"Hooker never left a command without the troops showing signs of
- Hooker's report on Chattanooga and the assault on Lookout Mountain
- A selection of Hooker's official battle reports
- When Stonewall Jackson Turned our Right by John L. Collins, 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry
- Hooker's Comments on Chancellorsville by Samual P. Bates, his literary executor
- Extract of an article by Tim Harrison: Hooker's Defeat by a Myth
- Review by Jeffry D. Wert of Steven W. Sear's recent book Chancellorsville
Joseph Hooker was
13 Nov. 1814 in Hadley, Mass. He graduated from West Point in
and served in the Mexican war, rising to the rank of captain of
and the brevet of lieutenant-colonel in the staff. From 1859 to 1861 he
was a colonel in the California militia. When the Civil war broke out
1861, he was made brigadier-general of volunteers and put in command of
the defenses of Washington on 12 Aug. 1861. When McClellan moved to the
Peninsula Gen. Hooker's brigade was added to the command, and for
service at Williamsburg he was promoted to major-general of volunteers
on 5 May 1862. At Second Manassas under Pope, Hooker was very active,
was woundedat Antietam on 17 Sept. 1862. Soon after
he was promoted to brigadier-general of the regular army. In this period he was dubbed "Fighting Joe" because of his vigorous leadership in the field, and also to the misinterpretation of a terse battle report which he sent by telegram with the words "Fighting - Joe Hooker". He never liked being called this.
When General A.E. Burnside resigned command of the Army of the Potomac after the Union disaster at Fredericksburg (13 Dec. 1863), Hooker was appointed to succeed him.* With typical bravado, Hooker announced, "May God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none." Immediately he carried out much-needed organizational reforms and prepared to challenge the South at the Battle of Chancellorsville (1-4 May 1863). His campaign started out well, as his flanking movement around Lee in Fredericksburg surprised the Confederates. However, his defects as a commanding officer became apparent when Confederate general Robert E. Lee, with fewer than half the number of troops, outmaneuvered him and caused him to stop his advance in the middle of the thickets of the Wilderness (scene of the later battle between Grant and Lee).
Having gained the initiative, Lee then sent
Jackson around Hooker's right flank under Howard which collapsed and
Hooker's retreat back across the Rappahannock. According to Boatner (Civil
War Dictionary), although "Howard's troops had detected this
they were unable to convince Howard or Hooker of the real danger." This
defeat resulted in the loss of 17,000 Union soldiers. However, that
evening Jackson was fired upon by his own troops in the dark while
reconaissance, and he died of pneumonia 2 weeks later. Considering that
Jackson and Lee had spent months in winter quarters only a few miles
it is strange that neither Lee nor Jackson were well-informed about the
terrain of this battlefield, and that Jackson even needed to conduct
let alone in the dark.
When Lee advanced into Pennsylvania in June, Hooker followed him closely until Washington refused his request for additional troops. Sensing his superiors' distrust, he resigned his command on 28 June 1864 on the eve of battle of Gettysburg. Three months later Hooker was sent by rail in command of the 20th corps of the Army of the Potomac to help relieve General George H. Thomas, besieged at Chattanooga, Tenn. On 24 Nov. 1863, he won the "Battle Above the Clouds" on Lookout Mountain. On Nov. 25 he was instrumental in undermining Bragg's left flank on Missionary Ridge, thus clearing the way for Thomas's triumphant charge up the middle of the ridge later in the day. On 24 Jan. 1864 he was voted the Thanks of Congress for his "defense of Baltimore and Washington", one of only 15 general officers to receive this honor during the Civil War.
During the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, and at the battle of Peachtree Creek (20 July 1864), Hooker performed very well. However, when McPherson was killed at the battle of Atlanta on 22 July 1864, Hooker's subordinate, Otis Howard, was named instead of Hooker to replace McPherson. Hooker still considered Howard to have been instrumental in bringing about his defeat at Chancellorsville and refused to serve under Howard, and he resigned. He thereafter ceased to play any active part in the war, holding command of the Northern, Eastern, and Lake departments. He was brevetted major-general of the United States army in March 1865, and in consequence of disability put upon the retired list in 1868, with the full rank of major-general. He died at Garden City, Long Island on 31 Oct. 1879.
Whatever his shortcomings as a commander, he took good care of his men. As Francis McKinney (Education in Violence, p. 357) writes: "Hooker never left a command without the troops showing signs of disapproval."
I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not indispensable, quality.
You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite
of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship....And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 5 [S# 5] NOVEMBER 9, 1861.--Expedition to Mathias Point, Virginia. REPORTS.
HEADQUARTERS HOOKER'S DIVISION
Camp Baker, Lower Potomac, Md., November 12, 1861.
GENERAL: It was reported to me that the rebels were planting a battery at Boyd's Hole, which threatened to be of some annoyance to the portion of the flotilla under Captain Hatwell, at present lying off Smith's Point. Accordingly I proceeded to that point for the purpose of making an examination of that vicinity, with a view, if deemed expedient, of attacking and destroying it. The battery in question is a field one, perfectly harmless as it is, and probably displayed for no other purpose than to have an effect upon the flotilla. They appear to be the guns of a single company, without supports. I could have embarked a regiment 3 miles below Port Tobacco and landed them a short distance above the batteries without the use of lighters. The supply steamer Baltimore, now with the flotilla, is well adapted for this service. I have abandoned the idea of attacking it, for the reason that the battery can be moved to the rear faster than infantry can follow it.
I inclose herewith the report of Colonel Graham [No. 3] of his descent on Mathias Point, as it contains reliable information of the condition of that much-talked-of point. The expedition was projected without my <ar5_408>authority or even knowledge. As it appears to have had no unfortunate sequence so far as I have learned I shall not censure him, but in future no operations will be projected without my sanction; otherwise my command may be dishonored before I know it.
The operator informs me that the wires are in good working condition. The balloon made several ascensions to-day, but so far removed from the enemy's works as to be of little or no service to us. It will be transferred to a point near Budd's Ferry to-morrow, and then probably to a locality still farther south.
The rebels in considerable force appeared to be busily at work during the day nearly across from Sandy Point in the establishment of new batteries.
On board of what is called the ice-boat of the flotilla is a rifled gun of the largest class, perhaps a 60-pounder. Its weight is five tons, and is of no use, I learn, where she is, the steamer being unserviceable. I think it might be dumped overboard and hauled ashore at some suitable landing, and thence, by the truck used for that purpose, delivered at the work which Captain Williamson is constructing. I am informed that it is a good weapon. Its range is enormous, but for some cause up to this time its shells have not exploded. If guns are to be mounted in the work Captain Williamson is engaged on, in my opinion this should be one of them.
The houses burned by Colonel Graham had been made use of by the rebels for military purposes.
Prisoner Dent requires especial attention.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/1 [S# 12] MAY 31- JUNE 1, 1862-- Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, Va.
No. 38. -- Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U. S. Army, commanding Division, Third Corps.
HDQRS. HOOKER'S DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Fair Oaks Station: Va., June 8, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that in obedience to instructions from the headquarters of the Third Army Corps the Second Brigade, the Fifth and Sixth Regiments of the Third Brigade, and Brain-hall's and Osborn's batteries struck camp at White Oak Swamp Bridge about 3 o'clock on the 31st ultimo, and marched first toward Savage Station, and from thence along the Williamsburg Old Stage road in the direction of the battle, nearly 3 miles distant. The roads were heavy, but presented no serious difficulty to our advance until the column reached the Burnt Chimneys, about 2 miles from our camp, where we first encountered the throng of fugitives from the battle-field, which greatly delayed us from that point onward. Colonel Starr's regiment led the column, and I respectfully invite your attention to that part of his report which relates to the difficulties he had to surmount from this cause. In consequence of them my command was prevented from participating in the engagement on the 31st ultimo, as it was sundown when the advance arrived in sight of the field in which the conflict on that day terminated.
