- Introduction - What's on this Page.
- Narrative - Opening Moves; First & Sixth Corps
- A Brief Summary of the Campaign & Battles
- Official Reports of the Campaign
- Narrative - Chancellorsville; Charles E. Davis, jr.
- Austin Stearns' Narrative, continued.
- Letters From the Battlefield
- Following the Ambulance Train with Sam Webster and Appleton Sawyer
- Narrative - Retreat - Davis
- Soldiers' Letters
- Regimental Casualties during the Campaign
- Commentary - The Death of Stonewall Jackson
- Commentary from Major-General Meade
The '13th Mass' were again extremely lucky at the bloody engagement of Chancellorsville. The battle claimed 17,000 killed, wounded or missing Union soldiers. It was worse than Fredericksburg. Casualties for the '13th Mass.' Regiment occurred at Fitzhugh Crossing [also called Pollock's Mill Creek] April 30th, with two men killed, (Lt. William Cordwell and Captain George N. Bush) and Sergeant John S. Fay severly wounded. At Chancellorsville a few days later, a reconaissance by the regiment on May 4th resulted in (about) 5 wounded, and 1 captured. The captured man, Samuel Stephen Carleton, Company D, never recovered from his wounds and died in 1867. Corporal Gilbert Greenwood, also of Company D, was severely wounded and died May 16th, but he is erroneously listed in the official history as having died from wounds received at the Battle of the Wilderness. The suffering of Carleton and Greenwood is described in the 'casualties' section of this page.
First Corps Commander General John F. Reynold's report, and 2nd Division Commander, General John Robinson's report are included here. These help explain the part played by the 13th regiment in this confusing campaign. The soldiers letters and diaries provide graphic descriptiions of the campaign; the shelling at Fitzhugh Crossing, the march to the front, the deadly reconaissance May 4th, the trenches, the rain, the mud, the retreat and morale. The the roads and fords they marched over and across, are well recorded by field artists Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes.
Narrative is provided by Charles Davis, Jr, author of the regimental history, and Sergeant Austin Stearns from his memoirs. Letters written during and immediately after the campaign are represented by George Henry Hill, Company B, Charles Leland of the same company, Warren Freeman of Company A, and Andrew J. Lloyd of Company E. Excerpts from Sam Webster's memoirs are quoted - Sam and other drummers were assigned to look after the wounded, so their experiences follow a different path from the rest of the 13th Regiment. A letter of Lt. John B. Noyes, fighting with the 2nd Corps is included. Formerly a private in Company B, newly commissioned officer Noyes joined his new regiment, the '28th Mass.' on the Battlefield at Chancellorsville.
Major General George Gordon Meade provides commentary on the campaign from the high command. Austin Stearns of the '13th Mass.' pays quite a compliment to Stonewall Jackson, equating his death with the beginning of the downfall of the Confederacy!
PICTURE CREDITS: All images & Maps are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions: "Hazel Grove" is by Craig Swain, Historical Marker Database; Appleton Sawyer was sent to me by Mr. Joe Stahl. Colonel Adrian Root, & Captain George N. Bush, from Carlisle Army Heritage Education Center, (AHEC), Mass. MOLLUS Collection; General Darious Couch, "Stampeed of the 11th Corps on the Plank Road" by A.C. Redwood, "General Hooker" by H.A. Ogden, "The Mud March" by Edwin Forbes, "Repelling the Confederate Attack," "Army of the Potomac on the March" (used in the Warren Freeman letter), Warren B. Davis's art work depicting General Lee at Chancellorsville, & the portrait of General George Meade, are from the NY Public Library Digital Collections; General John F. Reynolds is from "The Photographic History of the Civil War" Francis Trevelyan Miller, New York, The Review of Reviews, 1911; "The Effects of a Shell" by Sgt. Austin Stearns & Stearns portrait is from his memoirs, "Three Years in Company K" Edited by Arthur Kent, Fairleigh-Dickinson Press , 1976; "Battery of Light Artillery en Route" by William T. Trego, accessed via Wikimedia Commons, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; "Skirmishing in the Wilderness" by Winslow Homer, accessed via the New Britain Museum of American Art; New Britain, CT; Lt. John B. Noyes from the Massachusetts Historical Society; "Meeting Jackson's Flank Attack" by Edwin Forbes, & W.L. Sheppard's painting of the 29th PA in the trenches at Chancellorsville, come from "Century Collection of Civil War Art," 1974, American Heritage Publishing Company, NY, (originally used in Battles & Leaders of the Civil War) ; George Henry Hill's portrait was provided by Alan Arnold, courtesy of Carol Robbins, a descendant; Charles Leland's portrait is from Scott Hann; the tin plate and dipper graphic, and the weary soldier art, illustrated by artist Louis K. Harlow, were provided by Tim Sewell, a descendant of James H. Lowell, Co. A; The Charles W. Reed illustration "A Footsore Soldier" is from Hardtack & Coffee by John D. Billings, accessed digitally. ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.
The following narrative is taken from the regimental history, "Three Years in the Army," by Charles E. Davis, Jr.; Boston, Estes & Lauriat; 1894. (p 200 - 201).
Charles E. Davis, Jr.
Tuesday, April 28.
Broke camp and marched in a drizzling rain seven miles toward the Rappahannock, halting within a mile or so of the river behind a piece of woods. [near the Fitzhugh House-B.F.] We were full of surmises as to where we were going, though it turned out to be the Chancellorsville campaign. For a while the papers dropped “All quiet on the Potomac,” and substituted “on to Richmond.”
Orders were received from General Hooker for the men to take eight days; rations. We had frequently carried five days’ rations, but this was the first time we were called upon to lug a quantity like that. The consequence was that the overflow from our haversacks was stowed away in the knapsacks.
Wednesday, April 29.
At 2 o’clock this morning we were turned out, and by four were moved out of the woods about half a mile and halted in an open field. Heavy firing was heard up the river, in front and below. While we remained here a band of ninety-one rebel prisoners were marched by us, in appearance more like tramps than soldiers. They were captured by the first division [Wadsworth's Division] of our corps. At 12 o’clock we were marched out in full view of the river. From our elevated position could be seen the whole plain where we fought on the 13th of December. The position occupied by us then was now held by the Sixth Corps, and a mile below could be seen the first division of the First Corps, their arms gleaming in the sunlight, while the open field in front was dotted with skirmishers lying low, to present as small a mark as possible to the enemy. On a house opposite could be seen the Union sharpshooters, their heads peeping over the ridge-pole. It was a beautiful day, the air balmy with the warm rays of the sun, which was shining brightly on this warlike scene. We watched with interest the second and third brigades as they filed down to the pontoon bridge,where they halted and stacked arms.
Charles E. Davis, Jr. continued.
Thursday April 30.
National Fast day. Until 9 o’clock the heavy fog clung to the river, obscuring everything from sight. Firing was heard to the right in the vicinity of United States Ford, where the main portion of the army crossed. About noon we were summoned to “attention,” and then, by brigades, closed en masse on the first brigade ; after which General Hooker’s famous bulletin was read, saying that “the operations on the right had been a series of splendid successes, and that the enemy must leave his intrenchments and fight or ingloriously retreat,“ etc. Some cheering was given among the new troops, but the older ones were cautious about being too jubilant. Ranks were then broken, and the men collected in groups to discuss the bulletin or to drop asleep.
(No. 47.} Headquarters Army Of The Potomac,
Camp near Falmouth, Va. April 30, 1863.
It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.
The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corp have been a succession of splendid achievements.
By command of Major-General Hooker:
An hour or so passed when a heavy report was heard in front, and suddenly a shell came whizzing through the air to our right. All was bustle in a moment; each man making for his place in the ranks, putting on his equipments as he ran. Then another shell came striking on the river, throwing up the spray which glistened in the sunlight, reflecting the colors of the rainbow, and then bounding along the plain into the ranks of the bucktails of the third division. Another struck near General Robinson’s headquarters, while his men were striking tents. Another struck in the ranks of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania, tossing arms, equipments, and fragments of clothing, and possibly human bodies, in the air, in wild disorder. General Robinson’s staff were mounting in hot haste, while batteries, now unlimbered, were replying. The Thirteenth was lying on the ground, some asleep, some playing cards, while others were intently watching the effect of the shells as they burst in the midst of other troops, quite well satisfied to be out of the immediate danger, when a shell suddenly burst among us, and caps, haversacks, clothing, in a confused mass, were seen to fly out from the centre of the explosion. When the smoke cleared away, we found three mangled and bleeding bodies, - two commissioned officers and a sergeant. The officers were both dead, and the sergeant, whose body was hastily taken to the rear, was so badly injured as to necessitate the amputation of an arm and a leg. The regiment was ordered to the bluffs in the rear, where there was a road with an embankment, by which some protection was afforded, though the shells were flying through the air thick and fast. In the two divisions exposed to the fire, eight or ten were killed and between forty and fifty were wounded, without a shot being returned by any of our troops except the artillery.
The following excerpt from the official report of Colonel Adrian Root figures prominently in Austin Stearn's narrative
“On Thursday, April 30, it being the “National Fast Day” as proclaimed by President Lincoln, I formed the brigade in a hollow square, and observed the occasion with suitable services, conducted by the regimental chaplains. At about 4 p.m. the enemy, having obtained an accurate range of our position, threw several shells into the division, killing and wounding a number of officers and men, the First Brigade escaping with but trifling loss of wounded. The fire from the enemy’s batteries increasing in amount and accuracy, the brigade was withdrawn (by order of the division commander, General John C. Robinson) about 400 yards, to the protection of the ditches and hedges bordering the River road, where it remained under fire during the night.”
The following narrative is taken from "Three Years with Company K," by Austin C. Stearns; edited by Arthur Kent, Fairleigh-Dickenson Press; 1976. Used with permission. (pages 165 - 166).
Sergeant Austin StearnsWe marched away over the hills towards Fredericksburg, bivouacking one night, and coming near the scene of our last winters fight three miles below the town, in the morning of the second day.
All of our Corps was here, a pontoon bridge was already laid, and the first division was across. We marched down into an open field in the immediate vicinity of the bridge in plain sight on the enemy. Here we stacked our arms and laid around, wondering what would be the next move.
A day had been set apart by the President for fasting and prayer, and I think this was the day, but am not positive.
At least, being hungry I had made a pot of coffee and partaken of my army rations when, seeing the regiment on our left formed into a square, I went down to see what was going on.
Col Root of the 94th N.Y. in observance of the day had called his men together and was giving them some good advice as to what would be expected of them in the campaign now opening.
I listened to him till he was through and then turned back to my regiment. He had but just dismissed them, before many had time to go away, when a shell came shrieking over, bursting in their midst, and I think killed and wounded twelve. Another followed, and another, in quick succession, and our regiment this time was the loser. Cap’t Bush of Co. F was standing with his men around him when a shell came tearing through, striking him in the side and killing him instantly. Lieut Cordwell, who was sitting near, had his head blown completely off, and Serg’t Fay, also in range, lost his right hand and leg, all by the same shell.*
Many of the boys who were cooking their supper tipped over their coffee pots, spilling their contents, and saying “Why don’t they take us out of this.” The order soon came to fall in, and marching by the right flank we soon were out of range; none of our company were hit, if we except Cordwell, who had but lately been promoted. [ Cordwell a Ssgt. in Co. K was promoted 2nd Lt in Co. F; Feb. 14, 1863.]
While we were lying here, Hooker was not idle, but with three corps was marching up the river, crossing, and coming down on the other side, completely surprising the enemy, who thought he was reviewing an army corp in Old Stafford. An order from Gen’l Hooker congratulating the army was read to us, and also stating what was expected. The enemy, on discovering Hooker on their flank, quickly turned and marched out to meet him, contrary to the expectations of the union leaders.
*Sgt. John S. Fay's memoirs
relate his ordeal in detail on page 3 of this section.
April 27 - 30
While the 1st Corps & 6th Corps grabbed the Confederate Army’s attention with a feigned attack opposite Fredericksburg, General Hooker, with hard, fast, marching, skillfully maneuvered 3 Army Corps northwest across 2 rivers in readiness to sweep down behind General Lee’s lines. Two other Corps crossed the Rappahannock at U.S. Ford to join him.
Lee’s information about Hooker's move was sketchy. Hooker had got between Lee and his cavalry scouts. On the morning of the 29th, Lee only knew that part of the 11th corps was moving up river with 5 days rations. He did not know their objective. That day he watched as 1st Corps and 6th Corps troops established a bridgehead across the Rappahannock River directly in his front at Fredericksburg, threatening an attack.
