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Chapter 10:

  • The battle of Chancellorsville.

The 1st of May, 1863, is signalized in American history as the beginning of the battle of Chancellorsville, the most brilliant of all Lee's victories. With 60,000 men he attacked and defeated Hooker's army, 130,000 strong. Into this struggle the Georgians of the army of Northern Virginia were led in seven splendid infantry brigades, besides the cavalry and artillery commands, the organization of which at this time it will be interesting to cite:

In the First corps, the division of Maj.-Gen. Lafayette McLaws contained the brigade of Gen. W. T. Wofford— Sixteenth regiment, Eighteenth, Twenty-fourth, Cobb's legion (infantry), Phillips' legion (infantry); and the brigade of Gen. Paul J. Semmes—Tenth regiment, Lieut.-Col. W. C. Holt; Fiftieth, Lieut.-Col. F. Kearse; Fifty-first, Col. W. M. Slaughter; Fifty-third, Col. James P. Simms. Brig.-Gen. A. R. Wright commanded a brigade of R. H. Anderson's division—Third regiment, Maj. J. F. Jones; Twenty-second, Lieut.-Col. J. Wasden; Forty-eighth, Lieut.-Col. R. W. Carswell; Second battalion, Maj. G. W. Ross.

In Jackson's corps were four brigades: One in A. P. Hill's division, commanded by Brig.-Gen. E. L. Thomas —Fourteenth regiment, Col. R. W. Folsom; Thirty-fifth, Capt. John Duke; Forty-fifth, Lieut.-Col. W. L. Grice; Forty-ninth, Maj. S. T. Player; one in D. H. Hill's division, commanded by Brig.-Gen. A. H. Colquitt—Sixth regiment, Col. John T. Lofton; Nineteenth, Col. A. J. Hutchins; Twenty-third, Col. Emory F. Best; Twenty-seventh, Col. C. T. Zachry; Twenty-eighth, Col. Tully [213] Graybill; another in D. H. Hill's division, commanded by Brig.-Gen. George Doles—Fourth regiment, Col. Philip Cook; Twelfth, Col. Edward Willis; Twenty-first, Col. J. T. Mercer; Forty-fourth, Col. J. B. Estes; and last, the Lawton brigade, in Early's division, now commanded by John B. Gordon, promoted brigadier-general from the colonelcy of the Fifth Alabama infantry— Thirteenth regiment, Col. J. H. Baker; Twenty-sixth, Lieut.-Col. J. S. Blain; Thirty-first, Col. C. A. Evans; Thirty-eighth, Col. J. D. Matthews; Sixtieth, Col. W. B. Jones; Sixty-first, Col. J. H. Lamar.

The artillery commands from Georgia at Chancellorsville were: Sumter battalion, Lieut.-Col. A. S. Cutts, (A) Ross' battery, (B) Patterson's battery, (C) Wingfield's battery; Fraser's battery (Pulaski artillery) and Carlton's battery (Troup artillery), of Col. H. C. Cabell's battalion; and Milledge's battery of Col. William Nelson's battalion. Wingfield's and Milledge's batteries were in reserve and not actively engaged. The others were in the thickest of the fight. Capt. John Lane's battery (E), of the Sumter battalion, was at this time on detached service in North Carolina.

As this history chiefly concerns the part taken by Georgians, we will not detail here the general circumstances of this famous battle—the crossing of the Rappahannock river near Chancellorsville by the United States army under Hooker, the brilliant flank movement of Jackson's corps, the rout of Howard's corps, the fatal wounding of Jackson after dark by his own men, the successful attack on Sunday under J. E. B. Stuart, the tenacious defense of Fredericksburg and the total defeat of Hooker.