As this was a convenient post, we bivouacked for the night, to be in readiness on the following morning. This was Sunday, and its stillness was suddenly broken a little before 7 o'clock by an impulsive musketry fire of considerable volume, which at once discovered the position and designs of the enemy. They had chosen to renew the conflict on the right of where it had ended the night before, and my command, consisting of the Fifth and Sixth New Jersey Regiments and the Second Brigade (Seventieth, Seventy-first, Seventy-second, Seventy-third, and Seventy-fourthNew York Regiments), immediately advanced in that direction in column of companies in the order in which they are named. My chief of artillery attempted to follow with his batteries, but was prevented by the miry condition of the fields through which we were compelled to pass.
Apparently the enemy were actively engaged with the troops of Sumner's corps, and in making for the heaviest fire my object was to attack in rear and to destroy him. On the route and near by the enemy <ar12_819> I passed on my right a brigade of Kearny's division, under Colonel Ward, standing in line of battle. The enemy were enveloped in a dense forest, which this officer assured me my troops could not penetrate, as a deep swamp extended its entire length ; but as no convenient opportunity presented itself for turning it, directions were given for my skirmishers to advance, and we immediately became engaged. They were closely followed by the Fifth and Sixth New Jersey Regiments, the former on the left. The Second Brigade was not yet up, and, apprehensive that the troops engaged might be overcome, all of my staff officers were dispatched to find and press it forward. As there was delay, orders were given Colonel Ward to support my command, which were promptly responded to by that gallant officer, and his brigade was brought into action on the right of the New Jersey regiments.
From the beginning of the action our advance on the rebels along the whole line was slow, but I could feel that it was positive and unyielding. Our lines were well preserved, the fire brisk and unerring, and our troops reliant---all the omens of success. After an interchange of musketry of this character for more than an hour directions were given to advance with the bayonet, when the enemy were thrown into wild confusion, throwing away their arms, hats, and coats, and broke through the forest in the direction of Richmond. At this moment chivalry and rebellion presented a deplorable picture. Pursuit was hopeless.
This being ended, and no other fire heard on any part of the field, the troops were ordered to return to their respective camps. The engagement lasted upward of two hours, and almost all our loss occurred prior to the bayonet charge. The movements of the rebels on Sunday indicate that their purpose was to finish the business they had commenced on Saturday. The column attacked and routed were attempting to force their way over the belt of land lying between the Williamsburg Old Stage road and the railroad, in the direction of our depots in rear.
For the conduct of Ward's brigade I respectfully call your attention to the report of that officer to the chief of the division to which his brigade belongs.
It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the continued good conduct of the Fifth and Sixth New Jersey Regiments. Their ranks had been greatly thinned by battle and sickness, and they had been encamped in the immediate neighborhood of troops partially demoralized from the events of the preceding day; yet, on the first indication of a renewal of the conflict, I found the lines formed, and they were as ready to meet it as though our arms had been crowned with success. This is also true of the regiments composing the Second Brigade.
Brigadier-General Patterson was prevented from participating in these operations on Sunday by sickness, and his command devolved on Col. S. H. Starr, of the Fifth New Jersey Regiment, whose energy and courage were conspicuous on every part of the field.
My warmest thanks are also tendered to Colonel Ward for the promptness with which his brigade was brought into action and the gallant manner in which he fought it. Especial mention is also due to Colonel Mott and Lieutenant-Colonel Burling, of the Sixth New Jersey Regiment, for their distinguished services on this field. Here, as elsewhere, they have shown themselves to be officers of uncommon merit. To these bright names I must also add that of Chaplain Samuel T. Moore, of the Sixth New Jersey Regiment, whose care and devotion to the wounded will endear him to the remembrance of every soldier. He <ar12_820> was the last to quit the field. To many others no less deserving honorable mention for signal service I must refer you to the reports of brigade commanders, herewith transmitted.
While these events were developing on the right under my personal supervision the Second Brigade, under its gallant leader, Brigadier-General Sickles, was actively engaged with the enemy to the left. Soon after leaving camp in the morning this brigade had been detached from my column without my knowledge, with direction to pierce the forest on each side of the Williamsburg road. In order that its services may be known and appreciated your attention is especially invited to the report of the brigade commander, herewith inclosed. Attention is also respectfully called to the honorable mention of those officers and men who were distinguished for eminent services on this part of the field. It is a source of extreme satisfaction to me to be informed that the brave officers and men of this brigade everywhere sustained the high character they had nobly carried at Williamsburg. I tender my warmest thanks to their intrepid chief and to them. When I joined I found them in possession of the forest in our front and a portion of the camps occupied by our troops the day previous.
The following morning (Monday)with this brigade, the Fifth and Sixth New Jersey Regiments, Gregg's cavalry, and Bramhall's and Osborn's batteries, all the ground we had lost on Saturday was re-occupied and held. One piece of artillery was recovered; also several caissons and limbers--a number of them belonging to the rebels--and a large quantity of their small-arms, with other valuable property.
On marching from camp at the Oak Bottom Swamp I had been directed to leave the First Brigade, with four pieces of Smith's battery, under Brigadier-General Grover, to defend the crossing at that point, and also to detach the Seventh and Eighth New Jersey Regiments, with two pieces of artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Trawin, Eighth New Jersey Regiment, to hold the rifle pits at Bottom's Bridge. These important services were rendered to my satisfaction. As they have an intimate relation with the operations of other corps of the division I have deemed it proper to forward the reports of those officers, with the accompanying papers.
I must again express my thanks to Capt. Joseph Dickinson, my assistant adjutant-general (and among the wounded), and to Lieut. William H. Lawrence, First Massachusetts Volunteers, aide-de-camp, and Lieuts. Charles L. Young, Seventieth New York, and E. L. Price, Seventy-fourth New York Regiment, officers of my staff, for the valuable assistance rendered me throughout these operations.
To the medical director of my division, Surg. T. Sim, I am under especial obligations for his provision and attention to the wounded.
I have the honor to forward herewith the list of killed and wounded. There were 7 commissioned officers wounded; enlisted men, 16 killed, 117 wounded, 9 missing. Aggregate, 149.(*) About 100 prisoners were taken.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Capt. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER, Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/2 [S# 13] PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
No. 36. -- Reports of Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U.S. Army, commanding Second Division, of the engagement at Oak Grove, or King's School. House, and battles of Glendale, or Nelson's Farm (Frazier's Farm), with resulting correspondence, and Malvern Hill.
HDQRS. HOOKER'S DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Harrison's Landing, James River, Va., July 18, 1862.
CAPTAIN: After withdrawing from Glendale our march was continued to the Malvern Hills without interruption, and about 10 o'clock a.m. my division was established in line of battle for the defense of our new position. Under a heavy fire of the enemy's artillery Grover's brigade was strongly posted on the right, Carr's on his left, and well sheltered. Subsequently Sickles' brigade, held in reserve, was posted in rear of my right, protected from the enemy's shots, and well in hand to re-enforce any part of my lines. Osborn's and Beam's batteries occupied higher ground, where they could reply to the enemy's artillery, or open upon his columns of infantry should he attempt to advance. Webber's and Bramhall's batteries were located in rear of these, and held in reserve.
During the remaining part of the forenoon a brisk fire was kept up between the artillery, principally on the part of the enemy, without any decided effect, as far as could be discovered, on either side, the distance being about 1,500 yards. I regret, however, to state that it was in this artillery skirmishing that the gallant chief of the Fourth New Jersey Regiment [Second New Jersey Battery], Captain Beam, fell from a shell which pierced his body. About 3 o'clock this firing was resumed with more activity in the direction of Kearny's left. This exposed the rebel batteries to an enfilading fire from my position, a direct one from Kearny, and a diagonal one from several other batteries, which soon resulted in driving the rebel gunners from their pieces. Prior to this a heavy column of infantry had been seen passing to my right, which disappeared behind the forests in my front, and were not heard from again that afternoon. On the left an attack was made in great force, and the battle lasted until long after dark.