At night another message from his scouts told General Lee, the detected Federal troops up river were moving in the direction of Fredericksburg. Although Lee did not yet know the size of the flanking force, (only 1/3 had been spotted) he reasoned the Federals were attempting to turn his flank and dispatched a division to meet them.
Hooker’s force concentrated in a heavily wooded area called the Wilderness, around the Chancellorsville House in the afternoon and evening of April 30. The flank march was a great success and Hooker issued his famous congratulatory orders. His army was supposed to continue marching east to open ground on Lee's flank, but Hooker hesitated, and delayed the movement until morning.Major-General Darious Couch, [pictured] commanding the 2nd Corps, wrote in his famous article for "Battles & Leaders":
"But in order to gain the advantages now in the commanding general's grasp he had divided his army into two wings and the enemy, no ordinary enemy, lay between them. The line of communications connecting the wings was by way of United States Ford and twenty miles long. It was of vital importance that the line be shortened in order to place the wings within easy support of each other. The possession of Bank's Ford, ...would accomplish all that at present could be wished."
[At Fredericksburg an afternoon artillery duel at 'Fitzhugh Crossing' kills two officers of the '13th Mass'. and severly wounds Sergeant John S. Fay.]
Friday, May 1
Finally, at 11 a.m. May 1st, Hooker's force moved east, about 2 miles, out of the tangled woods of the Wilderness.
Most of General George Mead's 5th Corps met no resistance on the River Road to Banks Ford, his objective. But Division commander General George Sykes ran into stiff resistance on the Orange Turnpike.
General Lee sent more troops early that morning to block the Federals approach. Stonewall Jackson arrived with a force of 10,000 and decided to attack the Yankees, even though his command was not yet all up. At 11 a.m. Jackson's troops advanced down the Turnpike and Plank roads.
General Hooker heard the cannonading at head-quarters and ordered a division to General Sykes support. But when the troops arrived Sykes was retreating per new orders received from General Hooker. General Henry Slocum's 12th Corps clashed with Jackson on the Plank Road and was preparing to attack when he also received Hooker's orders to fall-back to Chancellorsville. Incredulous, Slocum road to headquarters to speak with Hooker himself.
General Couch's narrative continued,:
"The position thus abandoned was high ground, more or less open in front, over which an army might move and artillery be used advantageously; moreover were it left in the hands of the enemy, his batteries, established on its crest and slopes, would command the position at Chancellorsville.
"Until after dark on May 1st the enemy confined his demonstrations to finding out the position of our left with his skirmishers. Then he got some guns upon the high ground which we had abandoned as before mentioned, and cannonaded the left of our line. There were not many casualties..."
Hooker surrendered the initiative and turned from offense to defense. The rest of the day Hooker dug in, while Lee and Jackson deployed troops and planned their next move.
Back at Fredericksburg, several miles to the east, General Sedgwick's 6th Corps was issued orders at 1 p.m. to attack in full force, the weakened Confederate lines on Marye's Heights. This was to support the main army’s drive east, but the orders did not arrive. Other conflicting orders arrived so Sedgwick did nothing aggressive. Poor distribution of telegraph communications hampered General Hooker's objectives throughout the campaign.2
General Lee's situation was precarious the night of May 1st. Hooker was strongly fortified in his front, and the small force Lee left behind at Fredericksburg was threatened with attack by the Federal 1st & 6th Corps. A victory for the Union at Fredericksburg would threaten the rear of his lines at Chancellorsville. He wanted to attack Hooker but he needed a weak spot. Timely news arrived from Cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart that Hooker’s right flank was ‘hanging in the air’ unanchored to a defensive landmark.
That evening Lee and Jackson planned an attack.Saturday, May 2 - Jackson's Flank March & Attack; (Reynold's 1st Corps leaves Fredericksburg and Marches to U.S. Ford).
On May 2nd General Stonewall Jackson led 26,000 troops in a daring 9 hour flank march14 miles west across the Union front to strike Hooker on his weak flank. Third Corps Commander General Daniel Sickles spotted the rear of Jackson’s column at Catherine Furnace and attacked with 2 divisions, but his troops were pushed back.
The Map shows the situation May 2nd about 6 p.m. [Click Map to View Larger]
“One patrol after another reported an impending attack to General O. O. Howard commanding the 11th corps, but Howard was not troubled. A brave and devoted soldier, he was also opinionated and so ignored the repeated warnings.”3 He did not think an attack was possible from those thick brambles.
While General Lee made limited attacks to pin down troops on the Union left, the massive Confederate assault on the right began between 5 and 6 p.m. Rebels screeched out of the woods and routed the un-prepared 11th Corps. Within half an hour they drove the Union troops 2 miles back towards the Chancellor House. With General Lee attacking from the east, Hooker was reluctant to pull troops from that direction to resist Jackson's massive assault from the west. He hurriedly sent 3 available brigades west to combat the charge. The Rebel attack sputtered out at dark.
Col. Leopold Von Gilsa's brigade met the Rebels at the point of attack. They fired about 3 rounds and fled into the next brigade.
This was Brigadier-General Nathaniel C. McLean's brigade. This same unlucky brigade was at the point of attack when Longstreet's entire Corps charged Chinn Ridge, August 30th 1862. (See "2nd Bull Run" page of this website) Back then, this brigade had to hold off 10 times its numbers for 1/2 hour without support. Three of the same Ohio regiments were still in the brigade at Chancelloseville; the 25th OH, the 55th OH, & 75th OH ! At Chancellorsville, the situation was again hopeless. "McLean reported all five of his regiment's stood as long as possible 'under the circumstances.'" McLean's Brigade reported 45 killed, 348 wounded and 299 missing. 4
Stonewall Jackson made plans to press the attack at night, & rode out with an entourage, close to enemy lines, on a reconnaissance. On the ride back jittery Confederate pickets fired upon the party killing some, injuring several others and seriously wounding Jackson.Command of Jackson's army passed to Major-Genral J.E.B. Stuart of the cavalry branch.
At night General John Reynolds arrived with re-enforcements. The First Corps ['13th Mass.'] joined Hooker after a long days march from Fredericksburg. They were immediately deployed northwest, along Hunting Run, to replace the position that was supposed to have been held by the routed 11th Corps. With these re-enforcements, Stuart's Confederate attack force [which charged the following morning] no longer overlapped Hooker's lines.
A photograph of Hazel Grove looking toward Fairview. Confederate Artillery took this knoll when Hooker ordered Gen. Sickles to abandon it the morning of May 3rd. Confederate artillery massed here and battled Union artillery - massed at Fairview (the field where the tree lines converge in the distance). The Chancellor House was just beyond the trees in the far background, center. Eventually the Union lines were driven from Fairview to a 2nd line of defenses.
Photo By Craig Swain at Historical Marker Database. (See link in photo credits section).
Hooker had "a splendid opportunity to beat Lee." Two halves of the Confederrate army were split. Hooker had a two to one advantage in troop numbers. Lee's two wings were divided by the high ground of Hazel Grove.5
General Sickles urged General Hooker to wrap Hazel Grove into his main lines. Hooker visited the site in the early morning, May 3rd, but thinking defensively, he ordered Sickles to abandon the position. Neither General "realized the potential of Hazel Grove in the darkness before dawn."6 "Abandoning the position was probably his greatest blunder."7
Sunday, May 3 -
May 3rd was one of the bloodiest days of the war.
Lee's objective May 3rd was to join the two wings of his army. With or without this communication from General Lee, Stuart attacked the strong Union fortifications head-on early in the morning May 3rd. Along the Plank Road, three repeated bloody attacks were repulsed by murderous Union artillery fire. But Stuart’s Confederates slowly gained ground.
The first wave attack to the right and left of the Plank Roand with 10,000 men failed. Stuart massed his artillery at Hazel Grove, the position Sickles was ordered to abandon, and with the help of the guns he threw all his reserves into another assault. The second wave also faltered. Many of the troops in this 2nd wave led the charge in Jackson's flank attack the night before and had had little sleep. Confederate General Elisha Franklin Paxton was killed leading the Stonewall Brigade. He was the Major who led Stonewall Jackson's fiirst expedition to destroy Dam No. 5 of the C&O Canal in December, 1861. [See "Stonewall Assaults Dam No 5" on this website.]
A third attack pushed forward over the shattered remnants of the first two waves. This charge beat back the Federal Lines 1/2 mile but the captured ground could not be held without support. Deadly Union artillery and stiff infantry resistance blasted the Rebels back with heavy losses. [See Charles Leland's letters for his comments on the ferocity of the Confederate attacks.]
A Confederate shell fired from Hazel Grove struck the porch where Hooker was barking out orders about 9 a.m. A shattered beam knocked Hooker in the head – he was stunned for a while, and rumors spread amid the ferocious attacks that he was killed. To dispel the rumor Hooker was assisted onto his horse and made a circuitous ride around the Union lines. [See Austin Stearns narrative] General Meade (5th Corps) and Reynolds (1st Corps) respectively pointed out to Hooker the opportunity they saw to attack Stuart's flank from the north. Hooker said no to both generals request. He was still thinking defensively. Hooker ended his ride at the Chandler House, the center of his new ‘fall-back’ position. With continued pressure from the Rebels, the Union lines started to collapse.
The Wings of Lee's Army Re-unite.
Union Artillery, crucial to stifling Rebel attacks, ran low on ammunition. Lee’s aggressive push from the south enabled him to join with Stuart’s wing of the army at Hazel Grove about 10 o'clock a.m. Four hours of bloody combat had exhausted Stuart's army, when Lee ordered another assault, from both wings simultaneously. Stuart’s battle-weary men, encouraged by the presence of General Lee, rallied to strike again.
By 10:30 a.m., Hooker's army abandoned its position around Chancellorsville and fell back to a 2nd line of carefully prepared defenses. Lee’s army moved up to Hooker's old positions.
Hooker's force was still in good condition with strong fortifications and a two to one advantage in troop numbers. As yet, the First and Fifth Corps had seen little to no fighting.
General Lee, wanting to stay on the offensive, planned to resume his assault , head-on against Hooker's fortified lines once his troops rested a short while. But at noon a courier brought news that the Union 6th Corps had taken the heights of Fredericksburg and were marching towards Chancellorsville. They could attack Lee's army from behind.
General Couch wrote in his 'Battles & Leaders' article the following regarding the battle of May 3rd:
About running out of ammunition he wrote :
"The situation of Jackson's Corps on the morning of May 3d was a desperate one, its front and right flank being in the presence of not far from 25,000 men, with his left flank subject to an assault of 30,000, the corps of Meade and Reynolds, by advancing them to the right, where the thicket did not present an insurmountable obstacle. It only required that Hooker should brace himself up to take a reasonable, common-sense view of things, when the success of Jackson would have been turned into an overwhelming defeat.
"...My impression was that the heads of ordnance, as well as other important departments, were not taken into the field during the campaign, which was most unfortunate, the commanding General had enough on his mind without charging it with details.
"Hooker had made up his mind to abandon the field, otherwise he would not have allowed the Third and part of the Twelfth Corps to leave their ground for want of ammunition.
"My pocket diary, May 3d, has the following: "Sickles opened at about 5 A.M. Orders sent by me at 10 for the front to retire; at 12 M. in my new position"; the latter sentence meaning that at that hour my corps was in position on the new or second line of defense."
When General Hooker altered plans to fight defensively around Chancellorsville, he urgently ordered the 6th Corps at Fredericksburg to advance down the Plank road and attack General Lee's army from the rear. (This was the reverse of his original plan, to bring the larger army behind Lee's lines at Fredericksburg.) Major-General Sedwick's 6th Corps was the largest corps of the Union Army with 23,667 men.8 To accomplish this objective General John Sedgwick had to first storm and take the fortified heights at Fredericksburg, before proceeding down the Plank Road to join with Hooker.
Poor communication between Hooker's headquarters and the other wings of his army had real consequences for the Union forces in the overall campaign. General Sedgwick did not receive Hooker's order to advance until after 6 p.m. on May 2nd, at which time he was already planning a morning assault.
Information from Balloon Corps observer Thaddeus Lowe, reported enemy strength at Fredericksburg was very weak. To hide this weakness the Confederates made noisy demonstrations along their thin lines the afternoon of May 2nd. They had 10,000 troops9 but made it sound like a lot more. Even with a reduced force, the high ground beyond Fredericksburg, occupied by the Confederates was difficult to capture.
After some delay, on the morning of the 3rd, pontoon bridges were laid across the Rappahannock River and General Sedgwick got the rest of his troops over. He first tried attacking Marye's Heights, the Rebel stronghold, from opposite sides. A mill race canal that had to be bridged stopped the right flank in its tracks, and a stream halted the force on the left. Meanwhile, Confederate artillery blasted the Yankees and the assault failed. Memories of the slaughter in December must have lingered in the soldiers' minds. A bloody head-on charge was tried next and failed. Rebel artillery and murderous fire from the stonewall at the base of Marye's Heights broke the two Federal attack columns. It was a repeat of the December battle.
