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assaults of the enemy, and brilliant charges in return worthy of the Old Guard."
But, though jaded and bleeding from this prolonged and stubbornly-contested battle, Jackson's columns had by no means relaxed their efforts. The blows they could give were feebler, but they were continued with the wonderful pertinacity their chief had taught them; and nothing but the Chancellor clearing, and with it the road to Fredericksburg, would satisfy their purpose.
And a half-hour later, Sickles, finding himself unsupported on right and left, though not heavily pressed by the enemy, retired to Chancellorsville, and re-formed on the right of Hancock, while portions of three batteries held their ground, half way between Chancellorsville and Fairview, and fired their last rounds, finally retiring after nearly all their horses and half their men had been shot, but still without the loss of a
gun. With characteristic gallantry, Sickles now proposed to regain the Fairview crest with his corps, attacking the enemy with the bayonet; and he thinks it could have been done. But, Hooker having been temporarily disabled, his successor or executive, Couch, did not think fit to license the attempt. And shortly after, Hooker recovered strength sufficient to order the withdrawal to the new lines at White House; and Chancellorsville was reluctantly given up to the enemy, who had won it so fairly and at such fearful sacrifice.
In retiring from the Chancellor clearing, Sickles states that he took, instead of losing, prisoners and material. This appears to be true, and shows how Stuart had fought his columns to the utmost of their strength, in driving us from our morning's position. He says: “ At the conclusion of the battle of Sunday, Capt. Seeley's battery, which was the last battery that fired a shot in the battle of Chancellorsville, had forty-five horses killed, and in the neighborhood of forty men killed and wounded;” but “ he withdrew so entirely at his leisure, that he carried off all the harness from his dead horses, loading his cannoneers with it.” “As I said before, if another corps, or even ten thousand men, had been available at the close of the battle of Chancellorsville, on that part of the field where I was engaged, I believe the battle would have resulted in our favor.” Such is the testimony of Hooker's warmest supporter. And there is abundant evidence on the Confederate side to confirm this assumption.
The losses of the Third Corps in the battle of Sunday seem to have been the bulk of that day's casualties.
There can be no limit to the praise earned by the mettlesome veterans of Jackson's corps, in the deadly fight at Fairview. They had continuously marched and fought, with little sleep and less rations, since Thursday morning. Their ammunition had been sparse, and they had been obliged to rely frequently upon the bayonet alone. They had fought under circumstances which rendered all attempts to preserve organization impossible. : They had charged through tangled woods against well-constructed field-works, and in the teeth of destructive artillery-fire, and had captured the works again and again. Never had infantry better earned the right to rank with the best which ever bore arms, than this gallant twenty thousand, one man in every four of whom lay bleeding on the field.
Nor can the same meed of praise be withheld from our own brave legions. Our losses had been heavier than those of the enemy. Generals and regimental commanders had fallen in equal proportions. Our forces had, owing to the extraordinary combinations of the general in command, been outnumbered by the enemy wherever engaged. While we had received the early assaults behind breastworks, we had constantly been obliged to recapture them, as they were successively wrenched from our grasp, -- and we had done it. Added to the prestige of success, and the flush of the charge, the massing of columns upon a line of only uniform strength had enabled the Confederates to repeatedly capture portions of our intrenchments, and, thus taking the left and right in reverse, to drive back our entire line. But our divisions had as often done the same. And well may the soldiers who were engaged in this bloody encounter of Sunday, May 3, 1863, call to mind with equal pride that each met a foeman worthy of his steel.
Say Hotchkiss and Allan : “The resistance of the Federal army had been stubborn. Numbers, weight of artillery, and strength of position, had been in its favor. Against it told heavily the loss of morale due to the disaster of the previous day.”
THE LEFT CENTRE.
HILE the bulk of the fighting had thus been done
by the right centre, Anderson was steadily forcing his way towards Chancellorsville. He had Wright's, Posey's, and Perry's brigades on the left of the plank road, and Mahone's on the right, and was under orders to press on to the Chancellor clearing as soon as he could join his left to Jackson's right. He speaks in his report as if he had little fighting to do to reach his destination. Nor does Geary, who was in his front, mention any heavy work until about nine A.M.; for Geary's position was jeopardized by the enfilading fire of Stuart's batteries on the Hazel-Grove hill, and by the advance of Stuart's line of battle, which found his right flank in the air. He could scarcely be expected to make a stubborn contest under these conditions.
While thus hemmed in, Geary “obeyed an order to retire, and form my command at right angles with the former line of battle, the right resting at or near the Brick House,” (Chancellorsville). While in the execution of this order, Hooker seems to have changed his purpose, and in person ordered him back to his original stand, “ to hold it at all hazards."
In some manner, accounted for by the prevalent confusion, Greene's and Kane's brigades had, during this change of front, become separated from the command, and had retired to a line of defence north of the Chancellor House. But on regaining the old breastworks, Geary found two regiments of Greene's brigade still holding them.
Now ensued a thorough-going struggle for the possession of these breastworks, and they were tenaciously hung to by Geary with his small force, until Wright had advanced far beyond his flank, and had reached the Chancellor clearing; when, on instructions from Slocum, he withdrew from the unequal strife, and subsequently took up a position on the left of the Eleventh Corps.
Anderson now moved his division forward, and occupied the edge of the clearing, where the Union forces were still making a last stand about headquarters.
McLaws, meanwhile, in Couch's front, fought mainly his skirmishers and artillery. Hancock strengthened Miles's outpost line, who “held it nobly against repeated assaults.”
While this is transacting, Couch orders Hancock to move up to the United States Ford road, which he imagines to be threatened by the enemy; but the order is countermanded when scarcely begun. There is assuredly a sufficiency of troops there.
But Hancock is soon obliged to face about to ward off the advance of the enemy, now irregularly showing his line of battle upon the Chancellorsville clearing, while Sickles and Williams slowly and sullenly retire from before him.