About half an hour before sunset orders were sent me by General Sumner(*) to dispatch a brigade of my command to the assistance of General Porter, and immediately General Sickles' brigade moved to that point.
For a full account of the important services it rendered on the left I respectfully call the attention of the major-general commanding the corps to the report of its chief, herewith inclosed. I will especially invite his attention to that part of the report which relates to the brilliant conduct of Colonel Taylor's regiment, the Seventy-second New York Volunteers. The loss sustained by that regiment is the truest index of its services.
The First and Third Brigades were not engaged during the day, and remained in their position until near morning, when orders were received to march in the direction of Harrison's Landing. <ar13_117>
I transmit herewith the reports of brigade, regimental, and battery commanders.
I desire to make honorable mention of Capt. John S. Godfrey, the assistant quartermaster of the division, for his zealous, faithful, and meritorious services in the performance of all of his duties from the commencement of the campaign.
As no official list has been furnished the major-general commanding the corps of the losses sustained by the division I have the honor to command since the 1st day of June last, I herewith forward it.(*) The number, as will be seen, is 847, making the aggregate of my loss in battle since the opening of the campaign in the Peninsula 2.589.
And in this connection I may be permitted to add, in justice and fidelity to the living and the dead, that the brave officers and men whose honor and welfare were confided to my care have uniformly slept on the field on which they have fought; that in all their encounters with the enemy, whether involving the whole force of the division or down to an affair between the pickets, they have inflicted heavier blows than they have received, and under all their toils, hardships, and privations have evinced a cheerfulness, obedience, fortitude, and heroism which will never fail to command the gratitude, reverence, and admiration of their chief.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Capt. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER, Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 16 [S# 16] AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 2, 1862.--Campaign in Northern Virginia.
No. 67.--Report of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, of the condition of his division August 31.
HDQRS. HOOKER'S (SECOND) DIV., THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Centreville, Va., August 31, 1862.
It is my duty to report for the information of the major-general commanding the corps that my division is in no condition to meet the enemy. This was communicated to me yesterday by my brigade commanders, and on inquiry I find their morale to be such as to warrant me in entertaining the most serious apprehension of their conduct in their present state. I ascribe this great demoralization in the men to the severe losses they have sustained in battle, both here and on the Peninsula. They are in no condition to go into battle at this time.
Very respectfully, &c.,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General, Commanding.
Lieut. Col. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER, Chief of Staff, Third Corps.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27] SEPTEMBER 3-20, 1862.-The Maryland Campaign.
No. 9.--Reports of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U.S. Army, commanding First Army Corps, of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, with congratulations of General McClellan.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Washington City, D.C., November 7, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that the First Corps commenced its march from the camp on the Monocacy at daylight on the morning of the 14th September, and continued it over the National <ar27_214> turnpike to the vicinity of Middletown, which place it reached about 1 o'clock p.m. While here I was requested by the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to ride to the front and examine the country in the neighborhood of where it was proposed to pass the army over South Mountain. The enemy had taken possession of the turnpike and the crests of the mountain, prepared to dispute its passage. On my way I passed Cox's corps, withdrawing from the contest,(*) and still farther on I came up with some of our batteries, exchanging shots at long distance with some of the rebel batteries posted near the turnpike, and apparently about half way up the slope of the mountain. Still farther on was Reno's corps, moving into position to the south of the turnpike, over what appeared to be a trail, his troops stretching from the summit to the base of the mountain. The general direction of this ridge is perpendicular to the line of the road.
From a point near to where our batteries were placed, I was enabled to make an excellent reconnaissance of the eastern slope, extending far to the north and south of the pike. While here, about 2 o'clock, Meade's division of my corps was ordered to make a diversion in favor of Reno, to the right of the turnpike, and soon after I received instructions from the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to hold my whole corps in readiness to support the First Division. Accordingly, they were all put en route, and marched to the base of the foot-hills, where the divisions were deployed for battle as rapidly as they arrived--Meade's division on the right, Hatch's on the left, that of Ricketts' being held in reserve.
The right of Meade's division rested nearly 1½ miles from the turn pike. Williams' First Regiment Massachusetts Cavalry was dispatched higher up the valley, to observe the movements of the enemy, if any, in that direction.
In front of US was South Mountain, the crest of the spinal ridge of which was held by the enemy in considerable force. Its slopes are precipitous, rugged, and wooded, and difficult of ascent to an infantry force, even in absence of a foe in front. The National turnpike crosses the summit of this range of mountains through a gentle depression, and near this point a spur projects from the body of the ridge, and running nearly parallel with it about a mile, where it is abruptly cut by a rivulet from the main ridge, and rises again and extends far to the northward. At and to the north of the pike this spur is separated from the main ridge by a narrow valley, with cultivated fields, extending well up the gentle slope of the hill on each side. Here the enemy had a strong infantry force posted, and a few pieces of artillery. Through the break in the spur at the base of the principal ridge were other cleared fields, occupied by the enemy. Cooper's battery was brought into position on high ground, and opened on the enemy visible on this part of the field· While this battery was moving to its position, and while the infantry were deploying, the enemy threw a few shot from a battery on the side of the mountain, but at long range, producing little or no effect.
As soon as these dispositions were made, and, from my observation, anticipating no important sequence from the attack to the south of the turnpike, it was resolved to move to the assault at once, [which was] commenced with throwing forward a heavy body of skirmishers along my whole line, and directions were given for Meade and Hatch to support them with their divisions. Meade moved forward with great vigor, and soon became engaged, driving everything before him. Every step <ar27_215> of his advance was resisted stubbornly by a numerous enemy, and besides, he had great natural obstacles to overcome, which impeded his advance but did not check it.
From its great elevation and the dense smoke which rose over the top of the forest, the progress of the battle on this part of the field was watched with anxious interest for miles around, and while it elicited the applause of the spectators, they could not fail to admire the steadiness, resolution, and courage of the brave officers and men engaged.
At this moment word was received that the enemy were attempting to turn Meade's right, when Duryea's brigade, Ricketts' division, was dispatched to thwart it, and reached there in good time to render substantial aid in this, and also in assisting their comrades in crowning the summit with our arms. This was taken possession of in fine style between sundown and dark, and from that moment the battle was won. From here we threatened the retreat of the rebels posted between the main ridge and the spur of the mountain, while it commanded the turnpike on both sides of the mountain. On reaching the summit, Meade was ordered to hold it until further orders.
Meantime Hatch had pressed into the forest on the left, and, after driving in their advanced pickets, encountered a heavy fire from the enemy massed in his front. The struggle became violent and protracted, his troops displaying the finest courage and determination. An excellent brigade had been withdrawn from this division by the major-general commanding the right wing without my knowledge, and ordered to advance to the turnpike, but as no report of their operations has been rendered me by General Gibbon, I can only call your attention to their list of casualties; it speaks for itself. Hatch being outnumbered, sorely pressed, and almost out of ammunition, Christian's brigade, Rick-etts' division, was ordered forward to strengthen him, and in this rendered good service. On this part of the field the resistance of the enemy was continued until after dark, and only subsided on his being driven from his position. It being very dark, our troops were directed to remain in position, and Hartsuff's brigade was brought up and formed a line across the valley, connecting with Meade's left and Hatch's right, and all were directed to sleep on their arms.