The Map shows Sedgwick's situation the morning of May 3rd. [Click to View Larger]Then, a Federal officer in the 7th Mass., taking refuge by a house near the stone wall, peered through a board fence in the yard and discovered the Confederate position was un-protected from a flank attack. The news was passed up to the high command. The regiment re-formed and charged. The Confederate line broke and scattered up the hill. The other Union attack columns reformed and charged forward. Marye’s Heights was reached and fell to the Yankees.
Orders were to procede to Chancellorsville. Victorious General Sedgwick and his 6th Corps could not exploit the advantage they had over the weakened Confederate lines at Fredericksburg now split into two small groups. One of these Confederate splinter groups did all it could to successfully delay Sedgwick's advance.
Lee’s communications between the wings of his army was much better than Hooker's. Learning the defenses at Fredericksburg fell, he immediately decided to send re-enforcements to block Sedgwick's move to Chancellorsville. These re-enforcements formed battle lines around Salem Church, 6 miles east of Chancellorsville and put up a formidable resistance until darkness fell. Sedwick's advance was stalled. Expecting a Confederate attack the next day, he prepared a line of defense.
“Once again Lee’s men had whipped an overall superior Federal force because the Rebels had more troops at the point of collision.”10
All day long on May 3rd General Hooker wondered where was Sedgwick’s wing of the army?
This map show Sedgwick's situation May 3rd about 4 p.m. Confederate troops sent by Lee to block Sedgwick's advance concentrated at Salem Church. [Click to View Larger].
Hooker failed to contact
Sedgwick at night with instructions, and went to
sleep. With an enemy force in his front; his
advance obstructed, General Sedgwick received no
from Hooker about how to proceed.
Monday, May 4 - General Lee shifts positions again.
At 7 a.m. a confused message from headquarters arrived with suggestions for Sedgwick. "Hooker intended to await Lee's attack in his new position & Sedgwick had permission to go to either Banks Ford or Fredericksburg."11 General Hooker still wanted Lee to attack him in the strong fortifications around the Chandler House. But Lee made other plans.
He sent still more re-enforcements from his army to crush Sedgwick near Salem Church. It took all day for these troops to arrive and form battle lines, partly because Sedgwick commanded the only road, and partly because of the rough terrain. Lee’s desired attack came late in the day and was brief. Sedgwick consolidated his force around Scotts Ford, - his escape route across the Rappahannock River. That night after the brief fight, he wired Hooker that he is in position to attack but is threatened from two sides.
The map shows General Sedgwick's situation May 4th about 6 p.m. General Lee spent most of the day impatiently shifting troops from Hooker's front to beat Sedgwick. Lee was correctly convinced Hooker would not leave his defenses. Lee's troops were finally ready to attack about 6 p.m.
In a tragically comic series of cross communications, the equivalent of the following paraphrased messages flowed between General Sedgwick and General Hooker's head-quarters in the wee hours of the night :
11:50 p.m. Sedgwick to Head-quarters: I am hemmed in… Do you require me to stay? I feel obliged to withdraw.
About the same time, Headquarters received this earlier dispatch from Sedgwick:
I shall hold my position….
1 a.m. Head-quarters to Sedgwick: Withdraw.
2 a.m Sedgewick to Head-quarters: Will withdraw immediately.
2:20 a.m. Head-quarters to Sedgwick: Order to withdraw countermanded. Hold your position.
3:20 a.m. Sedgwick to Head-quarters: Yours just received countermanding order to withdraw. Almost my entire command has crossed over.
Tuesday, May 5
The morning of May 5th General Lee continued with his planned attack to destroy Sedgwick, but found him gone. But he also learned the Confederates at Fredericksburg had returned to Marye’s Heights. His rear guard was safe again. Lee turned his troops back west to resume the attacks against Hooker's fortifications. This is just what Hooker wanted. It rained, and it took Lee's force all day to re-deploy.
Wednesday, May 6
At midnight Hooker decided to retreat north across the river. Heavy rain drew out the process and threatened the whole operation but by 9 a.m. with the protection of fog, the last of his army crossed to the north side of the Rappahannock.
"Chancellorsville 1863; The Souls of the Brave"; by Ernest B. Furgurson, Vintage Books, 1993.
"Chancellorsville Staff Ride Briefing Book"; US Army Center of Military History, Ted Ballard & Billy Arthur.
"West Point Military History Series, Atlas for the American Civil War", Thomas E. Griess, Series Editor, Avery Publishing Group, 1986.
"Echoes of Glory, Illustrated Atlas of the Civil War"; by the Editors of Time-Life Books; 1991.
"Civil War Day By Day; An Almanac 1861-1865"; by E. B. Long with Barbara Long, Da Capo Press, reprint of 1971 original.
1. Staff Ride, page 3.
2. Furgurson, The Souls of the Brave, p. 158, 162, 242, 271, & 288.
3. Staff Ride, p. 4; The Souls of the Brave, p. 160.
4. Furgurson, The Souls of the Brave, p. 174-176, also Appendix 1p. 357
5. Staff Ride, p. 5.
6. Furgurson, The Souls of the Brave, p. 219.
7. Staff Ride p. 5.
8. Souls of the Brave appendix 2
9. Giess, Atlas For The American Civil War , Map 28. Furgurson, Souls of the Brave; Appendix 2., p. 365. Major-General Jubal Early's Division 8,596 men, plus Brigadier-General William Barksdale's Missippi Brigade
10. Furgurson, The Souls of the Brave, p. 280.
11. Staff Ride, p. 6.
The following official reports will help explain the movements of the regiment. They begin with General Reynolds, commanding the First Corps, followed by General Robinson, commanding the 2nd Division of that corps. Colonel Leonard of the '13th Mass.' commanded a brigade under General Robinson.
Major General John F. Reynold's Report
Corps, Army of the Potomac,
Camp near Pollock’s Mill, Va., May - , 1863.
General : I have the
honor to submit the following report of the operations of the First
the 28th ultimo to the 7th
The troops left their camp about noon on April 28, and were assembled by night fall in the position designated for them, in rear of the point of crossing, the mouth of Pollock’s Mill Creek.
At 10 o’clock the details called for to assist the engineer officer, Colonel Pettes, in carrying the boats by hand to the river, were furnished, viz, 75 men to each of the forty-four boats, and a brigade of 3,000 men were in readiness to be thrown across in them when they reached the river, to cover the construction of the bridges. These details were under the direction of General Wadsworth, from whose division they were made.
Owing to the distance which the boats had to be carried, and the condition of the road, they did not all reach the river until daylight of the 29th, twenty boats only being in the water when the enemy’s pickets, in their rifle-pits, opened with musketry and drove the working parties away. Our sharpshooters, disposed under cover along the bank of the river, were insufficient to dislodge the enemy, who were soon re-enforced in their pits by another regiment. As soon as the fog cleared, and the force of the enemy could be discerned to be only that occupying the pits, General Wadsworth was directed to get the boats below them, and throw over two regiments, so as to flank the pits and clear them. The Twenty-fourth Michigan and Sixth Wisconsin Regiments (Colonels Morrow and Bragg), selected for this purpose, moved down to the river bank at double-quick, were rapidly thrown across in the boats, ascended the bank, and drove off the enemy, capturing some 90 men of the Sixth Louisiana and Twenty third Georgia, including several officers. General Wadsworth crossed with the regiments and directed their movements in person. The remaining regiments of this brigade were then crossed in the boats, after which the bridges were constructed, under the direction of General Benham, who arrived from the upper crossing shortly after daylight.
[The graphic below shows the Union Bridgehead from Franklin's Crossing down to Fitzhugh's Crossing overlaying today's landscape. The 13th Mass. crossed the river at Franklin's Crossing in December. This time they were at Fitzhugh's. The map comes from the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Park blog, "Mysteries and Conundrums." Courtesy of John Hennessy. Click to view a larger image.]
By 10:30 o’clock the bridges were reported completed, and the other brigades of General Wadsworth’s division were crossed and put in position to cover the bridge head. It was necessary, in order to do this completely, to extend the left well toward the mouth of the Massaponax, to occupy the high bluff on the right bank of the river. Our loss reported in this operation was about 60 in killed and wounded. The other two divisions of the corps were then brought down to the vicinity of the crossing and sheltered in the ravines of the creek. The enemy commenced moving into position in great strength from below about the time the bridges were completed, occupying the Bowling Green road with his skirmishers, and in the railroad cut and rifle pits just behind the crest, (which was our line of battle on that part of the field December 13, 1862) he was apparently formed in two lines, with reserves in the woods.
The One hundred and thirty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers was detailed in the morning to support the batteries (Taft’s) on the extreme left, near Mrs. Gray’s, where it remained until the corps recrossed the river on the 2d instant, when it rejoined its brigade.
On April 30, the troops remained in position, the division across the river throwing up some light defenses, rifle-pits, &c., and placed so as to cover the bridges.
About 5 p.m. the enemy opened fire from their battery on the hill, near Captain Hamilton’s, on our working parties and the bridges, which was replied to by our batteries on the north side of the river. The fire was kept up until nearly dark, during which time it became necessary to move the Second Division (massed in the ravines, where it sustained some loss) to the shelter of the river road. One boat of the bridge was struck and disabled. It was, however, promptly replaced. The engineers received orders to take up one of the bridges at dark and move it to Banks’ Ford. The One hundred and thirty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers was placed at the disposal of the engineer officer for this purpose, and accompanied the train to the ford, returning about noon the next day. At dark, Ransom’s battery was replaced by Reynolds; of rifled guns.
May 1 was passed with the troops occupying the same position. The enemy’s force opposite us was very much diminished, though still strong on their extreme right, where their battery was posted. Their pickets along the Bowling Green road showed the same. The order for the demonstration at 1 o’clock did not reach me until 6 p.m. The troops were at once put under arms, and a division of the Sixth Corps moved down in the direction of the lower bridge, the skirmishers on the left being advanced to the Massaponax, in which position they remained until dark.
At 7 a.m. on May 2, I received orders to withdraw the forces from the right bank of the river, take up the bridge, and proceed, with my command, to report to the commanding general, near Chancellorsville. The divisions of Doubleday and Robinson were at once put in motion up the river, while General Wadsworth was ordered to withdraw his to the left bank and follow the route of the other divisions. During the withdrawal of this division, the enemy opened fire from the battery on the right of his line, again striking and disabling a boat of the bridge while the troops were passing, which made it necessary to suspend the crossing for a short time to replace the boat. This was speedily effected, and the passage of the troops continued. Our batteries replied from both sides of the river, Captain Reynolds’ battery doing effective service on the south side. The enemy soon ceased firing. I left General Wadsworth at this juncture and proceeded to the head of the column, by way of Banks’ Ford, on intimation that probably I might find that the shortest line by which to communicate with the commanding general.
On arriving at the ford, and finding there was no bridge thrown across, I continued the march of the column to the United States Ford, where it arrived at sunset. I preceded the command, and reported in person to the commanding general at Chancellorsville at 6 p.m., receiving his instructions for placing my corps.
On returning to the ford, I was joined by Captains [William L.] Candler and [William H.] Paine, of his staff, and conducted the troops under their guidance to the position designated, in which two divisions of the corps were established before daylight of the 3rd, though much delayed by the crowded condition of the road from the ford to Chancellorsville, which required the exertions of every officer of my staff to clear for the advance of the column. [U.S. Ford Road, was sketched by Edwin Forbes the evening of April 30th.]
The First Division, under General Wadsworth, which arrived shortly after daylight on the 3rd, was soon gotten into position, and the line established by sunrise. Before the artillery of the corps reached the field, some of that of the Eleventh Corps was assigned to me, and I regret to report that two batteries, or parts of two, left the position assigned them without orders, and disgracefully retreated in the direction of the United States Ford. Colonel Schirmer was the officer who reported to me, in command of all the batteries of that corps. Two others were placed in different parts of the line, and retained their position until properly relieved by batteries of my own corps, Captain Wiedrich’s (First New York) artillery remaining until the position was evacuated. Three batteries – Leppien’s, Cooper’s, and Amsden’s – went into action with the troops of other corps. The Fifth Maine, Captain Leppien’s, suffered severe loss in men, horses, and material.
The report of the chief of artillery of the corps (Col. C.S. Wainwright, First New York Artillery) is referred to for the services of the batteries actively engaged with the enemy, as he also was detached at this time, under orders of the commanding general, for duty to the left and center of the position.
