Newspaper Account of Chancellorsville


TRANSCRIBED BY LYNNE MEDGAARGEN, ST. PAUL, MN.

__________________________________________________________________________

FROM HOOKER’S ARMY
Resume of Operations.

        The following resume of movements of Gen. Hooker’s army, preliminary to and at the conflict at Chancellorsville and above Fredericksburg, is compiled from a correspondence of the New York papers. It will be of interest to our readers and will enable them to comprehend more clearly the somewhat confused reports by telegraph:
        On Monday, the 20th ult., the divisions of Wadsworth and Doubleday were sent down the Rapahannock (20 miles) to Port Conway and ordered to build an enormous number of fires to give the idea that a large force was there for the purpose of crossing. The bait took. Stonewall Jackson hurried down the river with 60,000 men to watch us, and there remained. The balk of Wadsworth’s and Doubleday’s divisions were then withdrawn, but the fires were assiduously kept up by the remainder.

OF STONEMAN’S MOVEMENT.
        A week before Stoneman was sent 25 miles above with a cavalry force to break the Oranges and Alexandria, Virginia Central, and Richmond and Fredericksburg railroads, in order to destroy the rebel communications.
        In addition to tearing up rails and blowing up bridges, he was also to attack any cavalry force he might hear of in his vicinity.

THE MOVEMENT OF OUR TROOPS.
        On Monday the 27th, the troops commenced a movement in force northward from Falmouth.
        The following were the troops thus thrown forward: 5th Army Corps-Maj. Gen. Geo. G. Meade; 11th Army Corps-Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard; 12th Army Corps-Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum;
        These troops broke camp at Falmouth. The order to move was long waited for and did not come till April 27th, at four o’clock in the afternoon. It was to move at five o’clock in the morning.

THE START.
        The men had breakfast at four o’clock in the morning. At twenty-three minutes past five, they took up their line of march being ignorant of its destination. The day was rainy and cold, but the men buoyant beyond measure. The road was almost impassable in many places; but still the men kept on till ordered to pitch their camp for the night at Hartwood Church, having marched 12 miles. Gen. Hooker passed through our lines late in the afternoon and was welcomed with deafening cheers.

CONDITION OF THE TROOPS.
        As a proof of the condition of the troops it is mentioned that in one of the brigades at roll call before starting, only sixteen men, all accounted for by surgeon’s certificates were absent.
        The 11th army corps, under General Howard, was in the advance, the whole under the command of the popular Gen. of the Twelfth corps-Slocum.
        Gen. Williams, commanding one of the divisions of Slocum’s corps, takes command ....(missing) ..... or Wisconsin commands Williams division.
        The next day the troops marched to Grove Church, about 12 miles. Day rainy-roads bad. The pioneers worked hard, making new roads in some places and repairing others.

KELLY’S FORD.
        The event of this day was the building of a pontoon bridge across Kelly’s Ford. The engineer corps were at work all night and by morning a substantial bridge was formed, over which passed in safety infantry, cavalry, and teams.
        The bridge was crossed at five A.M. on the 29th. Over the way is the town of Kelorsville (north of the Rappahanock) a flourishing little place of six dwellings, quite a large town for this section.
        A fight was looked for at the fords; but our cavalry rode down to the banks and the rebels very cautiously left them in our possession, scampering to the adjacent woods with wonderful celerity. The Eleventh corps reached Kelly’s Ford first, and Col. Bashbeck’s brigade was soon over. The remainder of the command speedily followed, encamped in the meadows, and next day fell in behind the 12th, which led the advance call tonight, while the 5th crossed later in the day, and by another route joined them at Chancellorsville.