At dawn Hartsuff's skirmishers were thrown forward, supported by his brigade, to the Mountain House, a mounted picket of the enemy retreating as they advanced. The enemy had been re-enforced by twenty regiments of Longstreet's corps during the early part of the night, but between 12 and 1 o'clock commenced a hurried and confused retreat, leaving his dead on our hands and his wounded uncared for.
Notwithstanding we had remained in the undisturbed possession of every foot of ground we had fought on, driven them from one end of our line to the other, and taken upward of a thousand prisoners, with shameful effrontery this field was heralded from the rebels' capital as a victory.
When the advantages of the enemy's position are considered, and his preponderating numbers, the forcing of the passage of South Mountain will be classed among the most brilliant and satisfactory achievements of this army, and its principal glory will be awarded to the First Corps.
I have omitted to mention that Brigadier-General Richardson had reported to me at the head of his splendid division at daylight on the morning of the 15th, and, as it was well in hand, he was directed to pursue the enemy in their hurried retreat, which was promptly executed by that distinguished officer.
The especial attention of the major-general commanding is called to the reports of division, brigade, regimental, and battery commanders, <ar27_216> herewith transmitted, as they uniformly bear testimony to the noble conduct of our troops in this battle. To theirs I must add the heartfelt and grateful testimony of their commander.
I must also respectfully refer you to these reports for the evidences of signal and distinguished services on the part of individuals and of corps.
I desire to make special mention of Brigadier General Meade for the great intelligence and gallantry displayed by him. Also Brigadier-General Hatch, who was severely wounded, and Brigadier-General Ricketts and Brigadier-General Doubleday, who rendered me an enlightened and generous assistance.
The limits of a report only allow me to speak in general terms of my brigade, regimental, and battery commanders. Their services were eminently meritorious and satisfactory. I further desire to make my acknowledgments to Brigadier-General Marcy, chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, for his valuable services. He remained with me throughout the greater part of the engagement. I am also under obligations to Major Hammerstein, aide-de-camp, at the same headquarters, for his assistance and support.
My staff, Lieut. Col. Joseph Dickinson, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. William H. Lawrence, Capts. William L. Candler and Alexander Moore, aides-de-camp, assisted me with their accustomed intelligence and courage.
The list of killed and wounded is herewith respectfully forwarded, numbering 878.(*)
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General, Commanding First Corps.
Lieut. Col. LEWIS RICHMOND, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Right Wing, Army of the Potomac.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Washington, D.C., November 8, 1862.
GENERAL: At dawn the morning following the battle of South Mountain, September 15, Hartsuff's skirmishers, supported by his brigade, were thrown forward, when it was ascertained that the enemy had fallen back from our front, leaving his dead and wounded in our hands, toward Boonsborough, and from thence had taken the road to Sharpsburg.
Soon after Hartsuff's advance, General Richardson, with his brigade of Sumner's corps, was ordered to take the place of Hartsuff, and to proceed in vigorous pursuit, with no other instructions than not to engage the enemy it he overtook him, but await my arrival. Mean time my corps were ordered to make a little coffee and eat their breakfasts, which they had not been able to do since the beginning of their march from the Monocacy, the morning previous. Pleasanton's cavalry followed in the footsteps of Richardson's brigade, and soon after the First Corps resumed its march in pursuit of the enemy. <ar27_217>
About 10 o'clock a.m. word was received that he had made a stand a mile or more in front of Sharpsburg, and about that distance from Richardson's command. As General Richardson was without artillery, he had borrowed a section from Pleasonton, and had already opened on the enemy when I reached the field. The rebels appeared to be ostentatiously deployed in two lines, perpendicular to the road leading to Sharpsburg, with his batteries posted to resist the passage of our forces over the bridge which crosses that stream. All of his troops appeared exposed to view, and numbered, as nearly as I could estimate, about 30,000 men. Fully conscious of my weakness in number and morale, I did not feel strong enough to attack him in front, even after the arrival of the First Corps, and it was only after the left of the enemy was observed to break into column and march to the rear, behind a forest, on which appeared to be the Williamsport road, that Maj. D.C. Houston, of the Engineers, was dispatched up the river to find practicable fords, by the means of which my troops might be thrown across the Antietam River to attack the enemy, and perhaps cut off his artillery, as soon as his numbers were sufficiently reduced to justify the movement. A bridge was found, and also two fords, which with little labor on the banks were rendered practicable for the passage of infantry and artillery. At 5 o'clock p.m. about one-half of the enemy's infantry force had passed to the rear, when I deemed it too late to make the detour, in order to come up with the enemy, without a night march through a country of which we were profoundly ignorant.
Meanwhile the bulk of the army was arriving in the valley of Antietam, and all the enemy's artillery, with a considerable portion of his infantry, remained in the position in which we had found them in the morning.
Between 1 and 2 o'clock the day following, I received instructions from the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to cross the river with the First Corps, and attack the enemy on his left flank, Meade's and Ricketts' divisions crossing the bridge near Keedysville, and Doubleday's division at the ford just below it.
As soon as I saw my command under way, I rode to the headquarters of the commanding general for any further orders he might have to give me, when I was informed that I was at liberty to call for re-enforcements if I should need them, and that on their arrival they would be placed under my command, and I returned find joined my troops on their march. Our direction was nearly perpendicular to the river we had crossed, my object being to gain the high ground or divide between the Potomac and Antietam Rivers, and then incline to the left, following the elevation toward the left of the rebel army. Two regiments of Meade's division were thrown forward as skirmishers, followed by a squadron of Owen's cavalry, and all supported by Meade's division. We had not proceeded over a half a mile before the commanding general with his staff joined me, apparently to see how we were progressing. Among other subjects of conversation, I said to the general that he had ordered my small corps, now numbering between 12,000 and 13,000 (as I had just lost nearly 1,000 men in the battle of South Mountain), across the river to attack the whole rebel army, and that if re-enforcements were not forwarded promptly, or if another attack was not made on the enemy's right, the rebels would eat me up. Pretty soon after this interview, my skirmishers became engaged with the enemy's advanced post, and the firing was continued incessantly until dark, we advancing slowly, and the enemy retiring before us. During the last part of the time the <ar27_218> resistance became formidable, and we all slept on our arms that night. The cleared space between the forests necessitated a change in my front from a division to a brigade, and Seymour's command held the advance when night overtook us, and bivouacked in advance of my corps when operations were suspended.
The night becoming dark and drizzly, I sought shelter in Miller's barn, a few yards to the left of the Hagerstown pike (facing the south), and directly in the rear of Seymour's brigade. Desultory firing was kept up between the pickets almost throughout the night, and about 9 o'clock p.m. I visited them in order to satisfy myself concerning this firing, and found that the lines of pickets of the two armies were so near each other as to be able to hear each other walk, but were not visible to each other. I found Seymour's officers and men keenly alive to their proximity to our enemy, and seemed to realize the responsible character of their services for the night. Indeed, their conduct inspired me with the fullest confidence, and on returning to the barn I immediately dispatched a courier informing the commanding general of my surroundings, and assuring him that the battle would be renewed at the earliest dawn, and that re-enforcements should be ordered forward in season to reach me before that moment.
General Mansfield, with his corps, did cross the creek that night, and encamped his command about 1 mile in rear of my own, and in the morning participated actively in the battle. We were now 3 or 4 miles in advance of where we had crossed the Antietam Bridge. At daylight we were fully prepared to renew our march, which lay through orchards, corn-fields, and over plowed ground, skirted on either side by forests, the cleared space between which averaging not more than 400 or 500 yards in width, the field and the object in view narrowing my front to quite a limited degree. Doubleday's division was posted on the right, Ricketts' on the left, and Meade's in reserve. At daylight Gibbon's and Hartsuff's brigades were thrown forward, supported with the brigades of their respective divisions, while Meade followed them up in the center, instructed to spring to the assistance of either, as circumstances might require. Seymour continued to hold the advance, with the utmost firmness and resolution, until our troops had passed him. With these dispositions completed, the battle was soon renewed on the morning of the 17th. My object was to gain the high ground nearly three-quarters of a mile in advance of me, and which commanded the position taken by the enemy on his retreat from South Mountain; to prevent which he had been re enforced by Jackson's corps during the night, and at the same time had planted field batteries on high ground on our right and rear, to enfilade our lines when exposed during the advance.