During the action of the morning, our pickets and scouts thrown out were constantly bringing in prisoners from the woods in front. The troops were actively engaged in strengthening their position and in clearing the ground for placing the artillery.
On Monday, the 4th, the corps remained in position, the skirmishers on the left of the line occupied by the corps joining General Meade, being engaged more or less during the day. Later in the day those on the right, in front of the division of General Robinson, became engaged for a short time, when an attack was threatened.
During the afternoon, two regiments of infantry, with a section of artillery, General Robinson in command, were sent out, under orders from the commanding general, to reconnoiter the road to Ely’s Ford, who reported the position occupied by the enemy in force.
Toward 5 o’clock, a brigade of the Third Division, under Colonel Stone, was sent out to follow up Hunting Creek, in the direction of the Plank road nearly due south, which, after having driven in the enemy’s skirmishers, found itself in the presence of what appeared to be a brigade of infantry, with the road which it had followed barricaded by fallen trees. It being nearly dark at this time, the brigade returned to its position. It having been decided on the night of the the 4th to recross the river, the troops during the 5th were occupied in opening roads and building bridges over the small streams in the direction of the ford. The ambulances, wagons, artillery, &c., not required were sent across the river.
On the morning of the 6th, between 1 and 2 o’clock, the troops of the different divisions were withdrawn by separate routes, and arrived in the vicinity of the ford about daylight, when, finding the bridges occupied by the troops of other corps in their passage, I drew up such portions of my corps as had not crossed – the entire First Division, the pickets, which had been withdrawn, under the direction of a staff officer from each division, and two batteries of artillery, Ransom’s and Stewart’s, detained when the bridges were reported as interrupted the night previous, and remained with them until all the troops had crossed, save the Fifth Corps, under Major-General Meade, to whom had been assigned the duty of covering the passage of the army. As soon as the bridges were clear, the passage of the troops continued.
The divisions of Generals Doubleday and Robinson were ordered to encamp for the night near the Wallace house, on the Falmouth and Belle Plain road, the division of General Wadsworth at Hamet’s, on the Warrenton road.
The next day the corps was assembled in rear of the place where we had thrown our bridge, near Pollock’s Mill.*
Brig. Gen. S. Williams,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
Major-General of volunteers commanding
*The foregoing is the only report of the operations of the First Corps on file in the War Department, and although there is no signature attached, there can be no doubt of the fact that it is the original unfinished report of Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds, commanding the corps.
Second Division, First Army Corps,
May 9, 1863.
Colonel : This division left its encampment near Fletcher Chapel about 1 p.m. on the 28th ultimo, and bivouacked that night at the edge of the woods in rear of the Fitzhugh mansion.
The next morning it marched to the bridges which were laid at the mouth of Pollock’s Mill Creek. During the afternoon the enemy shelled this position, killing and wounding several officers and enlisted men, when I moved the division back to the cover of the River road, where it rested in safety.
On Saturday morning, I received orders to march to the United States Ford, which I crossed about sunset, and proceeded in the direction of Chancellorsville, driving back hundreds of the fugitives of the Eleventh Corps. I was then directed to take up a position on and covering the Hunting Creek road. Arriving at that point at 1 o’clock on Sunday morning, I immediately deployed one regiment of each brigade, and pushed them forward (two in front and one on the right) to feel the enemy and establish them as pickets. The Second Brigade (Baxter’s) and the Third Brigade (Leonard’s) were then established in line of battle to the left of the road. The First Brigade (Root’s) was formed with its left on the road and extending its right down the creek. I then directed breastworks to be built, and, although the men were greatly fatigued, they went cheerfully to work, and in the course of the day completed a formidable line of rifle-pits.
At an early hour on Sunday morning, a German battery, of light 12-pounder guns, was sent to me and placed in position, with orders to hold it at all hazards.
When the heavy firing commenced on my left, and while I was for a few moments absent from the right, this battery was withdrawn from its position, and in the most cowardly manner fled, with the horses upon a run, in the direction of our bridges at the United States Ford. I regret I do not know the commander’s name, that he might meet the reward which his dastardly and treacherous conduct deserves. Fortunately our own batteries arrived soon after. Ransom’s (company C, Fifth U.S. Artillery) light 12-pounders were put in position on the right to sweep the sloping ground, and Hall’s (Second Maine Battery) 3-inch rifled guns to reach the heights beyond. Stewart, with his battery (B, Fourth U.S. Artillery) of light 12-pounders, was placed in position toward the left of my line.
now felt perfectly secure in its position, and awaited the arrival of
with impatience. Leppien’s (Fifth Maine
Battery) attached to this division was engaged in another part of the
and suffered very severely. Thompson’s
(Independent Pennsylvania) was also detached. About 100
prisoners were taken and sent in by my pickets.
On Monday, I was directed to make a reconnaissance on the road leading to Ely’s Ford. For this I selected the Twelfth and Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers and a section of Hall’s battery. After proceeding about 3 miles, I received the fire of the enemy’s skirmishers to the left of the road, and had some of my skirmishers wounded. I proceeded cautiously to the forks of the road, when, becoming satisfied the enemy was in force on the left, I directed the command to return to camp.
During the night of the 5th instant the division was withdrawn from its position and recrossed the river in good order, arriving at its present camp yesterday.
The following is a list of casualties:
|1st Brigade (Root)||1||4||5|
|2nd Brigade (Baxter)||1||2||14||5||22|
|3rd Brigade (Leonard)||2||13||1||16|
|5th Maine Battery (Leppien)||6||3||19||28|
Very respectfully, your
Jno C. Robinson,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Lieut. Col. C.
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Army Corps.
Saturday, May 2.
Yesterday we laid quiet all day undisturbed, except when batteries of artillery would gallop by us on the road to some threatened point of the line.
At 4 o’clock this morning we were turned out by a general alarm, and preparations made to march. When the roll was called it was learned that we had in line 346 men, including officers. Orders were received for the First Corps, under General Reynolds, to take up its bridges and join General Hooker by way of United States Ford, and before 9 o’clock we were on our way.
It was a beautiful day, but very hot, and the boys were full of hope and anticipations of soon meeting the enemy and wiping out the disaster of Fredericksburg. As we approached the river, the masses of fog that enclosed its banks were moving toward the sea, while here and there a house was peeping through the vapor as if struggling to be seen. Very soon the plain and forest could be distinguished, and shortly all was clear. As we came in sight to rebel batteries, they opened upon us without doing any damage. We passed the Sixth Corps on their way to the left – a movement made to deceive the enemy. From time to time, as we marched along, we met squads of rebel prisoners under the escort of Union cavalry, on their way to the rear. Tramp, tramp all day until nearly 8 o’clock at night, when we filed down between the hills to the ford, which we crossed on pontoons, and then half a mile farther, when, tired and weary, we gladly received the order to halt for the night.
Our bivouac fires were scarcely lighted and preparations made for sleep when the drums were sounded, followed by orders to “fall in!” and then “f-o-r-w-a-r-d, march!” and at a good round pace we started for Chancellorsville, wondering what had happened to necessitate this sudden change in our programme. Something serious, for mounted officers were hurrying about with orders urging forward the troops. We had not long to wait, however, before we got some idea of the disaster which had overtaken the army. Very soon we saw men of the Eleventh Corps hurrying to the rear, many of them panic-stricken with fear. Orders were received to drive back to the front all men who were not wounded. We knew so little beyond the sphere of our duty, that it was impossible to understand what the retreat of the Eleventh Corps betokened, or what influence it might have on the fortunes of the Army of the Potomac.
We had crossed the river with great hopes, a well-organized army, with such perfect confidence in our leaders, that what we now saw seemed surprising, and we were eager to know the meaning. The wildest confusion prevailed. Staff-officers and messengers were excitedly shouting to clear the road, that they might not be obstructed in their duties, or their haste impeded. “Halt, there!” “where in hell are you going ?” was frequently heard, followed by “Turn back, you cowards!” While all this excitement was going on in the road, at each side was seen the equipment and supplies of a great army huddled together in bewildering disorder as if suddenly dumped from the sky. Ammunition wagons, hospital supplies, wagons loaded with food, horses and mules inextricably mixed, gun-carriages, black-smith’s forges, pontoons, all packed together, while the men in charge, tired and weary, were lying unblanketed, their feet to smoldering fires, dead with sleep, insensible to the heavy roll of artillery or the tramp of infantry. It was a strange sight and a new experience to the Thirteenth, which had never before been in the wake of an army engaged in battle. Long years have not obliterated the impressions of that night. Along the road it was pandemonium ; on the side of the road it was chaos.
Presently the sound of musketry was heard, and in a little while three Yankee cheers were heard, denoting successful resistance to a charge of the enemy, whereupon the boys started “Glory Hallelujah !” which passed along from brigade to brigade until the whole corps, apparently, were singing this stirring old war-song. Way was made for the ambulances, hurrying forward to bring off the wounded. It was evident we were nearing the line of battle, when an order was received to change our direction, which we did by turning sharp to the right toward the Elley’s Ford road, which we reached about 2 A.M. and halted, twenty-two hours after we were turned out in the morning, having marched about thirty miles. In spite of the efforts of officers to clear the road, our advance had been slow and tiresome. Notwithstanding fatigue and weariness, we began at once to build earthworks, as every man felt that his own safety as well as that of the army might soon be at stake. Knives, bayonets, plates, and dippers were enlisted, and by continuous activity substantial breastworks were completed when daylight appeared.
The following graphic statement of our doings and position at this time is taken from General Doubleday’s narrative of Chancellorsville :
At sunset the First Corps went into bivouac on the south side of United States Ford, about four miles and a half from Chancellorsville. The men were glad enough to rest after their tedious march on a hot day, loaded with eight days rations. General Reynolds left me temporarily in charge of the corps, while he rode on to confer with Hooker. We heard afar off the sound of battle caused by Jackson’s attack, and saw the evening sky reddened with the fires of combat; but knowing Hooker had a large force we felt no anxiety as to the result, and took it for granted that we should not be wanted until the next day. I was preparing a piece of India-rubber cloth as a couch when I saw one of Reynolds’ aids, Captain Wadsworth, coming down the road at full speed. He brought the startling news that the Eleventh Corps had fled, and if we did not go at once, the army would be hopelessly defeated. We were soon on the road, somewhat oppressed by the news, but not dismayed. We marched through the thickening twilight of the woods, and a silence at first only broken by the plaintive song of the whippoorwill, until the full moon rose in all its splendor. As we proceeded we came upon crowds of the Eleventh Corp fugitives still hastening to the rear. They seemed wholly disheartened. We halted for a time, in order that our position in line of battle might be selected, and then moved on. As we approached the field a midnight battle commenced, and the shells seemed to burst in sparkles in the trees above our heads, but not near enough to reach us. It was Sickles fighting his way home again. When we came nearer and filed to the right to take our position on the Elley’s Ford road, the men struck up the John Brown’s song, and gave the chorus with a will. The cheerful demeanor and proud bearing renewed the confidence of the army, who felt that the arrival of Reynolds’ corps, with its historic record, was no ordinary reinforcement.
Sunday, May 3.
All day long we remained quiet in the earthworks constructed by us in such haste, wondering at our inactivity. The enthusiasm of the First Corps had become so excited by what it had seen and by the fears of an impending disaster to the army, that it was eager to take an active part in the battle, the sound of which could be plainly heard. nor was there a general in the Army of the Potomac better able to lead it to victory than its commander, Gen. John F. Reynolds, who was regarded by his corps with enthusiastic admiration ; but the laurels reserved for the First Corps, under his command, were to be won elsewhere.
During the day General Hooker rode along the line and was everywhere received with shouts of enthusiasm.
Monday, May 4.
As there were no indications of an attack to be made on our line, a reconnoissance was made by the Twelfth and Thirteenth Massachusetts regiments, and the Second Maine Battery, under the command of General Robinson, with orders not to bring on an engagement. After marching half a mile to the front, a halt was ordered, and four companies of infantry were deployed as skirmishers, when the column slowly advanced. The rebels being sheltered in the woods and thick underbrush, could not be seen. In this attempt seven men of the Thirteenth were wounded, one of whom died a few days after.* It having been demonstrated by this movement that the enemy were still in force at this point, we returned to the earthworks.
During the night the regiment was several times called to arms, while attacks were being made and repulsed on our right.
*Probably Gilbert Greenwood. Samuel Carleton also died of wounds - but years later. See the 'Casualties' section.
The following narrative is taken from "Three Years with Company K," by Austin C. Stearns; edited by Arthur Kent, Fairleigh-Dickenson Press; 1976. Used with permission. (pages 167 - 170).
