Page images

attack, to recover some guns, caissons, and Whipple's ammunition-train, which had been left in the woods in Sickles's front, and to enable him to join his right to Slocum's new line, thrown out in prolongation of Berry.

It will be observed that Sickles was now facing northerly, and that his rear had no obstacle on which to rest, so as to save him from the attack of Lee, had the latter been aware of the weakness of his position.

In view of this fact, a move was made somewhat to his right, where a crest was occupied near Hazel Grove. Here, says Pleasonton, “with the support of Gen. Sickles's corps we could have defeated the whole rebel army.” It was clearly a strong position ; for it is thus referred to by Stuart, after our troops had been next day withdrawn: “ As the sun lifted the mist that shrouded the field, it was discovered that the ridge on the extreme right was a fine position for concentrating artillery. I immediately ordered thirty pieces to that point. . The effect of this fire upon the enemy's batteries was superb.” Its possession by the Confederates did, in fact, notably contribute to the loss of the new lines at Chancellorsville in Sunday morning's action.

From this position, at precisely midnight, Sickles made a determined onslaught upon the Confederate right. It was clear, full moonlight, and operations could be almost as well conducted as during the daytime, in these woods.

Birney stationed Ward in the first line, and Hays in the second, one hundred yards in the rear. The regiments moved by the right of companies, with pieces uncapped, and strict orders to rely solely upon the bayonet. On the road from the Furnace north, parallel to which the columns moved, the Fortieth New York, Seventeenth Maine, and Sixty-Third Pennsylvania Volunteers pushed in, in columns of companies at full distance.

Berry had been notified to sustain this attack by a movement forward from his lines, if it should strike him as advisable.

The attack was made with consummate gallantry. Sickles states that he drove the enemy back to our original lines, enabling us for the moment to re-occupy the Eleventh Corps rifle-pits, and to re-capture several pieces of artillery, despite the fire of some twenty Confederate guns which had been massed at Dowdall's.

Thus attacked in flank, though the Confederate right had been refused at the time of Pleasonton's fight, and still remained so, Hill's line replied by a front movement of his left on Berry, without being able, however, to break the latter's line.

Slocum states that he was not aware that this advance was to be made by Sickles across his front. Imagining it to be a movement by the enemy on Williams, he ordered fire to be opened on all troops that appeared, and fears " that our losses must have been severe from our own fire." Williams, however, does not think so much damage was done, and alleges that he himself understood what the movement was, without, however, quoting the source of his information.

Gen. A. P. Hill, in his report, disposes summarily of the matter by saying that “this attempt was handsomely driven back by Col. Mallory, Fifty-fifth Virginia, Heth's brigade.”

It is, however, probable that Hill as mueh underrates the vigor and effect of the attack, as Sickles may overstate it. It is not impossible that some portion of the Eleventh Corps position was actually reached by these columns. The road down which the movement was made strikes the plank road but a short distance east of the position of Buschbeck's line. This ground was not held in force by Jackson's corps at the moment, and it was not difficult for Sickles to possess himself temporarily of some portion of that position. But it must have been a momentary occupation.

Birney retired to Hazel Grove after this sally, having recovered part of Whipple's train, and one or two guns.

There can be found in the Confederate and Union reports alike, numerous statements which are not sustained by other testimony. As a sample, Gen. Lane of A. P. Hill's division states that a Lieut. Emack and four men captured an entire Pennsylvania regiment, under Lieut.-Col. Smith. The nearest approach to this is found in the capture of Col. Mathews and two hundred men of the One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania, while Williams was moving by his left to regain his old ground. But it is highly probable that it required more than five men to effect the capture.

A wise rebuke of careless statements in official reports is found in the following indorsements on a report made of the operations of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Pennsylvania :

In forwarding this report, which I do merely as a matter of duty, it is incumbent upon me to say that it is a complete romance from beginning to end. Col. Collis has had his attention called to these errors, but has refused to correct them.


Brigadier General.


May 1863.
This paper is forwarded with attention called to Brig.-Gen.
Graham's indorsement. The officer is under arrest on charges
of misbehavior before the enemy.

Brigadier General commanding Division.




is probable that the wounding of Jackson at this

juncture was the most effectual cause of the Confederate check on Saturday night. It occurred just after Jackson had concluded to withdraw his first and second lines to Dowdall's, there to re-form, and was making dispositions to move up A. P. Hill to relieve them. Orders had been issued to the troops not to fire unless at Union cavalry appearing in their front. Jackson, with some staff-officers and orderlies, had ridden out beyond his lines, as was his wont, to reconnoitre. On his return he was fired at by his own men, being mistaken in the gloom for a Federal scout. Endeavoring to enter at another place, a similar error was made, this time killing some of the party, and wounding Jackson in several places. He was carried to the rear. A few days after, he died of pneumonia brought on by his injury, which aggravated a cold he was suffering from at the time.

A. P. Hill was wounded somewhat later that night.

After the disabling of these two officers, Stuart was sent for, and promptly assumed command. With Col. Alexander, chief artillery officer present for duty, (Gen.

« PreviousContinue »