We had not proceeded far before I discovered that a heavy force of the enemy had taken possession of a corn-field (I have since learned about a thirty-acre field) in my immediate front, and from the sun's rays falling on their bayonets projecting above the corn could see that the field was filled with the enemy, with arms in their hands, standing apparently at "support arms." Instructions were immediately given for the assemblage of all of my spare batteries, near at hand, of which I think there were five or six, to spring into battery, on the right of this field, and to open with canister at once. In the time I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battle-field. <ar27_219> Those that escaped fled in the opposite direction from our advance, and sought refuge behind the trees, fences, and stone ledges nearly on a line with the Dunker Church, &c., as there was no resisting this torrent of death-dealing missives. I have since been informed by a division commander of Jackson's corps that the latter was waiting for some stragglers to arrive which had been left during his night march from Harper's Ferry, in anticipation of delivering an attack on my command.
The whole morning had been one of unusual animation to me and fraught with the grandest events. The conduct of my troops was sublime, and the occasion almost lifted me to the skies, and its memories will ever remain near me. My command followed the fugitives closely until we had passed the corn-field a quarter of a mile or more, when I was removed from my saddle in the act of falling out of it from loss of blood, having previously been struck without my knowledge. While my wound was being examined by the surgeons, Sumner's corps appeared upon the field on my immediate right, and I have an indistinct recollection of having seen Sedgwick's division pass to the front. I do not think that I examined my watch that morning, but feel confident as to the time--10 o'clock a.m. I was carried to the rear at once, to the house of Mr. Pry, on the left bank of Antietam Creek.
Throughout the foregoing operations all of my officers and men of all arms, as well as the officers composing my staff, without a solitary exception, seemed to be emulous of each other in their eagerness to learn my wishes and execute my orders.(*)
Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Sharpsburg, September 20, 1862.
Maj. Gen. JOSEPH HOOKER, Commanding Corps:
MY DEAR HOOKER: I have been very sick the last few days, and just able to go where my presence was absolutely necessary, so I could not come to see you and thank you for what you did the other day, and express my intense regret and sympathy for your unfortunate wound. Had you not been wounded when you were, I believe the result of the battle would have been the entire destruction of the rebel army, for I know that, with you at its head, your corps would have kept on until it gained the main road. As a slight expression of what I think you merit, I have requested that the brigadier-general's commission rendered vacant by Mansfield's death may be given to you. I will this evening write a private note to the President on the subject, and I am glad to assure you that, so far as I can learn, it is the universal feeling of the army that you are the most deserving in it.
With the sincere hope that your health may soon be restored, so that you may again be with us in the field, I am, my dear general, your sincere friend,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-general.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXI [S# 31] DECEMBER 11-15, 1862.--Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
No. 144.--Report of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U. S. Army, commanding Center Grand Division.
WASHINGTON, D. C., September 5, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit herewith a report of the operations of the center grand division of the Army of the Potomac, under my command.
In obedience to General Orders, No. 184, dated November, 1862, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, Warrenton, I assumed command of the center grand division, composed of the Third Corps (General Stoneman) and Fifth Corps (General Butterfield), and a division of cavalry under General Averell. It having been determined to change the line of operations to the Fredericksburg line, upon the movement of the army I was directed to cover the rear of its march by the two routes from Warrenton, assembling at Hartwood Church. This was successfully and <ar31_355> properly accomplished, General Stoneman's corps moving from Bealeton and General Butterfield's corps moving from Warrenton Junction.
Upon my arrival at Hartwood Church, November 19, impressed with the necessity of a prompt and vigorous prosecution of the campaign, the fear of a delay in the construction of the bridges over the Rappahannock, and a belief that the enemy, by such a movement, would be effectually prevented from making the Rappahannock River (of itself a most formidable obstacle) his line of defense, I addressed the following letter to the major-general commanding the army:
HEADQUARTERS CENTER GRAND DIVISION, Camp at
Va., November 19, 1862.
Lieut. Col. LEWIS RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac :
COLONEL: I have the honor to request that you will call the attention of the major-general commanding to the advantage it will be in the prosecution of the campaign to allow my command to cross the Rappahannock at the ford 4 miles distant from this point, and to march, by the most direct route, to Saxton's Junction. I have three days' rations from to-morrow morning, and forage I can obtain in the country. At Bowling Green I am nearer to supplies delivered at Port Royal than I can be here, and supplies can be landed at that point in a day and a half from Washington. I make this suggestion in order to have it brought to the general's attention, in the event it should not already have received his reflection. I cannot possibly encounter a force in this advance which I cannot easily push away, and, should Sickles join me and supplies be properly furnished, continue the advance. It has appeared to me that the lateness of the season almost demands celerity of movement on our part.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General, Commanding Center Grand Division.
This movement was not approved, and my command was moved to the
of the Potomac Creek crossing and the railroad from Aquia Creek to
and remained there until the movements for crossing the Rappahannock in
During this time a disgraceful affair at the outpost occurred, in consequence of the neglect of duty of some of the officers of the cavalry division, resulting in the capture of --- men and -- horses. The details of this affair are set forth in the report and correspondence hereto annexed, marked A.(*)
Upon the arrival of the pontoons, which had been delayed, it was determined to cross the Rappahannock. Meanwhile the enemy had assembled in force and intrenched himself upon the opposite bank, in rear of the city of Fredericksburg.
The grand division commanders were assembled to discuss and determine the place and method of crossing the river. It was proposed by the major-general commanding that a portion of the army should cross at Falmouth and a portion 12 miles below. To this I objected by my vote, and preposed a crossing above. It was finally determined by General Burnside to cross at Falmouth and 12 miles below. This plan was afterward changed, and three bridges thrown across the river at Fredericksburg and two about 4 miles below, my orders being to hold my troops in hand, and, in event of a successful crossing, to spring upon the enemy's line of retreat with my whole force. My corps were moved to the three upper bridges to carry out the proposed plans, General Stoneman's corps in advance, followed by General Butterfield's corps.
The night previous to the attack (December 12), I was ordered to send two divisions (Sickles' and Birney's) of General Stoneman's corps to the bridges, 4 miles below, to support General Franklin.
On December 13, during the attack of General Franklin, without any <ar31_356> knowledge or information on my part, these two divisions were ordered forward with Franklin. Subsequently I was ordered to send the remaining division (Whipple's) of the Third Corps to relieve the division of General Howard, in Fredericksburg. The corps of General Butterfield was left intact up to this time, ready to cross the bridges.
At 1.30 o'clock, or thereabouts, I received orders to cross this corps and attack. Before the corps had fully crossed, I was directed to send one division to support General Sturgis. General Griffin's division, the largest of the three, being nearest in position, for the purpose, was assigned to this duty. General Butterfield was then left with the two smallest divisions of his corps to make an attack upon the right, where General Sumner's (Second) and a portion of the Ninth Corps, greatly outnumbering this force, had been at work all day without making any impression.
A prisoner in the morning had given to General Burnside, General Sumner, and myself full information of the position and defenses of the enemy, stating that it was their desire that we should attack at that point, in rear of Fredericksburg, on the Telegraph road; that it was perfectly impossible for any troops to carry the position; that, if the first line was carried, a second line of batteries commanded it.