The two armies met in the interminable woods and swamps near Chancellorsville, where the enemy, being better acquainted with the ground, hoped to make quick work of Hooker and whip his army in detail. The 6th Corps was ordered to remain at Fredericksburg, the others to join Hooker at Chancellorsville. We started in the early morning and toiled all day long and, just as the sun was sinking in the west, we crossed the river on the pontoon and in one sense were joined to the main army.
We were halted but a few rods from the bridge, and had thrown off our knapsacks and were preparing to make coffee, when a most unearthly yell and the sharp roll of musketry caused us to stop. [This was the start of Jackson’s flank attack, about 6 p.m. May 2nd.] Officers cried “Fall in,” and the men, seizing their guns, awaited events. We thought to see our men come running back every moment, to be followed by the enemy. Orders now came to go forward and we started towards the fight, which I think must have been two miles away, although at the time it didn’t seem a quarter of the distance. We kept on through the woods, going as fast as possible in the dark, but the firing ceased while we [were] still a long way off.
A new line had now to be established, and we were placed on the extreme right, and ordered to build breast-works, as an attack was liable to take place in the morning. Without a pick, or shovel, or even an axe, it was an exceedenly [sic] difficult task to perform.
But with bayonets for picks, and tin plates for shovels, when the morning sun dawned upon us it found us behind a bank of earth as thick and as formidable as the renouned fortifacations at Centreville. The men worked briskly all night, for we had learned the advantages to be gained by being behind a bank of dirt, and had rather have that stop part of the bullets then to stop them all ourselves. In the morning we moved a short distance still farther to the right, the extreme part at the right turning round like a fish-hook. Early in the morning our pickets sent in quite a number of rebel prisoners picked up by them during the night; some had been engaged in the fight of the evening before and were wounded.
One had a bad wound in his neck. Sanborn, wishing to sympathize with him a little, said, “A bad wound that, you’ve got.”
The reb, a lean, lank specimen of humanity on which all sympathy would be lost, replyed with a look, sour and ugly enough to satisfy the evil one himself, “Yes: but I wish it was through my d----d heart.”
“So do I,” said Sanborn quickly, and I think it was the feeling of all the boys that his wish had been gratified.
About the middle of the forenoon there was some very heavy fighting on our left, [and] the expected charge was made, but we were so far to the right that it did not reach down to where we lay, although the left of our division was engaged.
[This was JEB Stuart’s Confederate attack, May 3rd, one of the bloodiest days of the war.]
We lay behind our works and heard the yell of the rebels as they chafed our line, and the sch’w’s, sch’w’s, of the grape and canister as our batteries poured it into them, and the continued roll of musketry, which told of wounds and death. Then came the cheers of our boys and we knew the rebels were getting the worst of it; the firing at length ceased, with only an occasional shot from the picket line. [Hooker's line was beaten back to a second line of defense this day, but the cost to the Confederates was high.]
The next day, [May 4] two regiments of our brigade with a section of a battery under the command of Gen’l Robinson went out on a reconnaissance. We went a mile or more when we found them and, after the skirmishers exchanging a few shots and we losing two or three prisoners, came back.
Just at night Gen’l Hooker rode down the line, and Col Leonard called for three cheers for the “Commander of the Army,” which were given with a will by the brigade.
An amusing event occurred here one night, which for a time was not so amusing, at least for us. A regiment of new troops had just arrived, and they were sent around to the point of the hook, and were directly in our rear. During the night something startled them and they, springing up, seized their guns and most of them jumped over their works and commenced to fire directly at us. The most of us were quietly sleeping and, being suddenly awakened and hearing the bullets whistling around us, thought we were attacked, [so] quickly seized our arms and jumped into our works. The bullets coming from the rear, we looked and could see the flashes of their guns. Quickly comprehending what might be the matter, we laid low for a few moments till things could be quieted down, which their officers soon accomplished, and peace soon reigned in our rear.
Letter of George Henry Hill, May 5th 1863
“Chancellorsville”On the Battle Field
May 5th 1863
Dear Parents & Sisters
My last letter was written opposite Fredericksburg. About an hour after it was written the Rebels opened upon us with shell and after firing about a dozen which went over our heads one burst in our regiment killing Capt. Bush & Lieut Cordwell and wounding Corpl Fay of Co F. They were all sitting just in front of [me] when two of us were playing chess and the brains of Lieut Cordwell scattered all over us. his head was taken off. A hairs bredth more elevation
and we would have received the benefit of it. We were ordered to fall in and were marched back about two hundred yards to the road which having a high bank on the exposed side afforded us complete shelter. Here we remained until Saturday morning when we (our Corps, the 1st) started up river to join Hooker. At about sun set we crossed the river at U.S. ford on a pontoon and pitched camp about half a mile on this side. We had just got our coffee on the fire when orders came to “fall in” Up we jumped and struck tents, not very good naturdly I confess for we had already marched 17 miles and were quite tired. I forget to say that for the past three hours on we had heard the sound
of terrific cannonading and knew that a fearful battle was going. We started again and had not gone far before evidences of a panic began to be apparent, stragglers rushing widly to the rear and waggons blocking up the road. We now knew for what we were ordered to the front so soon for. One may guess it was not a very encouraging sight. We soon learned that the 11th Corps after repulsing the enemy 6 times retreated upon their coming up the seventh and our Right flank was thus exposed. We marched to the front about 3 miles, then to the right about two and took up our position on the road leading from Fredericksburg to Gordonsville. We sent out
scirmishers and then began to dig. Notwithstanding we were so tired and lame we worked with a will and by daylight we had our position so well fortified that we feared no advance the Rebs might see fit to make. Since then we have strengthened them every day until we now consider them almost impregnable at least we know that before they are captured the Rebs will be more fearfully slaughtered than ever before. Yesterday our Regiment and the 12th went out to reconnoiter and CO’s D & C were deployed on the left of the road and B & F on the right. We advanced through brush and jungle for about two miles when firing commenced on the left but we saw nothing. Soon we were ordered to “right about march" and when we got back we found out that Co D had
lost three men wounded and Co C two. Again we were fortunate.
Here we are in our trenches and here we stay until “Mr John” attacks us or retreats We have our “regular rations” of alarms every night about 6 or 8 times but as every man has his gun in hand and one eye open we are always ready.
Thus far everything is in our favor and we have confidence that we are to win this fight in such a manner as will allow no doubt of it. To day the Rebs are very quiet and are either preparing to retreat which I hardly credit or for a gran rush upon some point with the intention of breaking through. Let them come on we
are prepared for them at all points. Hooker is not the man to be caught napping.
I am pretty well tired out for it is now 6 days & nights that we have been in “line of battle” and of course I have not had a good nights rest during the time. However I am ready to suffer much if we can only be successful. I shall not send this to day and possibly may have something to add.
On April 6th, 1863, private John Noyes, then clerking at head-quarters, received the officer's commission he so long desired. To his surprise it was not with one of the new Massachusetts units then organizing, but with a veteran regiment, the 'Irish 28th'. Unknown to him at the time Col. Richard Byrnes of the 28th requested Massachusetts Governor John Andrew appoint some new officers to the 28th from outside their ranks. Upon receiving this appointment Noyes wrote to his father, "Such a position I have no doubt willl be to a certain extent embarrassing."
Noyes travelled home to acquire an officer's uniform and equipments. In a trial by fire, the newly minted 2nd lieutenant joined his new regiment on the Chancellorsville battlefield. Because of this, I am including his letter here, even though he was now following a different destiny than that of the '13th Mass.' Readers will see more of Noyes on the website in the distant future, but his keen observations with the 13th will be no more.
By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Three miles from United States Ford
On the Rappahannock, Va, May 4th 1863
Leaving Falmouth yesterday noon I marched and rode to the United States Ford. Before I left Fredericksburgh had been occupied by our troups and the heights of Fredericksburgh taken by our troups. On my way to the ford I met many slightly wounded men wending their way to Stoneman’s Switch two miles from Falmouth on their way to the Hospital. At the ford were many wounded too severely to walk. To the Hospital is a hard road to travel, twenty miles from the scene of conflict. Bad news from the front. On the previous Evening the 11th Corps had behaved badly, skedadling by brigades. Meagher’s brigade held its position & the enemy did not pursue far. The 11th corps lost many Knapsacks. I crossed the Rappahannock at 7 P.M. & supped and slept near the Ford. Rudely awakened at 4 ½ A.M. I found the enemy’s shells falling lively pretty near me. The stragglers round about commenced to skedaddle up the river away from the ford.
May 5th. A few of the bravest remained behind until the voice of the Provost Marshal was heard as he drove up the stragglers. When the stampeed became general men took their Knapsacks in one hand & blanket in another and double-quicked in fine style. The shells came from a battery which had been advanced during the night. The firing ceased in about 20 minutes, and it is reported that our cavalry took the guns.
After breakfast I followed after the Army over a very poor newly made road through the woods, no baggage wagons to impede the way for they had been left on the other side of the river in park. I passed some ambulances which had gone to the front for the wounded, also many temporary hospitals, but did not stop to inspect them. Finally I came to the rear most line of battle, and shortly afterward arrived at the Front where Gen’l Hancock’s Division was posted.
The Division has now been in the front 2 days, if not more. The cannonading the day before I came is represented as terrific, the range being good. One of my company was wounded in the foot two are missing. About 9 ½ A.M. I reported to Col. Byrnes, who at once assigned me to Co. F which company I now command, the Captain being under arrest, the 1st Lieut sick or absent. My reception in the Company was very good indeed. They seem to be a well disposed lot of men, willing to do anything & pretty intelligent. I was the first of the newly appointed officers to report for duty. Toward noon a second arrived, the one on the boat bound for Acquia Creek. Just now I think a third officer has arrived. We were to have a regimental inspection in the afternoon, but before it could be had our pickets were driven in and they began to pound heavily at us.
For half an hour or so there were lively times, no casualties in our Regiment. The nearest shot was one that burst over our heads, a piece of it grazing the clothes of a lieutenant a few rods to the right of me. We are well protected from shells. Indeed we hold a very strong defensive position. We have very formidable rifle pits made in the best manner, with trunks of trees piled up on which dirt is thrown to complete the work. The mound is 5 feet high & the outlet for escape easy. We have these rifle pits in front of us and on both flanks of our regiment, and other regiments in our brigade are in the same manner protected. These rifle pits extend along the whole line of battle. In front of the pits where the enemy must advance in line of battle to attack us trees have been felled for 50 or 100 yards, rendering an effective charge impossible. Twould be like charging over a dozen fences; our men perfectly protected would have only to shoot down an assaulting party.
At 10 ½ at night again we were rented out of bed & in the pits, the pickets firing heavily, but soon returned to our beds. Firing however was very heavy some miles away. At 12 % again rented up and took down our shelters pursuant to an order from Gen’l Hancock.
To day we are in status quo, the rifle pits ready to receive us, the rifles arranged against the embankment. What the day may bring forth we know not. I have 20 men here for duty, and only 18 guns, two of the men being drummers. Since the Reg’t left its old camp my company has lost 6 men – two stragglers, two missing, one wounded in day before yesterday fight & one sick. It is very foggy this morning. At a quarter to Eight this A.M. firing again became general along the picket line & the artillery opened. Again we were in the pits, but in 15 minutes the firing ceased. It is now very hot the fog having cleared away. We shall hold our position at all hazards till driven away by an overpowering force. I am inclined to think that Gen’l Hooker is getting in the enemy’s rear and think for this purpose we are holding our present position, entangled as it is. At a quarter to nine May 5th. I close this letter to put it in the mail bag. When it will arrive in Cambridge I cannot say, as the mail may be detained.
The conflict may re-open at any moment. We have a heavy force here, no less than 2/3 of the 2d Corps, the 3d corps & the 11th & 12th Corps. I believe are here also as well as the 1st Corps which left Fredericksburgh last Saturday. The death of Lt. Bush of the 13th Mass, formerly of my company is confirmed. Lieut. Kimball is also reported killed.* I have lived on hard tack & coffee for two days already. Tomorrow my provisions will be gone. By that time I may get more. My men have 60 rounds apiece.
am, as Ever, Your Aff. Son
John B. Noyes.
*NOTE: It was Lt.William Cordwell killed, in the 13th Mass. April 30th, not Lt. William Kimball.
Captain W. L. Stork of the 29th Pa. commissioned artist W. L. Sheppard to do this painting of the regiment under attack May 3rd, in the trenches at Chancellorsville. The 29th were in Brigadier General John White Geary's 2nd Division of the 12th Corps. The corps was originally under Gen. N. P. Banks in the early days of the war, and readers of the website will remember Major J. P. Gould's frustrations with then Col. Geary while at Harper's Ferry, October, 1861. Gould was a modest leader, Geary was more of a self promoter. Nonetheless, Geary was a brave leader. He was knocked unconscious by a shell at the battle of Chancellorsville.
