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must absolutely rid himself of Sedgwick, before he could again assault Hooker's defences. And, trusting to what he had already seen, in this campaign, of his opponent's lack of enterprise, he detailed Anderson's remaining three brigades to the forces opposing Sedgwick's wing, leaving only Jackson's corps, now numbering some nineteen thousand men, to keep Hooker, with his eighty thousand, penned up behind his breastworks, while himself repaired to the battle-ground of Monday at Salem Church, with the intention of driving Sedgwick across the river, so that he might again concentrate all his powers upon our forces near Chancellorsville.
By daylight Monday morning, Early advanced from his position at Cox's, and with very little difficulty recaptured the heights, held by only a few of Gibbon's men. Barksdale was again posted in the trenches, and instructed to keep Gibbon in check. Early meanwhile moved out to join McLaws, feeling our position with Smith's brigade, and ascertaining the left of our line to lie near Taylor's, and to extend from there down to the plank road.
At an early hour on Monday morning, it came to Sedgwick's knowledge, that the Confederates had re-occupied the heights in his rear, and cut him off from Fredericksburg, thus leaving him only Banks's Ford as a possible outlet in case of disaster. An attempt was made by Early to throw a force about Howe's left, and seize the approaches to the ford; but it was timely met, and repulsed by our men, who captured in this affair two hundred prisoners and a battle-flag. And, to forestall any serious movement to cut him off from Banks's Ford, Sedgwick had already formed Howe's division in line to the rear, extending, as we have seen, from the river to the plank road.
In his report, and particularly in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Howe speaks as if he had received from Sedgwick only general — in fact, vague — and rare instructions, as to the dispositions to be made of his division; and that all his particular manæuvres were originated and completed on his own responsibility, upon information, or mere hints, from headquarters of the corps. His line, over two miles long, was covered by less than six thousand men.
The despatch from Warren reached Sedgwick while matters were in this condition. To retire to Fredericksburg was impossible; to retire across Banks's Ford, except by night, equally so, unless he chose to hazard a disastrous attack from the superior force in his front. For Sedgwick had scarce twenty thousand men left to confront Lee's twenty-five thousand, and imagined the odds to be far greater. Our line was formed with the left on the river, midway between Fredericksburg and Banks's Ford, running southerly to beyond the plank road, following this on the south side for nearly two miles, and then turning north to the crest which Wheaton had held the night before. This was a long, weak position, depending upon no natural obstacles; but it was, under the cir. cumstances, well defended by a skilful disposition of the artillery, under charge of Col. Tompkins. Gen. Newton's division held the right of this line, facing west; Gen. Brooks had Russell's brigade, also posted so as to face west, on the left of Newton, while Bartlett and Torbert faced south, the former resting his left somewhere near Howe's right brigade. This portion of the line was, on Monday afternoon, re-enforced by Wheaton's brigade of Newton's division, withdrawn from the extreme right; and here it rendered effective service at the time the attack was made on Howe, and captured a number of prisoners. The bulk of Howe's division lay facing east, from near Guest's house to the river. The whole line of battle may be characterized, therefore, as a rough convex order, - or, to describe it more accurately, lay on three sides of a square, of which the Rappahannock formed the fourth. This line protected our pontoon-bridges at Scott's Dam, a mile below Banks's Ford.
No doubt Sedgwick determined wisely in preferring to accept battle where he lay, if it should be forced upon him, to retiring to Banks's Ford, and attempting a crossing in retreat by daylight.
Under these harassing conditions, Sedgwick determined to hold on till night, and then cross the river; having specially in view Hooker's caution to look well to the safety of his corps, coupled with the information that he could not expect to relieve him, and was too far away to direct him with intelligence.
Subsequent despatches instructed Sedgwick to hold on where he was, till Tuesday morning. These despatches are quoted at length on a later page.
Having re-occupied Fredericksburg heights, in front of which Hall's brigade of Gibbon's division was deployed as a skirmish-line, and occasionally exchanged a few shots with the enemy, Early communicated with McLaws, and proposed an immediate joint assault upon Sedgwick ; but McLaws, not deeming himself strong enough to attack Sedgwick with the troops Early and he could muster, preferred to await the arrival of Anderson, whom he knew to be rapidly pushing to join the forces at Salem Church.
Anderson, who, prior to the receipt of his new orders, had been making preparations for a demonstration against Hooker's left at Chancellorsville, and had there amused himself by shelling a park of supply-wagons across the river, broke up from his position at the crossing of the Mine and River roads, headed east, and arrived about eleven A.M. at the battle-ground of Sunday afternoon. In an hour he was got into line on Early's left, while McLaws retained the crest he had so stubbornly defended against Brooks.
Lee now had in front of Sedgwick a force outnumbering the Sixth Corps by one-quarter, with open communications to Fredericksburg.
The general instructions issued by Lee, after a preliminary reconnoissance, were to push in Sedgwick's centre by a vigorous assault; and, while preparations were making for this evolution, a slight touch of the line was kept up, by the activity of the Confederate pickets in our front.
“Some delay occurred in getting the troops into position, owing to the broken and irregular nature of the ground, and the difficulty of ascertaining the disposition of the enemy's forces.” (Lee.) But more or less steady skirmishing had been kept up all day, — to cover the disposition of the Confederate line, and if possible accurately to ascertain the position and relative strength of the ground held by Sedgwick's divisions.
Not until six P.M. were Lee's preparations completed to his satisfaction; but about that hour, at a given signal, the firing of three guns, a general advance was made by the Confederate forces. Early, on the right of the line, pushed in, with Hoke on the left of his division, from the hill on which Downman's house stands, and below it, Gordon on the right, up the hills near the intrenchments, and Hays in the centre.
On Early's left came Anderson, whose brigades extended — in order, Wright, Posey, Perry — to a point nearly as far as, but not joining, McLaws's right at about Shed's farm ; Mahone of Anderson's division remained on McLaws's extreme left, where he had been placed on account of his familiarity with the country in that vicinity; and Wilcox occupied his ground of Sunday.
Alexander established his batteries on a prominent hill, to command the Union artillery, which was posted in a manner to enfilade McLaws's line. It was Alexander's opening fire which was the signal for the general assault.
The attack on the corner held by Brooks, was not very heavy, and was held in check chiefly by his skirmish-line and artillery. “ The speedy approach of darkness prevented Gen. McLaws from perceiving the success of the attack until the enemy began to re-cross the river.” “His right brigades, under Kershaw and Wofford, advanced through the woods in the direction of the firing, but the