GEN. STONEMAN AGAIN.
        At Kelly’s Ford Gen. Stoneman joined this force from Warrenton junction, where he had been for supplies, and taking the advance, proceeded successfully on his mission. Particulars regarding his movements have not yet reached us. He had been delayed ten days by the incessant rains, but it is believed, did not lose the chance for effective cooperation with Gen. Hooker’s plans.
        On Wednesday, 29th, the right wing started from Kelly’s crossing and pushed vigorously forward. Stuart shelled the pickets thrown out on the flank for a few moments, and then hastening round to the front, skirmished briskly with the advance wherever the topography of the country enabled him to make a stand with impunity; but the Sixth New York cavalry gave him fair opportunity for facing us, and, hovering on his rear, picked up his men here and there, sending them back to the rear as evidence of the work they were doing. Sometimes the skirmishing would be quite brisk. The carbines would rattle merrily and the squadron charge gallantly through the fields after fleeing graybacks, to come upon some terror stricken household, who’s only testimony was that 'the enemy was flyin’ and, after an hour’s quiet marching, most of them again on the crest of a hill for another display of rapid traveling. At noon.
        GERMANIA FORD, on the Rapidan, was reached. Here detachments from Stuart’s command were engaged in creating a bridge, and were so completely surprised that many of them had not time to get their arms before our cavalry were upon them. Stuart had turned off on the Culpepper road. In too great haste to warn them: but, darting behind the banks of the mill rage, and in to the gorge of the bluff, they soon peppered us handsomely. Captain Thompson, of Gen Pleasanton’s staff, accompanied by Lieut. Ramsey of the cavalry, rode down to reconnoiter, only to be driven back, the Lieut. with a ball in his leg and leaving corporal Martin about dead in the road.
        The infantry were soon down and then the rebels discovered the trap they were in. A galling fire was poured into them in front, and from the right and left, along the bend of the stream, a shower of bullets enfiladed their ditches. A few ran, and were shot down. Another volley followed, and a dozen handkerchiefs appeared above the embankments, showing a signal of surrender. Sixty-seven came over, glad to get out of their 'last ditch' alive and our cavalry crossed. Then came the task for the infantry. The river was up to the armpits, rapid and rocky. Cartridge boxes were hoisted on the muskets, clothing was stripped off, and in they went. Some went down in the current to be picked up a dozen yards down the stream, half drowned; but all were jubilant and filled the valley with their shouts and laughter. After dark the scene was magnificent. Huge bonfires were kindled and their light danced with the moonbeams among the bayonets and on the water and wrought fantastic pictures on the hillsides, while the long, dark column streamed down from the woods into the gleaming currents and up the gorges beyond. Slocum and Howard and Williams and Pleasanton were there, with their aids artillery, infantry and cavalry officers swarmed on the banks, and everybody pushed forward, eager to give assistance and pull out the unlucky.

ELY’S FORD.
        The 5th corps crossed the Rapidan below, at Ely’s Ford, in water waist deep, and was the first to reach Chancellorsville, a Virginia village consisting of one large brick house. Two rebel brigades had been there the night previous, and had commenced throwing up earth works.
        The 8th Pennsylvania cavalry, which led the advance of the Fifth from the Rappahannock, after a brisk skirmish drove the enemy from his earthworks at Chancellorsville, and pushed on towards Fredericksburg, but meeting two brigades of the enemy with artillery, on a hill, about six miles from the city, were compelled to retire, but without loss. The rebel brigades of Mahoney and Possey fell back upon Fredericksburg from the fords about 10 A.M.

THE CROSSING AT OTHER FORDS.
        The First, Second and Third divisions left camp on Tuesday, and moved to the vicinity on Banks’ Ford, taking a circuitous route to keep in the rear of the range of hills skirting the left bank of the river. On arriving at Banks’ Ford the enemy was found strongly posted to resist the attempt to cross. Some little demonstrations was therefore made, when the main body of the troops moved off further up the river. The enemy were also found in force at this point, but during the night decamped from the formidable earthworks which they had constructed. During the day the 50th New York (Engineer regiment) threw a pontoon bridge across a few hundred feet below the ford. Upon its completion the band of the Engineer brigade marched over it, playing "In Dixie’s Land I’ll Take my Stand." Then ... the divisions, which was followed by a continuous stream of troops until very late in the night. What the rebels intended to do was something of a mystery, but the general impression seemed to be that they would mass their army at a convenient point on their left, and give battle outside of their defenses.
        The above named divisions at once joined the others at Chancellorsville. The road from the United States Ford to Chancellorsville runs through oak woods. The plank road and the old turnpike offered a solid track.