Seventeen year old drummer Sam Webster, Company D, was assigned to the ambulance train to help with the wounded and thus had a different experience from the rest of the regiment. Sam's traveling companion on this adventure, was 21 year old Appleton Sawyer, from Shrewsbury, Mass. (pictured). Apparently Sawyer liked things a bit 'livelier' than Sam.
Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
Tuesday, April 28th, 1863. Broke camp and marched toward Rappahannock at “Fitzhugh Place,” halting a mile or so short of the river, behind a woods. Commenced with a rain. Drum corps messed together. Sawyer and I sleeping together. (Sawyer has been Drum Major since Oct. 31st last.) Drum corps under orders of the Surgeon. Got some water in a depression under the leaves. Ought not to complain that it lacks freshness – it fell this morning.Wednesday, April 29th, 1863. Marched down to the river and lay on the bank, the 1st division being on the other (south) side, just where we laid on the night when the army under Burnside was withdrawn. Pitch tent in a hollow on the lower side (left bank) of a small stream flowing into the Rappahannock a few yards further on. Gen. Robinson’s tent quite near. Sixth Corps visible some distance up the river near where our pontoon was last December.
Thursday, April 30th, 1863 National Fast Day. Observed by some brigades on both sides of the river. Great enthusiasm was manifested upon the reading of Gen. Hooker’s order on the operations of the 5th, 11th, and 12th Corps. In the p.m. two brass batteries were sent across to the 1st Division and earthworks (redoubts) were being thrown up when the rebels opened with a battery. At first their shells fell some distance up the river, but they gradually grew closer and at last one of them struck in the Regt. killing Lt. Caldwell, of K., so wounding Capt. Bush that he died in a few minutes and cutting the right arm and leg off Sergt Fay, of Co. F. At this time Gen. Reynold’s was with Gen. Robinson, in the hollow where we laid overnight, and as he rode up he turned to Col. Wainwright, the Chief of Artillery, and said, “Col., can you reach those fellows?” Says the Col. “Yes, if you get the infantry out of the way.” We were at once ordered back to a road that ran along the base of the hill, and some “rifles” put to work at the Johnnies. Drum Corps being ordered to the Hospital, took their way to the top of the hill from which I watched the artillery fight through Sawyer’s glass, while Libby (Co. E.) played “poke” with some 88th fellows – 5 cts ante. Johnnies got the worst of it. Our artillery practice being so perfect that, on the question of whether it could be done, one chief of piece so aimed his gun as to cut a man in two who was nearly or quite a mile out from the river. Pitch tent with Sawyer in a woods to upper side of the road to the river. Army carries 8 days rations.
Friday, May 1st, 1863. Reported at Fitzhugh House, now used as First Corps Hospital. Went out to the barn and husked corn to get filling for ticks. The boys have contributed about $250.00 to Fay.
Saturday, May 2nd, 1863. Corps moved toward the right. We were ordered to follow the ambulance train. Did so until we got above Fredericksburg, when they disappeared over a hill two miles off, and we pitched tents on a nice, grassy slope, at a house not far from Ord’s old Hdq’rs. At night the hillside beyond was lit up by hundreds of fires. The sixth corps we suppose are over there.
Sunday, May 3rd, 1863. Start early for the U.S. Ford, taking the road we came down from Catlett’s in May last. Day very warm. Caught up the Ambulance train at Brier Church, [Berea] and go on to wagon train, at “Oakland Farm” the residence of a rebel with three daughters. The road here branches off to the Ford. A large well sweep, with a long chain, is one of the means by which we get water, which is a bright yellow color. Pitched tents in the old man’s yard, and make preparations to cook coffee for such of the wounded as may get this far on the way to the hospital. Are about 6 miles from Falmouth.
Monday, May 4th 1863. Served coffee to several hundred men, - about 700 should think. Climbed into the trees in front of the house and hoisted a large flag. The residents don’t like it a bit. Guard at night. Some hard swearing done by a young man on the amputation of his finger. The surgeon was not very careful not to hurt, as the man probably shot it off purposely. Saw Gen. Berry’s body.
[A Rebel Sharpshooter shot down 3rd Corps Division Leader Major-General Hiram Berry the morning of May 3rd His troops were fighting back JEB Stuart's attack along the Plank Road. Berry crossed the road, against the wishes of his staff, to confer with one of his brigade commanders. On the way back he was killed. General Hooker was close to Berry and deeply saddened by his death.*]
Tuesday, May 5th, 1863. Pack up and follow train to where French’s Camp was. Hunt shelter from a hard storm of hail and rain; change our course to south, and bring up for the night at a tent left standing in what we find to have been the 2nd Delaware Camp. Rain very hard. About dark an old plug comes and orders us out, telling us that it’s his tent. We “can’t see it,” though we take him in and give him part of the bed – everybody, of course, furnishes his own blankets. Thought our guest a Scotchman but find him to be an Irishman. The 88th fellows in another tent being right lively, - Sawyer goes over to stay with them.
Wednesday, May 6th 1863. Follow train to Stoneman’s Switch, where we leave it, and strike a straight line for our old camp. Passing through that of 118 PA. bring up at old [First] Corps Hdq’rs just before dark. Get our tent pitched in another storm – the continuation of the one commenced yesterday. Are outside of the cavalry picquet, and don’t know whether the army will occupy the old camps or not.
Thursday, May 7th, 1863. Went to the old camp. Some of the boys afraid to stay on account of talk of guerrillas. Fixed up Libby’s tent. Tommy Downey cooked an “Irish stew” of beans, found in camp and they tasted good, the fact that the top of the fireplace fell into the kettle “to the contrary, notwithstanding.” To be sure we skimmed off the most of the mud.
Friday, May 8th, 1863. Nothing being seen or heard of the Reg’t., we all picked up traps and went over to White Oak Chapel. Found the Reg’t within half a mile of where they lay the night of April 28th tho’ nearer to White Oak.
*Souls of the Brave, by Ernest B. Furgurson, death of General Berry, pages, 224-225.
The following narrative is taken from the regimental history, "Three Years in the Army," by Charles E. Davis, Jr.; Boston, Estes & Lauriat; 1894. (p 206 - 207).
Tuesday May 5.
Another day spent in the trenches. The weather was excessively hot until about 3 P.M., when a thundershower came up and drenched us to the skin. As the water poured into the trenches we were forced to evacuate them until we could make them habitable by draining. A darkness came on, the showers were succeeded by a cold north-east storm, and through the long dreary night we sat on the edge of the trenches, ready to jump into them at the first alarm. Orders were received about 8 P.M. to retreat, and we marched about three miles when information was received that the river had risen to such a height as to make it impracticable for the army to cross ; so we marched back to the trenches, where we remained until 3 o’clock in the morning.
Whatever the hereafter may have in store for us as punishment for our misdemeanors, we sincerely trust that credit may be given for this night of misery. In the three years’ service of the regiment it would be difficult to recall a night that seemed longer or where there was more physical discomfort. Wearied and dejected, drenched with the cold rain, in expectation to move at any moment, we still stayed and stayed and stayed.
Wednesday, May 6.
Orders came at last to move. At 3 A.M. we took up the line of march on muddy roads that were both sticky and slippery, to the United States Ford, five miles, where we were to cross the river. Moving was better than sitting still and shaking to pieces with the cold ; but to walk on a road ankle-deep in mud, with the rain still falling, failed to lesson our misery very much. We finally reached the river without halting once, crossed on a pontoon bridge covered with pine boughs to deaden the sound, and then continued five miles farther, and halted.
It was impossible to light fires, so the men munched their hardtack and raw pork, and lighted their pipes for a smoke. Some of the boys attempted sleep by sitting on knapsacks with their back to a tree, only to tumble over in the mud when sleep overtook them. After falling into the mud a few times, a man’s appearance was so ludicrous that even the most miserable could not restrain their laughter. It is under such circumstances as these that the elasticity of youth is so valuable. A man of fifty would have given up in despair. Little by little the spirit of fun was revived. Jokes on each other’s appearance were bandied about, and songs at variance with our condition were sung with impromptu words. The irresistible desire for fun which possessed so many of the boys, often had a very bracing effect and restored some of the good humor we had lost in the trenches, by which we escaped the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The march was continued to Falmouth, nine miles farther, where we halted, and where we pitched our shelters for the night. A ration of whiskey was given each man, and then we wrapped ourselves in our wet clothes and blankets, and laid down to sleep. During the night the rain came in such torrents that we were completely flooded out. Every article we owned was soaked with water, and of course further sleep was out of the question. This was the time for Mark Tapley with his “Let us be jolly !”
Thursday, May 7.
When daylight appeared we were sore in body and sick at heart as we thought with mortification how little had been accomplished since leaving our camp at Fletcher’s Chapel. When we recalled the golden promises of Hooker’s manifesto, in which was stated the splendid successes that awaited us, “that the enemy must leave his intrenchments and fight or ingloriously retreat,” etc., some of the boys said, “Yes, that’s Joe Hooker. Let’s have a new deal for a commander.”
We had a ray of comfort in the weather, which again became warm and pleasant. This was really something to be thankful for.
About 10 o’clock we marched to White Oak Church, seven miles, and camped about a mile from our winter quarters, at Fletcher’s Chapel.
Charles Leland, Warren Freeman and Andrew J. Lloyd give graphic accounts of the campaign in the following letters.
Charles Leland of Company B, gives a good detailed account of the regiments' activities in the campaign, as well as a better description of the sounds of the ferocious fighting May 3rd. And, like George Hill, also of Company B, he relates how near to him the shell exploded which killed Capt. Bush and Lt. Cordwell. Even after the retreat, Charles Leland still expressed faith in General Hooker, but most of the army was bitterly disappointed.
Letter of Charles Leland, Company B
In camp near White Oak Church, Va., May 1863
I received your kind letter while on the march, and could not answer it at the time. Having a little leisure time thought I could not improve it better than by writing you, and letting you [know] some of the news although you no doubt have seen it in the daily newspapers. I can give you a general outline of our adventures during the nine days fighting.
We started from our old camp on Tuesday, April 28th, and marched to within a mile or so of the river where we encamped for the night in a lot of woods. On Wednesday the 29th we started for the river bank, which place we reached about the middle of the afternoon. We had a thunder shower late that afternoon which made the ground rather wet and uncomfortable. The 14th Brooklyn had crossed that AM, and quite a force were encamped on the other side. Our skirmishers here could be seen on the plain, and beyond a distance of about a mile and a half were the rebel strongholds on the chain of hills.
We pitched our tents on our guns and went to sleep. The next AM was pleasant, and warm and we were laying around loose (as the saying is), when Johnny opened upon us from a battery directly in front. The shells did not come very near at first, but after a while they got pretty good range, and dropped a shell in a brigade to our left doing a little damage. Another shell from the same battery struck between Cos. F and B killing Lieut. Cordwell, Captain Bush and wounding Corp Fay of Co. F so severely that amputation of right arm, and leg were necessary. Fay is doing well and will recover. In about five minutes we changed position, and marched back to a position a road in our rear and sheltered ourselves behind a bank side of the road. The rebs kept up their firing until dark answered by a few of our cannon on this side. We staid here two days, and then our corps started for the United States ford which place we reached May 2nd (Saturday). We had hardly got across when we were ordered up to the extreme right, and reached our position at about two o'clock the next AM (Sunday). We immediately commenced throwing up entrenchment's to the best of our ability so as to be ready for Johnny that AM at daylight.
As we had but one shovel in the whole regiment, we had to take our tin plates and anything we could use. By morning we had thrown up quite an embankment in front of us, bullet proof if not shell proof. The rebs did not seem disposed to touch us where we were, and we continued throwing up dirt and improving on our work. about five o'clock the rebs threw their whole force on the Third Corps about half a mile to the left of us, and the fight raged close column by division from five to nearly eleven that AM. Such firing I never heard before in my life. You could hear the roll, and roar of musketry, and the quick deadly reports of the cannon, throwing grape and canisters, and then hear the rebels yell as they gathered together for another charge. We stood in our trenches expecting an attack every minute but none came.
May 3rd* the 12th & 13th Mass. went out on the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania pike, on a reconnoissance. Met the rebs about two miles and half out, and in skirmishing lost five men wounded out of Co. D and C 13th, one of whom was taken prisoner (Carlton of D.) On the night of May the 6th we started for United Sates ford, and recrossed, marched down river to Falmouth where we stopped over night, and the next day started for this camp, having hardly a night's sleep the whole time since we started. Hooker is just the man for this army if he did fail in this last movement. If he had been successful he would have annihilated the rebel army; and rebeldom would have the wham, however I guess we paid them off for the last Fredericksburg.
