. Whitaker—an officer of distinction and great value to us.’ The North Carolina losses in these battles were, killed, 31; wounded, 103. [171]

1 Mahone's Report.

2 Dodge, in Boston Speech.

3 General Cox's Memorial Address.

4 Rebellion Records, XXV, 1, 191.

5 Rebellion Records, XXV, I, pp. 185, 191.

6 Official Report, Rebellion Records, XXV, 1,809.

7 These three are, of course, the three highest on the list of the twelve.

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