THE ENEMY’S POSITION, at noon of the 30th, as indicated on the map, extended on their left from Spottsylvania Court House to Banks’ Ford, and on their right from Fredericksburg to a point below the Massaponax Creek. The route of our supply trains from Falmouth by way of the U.S. Ford, was very circuitous and delayed the movements of troops very considerably.

THE SITUATION ON THURSDAY 30TH.
        Our brief, resume of the operations since Monday brings the time down to the date of Gen. Hooker’s congratulatory order to the 5th, 11th and 12th divisions, which in four days’ time marched 64 miles, forded or crossed two streams, had two skirmishes, captured a large number of prisoners, and lost but two men killed and one wounded. It seems that the rains have delayed this splendid movement some days, for it was on the 19th that orders were received to prepare eight day’s rations and be prepared to march at a moment’s notice. But two teams were allowed to a regiment, men were required to carry additional ammunition in their knapsacks, and a mule train was to carry a still further supply in panniers. This was the light condition in which the army was actually marched.

THE MOVEMENT BELOW FREDERICKSBURG.
        On Tuesday the 29th, the movement below which deceived the rebels was made. At noon the First corps, Major Gen. Reynolds, the Third, Maj. General Sickles, and Sixth, Maj. Gen. Sedgwick moved down the river four miles, built two bridges during the night in the very face of the enemy’s pickets, crossed and captured the pickets and reserves. Then the First corps moved two miles further down, built another bridge, drove the enemy out of his fieldwork’s with artillery, and captured something less than a hundred prisoners.

THE BATTLE AT CHANCELLORSVILLE, SATURDAY.
        Advices from the right wing of the Army of the Potomac are to Sunday evening. No attack was made by the enemy, on Saturday morning, as was expected. A regiment did emerge into the road in front of the Chancellor House, and attempt to deploy, but it was scattered by a few rounds of canister.
        Gen. Hooker inspected his lines during the morning, the task occupying two hours, and pronounced the entrenchment’s thrown up during the night to be admirable. Gen. Howard, on the right reported that through the night the enemy were employed cutting a road past his advance lines, a fact which subsequent events proved of great significance.
        The pickets of Gen. Slocum reported, about 2 P.M., that wagons had been seen moving westward midday. This was construed to indicate a retreat, but General Sickles was sent with the Third Corps and Barlow’s Brigade of Howard’s Corps. to the front, to determine the real nature of the movement. It was ascertained that instead of a retreat it was in reality the preparation for attack. The reconnoiter was pushed vigorously. Birney, with the aid of Randolph’s Battery, captured and sent to the rear the remainder of the 23d Georgia regiment, in number over 400, officers and privates.
        The column of the enemy was by this movement out in two, and a flank movement by Gen. William’s’ on the enemy’s right promised auspicious results; when Jackson precipitated his forces en masse upon the Eleventh Corps, Gen. Howard, on our extreme right. Panic stricken, the corps gave way, the Division of Gen. Schurz being the first to fly, and General Howard and his subordinates were utterly unable to stem the tide of retreat.
        At the critical juncture, Gen. Hooker flung the famous Second Division of the Third Corps, under the lead of the brave Maj. Gen. Berry, into the breach. With undaunted bravery it met the onset of the foe, and drove him back at the bayonet’s point. In this movement the brave Berry lost his life.
        Sickles and Slocum, who were doing good service, were compelled to retire, and by another route than that of their advance, the enemy holding their line. This was the position at dark.
        Hooker, in order to restore the connection of his line, ordered a night attack. Gen. Birney’s division made the attack at 11 P.M. It was successful, and Hobart Ward retook a portion of the artillery lost by Howard. The enemy were driven back nearly half a mile.