I will close this letter by sending love to all the folks at home. I shall get my picture taken as soon as possible, and I hope you will send me your carte de visites the same as you did before. The other ones got sweat though and spoilt. Many kisses to little Ada. Remember me to Grandfather and Grandmother, also to Aunt Emily, Uncle John and cousins. With much love. I am your affectionate son. Chas. E. Leland.
*The reconnaissance was Monday, May 4th. Samuel Stephen Carleton of Co. D died of wounds; see 'casualties' section on this page.
Pictured is White Oak Church near Falmouth, Virginia. At the time the photo was taken the Christian Commission was using the building as its head-quarters. The '13th Mass.' camped near here after the battle.
In the following letter, Charles once again mentions the ferocity of the Rebel attacks witnessed at Chancellorsville. Soldier Nick Weekes of the 3rd Alabama wrote that he saw "an arm and a shoulder fly from the man just in front, exposing his throbbing heart. Another's foot flew up and kicked him in the face as a shell struck his leg. Another, disemboweled, crawled along on all fours, his entrails trailing behind, and still another held up his tongue with his hand, a piece of shell having carried away his lower jaw.*
All the '13th Mass.' narratives classify this campaign as the most difficult of their experience to date. At the end of this letter young Charles expresses his desire for a commission, "anything to get rid of lugging a knapsack and doing guard duty."
Camp near White Oak Church, Va., May 9th 1863
I received your welcome letter the other day, while on the march and will now answer it. I suppose you have heard of the loss sustained by the 13th during the nine days fighting ere this reaches you. I came very near being laid up by the same shell that struck Captain Bush, and Lieut. Caldwell and Corp. Fay of Co. F.
They were on one side of a stack of guns, and I was on the other side with two or three men of this Co., Curtis, and Metcalf, and we got the dirt and blood scattered all over us. It knocked the stack over, and destroyed one of the guns. We marched from the left to the right in one day, a distance of twenty miles, and crossed the river at United States ford.
We had hardly got into camp when we were ordered to the front, a distance of five miles and marched way to the right of the line of battle on to the Fredericksburg and Culpeper pike road. We got there about two o'clock the next AM, and commenced throwing up entrenchments along the road, and by day light we got quite a line of breastworks in front of our brigade.
We were continually hearing the pickets firing and expecting an attack every minute. Instead of attacking us the rebs made an attack about half a mile to our left and charged seven times. You ought to hear the grape and canister shot fired into them, and then hear them yell as they came up a second time. The rebs were crazy drunk, when they charged on the lines, and they lost fearfully. The 12th and 13th went out on the pike road, on a reconnaissance the next day, and Cos. D. C. B. F. 13th Mass. went out skirmishing on each side of the road. We had five or six wounded, and one man wounded and taken prisoner.
When we fell back we marched to Falmouth, and stayed over night and next day started for White Oak Church.
The last nine or ten days were the hardest times the boys have seen since we came out. We had scarcely any sleep and on the retreat a heavy N. E. storm set in and wet us though. I shall have to wait and tell you all about it when I get home, as I can do it so much better than I can in a letter.
I am as tough and hearty as ever and hope that you and the folks are all well. Remember I will take anything in the shape of a commission if I can only get rid of lugging a knapsack, and doing guard duty as I have to do now. Give my love to mother, Ada, Henry, and believe me your affectionate son. Chas. E. Leland.
I can not get my picture taken yet, but as soon as I can I will. Those cartes de viste you sent me, I carried in my pocket and they got sweat through and spoiled. Write soon and oblige. I received a letter from mother and will answer soon.
*Author Ernest B. Furgurson quotes Confederate Soldier Weekes, describing the attacks May 3rd, in "Chancellorsville; Souls of the Brave." This quote is from p 230 of the book. The original quote is cited "Nick Weekes Capt. T.C. Witherspoon, Jan. 11, 1903, from Battles & Leaders of the Civil War, 'The Battle of Chancellorsville'; 3rd Alabama Regiment" 71-75.
Warren writes about thoughts of home, and as usual downplays the dangers he has undergone, but gives a general account of the campaign as experienced by the regiment.
Rappahannock River, About Four Miles Bellow
Fredericksburg, Va., May 7, 1863.*
Dear Father, - Well, here I am feeling pretty well, having just eaten breakfast – and, for a novelty, having plenty of time to eat it in. We have had a severe time of it for the last ten days; but as you have received all the particulars of the battle at Chancellorsville in the papers, it is not necessary for me to go into details.
I have recently received two letters from home, also one from Uncle Washington, and one from Mr. Hapgood. Now I do not expect to be able to answer all these kind remembrances, but I must assure you again that it does awaken the warmest feelings to receive such evidence of kindly regard for the humble efforts that I am able to render for the preservation of our glorious flag, and I want to assure all the loved ones at home that, whether on picket, the march, or amidst the din of battle, they are with me always. The photographs of George and Susie are good, the long dress of the latter reminding me how much she must have grown while I have been away.
I wrote home a few lines while on picket the 27th of April. The next day we returned to camp ; and on the next day, or Wednesday, April 29th, the First Corps, General Reynolds, to which we are attached, broke camp and moved down toward the river, part of the corps crossing over. We lay here for about twenty-four hours, when the rebels commenced throwing shells among us, one of which exploded and killed Captain George Bush and Lieutenant Cordwell of the Thirteenth. I was sitting within a rod of them at the moment. They had just returned from Boston, and were giving us an account of the news there. We then fell back to a more secure position, where we lay till Friday morning. We then moved on to the right. It was terrible hot, but during the day and part of the night we marched about twenty miles, and took up our position on the extreme right, four or five miles from where we crossed the river. We threw up entrenchments and occupied the position till Monday morning, May 4th. On this day, in company with the Webster Regiment and a section of Captain Hall’s Second Maine Battery, we went off on a reconnaissance, and during the expedition we had five of our boys wounded. I do not know what the loss was in the Webster Regiment and battery.
Towards night we fell back towards our entrenchments and remained there until the next night, when a most violent rain-storm came on and lasted all night. At about two o’clock in the morning we commenced to fall back; the mud was about eight inches deep on an average, and five times as deep in some places. We marched sixteen or eighteen miles this day and camped in the rear of Falmouth, and yesterday we came down here. I am just beginning to feel dry and like myself this morning. What we are to do next I cannot tell.
Our corps was so fortunate as not to have much fighting to do. But the rebels got the worst of it. I am satisfied, from what I saw and heard, that their loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners must be more than 25,000 men, though General Hooker does not set it as high as that. With a few thousand more men we should have gained a splendid victory.
The Sixth Corps captured the heights in the rear of Fredericksburg, but lost them again. Porter’s Battery is in this corps. Sergeant James Kenny is with them; I met with him the other day.
I am well in body, but rather foot-sore and lame. I think this is the hardest time we have ever seen – marching in deep mud and a heavy rain-storm is awful. But I must close, as I have nothing but a small book to write upon, and there are indications of another rain-storm, which I am not prepared to encounter just at this time.
* In the book this letter is dated May 17, but May 7th would have been the correct date for the events described here. - Brad Fobush, May 15, 2013.
The following letter to the Gloucester, Mass. newspaper is signed 'A.J.L.' There is a soldier in the regimental roster with these 3 initials distinctly listed, who was from Gloucester; - Andrew J. Lloyd of Company E. I'm guessing this was written by him. His record in the roster states: age, 28; born, Gloucester, Mass.; watchmaker; mustered in as priv., Co. E, July 16, '61; mustered out, Aug. 1, '64; residence, Boston. Like Warren Freeman, he mentions the mud and rain and that everything made of paper in his pockets was spoiled during the campaign.
Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph
Near White Oak Church, Va.,
May 12th, 1863
Mr. Editor: - I wrote a letter to you on the battlefield near Fredericksburg, and would have sent it, but I got it spoiled by having to wade a brook up to my neck. I lost all my paper and stamps.
I have seen very hard times since I wrote to you. The 1st Army Corps, to which the 13th belongs, was, at the commencement of the battle, placed on the left of the line. A part of us threw a bridge across the river, and near half of the 1st Army Corps went over. Our Division, and a number of others, were left behind, close to the river, and ready to cross over when wanted. We staid here, on an open plain, for four or five hours, when the rebels began to shell us. They threw their shells with great precision, killing and wounding a number. We lost a captain, one lieutenant, and a corporal from our regiment. It became so hot at last, that we were ordered to move about a thousand feet from the river, where we took our position in a road which protected us from the shell, as it had a high bank. We remained here for three days, when the 1st Army Corps was ordered to the right of the line.
We started at eight o’clock, on the second, and arrived on the right of the line at eleven o’clock at night, having marched twenty-five miles. It was very hot. We went immediately to work, throwing up earthworks. We had to work lively, and kept at work all night, during which time we heard heavy firing on the centre of the line. We remained in these entrenchments four days and had to work like beavers. The only sleep we could get was an hour or two out of the twenty-four.
Our regiment, with the 12th, went on a reconnaissance about two miles. We soon found some rebels hid behind trees; they were so much of the color of the trees we did not notice them until we were so close upon them that they took two of our regiment prisoners, and wounded six. Finding that we were losing men fast, we went back to our entrenches. The next day Cos. E. and I went out on another reconnoisance, and found the rebels nearer than they were the day before. I went within one hundred feet of them to watch them, and saw three behind some trees. I kept well concealed, and was about to move nearer, when I was ordered back. A thunder storm came up, and I never saw it rain harder. The road was soon flooded. In going back we had to cross a brook that was only a foot deep when we went out ; it was now up to our neck, and we had to carry our equipments and guns on our heads and shoulders.
When we got back we found the whole army retreating across the river. It was awful marching ; the mud was up to our knees. We kept on marching until we arrived here, which is about three miles from our old camp. We expect to cross again in a few days.
The little flowers you will find in this letter were picked on the left of the line where we lost our captain and lieutenant, about three miles above Fredericksburg.
The '13th Mass.' were again lucky, except for the unfortunate few who were wounded. The regiment had few casualties in what was another very bloody battle for the Union cause. In the book, "Chancellorsville 1863; The Souls of the Brave," author Ernest B. Furgurson writes,
"Hooker's army had lost more than 17,000 killed, wounded and missing - 5,000 more than at Antietam or in the December debacle at Fredericksburg. Lee's victorious divisions had lost nearly 13,000, almost as many as at Antietam, more than double the number at Fredericksburg. But as a fraction of strength, a measure of impact on battles ahead, Lee's losses were worse - 22 percent against Hooker's 13 percent."*
Captain George Bush, and Lieutenant. William Cordwell of the '13th Mass.' were killed April 30th 1863 by the same shell that severely wounded Sergeant John S. Fay.
The soldiers of the 13th all mention about 5 or 6 men wounded May 4th during their reconaissance. A scan of the regimental rosters revealed two men wounded May 4, 1863:
John Pease; age, 26; born, Southboro', Mass.; teamster; mustered in as priv., Co. C, July 16, '61 mustered out, Aug. 8, '63; wounded. May 4, '63.
Thomas Prince; age, 19; born, Boston; brass-finisher; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, '61 mustered out, Aug. 1, '64; wounded, May 4, '63; residence, Chicago.
Another is wrongfully listed as a casualty of the Battle of the Wilderness, when in fact he was wounded at Chancellorsville:
Gilbert H. Greenwood; age 22; born, Gardner, Mass.; chairmaker; musterd in as priv., CO. D, July 16, '61; died of wounds received in the battle of the Wilderness. - In fact Greenwood died May 16th, 1863 from wounds received at Chancellorsville. (see below).
John Callahan of Company E was wounded in the left hand, which I learned from the Company Descriptive Books, on file at the Worcester Military Museum when his descendant contacted me. The record states, Callahan age 19 at the time, was admitted to Campbell Hospital, May 6th 1863; later sent to Philadelphia, June 17th. This wound was presumably received at Chancellorsville. Muster rolls state the following: occupation: farmer; mustered in as priv Co E, July 29,'62; transferred to V.R.C., Sept. 1,'63. The Descriptive book gives the following physical characteristics: Eyes: blue, hair: brown, Complexion: florid height 5 feet 6 1/2 inches
I have not discovered the identities of the others. Charles Davis, Jr. lists one man killed; Samuel S. Carleton, the man Charles Leland wrote was captured during the reconaissance. A man's name on a list of wounded does little to convey the suffering some of them experienced. John S. Fay's story is given on the next page, but I found the following information regarding the wounding and subsequent deaths of Carleton and Greenwood..**
Samuel Stephen Carleton, Company D
[He] enlisted into the Fourth Battalion Massachusetts Rifles, for three months, in April, 1861, immediately after hearing of the assault on the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, in Baltimore. The men of this battalion soon re-enlisted for three years, and was the nucleus of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment. Carleton was wounded in the battle of Antietam, but not severely. He was in the battle at Chancellorsville, on the 4th of May, 1863, and in a skirmish with the enemy the next day, while helping a wounded man from the field, a minnie ball entered Carleton’s left hip, passed clear through and came out on the other side, causing a compound fracture of the right hip bone.