Wright's Georgians were among the first to meet the enemy at Chancellorsville after he had crossed the river. Leaving Early to defend Fredericksburg, also menaced by the enemy, McLaws marched with Wofford, Semmes and Kershaw to reinforce Anderson, followed by Jackson. The part taken by Georgians on May 1st is epitomized in [214] the report of Gen. R. E. Lee as follows: ‘A strong attack upon General McLaws was repulsed with spirit by Semmes' brigade, and 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 enemy's right. His whole line thereupon rapidly retreated, vigorously pursued by our troops until they arrived within about one mile of Chancellorsville.’ In order to reach the position from which they made their gallant fight of Friday, May 1st, Wright's Georgians had marched 27 miles in less than twenty-one hours, part of the time in darkness almost impenetrable, and mainly in a heavy rain and through deep mud. They fought their way along the railroad to the Catherine furnace, where Lieutenant-Colonel Carswell, commanding the Forty-eighth Georgia, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wasden: commanding Twenty-second Georgia, moved forward through the dense wilderness, and after a severe fight pushed back the enemy for nearly a mile. Early the next morning, Saturday, May 2d, the brigade, having retired to the plank road, was again ordered to the furnace to support General Posey, and necessarily left the Third Georgia to bear the brunt of a spirited attack by the enemy. Nothing daunted, the Third not only held its ground against two brigades, but actually gained ground. Early Sunday morning, as the brigade was pushing forward in the Federal intrenchments, led by the Third regiment, Major Jones, commanding the latter, received a wound which caused the loss of his right arm, at and Capt. H. Andrews took command. Going forward with great impetuosity, the brigade was the first to reach Chancellor's, capturing first a battery and 300 prisoners and later an entire Connecticut regiment. On Monday the brigade, having marched rapidly to the right, supported General Early near Fredericksburg, made an intrepid charge across a wheat field under a hot fire of grape, [215] drove a battery from position, and pursued the discomfited enemy. For eight days this brigade was marching and fighting. Its loss was 273; among the killed, Capt. F. M. Heath, Twenty-second, and Capts. W. N. Kendrick and William A. Spier, Forty-eighth.

Semmes' brigade, as has been noted, fought on the line confronting the forward movement of Hooker from Chancellorsville. It was the chief participant in the defeat of Sykes' division of United States regulars on May 1st, the Fifty-first Georgia bearing the brunt of the fight. Col. W. M. Slaughter, ‘the gallant leader of the Fifty-first,’ received his death-wound early in the action, and a little later Lieut.-Col. Edward Ball was wounded in the head. As the Federal lines gave way on Sunday morning, McLaws and Anderson pressed forward to a union with Jackson's corps, and Lieutenant-Colonel Holt, who with his entire regiment, the veteran and gallant Tenth Georgia, was on skirmish duty, sent forward Lieutenant Bailey, Company A of his regiment, with a flag of truce and demanded the surrender of a party of the enemy still in their trenches. Three hundred and forty men and officers, considerably outnumbering the Tenth, were thus taken and sent to the rear. The brigade now received orders to move down the turnpike in the direction of Fredericksburg to meet the enemy under Sedgwick. Pushing forward they came under severe fire, and the two left regiments, the Fifty-third and Fiftieth, were hard pressed but held their ground without flinching. General Semmes said: ‘This battle was one of the most severely contested of the war. Every regiment of the brigade came up to its full measure of duty. The brunt of the battle fell upon this brigade. Beyond my left there was only desultory firing, and beyond my right much firing did not extend far beyond and to the right of the road, whilst the roar of musketry raged furiously along my front.’ The Tenth and Twenty-first made a brilliant charge in support of Wilcox, driving the enemy [216] until it was necessary to recall them, and the Fifty-third and Fiftieth after fighting with stubbornness finally drove him from the field, capturing the colors of the Second Rhode Island regiment. The Fiftieth was no less distinguished by faithful fighting than its comrades. The brigade during the three days battles captured 595 prisoners and nearly 1,500 small-arms, and inflicted terrible casualties upon the enemy. Its own loss was very heavy, 577 killed and wounded.

Wofford's brigade was in the fight, especially on the evening of Stonewall Jackson's assault, winning great distinction, but at a loss of 553 killed and wounded. Of Sunday's battle, General McLaws said:

General Wofford threw a portion of his men across the valley between him and the Chancellorsville heights and thus prevented the escape of a considerable body of the enemy which had been opposed to his brigade and to his left and front during the morning. I directed a flag of truce to be sent them and they surrendered. I think that General Wofford is entitled to the most credit for their capture, although the Tenth Georgia, General Semmes, and General Wright of Anderson's division, claimed their share equally.

On May 2d while McLaws and Anderson, with the Georgia brigades of Wofford, Semmes and Wright, held the attention of the enemy in front, .Jackson made his famous flank march, taking with him among other gallant commands the Georgia brigades of Thomas, Colquitt and Doles. The Twenty-third Georgia, of Colquitt's bri. gade, under Colonel Best, was left near the furnace to protect the wagon train. As the rear of this train was passing the furnace, an attack was made by the Federals. Colonel Best, aided by artillery, held the enemy in check until the train was safe, but a renewed attack resulted in the capture of the greater part of the regiment. General Wright, then coming to the rescue, stopped the progress of the Federals in that quarter. In the advance that evening by Jackson's corps, the Georgians of Colquitt's [217] and Doles' brigades were at the front, while Thomas was with that line under A. P. Hill which Jackson ordered in as he was carried from the field. In the onslaught made by Jackson's corps that Saturday evening, May 2d, Doles' brigade advanced through a heavy fire of grape, canister and shell, captured a battery, drove the enemy from a hill and across an open field, and then captured a second battery upon an eminence entrenched with rifle-pits. This fight lasted from 5:30 to 9 o'clock and many gallant men lost their lives. Among the killed were Capt. R. M. Bisel, Fourth Georgia; Capts. G. G. Green and H. M. Credille, and Lieut. A. M. Burnside, acting adjutant Forty-fourth, and Capt. U. A. Allen, Twenty-first. Col. Phil Cook was severely, and Capt. A. C. Watkins, Twenty-first, mortally, wounded. The brigade captured many prisoners on Sunday and continued skirmishing for three days afterward. Colonel Cook and Lieut.-Col. David R. E. Winn, Fourth; Colonel Willis and Maj. Isaac Hardeman, Twelfth; Lieutenant-Colonel Lumpkin, Forty-fourth; and Colonel Mercer and Maj. T. C. Glover, Twenty-first, were especially commended for gallantry. The brigade went into action with 126 officers and 1,468 enlisted men, and lost 66 killed, 343 wounded and 28 missing.

