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very strong, as we had learned to our cost; but it might be turned, as Hooker proceeded to show. IIis army was still encamped at Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg. The 11th (Howard’s) and 12th (Slocum's) corps moved up the river, but carefully avoiding observation from the hostile bank, so far as Kelly's ford; crossing there the Rappahannock that night and next morning— the men wading up to their armpits—and the Rapidan at Germania Mills, next day, moving thence rapidly on CHANCELLORSVILLE. The 5th (Meade's) corps followed; crossing the Rapidan at Ely’s ford, lower down. Meantime, the 2d (Couch's) corps approached, so nearly as it might unobserved, to both the United States and Banks's fords, ready to cross when these should be flanked by the advance of the 11th, 12th, and 5th behind these fords to Chancellorsville. Resistance had been expected here; but none was encountered, as none worth mentioning had been above; and Couch crossed his corps” at the United States ford on pontoons, without the loss of a man. Gen. IIooker, at Morrisville, superintended the movement; following himself to Chancellorsville, where he estab
lished his headquarters that night.
This important movement had been skillfully masked by a feint of crossing below Fredericksburg; the 6th (Sedgwick's) corps laying pontoons and actually crossing at Franklin's, two or three miles below; the
1st (Reynolds's) at Pollock's Mill, still
lower; the 3d (Sickles's) supporting either or both. Sedgwick was in chief command on this wing. The bridges were ready by daylight of the
29th ; and, before daylight, Brooks's division had crossed in boats and driven off the Rebel pickets; while Gen. Wadsworth in like manner led the advance of Reynolds's division; when three pontoon bridges were laid in front of Sedgwick, and every thing made ready for crossing in force. . Now Sickles's (3d) corps was ordered to move” silently, rapidly to the United States ford, and thence to Chancellorsville, while part of the pontoons were taken up and sent to Banks's ford; Teynolds, after making as great a display as possible, and exchanging some long shots with the Rebels in his front, following, May 2d; raising IIooker's force at and near Chancellorsville to 70,000 men. Sedgwick, on the other side of the Rebel army, had his own corps, 22,000 strong; while Gen. Gibbon's division of the 2d corps, 6,000 strong, which had been left in its camp at Falmouth to guard our stores and guns from a Itebel raid, was subject to his order; raising his force to nearly 30,000. Thus far, Gen. Hooker's success had been signal and deserved. His movements had been so skillfully masked that Lee was completely deceived; and the passage of the Rappahannock had been effected, both above and below him, and all its fords seized, without any loss whatever. Never did a General feel more sanguine of achieving not merely a great but a crushing victory. “I have Lee's army in one hand and Richmond in the other,” was his exulting remark to those around him as he rode up to the single but capacious brick house—at once mansion and tavern—that then, with its appendages, constituted Chancellorsville. But
* April 30.
* April 30.
A General who has but eight days' provisions at hand, and these in the haversacks of his men, with a capricious river between him and his dépóts, and who has been obliged to leave behind most of his heavier guns, as well as his wagons, and is enveloped in a labyrinth of woods and thickets, traversed by narrow roads, and every foot of it familiar to his enemy, while a terra incognita even to his guides, has no warrant for talking in that strain. Never were a few “intelligent contrabands,” who had traversed those mazes by night as well as by day, more imperatively needed; yet he does not seem to have even seasonably sought their services; hence, his general order just recited, taken in connection with his pending experience, was destined to lend a mournful emphasis to the trite but sound old monition, “Never halloo till you are out of the woods.”
The fords of the Rappahannock next above Fredericksburg had been watched by Gen. Anderson with three brigades, some 8,000 strong ; but Hooker's dispositions were so
skillfully made that he did not anticipate a crossing in force until it was too late to call on Lee for röenforcements; and he had no choice but to fall back rapidly before our advancing columns to Chancellorsville, where a fourth brigade joined him; but, being still too weak to make head against an army, he obliqued thence five miles toward Fredericksburg, at the point where the two roads from Chancellorsville become One. Here Lee soon appeared from Fredericksburg, with the divisions of McLaws and the rest of Anderson’s own. Jackson, with those of A. P. Hill and Rhodes (late D. H. IIill's), had been watching our demonstration under Sedgwick, below Fredericksburg; but, when Lee heard that Hooker had crossed in force above, he at once inferred that the movement below was a feint, and called Jackson away toward Chancellorsville, adding the division of Trimble to his command and impelling him on a movement against IIooker's extreme right; leaving only Early's division and Barksdale's brigade in front of Sedgwick on our remote left, and to hold the heights overlooking Fredericksburg, which he judged no longer likely to be assailed. Lee had been outgeneraled in the passage of the Rappahannock on his left, while he was watching for Hooker on his right; but he was not disconcerted. Leaving a very small force in his works on the Fredericksburg heights, he pushed his main body—at least 50,000 strong–down the Gordonsville plank and lateral roads to the point, half-way to Chancellorsville, where the old turnpike intersects the plank road; and was
here concentrated in time to watch the development of IIooker's offensive strategy. A reconnoissance down the old pike for three miles toward Fredericksburg having developed no hostile force, Gen. Hooker ordered” an advance of Sykes's regulars (3d division, 5th corps) on that road, followed by part of the 2d corps; the 1st and 3d divisions of the 5th corps moving on a road farther north, in the direction of Banks's ford; the 11th, followed by the 12th, being thrown out westwardly from Chancellorsville, along the two roads, which are here, for a short distance, blended, but gradually separate. An advance of two or three miles toward Fredericksburg was meditated; but Sykes had hardly
traversed a mile when he met the enemy coming on, in greater force, and a sharp conflict ensued, with mutual loss; the Rebels extending their line so as to outflank ours, while Sykes vainly attempted to connect with Slocum (12th corps) on his right. Gen. Warren, who was su- perintending Sykes's movement, returned and reported progress to IIooker, who ordered Sykes to fall back, which he did; bringing off all but a few of his wounded, and very cautiously followed by the enemy. Thus the prestige of success, in the first collision of the struggle, was tamely conceded to the enemy; and the day closed with the woods and thickets in our front filled with Rebel sharp-shooters, and the crests of the
ridges occupied by his batteries, whence he opened on our left, upon our wagons in the cleared space around the Chancellorsville house, next morning.” The 3d (Sickles's) corps, having arrived by a hard march from below Fredericksburg, had been mainly posted in reserve near our center, while Hooker, about daybreak, rode along his right, which he apprehended was too far extended, or not strongly posted, and which he found no wise prepared by earthworks and batteries for a flank attack; but he was assured by Slocum and IIoward that they were equal to any emergency. Thus our army stood still, when, at 8 A.M., Birney, commanding Sickles's 1st division, which had been thrown well forward toward our right, between the 12th and the 11th corps, reported a continuous movement of Rebel forces along his front toward our right; whereupon, Sickles, at his own suggestion, was ordered by Hooker to push forward Birney’s division, followed by another, to look into the matter. Birney, at 10 A.M., directed Clark's rifled battery to open on the Confederate wayfarers, which he did with great effect, throwing their column into disorder, and compelling it to abandon the road. The movement being evidently continued, however, on some road a little farther off, Sickles, at 1 P.M., directed Birney to charge the passing column; and he did so; bridging with rails a petty creek in his front, passing over his division and two batteries, and striking the rear of the Rebel column with such force that he captured and brought off 500 prisoners.