The result of the operations of General Sumner's corps, which had made a determined, spirited attack, without success, fully confirmed the statements of this prisoner. I carefully surveyed the point of attack, and, after conversation with several of the general officers of Sumner's and my own command, I was convinced that it would be a useless waste of life to attack with the force at my disposal. I dispatched an aide to General Burnside, to say that I advised him not to attack. The reply came that the attack must be made.
Under ordinary circumstances I should have complied at once, but so impressed was I with the conviction heretofore stated, that I determined it to be my duty to the troops under my command to give General Burnside a fuller explanation, and dissuade him, if possible, from what I considered a hopeless attack, especially as the few moments it would take for this purpose could not possibly affect the result of the attack in the slightest degree. Accordingly I did so. The general insisted upon the attack being made.
I returned and brought up every available battery, with the intention of breaking their barriers, to enable Butterfield's attacking column to carry the crest. This artillery fire was continued with great vigor until near sunset, when the attack with bayonet was made by Humphreys' division, General Sykes' division moving on its right, to assault en echelon and support. This attack was made with a spirit and determination seldom, if ever, equaled in war. The impregnable position of the enemy had given them so strong an advantage that the attack was almost immediately repulsed, and Sykes' division was recalled, without having fully assaulted, to cover the withdrawal of Humphreys'. This movement was a necessity, for the loss and repulse of the attacking columns had been so severe that, should the enemy have followed up their advantage, without this precaution, the result could not have failed to be of the most disastrous character.
During the cannonade the batteries of Randol, First U.S. Artillery, and Hazard, First Rhode Island Artillery, performed most valuable and gallant service. Hazard's battery was posted at the point marked (*) on the map accompanying General Butterfield's report, inclosed with this. This position was within about 500 yards of the enemy's line, and the <ar31_357> fire of the battery was maintained with the greatest energy and gallantry, until suspended to enable the assault to be made. Great credit is due to this battery and its officers.
It is proper that I should speak of the position of my command at this time. The Third Corps, detached from me and ordered to General Franklin (see General Stoneman's report), was divided into seven different commands, and its commander was virtually without any particular control of any portion of it. The Fifth Corps (General Butterfield's) had been weakened by detaching its largest division (Griffin's) to the support of General Sturgis; my grand division being thus subdivided into nine different commands, with the largest of which, the two divisions of Butterfield, I was called upon to make the attack. After its failure, General Butterfield was directed to take and hold a position covering Fredericksburg from the approach by the road, near which his assault had been made. A ditch (indicated on the map B B B)was selected for this purpose, it having natural advantages, giving protection to our troops from the fire of the enemy. General Burnside ordered a more advanced position to be held, which caused a heavy loss in Sykes' division.
When the withdrawal of the troops from Fredericksburg was decided upon, General Butterfield was left to cover the movement with his corps; a difficult task, considering the nature of the position and the time of its execution, but it was accomplished in a most creditable manner to all concerned.
General Stoneman, with the divisions of Birney and Sickles, of the Third Corps, performed satisfactorily the duties intrusted to them. Their movements, by reason of their being detached, were not under my observation. A full account of their services will be found in General Stoneman's report, and the accompanying reports of his subordinates.
To General Butterfield and his division commanders of the Fifth Corps ; also to General Whipple, commanding Third Division of the Third Corps, much praise is due for the spirit and energy displayed in the execution of orders and their gallantry throughout all the operations.
The members of my personal staff, Lieut. Col. Joseph Dickinson, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. W. H. Lawrence, Capts. W. L. Candler, Harry Russell, and Alexander Moore, deserve special and honorable mention at my hands for gallantry and faithful discharge of duty. Three of these officers, under a severe fire, drew off the field, by hand, a portion of one of the batteries, the horses having been killed in action. For the details of the part taken by brigades, regiments, and batteries, and the praise due the commanders and subordinates thereof, I would respectfully call attention to the accompanying reports.
It is with the deepest regret I mention the total casualties reported by the different commanders--in number 3,567, and among these over 200 commissioned officers killed and wounded.(*) The devotion and gallantry exhibited by all, more especially by the brave officers and soldiers who fell on that day, has never been excelled in my experience. The country owes them lasting gratitude and honor.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General, Commanding.
Lieut. Col. LEWIS RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39] APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
No. 3.--Report of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U.S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac, with congratulatory orders.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 3, 1863--3.30 p.m. (Received 4 p.m.)
We have had a desperate fight yesterday and to-day, which has resulted in no success to us, having lost a position of two lines which had been selected for our defense. It is now 1.30 o'clock, and there is still some firing of artillery. We may have another turn at it this p.m. I do not despair of success. If Sedgwick could have gotten up, there could have been but one result. As it is impossible for me to know the exact position of Sedgwick as regards his ability to advance and take part in the engagement, I cannot tell when it will end. We will endeavor to do our best. My troops are in good spirits. We have fought desperately to-day. No general ever commanded a more devoted army.
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General.
His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President of the United States.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXVIII/2 [S# 73] MAY 1-SEPTEMBER 8, 1864.--The Atlanta (Georgia) Campaign.
No. 175.--Reports of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U. S. Army, commanding Twentieth Army Corps, of casualties May 25 and operations June 22.
HEADQUARTERS TWENTIETH CORPS,
Near Kolb's House, Ga., June 22, 1864--12 p.m.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that the operations of the Twentieth Corps commenced with throwing forward Geary's division and driving away the rebels from some commanding heights about a mile in advance of my center. When this was accomplished batteries were posted to sweep the ground to the left to enable Butterfield to advance about the same distance and take possession of some wooded heights, which were held by the enemy, as it was believed that the possession of them would give us command of the Dallas and Marietta road, and that in rear of the enemy in front of the Fourth Corps. Meanwhile Williams threw forward his right flank, driving the enemy before him, step by step, between two and three miles to the Kolb house, on the Powder Springs and Marietta road, <ar73_15> his left connecting with Geary. This was the position of the corps at 2 o'clock. Soon after Hascall's division, of the Twenty-third Corps, came up on-the Powder Springs road, and as it was yet early an effort was made to push the right still farther forward on the last-named road, as it was thought some advantage would be gained by establishing ourselves on some high ground beyond. General Knipe threw forward a force on the road, and also skirmishers on the left, while Major-General Schofield advanced a similar column from the Twenty-third Corps on the right. Before advancing far they encountered the enemy in force, and in order to gain time to establish our lines and batteries the advanced troops were instructed to make a resolute defense, and only abandon their position when overcome by superior numbers. About 4.30 p.m. the enemy had deployed his lines and commenced throwing his masses forward with great violence on our right and center, which was madly persisted in until after sundown. As often as he made his assaults he was spiritedly repulsed, sometimes with his columns hopelessly broken and demoralized. Our artillery did splendid execution among them. At this hour I have no means of estimating his loss or my own. The enemy's must be severe; ours inconsiderable for the number of men engaged and the heavy blow they gave to the enemy. After his troops were routed it was my desire to pursue, but the smallness of my force available for the service would not justify the movement. The conduct of the troops throughout the day was sublime.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General, Commanding.
Brigadier-General WHIPPLE, Chief of Staff.
Itinerary of the Twentieth Army Corps, May 3-September 8.(*)
The corps, heretofore stationed along the line of communications from Chattanooga to Nashville, was about May 3 concentrated (except the Fourth Division, which remained on the railroad)in the vicinity of Chattanooga, and has taken an active part in the campaign of the Army of the Cumberland.
May 8.--The Second Division was engaged at Mill Creek Gap, near Dalton.
May 14.--The First Division engaged on the extreme left of the army, near Resaca.
May 15.--The whole corps engaged, assaulting the enemy's works on their extreme left at Resaca; captured the works and four pieces of artillery. During the night the enemy withdrew, burning the bridges.
May 16.--Pursuit commenced.
May 25.--Came up with the enemy near Dallas. An attack was made, in which the whole corps was engaged.