The splinters formed dead bone and could not work out. He was taken prisoner, placed under a table out of doors where the rebel surgeons were amputating limbs of their wounded, where he was kept ten days, though he had as good care as they could give him. He was then paroled, placed in corps hospital, and afterward sent to Washington, where he remained until February, 1864. From there he was returned to Boston, and placed in hospital, and in June came home to Claremont.
Here he laid upon his back, suffering beyond description. For ten or twelve months hopes were entertained of his recovery when a diarrhea, from which he was suffering when he came here, set in and followed him until his death, Jan. 23, 1867. His wound never healed, but discharged continually, averaging more than a pint a day. He was a son of Stephen Carleton of Claremont, and brother of Elijah S. Carleton of the 5th Regiment, a pattern-maker by trade, and twenty-one years old when he enlisted.
Pictured at right is a watercolor of the image of Samuel Stephen Carleton, Company D, 13th Mass. Vols. I found this image on a web-forum for collectors of millitary items. The owner posted this framed water-color image with some other personal items that belonged to Carleton, including a flute in a traveling case. My efforts to contact the collector were unsuccessful. But, in the belief that images help bring to these men to life, I offer an edited version of it here. The image has been cropped and flipped in photoshop to present the real-life orientation.
Gilbert H. Greenwood, Company D
"CASE.—' Corporal Gilbert Greenwood, Co. D, 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, was struck on May 3d, 1863, at the battle of Chancellorsville, by a bullet, which entered near the right trochanter. He was admitted to Douglas Hospital on May 8th, when an examination, under an anaesthetic, revealed an abrasion of the upper part of the femur, but did not lead to the discovery of the ball. On May 12th a deep-seated and extensive abscess existed in the gluteal region, attended by great constitutional disturbance, mental irritability, and pain on pressure of motion of the hip-joint. On May 16th, death took place ; and at the post mortem there was found a comminution of the head of the femur, with penetration of the acetabulum by a bullet, which was removed from the pelvic cavity. Extensive erysipelatous inflammation and diffuse suppuration were found in the gluteal region. The excision of this joint, with its free incision at the primary stage, might have given to this case a different termination.'
Bush started his service as 2nd Lieutentant in Company A and is briefly mentioned in one or two letters of private John B. Noyes during the early days of campaigning, but I don't know much about him. John Boudwin, Company A, writes in his diary that Capt. Bush had just returned from a furlough, April 15, two weeks before he was killed, and Warren Freeman, also of Company A, writes that Capt. Bush was telling the boys the latest news from Boston at the time the shell struck.
I found the following genealogical information*** on Captain George N. Bush, killed April 30th 1863 at Fitzhugh Crossing.
His grandfather, Edward Bush, of Westfield, Mass, at the outbreak of the War of 1812 had a thriving business in Ottawa, Canada. Told to swear allegiance to Canada or leave within 48 hours he chose the latter. He rode his horse 200 miles alone through the wilderness until he fell in with an expedition fitting out against the Indians. He was killed in a skirmish on the western frontier leaving a widow and 3 children.
George's Father Francis, not wishing to be a burden to his widowed mother, left home, on foot for Boston at age 13. He found employment at the Watertown Hat Manufactury. In 1823 he moved to Chelmsford, and in 1828 married Jane Bond whose family emigrated to New England about 1630. George N., was among their children.
George and two brothers were in the Volunteer service during the war. An older brother Edward, could not serve due to chronic problems with his eye-sight, but Edward, successful in business did all he could to supply the needs of his brothers during the war. It was Edward who had to visit the battlefield and bring home to the family all that remained of his brother.
2nd Lieutenant William Cordwell
I have less information on William Cordwell but his record states he enlisted as a Sergeant in Company K, age 31, occupation: Boot-Finisher. Austin Stearns of that company notes Cordwell was also wounded at Antietam, "hit on the head wtih a piece of shell." He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant February 14, 1863.
*"Chancellorsville 1863; The Souls of the Brave," by Ernest B. Furgurson, First Vintage Civil War Edition, 1993; (page 330.) Furgurson acknowledges the difficulty of determining precise casualties using reports in the Official Records of the War.
**Carleton, From "Claremont War History: April 1861, to April, 1865: With Sketches of New Hampshire Regiments and a Biographical Notice of Each Clairmont Soldier etc,". by Otis Frederick Reed Waite, Clairmont N.H. 1868. (pages 269-271). accessed via Google Books. Greenwood from "A Report on Excisions of the Head of the Femur for Gunshot Injury" US Government Printing Office, 1869. (141 pages). accessed via Google Books.
*** From Memorial Biographies of New England Genealogical Society, vol. 6, 1905. accessed via Google Books.Charles Davis, Jr. and Austin Stearns commented on the death of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who was mortally wounded by his own troops the evening of May 2nd. He was riding on a reconaissance in the woods for a planned night attack. He died May 10th. The portrait, circa 1912 is by artist John Adams Elder.
"Three Years in the Army," by Charles E. Davis, Jr.; Boston, Estes & Lauriat; 1894. (p 206).
While we were in the trenches, [May 5th] information was received that Stonewall Jackson was killed. It used to be a common saying in the Army of the Potomac that in order to reach Richmond we should have to go “over a Stonewall, two Hills, and a Longstreet.” Something had therefore been accomplished for the Union cause by the battle of Chancellorsville, - we had got over the “Stonewall.” The celerity with which General Jackson could move an army from one point to another was remarkable, and up to the time of his death his equal as an executive officer had not been seen. As an instance of his activity we recall, when we were at Front Royal, watching his army marching along the mountain-side between the armies of McDowell and Fremont, unmolested, - except for the feeble attack made by Shields, - and on the following morning at day-light attacking McClellan at Hanover Court House, an air-line distance of more than ninety miles. As we learned by the newspapers two days after the event. It seemed incredible to us at the time, yet it was a fact.
Let me here say, that to execute a movement, no one, north or south, could do it with such rapidity, could turn up in such unexpected places and at times when least expected, as Stonewall Jackson. His name was a terror in the Union army, and with us expressed more fear than all the other names put together. Of his treatment to his men I have nothing to say, but of my own personal experience I think that the greatest and best generals to their men are those who move with … celerity, and having moved, strike. Success is what the soldier wants; it gives him courage, buoys’s up his spirits, and [for] an officer that gives success, they will march with unbroken ranks, will suffer all the privation incidental to long and arduous campaigns, will even go to the cannon mouth, and all so cheerfully, [though] not without grumbling, for it is a soldiers priviledge to grumble; deprive him of that and you deprive him of half his life.
That Stonewall was a great General none can deny, and the whole secret of his success was his ability to move troops, and after moving, using them. All the men that served under him knew that their labor was not in vain; after long and weary marches, after hunger, came rest and feasting on the good things that Uncle Sam’s commissary furnished them. It was a prize to them worth striving for. Oh! That we could have had a few such generals on our side in the first year of the war, generals that thought more of winning victories than they did of their nice clothes.
There were good officers then, but they held subordinate position; occasionally, if one did appear to gain victories and was working himself up, many of the others would combine to pull him down, using all means to accomplish their purpose, and so the poor soldier was permitted to suffer through the incompetency, or jealousy, of officers high in rank.
Chancellorsville is generaly considered as a disaster to the union army, but we boys looked at it in a different light. I should call it a drawn battle with the scales turning in favor of the union. And this is my reason. The rebels lost one of their best, if not the best officer they had; they could have better spared an entire divison of their army than Stonewall Jackson. And the union cause gained more in his death than an army corps, and from this time can be reconed the downfall of the confederacy.
Major-General George Gordon Meade commanded the 5th Corps in the battle and observed events as they unfolded at the highest level of command. His commentary in a letter to his wife is insightful for its accurate and direct criticisms of the faillures of General Hooker's leadership in this campaign.
May 20th 1863
Camp Near Falmouth, Va, May 20, 1863.
The battle of Chancellorsville was a miserable failure, in which Hooker disappointed me greatly. His plan was admirably designed, and the early part of it, entrusted to others, was well executed; but after he had assembled his army on the other side near Chancellorsville, instead of striking at once vigorously and instantly, before the enemy, who were surprised, could concentrate, he delayed; gave them thirty-six hours to bring up and dispose of their troops; permitted them to attack him, and after their doing so, failed to take advantage of their error in dividing and separating their forces, but allowed them to engage only about half his army and to unite their forces after driving back a portion of ours. He then assumed the defensive, doing nothing for two days, whiles we could hear Sedgwick’s guns, and knew they were trying to crush him and must succeed. Finally he withdrew to this side, giving up all the advantages gained, and having to recross with all the obstacles and difficulties increased.
Notwithstanding these are my views, I have abstained from making them known to any one, out of consideration for Hooker, who has always pretended to be very friendly to me. I declined to join Couch in a representation to the President, when he was down here, and I refused to join Slocum, who desired to take action to have Hooker removed. I told both these gentlemen I would not join in any movement against Hooker, but that if the President chose to call on me officially for my opinions, I would give them. I have spoken to no one but Governor Curtin, and to him only because he came to see me and spoke so freely and bitterly against Hooker, that I allowed myself to say a part of what I have above written. I considered my conversation with Governor Curtin private, and did not expect he would repeat it or quote me. I have seen Senators Wade, Wilson and Doolittle, all of whom have been down here to find out what they could, but I have abstained from saying anything, as they did not think proper to ask me any questions. Hooker is safe, I think, from the difficulty of finding a successor, and for the ridiculous appearance we present of changing our general after each battle. He may, I trust he will, do better next time; but unless he shows more aptitude than in the last affair, he will be very apt to be defeated again. Lee committed a terrible blunder in allowing us to come back; he might have destroyed us by a vigorous attack while we were retreating.
The review of my corps passed off very well yesterday, and Lord Abinger expressed himself greatly pleased. After the review I had a collation at my quarters, which seemed to be equally pleasing to his lordship. He said that if he had time to stop in Philadelphia, he would hunt you up.
Turnbull, who was at the review, showed me a few lines he had received from Proctor Smith, by a flag of truces that went after the wounded. Smith is Chief Engineer on Lee’s staff. He begs to be remembered to you and me. Beckham is major of artillery and commands a battery with Stuart’s cavalry. Smith is colonel.
May 23rd 1863
Camp Near Falmouth, Va, May 23, 1863.
The story of Hooker losing his head, and my saving the army is a canard, founded on some plausible basis. When Hooker was obliged to give up Chancellorsville and draw in his lines, I fortunately had anticipated this, and was prepared with my troops to take up the new line in a very short time, and to receive with it the broken columns for the old line. About this time Hooker, who had just been stunned by being struck with a pillar of a house, hit by a shot, felt himself fainting and had to dismount from his horse and lie on his back for ten or fifteen minutes. During this time he was constantly calling for me, and this operation above referred to was executed by me. Outsiders, particularly his staff, not knowing my previous preparations and expectation of having to do this, and seeing it so well and quickly done, were astonished, and gave me more credit that I was entitled to, and hence arose the story that I saved the army. Hooker never lost his head, nor did he ever allow himself to be influenced by me or my advice. The objection I have to Hooker is that he did not and would not listen to those around him; that he acted deliberately on his own judgment, and in doing so, committed, as I think fatal errors. If he had lost his head and I had been placed in command, you may rest assured a very different result would have been arrived at, whether better or worse for us cannot be told now; but it certainly would have been more decisive one way or the other. Secretary Chase was in camp day before yesterday at headquarters. He neither honored me with a visit, nor did he invite me to visit him; of course I did not see him. He returned in the afternoon, accompanied by Wilkes, of the Spirit of the Times. It is understood that the Cabinet is divided, Chase upholding Hooker, Blair and Seward in opposition. I have always thought Hooker would be allowed another chance, and I sincerely trust and hope, and indeed believe, he will do better, as I think he now sees the policy of caution is not a good one. Until our recent imbroglio, he has always spoken of me very warmly, though he has never asked my advice, or listened to my suggestions. What he is going to do or say now I don’t know, but I shall not count on any very friendly offices from him. Still, I should be sorry to see him removed, unless a decidedly better man is substituted.
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© Bradley M. Forbush, October 19, 2013
Page Updated September 19, 2013.