Colquitt's brigade was delayed in getting into the fight by a demonstration of Federal cavalry in flank, but reached the field in time to support Doles. Sunday morning it was sent from flank to flank, finally finding opportunity to take an important part in driving the enemy from the breastworks at Chancellorsville. Capt. William M. Arnold, in command of skirmishers, was particularly distinguished. The brigade was about 1,600 strong and lost 10 killed and 134 wounded outside of the Twenty-third, which, as has been noted, was mainly captured, involving a loss of 276 men. Thomas' brigade attacked the enemy at an early hour Sunday morning, drove the first line from breastworks, routed a second [218] line, and then with Pender's North Carolinians defeated yet a third Federal line after a sharp conflict. Thomas had to withdraw his brigade some distance after this because he found himself beyond support on either flank. The loss of the brigade in killed and wounded was 177. Among the killed were Capts. Robert P. Harman and W. H. Shaw, and Lieut.-Col. James M. Fielder. Capt. T. T. Mounger and Lieut. H. A. Solomon fell mortally wounded within a few yards of the enemy's breastworks. General Heth reported that Generals Pender, Archer and Thomas deserved, for their successful attacks, to be specially mentioned.

When Lee moved with the main army to meet Hooker at Chancellorsville, he left Early with his division, Barksdale's brigade, and the reserve artillery under General Pendleton, to hold Sedgwick in check. On Sunday, while Hooker was being pressed back to Chancellorsville, Sedgwick crossed at Fredericksburg and made an attack upon Marye's hill. The first attack was repulsed, but a second one carried the trenches, capturing a large part of the Eighteenth Mississippi and part of the Twenty-first, besides a company of the Washington artillery with its guns. Early, hastening up with his division, checked the progress of the enemy. The next morning General Early attacked Sedgwick in the rear, while McLaws and Anderson attacked in front. Early's attack began before that of McLaws and Anderson. As the brigades of Hoke and Hays crossed Hazel run to move toward the right, Gordon's brigade advanced toward Lee's and Marye's hills, followed by Smith and Barksdale. Col. C. A. Evans, of the Thirty-first Georgia, was in the lead in this attack of Gordon's brigade, recapturing Marye's hill and holding it, and subsequently, aided by the rest of the division, Gordon compelled the enemy to give up the only advantage he had gained in the three days batties. [219] The loss of the brigade in killed and wounded was 161, including among the wounded Capt. James Mitchell, adjutant-general.

Brig.-Gen. William N. Pendleton, chief of artillery, in his report speaks of the good work of several Georgia batteries in the fighting on this part of the line. He tells how Ross' battery (A of the Sumter battalion) rendered service in annoying the enemy during a charge of Hoke's brigade, and how the guns of Captain Patterson, (Company B of the same battalion) were fought until ammunition failed. Again General Pendleton says:

Captain Fraser (Pulaski artillery), whom I saw under fire, enlisted warm approbation by his cool self-possession and ready power for emergency. Captain Carlton (Troup artillery) is also entitled to honorable mention for the persistent gallantry and efficiency with which he used his guns. While thus rendering tribute to fidelity, I take peculiar pleasure in directing attention to an instance, recorded by Colonel Cabell, of heroism in Richard W. Saye, a private of Captain Carlton's battery. A shell, with the fuse still burning, had fallen near and was pointed out to Saye. He unhesitatingly seized it and threw it over the parapet, probably saving lives thereby, as the shell exploded a moment after.


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Lafayette McLaws (8)
Paul J. Semmes (7)
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Hooker (6)
W. T. Wofford (5)
E. L. Thomas (5)
Jubal A. Early (5)
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John T. Wingfield (2)
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William M. Slaughter (2)
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Pender (2)
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