May 26 to 31, inclusive.--Held a line in front of the enemy's works near Dallas; skirmish firing constant and heavy, with many casualties. <ar73_16>
June 1.--Relieved from the position the corps assumed in front of the enemy's works near Dallas; moved to the left in the direction of Acworth about five miles, taking again a position in the general line.
June 6.--Crossed Allatoona Creek and took position in front of enemy's works near Pine Hill.
June 15.--Pine Hill evacuated by enemy; engaged the enemy near Lost Mountain; gained position near their intrenchments.
June 17.--Enemy evacuated works in our front, falling back to a line between Mud Creek and Noyes' Creek; corps advanced and again assumed position in front of them.
June 19.--Enemy evacuated the works in our front, falling back to a line on the east side of Noyes' Creek; corps again advanced and took position in their front.
June 22.--Corps advanced, driving in the enemy's outposts, the First Division moving to the right. A heavy attack was made on it by the enemy, which was repulsed with slight loss to us; enemy retreated to their intrenchments, the corps taking up a position in front of them.
At the end of the month position remained unchanged. During the whole month skirmishing with the enemy has been constant and heavy, with many casualties. Total number of casualties during the month, 1,544.
July 1.--Corps still in position in front of the enemy near Kolb's farm.
July 3.--Enemy evacuated their works; corps advanced through Marietta, the Third Division having a slight engagement with enemy's rear guard (cavalry and artillery) near Marietta; the Second Division also skirmishing: assumed position in front of enemy's works about six miles south of Marietta.
July 5.--Enemy evacuated their works; the corps again advanced; took position in front of enemy, who were in their works on the north side of Chattahoochee River.
July 9.--Enemy withdrew across the river.
July 17.--Corps crossed Chattahoochee River.
July 18 and 19.--Advancing toward Atlanta, skirmishing with enemy.
July 19.--The Second Division crossed Peach Tree Creek.
July 20.--Balance of corps crossed; battle of Peach Tree Creek.
July 22.--Enemy evacuated works in our front, retiring to the fortifications about Atlanta; the corps following, took up position in their front.
July 31.--Position remains unchanged.
Casualties for the month, 2,007.
By general order from headquarters Department of the Cumberland the artillery of the corps was, on July 27, detached from the divisions and organized into an artillery brigade, under the command of Major Reynolds, First New York Artillery.
The whole corps in the trenches in front of Atlanta, Ga., occupying two and three-quarters miles of the line until the 25th [August].
August 25.--The corps was moved back to the Chattahoochee River to hold the crossing-places and guard the railroad communications while the balance of the army operated south of Atlanta.
August 26 and 27.--Skirmished with the enemy, who advanced to feel our position.
August 28 to 31, inclusive.--Skirmishing occasioned by daily reconnaissances sent from our position toward the city. <ar73_17>
Position unchanged at the end of the month. Casualties during the month, 240.
September 1.--Corps in position covering the crossing of the Chattahoochee River. The First Division, with the First Brigade, Third Division, at railroad crossing; the Second Division at Pace's Ferry, and the Third Division at Turner's Ferry; reconnoitering party sent out from the First Division toward Atlanta; found it still occupied by the enemy.
September 2.--Reconnaissance sent from each division, and finding the city evacuated took possession. On this and the following day the whole corps, except the First Brigade, Third Division, marched into the city and took possession of the works. This brigade remained at the river to guard the railroad bridge until the 16th, when it was also ordered up, leaving one regiment (the One hundred and fifth Illinois) to guard the bridge.
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century" Magazine".
[not yet formatted and corrected; maps and illustrations ommitted]
excerpt from WHEN STONEWALL JACKSON TURNED OUR RIGHT by John L. Collins, 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
On the afternoon of May 2d, 1863, the 8th Pennsylvania Calvary were ordered to dismount, slack saddle-girths, and rest in the vicinity of General Hooker's headquarters at Chancellorsville. Some of the men fell asleep holding their horses, some began talking of the battle, while a knot of officers, who always improved such occasions in this way, sat down to their favorite game of poker. Suddenly an order from headquarters made a complete change in the scene. At the word ''Mount!'' the sleepers as well as the talkers sprang to their saddles, the gamblers snatched up their stakes and their cards, and a regiment of cavalry took the place of a lounging crowd.
Passing to the left of the Chancellorsville House, we crossed our line of battle at the edge of a wood and came up with a reconnoitering party that had captured the 23d Georgia. We had heard that Lee was retreating, and supposed that this unfortunate regiment had been sacrificed to give the main body a chance to escape; but while we were commiserating the poor fellows, one of them defiantly said, ''You may wait till Jackson gets round on your right.''
We laughed at his harmless bravado, for we did not think he would betray Jackson's move had he known anything about it; but while we were yet trying to get through the thick wood the roar of musketry and artillery on our right confirmed his speech. We now came back at a gallop toward a point between the place where the battle was raging. As we rode into an elevated clearing, called Hazel Grove, the regiment (the 8th Pennsylvania) was brought into line. We surmised a disaster and nervously braced ourselves for the ordeal, not knowing whether we were to make an attack or wait there to receive one.
The roar musketry was now heavier and nearer; the vast woods between us and Dowdall's tavern seemed to shake with it. There was no time to ask or to wonder what had happened, for the regiment was ordered off at a gallop. After riding about three hundred yards we turned into a narrow road that promised to take us into the midst of the enemy. Half a dozen horsemen in cadet gray--most likely a general's staff reconnoitering, as they did not ride in ranks--were in the road ahead of us, and turned and fled back to their lines.
The word ''Charge!'' was now passed from the leading squadron, and sabers flew into the air along our line; but none too soon, for we were already in the midst of the foe, and they were ready for us. The unfortunate squadron that led caught all the fire as we dashed along the narrow lane, and we who rode next it got only the smoke from the enemy's guns. We could reach nothing as yet, and could see nothing but fire and smoke, for their line of battle was safely posted behind a thicket that lined the left of the road, while their rifles were aimed through it.
It was a long lane and a hot lane to go through; but the lane had a turn, and we got to it at last when we reached the Plank road and struck Rode's division right in the front. We struck it as a wave strikes a stately ship: the ship is staggered, maybe thrown on her beam ends, but the wave is dashed into spray, and the ship sails on as before.
Major Keenan, who led his battalion in the charge, the captain in command of the leading squadron, the adjutant, and a few score of their followers went down at this shock together. The detail sent over to recover their bodies after the battle said that the major had thirteen bullets in his body, the adjutant nine, and others fewer. It was reported by some who rode close upon the major that in falling he shouted, ''To the right!'' seeing that the impenetrable masses on his left could not be forced, and that there was no way out but over the thinner lines on the right. When turning at full speed, my horse was killed and I was pitched over his neck on the roadside. Here I parted company with the regiment. When I jumped to my feet I had time to take only one glance at my surroundings. My sole thought was to escape capture or death. On one side were the heavy lines of Confederate infantry doubled and bent by the charge, their officers trying to recover their alignment; on the other side the survivors of the leading squadrons were galloping in the Plank road, the others breaking over the Confederate skirmish lines as far back as I could see into the woods.
By instinct I turned toward the woods on the right of the Plank road as the best way out, and made a dash at the lines, which had just recovered from their surprise that a cavalry regiment should have ridden over them, and were firing after it. They were loading when I ran out between them, and when they began to fire I dropped down behind some trees that had been cut to make an abatis, or had been shot down by the cannon; when the volley was over I jumped up and ran as fast as before.
The Plank road, and the woods that bordered it, presented a scene of terror and confusion such as I had never seen before. Men and animals were dashing against one another in wild dismay before the line of fire that came crackling and crashing after them. The constantly approaching rattle of musketry, the crash of the shells through the trees, seemed to come from three sides upon the broken fragments of the road. The horses of the men of my regiment who had been shot, mingled with the pack-mules that carried the ammunition of the Eleventh Corps, tore like wild beasts through the woods. I tried in vain to catch one.
