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intervals; but nowhere a line which can for more than a brief space retard such an onset.
Down the road towards Chancellorsville, through the woods, up every side road and forest path, pours a stream of fugitives. Ambulances and oxen, pack-mules and ammunition-wagons, officers' spare horses mounted by run
' away negro servants, every species of the impedimenta of camp-life, commissary sergeants on all-too-slow mules, teamsters on still-harnessed team-horses, quartermasters whose duties are not at the front, riderless steeds, clerks with armfuls of official papers, non-combatants of all kinds, mixed with frighted soldiers whom no sense of honor can arrest, strive to find shelter from the murderous fire.
No organization is left in the Eleventh Corps but one brigade of Steinwehr's division. Buschbeck has been speedily formed by a change of front, before Devens and Schurz have left the field, in the line of intrenchments built across the road at Dowdall's at the edge of the clearing. No sooner in place than a scattering fire by the men is opened upon friends and foes alike. Dilger's battery trains some of its guns down the road. The reserve artillery is already in position at the north of this line, and uses spherical case with rapidity. Howard and his staff are in the thickest of the fray, endeavoring to stem the tide. As well oppose resistance to an avalanche.
Buschbeck's line stubbornly holds on. An occasional squad, still clinging to the colors of its regiment, joins itself to him, ashamed of falling thus disgracefully to the
Officers make frantic exertions to rally their men;
useless effort. In little less than half an hour this last stand has been swept away, and the Eleventh Corps is in confused retreat down the pike towards headquarters, or in whatever direction affords an outlet from the remorseless hail.
The general confusion which reigned can scarcely be more accurately described than by detailing the experience of a single regiment. The One Hundred and Nineteenth New York Volunteers was in Schurz's division. It was commanded by an officer of German birth, but long since an American citizen. No more gallant, intelligent man wore uniform, or one better fitted for a pattern soldier. Well read in military matters, he had never yet been under fire, and was nervously anxious to win his spurs. The regiment was a good one; but only three or four officers, and a small percentage of enlisted men, had seen service.
This regiment faced south on the pike just west of the fork in the roads. Under arms in an instant, when the firing was heard on the right, it was soon ordered by one of Schurz's aides to throw itself across the fork, and hold it at all hazards. But the suddenness of the attack had momentarily robbed Col. Peissner of his steadiness, for he was a good drill-master. Instead of facing to the right, counter-marching, filing to the left across the road, and coming to a front, — the simplest if longest movement being the best in times of such excitement, — he faced to the left because his left was nearest to the fork, filed to the left, and then, instead of coming on the left by file into line, he moved astride the roads, and ordered “ Front!”
This brought the regiment in line with its back to the enemy. The men instinctively came each to an aboutface, and the file closers broke through to the now rear. There was no time to correct the error. The regiment, which would have fought well under proper circumstances, , from the start lost confidence in its officers and itself. Still it held its ground until it had burned almost twenty rounds, and until the Confederate line was within fifty yards in its face, and had quite outflanked it. Then the raking volleys of such a front as Jackson was wont to present, and, more than all, the fire of Buschbeck's brigade in its immediate rear, broke it; and it melted away, leaving only a platoon's strength around the colors, to continue for a brief space the struggle behind the Buschbeck line, while the rest fled down the road, or through the woods away from the deadly fire. This regiment lost its entire color-guard, and nearly one-half of its complement killed or wounded.
There is much discrepancy as to the time during which the Eleventh Corps made resistance to Jackson's advance. All reliable authorities put the time of the attack as six
When the last gun was fired at the Buschbeck riflepits, it was dusk, at that season about quarter past seven. It seems reasonably settled, therefore, that the corps retarded the Confederate advance over about a mile of ground for exceeding an hour. How much more can be expected of ten thousand raw troops telescoped by twenty-five thousand veterans ?
Rodes, now quite mixed with Colston's line, still pressed on, and between Hooker's headquarters and his
elated foe there was
an organized regiment. Hooker's fatal inability to grasp the situation, and his ordering an advance of all troops on Howard's left as far as the Second Corps, had made him almost defenceless. The troops which should have been available to stem this adverse tide were blindly groping in the woods, two miles in front, — in pursuit of Jackson.
One cannot but wonder just where Sickles expected to find Jackson. There can be little doubt that he did think he was about to strike Jackson's flank. His testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War constantly refers to this belief; and he says that he was about to open his attack in full force," was holding Pleasonton's cavalry in hand, desiring to lead the attack with his infantry, when the news of the disaster to the Eleventh Corps was brought to him; and that every thing
; seemed to indicate the most brilliant success from thus throwing himself upon Jackson's flank and rear. He refers to McLaws being in his front, but this is an error. McLaws was on Lee's right flank, three miles away. It was with Archer of Jackson's corps, and with Posey and Wright of Anderson's division, that he had to do.
The reports are by no means clear as to the details of these movements. Birney states in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, that he found that he and Barlow “had got into the midst of the rebel army, the supports on the left not having come up." He therefore formed his command into a huge square, with the artillery in the centre, holding the road over which Jackson had passed. “The fire upon his left flank from
musketry was galling." This came from Anderson's brigades.
Hayman, Graham and Ward were pushed out along the road, and “found the enemy in some force on three sides.” This apparently shows that Birney, — who had
the immediate command of the troops in front, — was quite uncertain of what was before him, or just what he was expected to do.
This much is, however, clear: Jackson's small rearguard had succeeded in holding the road which he had traversed, at some point near Welford's; and here this force remained until Jackson was well along towards the plank road. Then Anderson in his turn made a diversion on the other side of Birney, which kept the latter busy for at least a couple of hours.
Sickles's orders were to advance cautiously. This was Hooker's doing. Hence exception cannot fairly be taken to either Birney's or Sickles's conduct for lack of energy. But the latter must have singularly underrated Jackson's methods, if he thought he could strike him at a given point, so many hours after his passage. For Jackson was first observed near the Furnace about eight A.m., and Sickles was just getting ready to attack him in this same place at six P.M.
The errors of judgment on this entire day can scarcely be attributed to any one but the general commanding. He was the one to whom all reports were sent. He had knowledge of every thing transpiring. He it was who was responsible for some sensible interpretation of the information brought him, and for corresponding action in the premises.