THE GREAT BATTLE OF SUNDAY.
        During Saturday night a change in our lines was effected. Reynold’s Corps, which reached United States Ford on Saturday afternoon, was put on the right, which was withdrawn from the plank road to Ely’s Ford turnpike. This line was immediately formed by General Reynolds and Meade, the later’s position on the left having been relieved by General Howard’s 11th Corps, which, notwithstanding its disorganized condition was so far reorganized during the night as to be fit for duty again this morning.
        They were assigned the position on the left, where it was probably there would be little or no fighting, and were protected by the strong works built the day before by General Meade’s Corps. Our new line now assumed the shape of a triangle, prolonged as the apex, the right of the line being somewhat longer than the left. As the portion of the line on the right was now, time was necessary to fortify and entrench it, and the work was carried on vigorously by the 5th and 1st army corps.
        It was very evident at daylight this morning that the day would bring forth a terrible battle. We knew that the enemy had been reinforcing his line, all at the expense, undoubtedly, of the strength of his force on the left. His intention was evidently to fight for the possession of the plank road which it was, perfectly apparent he must have, as that portion of it which we then held, was subject to the enemy’s assaults in front and on both flanks.
        But the possession of this road was not obtained by the enemy save at our own time, at his severest cost, and after one of the most desperate, tenacious and bloody conflicts, for its short duration, of the whole war.
        At 5 o’clock A.M., the rebels could be plainly seen up the plank road, about a mile and a half from the Chancellor House, which General Hooker still retained as his headquarters, though a shell had gone through it the evening before, and another had cut down a tree directly in front of it.
        Our line of battle was formed with Gen. Berry’s gallant division on the right, Gen. Birney next on the left, Gen. Whipple and Williams supporting.
        At 5:12 a.m., the advance became engaged in the ravine, just beyond the ridge where Captain Best’s guns had made their terrific onslaught the night before, and where they still frowned upon the enemy and threatened his destruction.
        The rattle of musketry soon became a long continued crash, and in a few moments, as battalion after battalion became engaged, the roar surpassed all conception, and indicated that the fight would be one of the most terrible nature.
        General Berry’s division, which had checked the enemy’s advance the night before, engaged him again, and if it were possible for them to add more laurels to their fame, then they did it three times over again.
        The enemy advanced his cavalry in overwhelming numbers, and seemed determined to crush our forces. But the brave men of Sickles and Slocum, who fought their columns with desperate gallantry, held the rebels in check, and inflicted dreadful slaughter among them. Gen. French’s Division was sent in on the right flank of our lines at about 7 A.M., and in a short time a horde of ragged, streaming rebels running down the road, indicated that that portion of the enemy’s line had been crushed.
        At 8 o’clock a.m., Gen. French sent his compliments to Gen. Hooker with the information that he had charged the enemy and was driving them before him.
        Sickles maintained the attack upon his with great endurance. The enemy seemed determined to crush him with immensity of his forces, and, as subsequently shown from the statements of prisoners, five whole divisions of the rebel army were precipitated upon this portion of the line, for from those five divisions we took during the day as aggregates of over 2,000 prisoners.
