Page images
PDF
EPUB

The reports of the officers concerned, as a rule, possess the merit of frankness. As an instance, Col. Hartung, of the Seventy-Fourth New York, relates that he had no opportunity to fire a shot until after he arrived behind the Buschbeck intrenchments. The facts would appear to be given in an even-handed way, in all the reports rendered.

Little remains to be said. The Eleventh Corps was panic-stricken, and did run, instead of retreating. It was a mere disorganized mass in a half-hour from the beginning of the attack, with but a few isolated regiments, and one brigade, retaining a semblance of orderliness.

But was it so much the misbehavior of the troops as the faultiness of the position they occupied ?

The corps was got together again before Sunday morning, in a condition to do good service. Had it been tested, it would, in all probability, have fought well.

The loss of the corps was one-third of its effective.

Some time after the battle of Chancellorsville, a motion was made to break up the Eleventh Corps, and distribute its regiments among the others; but it was not done. Hooker then remarked that he would yet make that corps fight, and be proud of its name. And it subsequently did sterling service. Gen. Thomas remarked, in congratulating Hooker on his victory at Lookout Mountain, that "the bayonet-charge of Howard's troops, made up the side of a steep and difficult hill, over two hundred feet high, completely routing and driving the enemy from his barricades on its top, . . . will rank with the most distinguished feats of arms of this war.” And it is asserted that this encomium was well earned, and that no portion of it need be set down to encouragement.

In their evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Hooker and Sickles both testify that the panic of the Eleventh Corps produced a gap in the line, and that this was the main cause of disaster on this field. But the fatal gap was made long before the Eleventh Corps was attacked. It was Hooker's giddy blunder in ordering away, two miles in their front, the entire line from Dowdall's to Chancellorsville, that made it.

This was the gap which enabled Jackson to push his advance to within a few hundred yards of Chancellorsville before he could be arrested. This was what made it possible for him to join his right to Lee's left wing next day. Had Hooker but kept his troops in hand, so as to have moved up Birney sharply in support, to have thrown forward Berry and Whipple if required, the Confederate advance would, in all human probability, have been checked at Dowdall's; Lee and Jackson would still have been separated by a distance of two miles; and of this perilous division excellent advantage could have yet been taken at daylight Sunday by the Army of the Potomac.

Hooker's testimony includes the following attempt to disembarrass himself of the onus of the faulty position of the Eleventh Corps and its consequences: “No pickets appear to have been thrown out; and I have reason to suppose that no effort was made by the commander of the corps on the right to follow up and keep himself advised of Jackson's movements, although made in broad daylight, and with his full knowledge. In this way the Eleventh Corps was lost to me, and more than that, because its bad conduct impaired the confidence that the corps of the army had in one another. I observed this fact during the night, from the firing on the picket-lines, as well as from the general manner of the troops, if a gun was fired by the enemy: after that, the whole line would let off their pieces. The men seemed to be nervous; and during the coming-in of the Eleventh Corps I was fearful, at one time, that the whole army would be thrown into confusion by it. Some of my staff-officers killed half a dozen of the men in trying to arrest their flight.”

XVIII. .

HOOKER'S PARRY.

THE

HE position of the Army of the Potomac is critical

in the extreme. But several circumstances come to the rescue. It is almost dark. The rebel lines have become inextricably mixed. Colston, who has gradually moved up to Rodes's support, is so completely huddled together with this latter's command, that there is no organization left.

Still Jackson's veterans press on, determined to crush our army beyond recovery, and drive it from United States Ford. Stuart has in fact, at his own suggestion, got orders to move his cavalry division in that direction, and occupy the road to Ely's. A. P. Hill's division is still intact in rear of the two leading lines, now shuffled into one quite unmanageable mass, but still instinctively pushing forward.

So faulty have Hooker's dispositions been, in advancing his entire right centre without filling the gap, that the only available troops to throw into the breach, after the rapid destruction of the Eleventh Corps, are Berry's division of the old Third. These hardened soldiers are still in reserve on the clearing, north of headquarters. It is fortunate, indeed, that they are still there; for Sickles has just asked for their detail to join his own column out in the woods, and an hour ago Berry would certainly have been sent.

This division is at once thrown across the pike on the first crest below Fairview, west of Chancellorsville. The artillery of the Eleventh Corps is in part re-assembled. Capt. Best, chief of artillery of the Twelfth Corps, has already trained his guns upon the advancing Confederate columns, to protect the new line. But Berry is almost alone. Hays's brigade of the Second Corps, on his right, is his only support. The Excelsior brigade is rapidly pushed into the woods, north of the plank road; the Fourth Excelsior and the First Massachusetts south. Carr's brigade is kept in second line, one hundred and fifty yards in the rear. The men, with the instinctive pride of self-reliance, move up with the steadiness of veterans on drill, regardless of the stream of fugitives breaking through their intervals.

The flight of the Eleventh Corps has stampeded part of the Third Corps artillery. But it is re-assembled in short order, and at once thrown into service. Capt. Best manages by seven P.M. to get thirty-four guns into line on the crest, well served. Himself is omnipresent. Dimick's and Winslow's batteries under Osborn, Berry's chief of artillery, join this line on the hill, leaving a section of Dimick on the road. And such part of the disjecta membra of the Eleventh Corps as retains semblance of organization is gathered in support of the guns. Capt. Best has begun to fire solid shot over the heads of Berry's men into the woods beyond; and, as Gen. Lee says, the Con

« PreviousContinue »