Sunset found him thus far advanced, holding the road over which the Rebels were originally marching; his division formed in square, with his artillery in the center; Barlow's brigade of the 5th corps, which had advanced to support his right, being up with him; but Whipple's division of the 3d and one of the 12th corps, which were to have covered his left, being invisibly distant.
Soon, panic-stricken fugitives from the 11th, now almost directly in Birney's rear, brought tidings of a great disaster. The Rebel movement to our right, along our front—which had been either culpably disregarded by IIoward, or interpreted as a retreat of the Tebel army on Richmond– had culminated, a little before 6 P.M., in a grand burst of Stonewall Jackson, with 25,000 men, on the exposed flank of that corps. Emerging suddenly from the thick woods which enveloped that flank, and charging it from three sides, as it were, the Rebels caught some of our men preparing their suppers, with arms stacked, and gave them no time to recover. In a moment, the 1st division, Gen. Devens, was overwhelmed; its commander being among the the wounded, and one-third of his force, including every General and Colonel, either disabled or captured. Driven back in wild rout down the Chancellorsville road upon the position of Gen. Schurz, it was found that his division had already retreated—perhaps fled is the apter word— and an attempt made to rally and form here proved abortive; the 17th Connecticut, which bore a resolute part in the effort, had its Lt.-Col. killed and its Colonel severely wounded. Back upon Steinwehr's division rolled the rabble rout, in spite of Howard's frantic exertions; and, although a semblance of organization and consistency was here maintained, the great majority of the corps poured down to Chancellorsville and beyond, spreading the infection of their panic, and threatening to stampede the entire army. Sickles had been preparing to strike a still heavier blow than that of Birney, and had, to that end, obtained from IIooker Pleasanton's cavalry, perhaps 1,000 strong, with permission to call on Howard and Slocum for aid; when he was thunderstruck by tidings that IIoward's corps was demolished. As he had heard no firing of consequence, he refused at first to credit the story; but he was soon constrained to believe it. Not only was the 11th corps gone, but the triumphant Rebels were in his rear, between him and headquarters; so that when, recalling Dirney from his advanced position, he sent to IIooker for his 3d division, he was informed that it could not be sent—IIooker having been obliged to use it to arrest the progress of the enemy, and prevent their driving him from Chancellorsville. Sickles was in a critical position; but he had now his two divisions in hand, with his artillery—which had not been used in Birney’s advance— massed in a cleared field; where Pleasanton, coming in from the front with a part of his force, met the rushing flood of fugitives from the right, and was told that a charge of cavalry was required to stop the enemy's advance. (He had at most 500 men, wherewith to arrest a charge of 25,000, led by Stonewall Jackson.) Turning to Maj.
* Saturday, May 2.
Keenan, 8th Pennsylvania, he said, “You must charge into those woods with your regiment, and hold the Itebels until I can get some of these guns into position. You must do it, at whatever cost.” “I will,” was the calm, smiling response of the patriot, who well understood that theorder was his death-warrant. Ten minutes later, he was dead, and a good part of his regiment lay bleeding around him; but their charge had stayed the Rebel rush, and enabled Pleasanton to get his own battery of horse artillery into position, his guns double-shotted with canister, and trained on the ground, 200 yards distant, over which the enemy must come on. And now, clearing the field of fugitives, picking up what guns and ammunition he could from the wreck of the 11th corps, and adding these to Sickles's, he had them all properly posted and double-shotted, and was ready for his expected visitors. IIe had not long to wait. The woods in his front were by this time full of them; darkness was falling; and some of the enemy resorted to the unworthy stratagem (quite too common on either side) of displaying a false flag, and pretending to be friends. One of our gunners exclaimed, “General, that is our flags” whereupon he sent forward an aid to ascertain. “Come on, we are friends!”. was called out; and, in another moment, the woods blazed with musketry, and the Rebels charged out of them, rushing upon our guns; which that instant opened, and swept whole ranks of them away. Three charges were thus made—one of them to within fifty yards of the guns—but each was repelled with great slaughter; though Pleasanton had no in