        The exploits of our gallant troops in those dark, tangled, gloomy woods may never be brought to light; but they would fill a hundred volumes. It was a deliberate hand-to- hand conflict, and the carnage was perfectly frightful. Cool officers say that the dead and wounded of the enemy covered the ground in heaps, and that the rebels seemed utterly regardless of their lives, and literally threw themselves on the muzzles of our guns.
        Many desperate charges were made during the fight, particularly by Berry’s Division. Mott’s Brigade made fifteen ..(missing)... charges and captured seven stands of colors-the 7th New Jersey, Colonial Francine, alone capturing four stands of colors and 600 prisoners.
        Gen. Couch’s Second Army corps, the only in part present, did excellent work. It was Gen. French who charged and drove the enemy on the flank, and it was the indomitable Hancock who gallantly went to the relief of the hard-pressed Sickles.
        The engagement lasted without the slightest intermission, from 5:12 a.m. to 8:45 a.m, when there was a temporary occasion on our part, occasioned by getting out of ammunition. We held our position for nearly an hour with the bayonet, and then, being re-supplied an order was given to fall back to the vicinity of the Chancellor House, which we did in good order. Here the contest was maintained for an hour or more, not so severely as before but with great havoc to the enemy, and considerable lost to ourselves.
        The vicinity of the Chancellor House was now the theater of the fight, and my visits to that spot became less frequent. Gen. Hooker maintained his headquarters there until 10 a.m. when it was set on fire by the enemy’s shells, and is now in ruins. Chancellorsville is no longer in existence, having perished with the flames, but Chancellorsville is in history, never to be effaced.
        Our new line was now so far established as to render it safe to withdraw all our forces on that front, and which was accordingly done, and at 11:30 a.m. the musketry firing ceased.
        The engagement had lasted six hours, and had been the most terrific of the war. Our artillery had literally slaughter the enemy, and many of the companies had lost heavily in men themselves, but the guns were all saved.
        The enemy was now no longer in our rear but had been shoved down directly in our front, and is now directly between us and our forces at Fredericksburg, and we were again in an entrenched and formidably fortified position. The enemy had gained some ground, it is true, but at the sacrifice of the flower of his force, five of his seven divisions having been cut to pieces in the effort, and over two thousand of them have fallen into our hands.
        Our right wing under Generals Reynolds and Meade, was not engaged, save the division of Gen. Humphreys, which went into the woods on the enemy’s left flank, and fought valiantly under their brilliant leader, until their ammunition was exhausted.
        During the forenoon the enemy made several attempts to force our lines, particularly at the apex of our position, near the Chancellor House, but Captain Weed massed a large quantity of artillery in such a position as to repulse everything with its range. The enemy tried several batteries and regiments at that point at different times during the afternoon, and they were literally destroyed by the fire of our terrible guns. Nothing can live within their range.
        Our present position is impregnable, if our troops continue to fight as they have done today. Gen. Lee, the prisoners say, has issued an order that our lines must be broken at all hazards. Let them try it again, with what they have left. They can, and perhaps will destroy themselves by attack upon the position.
        Our troops are perfectly cool and confident. They have fought with great spirit and enthusiasm, and will continue to do so.
        The rebel prisoners report that General A.P. Hill was killed this forenoon, during the conflict his division had had with Gen. Berry’s division. Gen. Berry was killed while gallantly fighting with his brave men.

SEDGEWICK CAPTURES FREDERICKSBURG.
        The fifth corps and one division of the second corps under the command of Gen. Sedgewick, had crossed the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg, and after skirmishing below the town on Saturday afternoon, got under way about midnight, and entered and took possession of it. At eleven o’clock on Sunday Gen. Sedgewick determined to charge the Heights back of the town.
        The position was brilliantly carried by storm by Pratt’s glorious light division of the 6th Army Corps, capturing two whole regiments of rebels, the 16th and 18th Mississippi, one company of the famous Washington Artillery of New Orleans, and part of Alexander’s Artillery, in all eight guns and nearly 1,000 prisoners. The storming forces were aided by Gen. Gibbon, of the 2d Army Corps, who with a force came upon the flank and rear of the enemy, planting the American flag upon their works before they had actually ceased firing upon our charging column. The capture was complete, and our loss only moderate. Gen. Sedgwick afterward engaged the enemy and drove him back. At 6 p.m. he had advanced to the Brick Church, four and a half miles out on the plank road toward Chancellorsville.
        Here he had a severe engagement with Early’s division, re-enforced by troops from Lee, but repulsed them and sent in another lot of prisoners.

HE IS DEFEATED ON MONDAY.
        Before daylight on Monday morning the enemy came back and re-occupied the works which Sedgwick had left when proceeding to join Hooker. The light also discovered them massed heavily upon the hills to the left, and upon his front, their total force there being apparently between him and Gibbons.
        Everything was comparatively quite until about 4 p.m. when the rebels attacked from the left, and were replied to by a single section of artillery immediately in front of where they attacked. As their infantry moved Sedgwick’s artillery opened from all quarters but could not check their slow and steady advances, under which Sedgwick gradually fell back a mile and a half towards Brooks Ford.
        This was the main engagement of Monday afternoon, and lasted until 9 p.m. In it our loss was about 4,000 killed, wounded and missing, making the total loss of Sedgwick’s and Gibbon’s commands including those lost on the previous day, about 5,000, or half the whole loss of Hooker’s army in the four days’ fighting.
        On that (Monday) night, Sedgwick recrossed his force and Gibbons to the north bank of the Rappahannock.
        It is evident that the confederates played here their old game of massing their troops in crushing force on our exposed points with rapid change of position, and after throwing themselves with all their weight on Hooker, they, with great celerity, moved off to repeat the blow upon Sedgwick’s detached force and this fact explains that mysterious silence in front of Hooker, while they were thus occupied with Sedgewick.
        General Hooker expected assistance from the 6th Corps in the fight on Sunday. He expected that that corps would carry the heights of Fredericksburg by coap de main at or before daylight, march immediately down the plank road and fall upon the enemy’s rear.
        Had this been done the 6th corps would have assaulted the rebel rear at the very time that the rebels were temporarily successful against Hooker’s right.

HOOKER MAINTAINS HIS LINE.
        Hooker maintained his line on the edge of the wood, a short distance north of Chancellorsville, crossing the main road leading to United States Ford, without important change.
        There was no fighting there until late Monday p.m. when a division from the 5th corps advanced towards Fredericksburg, and meeting the rebel skirmishers in the woods drove them back.
        The main body pushed on, meeting large bodies of rebels in double line of battle. A half hour’s fighting then ensued our batteries compelling the rebels to fall back in disorder.
        The division then returned to our main line and rested having ascertained the enemy’s position.

HOOKER OBLIGED TO RETURN FOR SUPPLIES.
        The storm that commenced on Monday evening and continued throughout Tuesday, was at its height Wednesday, and evidently warned Gen. Hooker, whose movements were necessarily made with only eight days’ supplies, carried by the men, which were then nearly consumed, and without trains, of the imminent danger that unless he promptly sought his camp the elements would put a stop to his operation. The railroad communication the Aquia Creek was destroyed by the floods for twelve hours at Creek Station before he determined to cross the river, which rose with great rapidity overflowing the ends of the pontoon bridges, and threatening their destruction.
        In the course of all the fighting throughout Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the enemy had not ventured a general engagement with his army, a portion only of which were in action at any one time, and upon no occasion with as great a loss as he inflicted upon the rebels. Nevertheless it became evident that this greatest storm of the season would surely cut off his supplies of all descriptions, if he remained on the south side of the river, awaiting an opportunity to induce the enemy to risk a general engagement. He therefore, evidently had left him but the only alternative of returning for the time being to where his supplies could readily reach him, and orders were given to return to camp at Falmouth.
        Our recrossing the Rappahannock was done in a masterly manner, and was not attended with the least casualty. The first troops crossed at 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, and in a few hours’ time all the corps were safely on this side. It is not necessary to say where our forces are at present, but we unhesitatingly assert that they are in fine condition, and would march across the Rappahannock today, if the order was given.
        They feel that they have a leader who does not only plan victory for them, but leads them on to it, and shares their danger.
        It seems to us on the whole, indeed, it is clear, that a decisive victory was snatched from our gallant troops only the elements. Hooker brought off with him, we may add, an aggregate of 2,500 prisoners.