This employment or the mules for ammunition
service was a device of General Hooker's, and this was the only field where they played their part. Each mule carried four or five boxes of spare ammunition, and being tied in couples, they seemed easier to catch than a horse. As a pair of them made for opposite sides of a tree, I ran toward them to get one, but before I could succeed a shell from the direction of the Plank road struck the tree, exploded the ammunition, and slaughtered the mules.
I now gave up hope of a mount, and seeing the Confederate lines coming near me, tried to save myself on foot. Once, when throwing myself down to escape to fury of the fire, I saw a member of my own regiment, whose horse also had been shot, hiding in a pine top that had ben cut down by a shell. He had thrown his arms away that he might run the faster, and he begged me to do the same. This I refused to do, and I got in safely with my arms, while he was never seen again. I turned into the Plank road to join the very bad company that came pouring in by that route. More than half of the runaways had thrown their arms away, and all of them were talking a language that I did not understand, but by their tones, evidently blaming some one for the disgrace and disaster that had befallen their corps. They appeared to share the prevailing confusion on that part of the field, where the front and the rear seemed reversed. Yet, as misery loves company, I cast my lot with them and continued my flight.
I doubt if any of us knew where we were going, further than that we were fleeing before the pursuing lines of the enemy. One of my own company, who was captured in the charge, afterward told me that in leaping an abatis, he was lifted from his saddle by a vine and remained suspended till made a prisoner.
In the very height of the flight, we came upon General Howard, who seemed to be the only man in his own command that was not running at that moment. He was in the middle of the road and mounted, his maimed arm embracing a stand of colors that some regiment had deserted, while with his sound arm he was gesticulating to the men to make a stand by their flag. * With bared head he was pleading with his soldiers, literally weeping as he entreated the unheeding horde. Under different circumstances I should have considered it my duty to follow and find my command, and report for duty with it. But I could not go past the general. Maimed in his person and sublime in his patriotism, he seemed worthy to stand by, and out of pure compliment to his appearance I hooked up my saber and fell into the little line that gathered about him. As the front became clear, we fired a few shots at the advance line of the Confederates, but a fresh mass of fugitives in blue soon filled the road, and we had to stop firing. The general now ordered us to cover the whole line of retreat so as to let none pass, and the officers, inspired by his devotion, ran in front of their men, drew their swords, and attempted to stop them. As the number constantly increased, the pressure became greater upon the line that blocked the way; but this line was constantly reenforced by officers and others, and offered some resistance to the pressure. At last the seething, surging sea of humanity broke over the feeble barrier, and General Howard and his officers were carried away by main force with the tide. Pharaoh and his chariots could have held back the walls of the Red Sea as easily as those officers could resist this retreat. I started again on my race for life, this time alone, and toward the slopes of the Chancellorsville plateau, where it seemed to me probable that regiment would re-form after the charge.
My course was right-oblique from the road, and I had not gone far
I saw lines that I knew were not retreating. Their flags were flying,
my heart took a bound as I beheld battery after battery galloping into
position, and regiment after regiment wheeling into line behind them. A
line of battle showed itself at last; the Third Corps had come up to
the successful charge, and Jackson's men would find difference between
attacking the Third Corps in front and the Eleventh in the rear. Seeing
the guns unlimber and load, I made my greatest effort at speed, but not
caring for a few fugitives, the guns belched forth their fire before I
could get in. However, I came safely through, and at last paused for a
long breath. While congratulating myself upon my escape, I looked
the line of battle, and there saw my own regiment drawn up for a
the line not so long as half an hour before by one-third, but still as
shapely and resolute as ever. The horses were blown and nervous, and
men were, no doubt, a little depressed by the rough usage they had met
with. A horse, that had followed the company riderless from the charge,
was given to me,
* See General Howard's description on p.200 --Editors
and my confidence and self-respect came back as I mounted him, for I was no longer fugitive, bur a soldier.
The fighting now began in earnest. The splendid division of Birney, Berry, and Whipple had to be met and vanquished before a farther advance could be made, and before Jackson could attain the great object of his march to our rear. The gathering darkness was favorable to the Confederates, for they could get near the guns before being seen; but it also added to the terror of the batteries, which were discharged double-shotted at the assailants, and lit up the heavens with fire that seemed supernatural. The dusky lines fell back into the woods in disorganized masses as often as they advanced, and the cheers of our troops rang out at each retreat. From the boldness and the frequency of the Confederate charges it was found necessary to move the infantry in front of the guns, lest the enemy should seize them before being discovered. The slope was so steep that a line of battle could be formed in front of the guns and a double skirmish line in front of that.
Our regiment now moved up the guns, enabling us to see better the slopes and the woods when lit up by the flashes. Sometimes darkness and stillness would reign for a few minutes, and we would think the long day's fighting was over, but it would presently break out again. The stealthy rush from the woods could be heard first, them the sharp crack of the skirmisher's rifle, then a yell and a louder rushing of their lines met by the loud roll of the line of battle's fire. As the cheer of our men announced that the enemy's line was again in retreat, the blaze of forty or fifty cannons from the right to the left would light up the scene and carry death over heads of our men into the woods beyond.
At last Jackson's men paused, for they had been marching and
since morning, and human nature could endure no more. But they were not
allowed to hold the ground they had won; an advance was now ordered on
our side, and it was made with a vigor that avenged the discomfiture of
our comrades. Though it was now midnight the woods were lit up the
of the musketry as the combatants came face to face among the trees,
the battle began anew. The artillerists pushed on their guns by hand a
hundred yards behind the infantry line, and shook the woods in their
as they had the hills to their foundations. At last, at 2 o'clock in
morning, we were told to sleep on our arms. But who could sleep while
the dead of our commands? Comrades were gone; file-leaders and
were gone; officers of every grade had perished. Stonewall Jackson
had gone down in his greatest charge; and his men never again fought as
on that day, nor came down on our flank with such fury.
"Battles and Leaders of the Civil War", Vol III, Yoseloff ed., 1956
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century" Magazine".
[formatted and corrected; maps and illustrations ommitted]
excerpt from HOOKER'S COMMENTS ON
BY SAMUEL P. BATES, HIS LITERARY EXECUTOR.
IN October, 1876, I accompanied General Hooker to the battle-fields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Antietam, -- fields on which he had borne conspicuous parts. It was the only occasion on which he visited them after the battles. He had previously placed in my hands his official papers and memoranda for the preparation of a history of the Battle of Chancellorsville, at the same time requesting me to make this journey with him, that I might have the advantage of a thorough knowledge of the field, and of his interpretion of the manner in which the battle was fought. At this period he was partly paralyzed from the injury received in the Chancellorsville battle, and he could move only with great difficulty by the aid of his valet.
After our arrival at Fredericksburg, General Hooker was the recipient of many courteous attentions from the leading citizens, and at night he was serenaded, when a great crowd assembled in front of the hotel, to whose repeated cheers he made a brief response, in which he said that he had visited their city but once before, and although his reception now was not nearly so warm as on that former day, yet it was far more agreeable to him, -- a conceit which greatly pleased his hearers.
Our drive over the Fredericksburg field, which we visisted on the way, was on one of the most perfect of autumnal days, and at every turn fresh reminiscences of that battle were suggested. As we approached the flag-staff of the National Cemetery, on the hill adjoining Marye's Heights, where more than fifteen thousand of the Union dead of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania are buried, General Hooker said:
"I never think of this ground but with a shudder. The whole scene is indelibly fixed in my mind, as it appeared on that fatal day. Here on this ground were ranged the enemy's cannon, and the heights farther to his left were thickly planted with pieces; all the infantry he could use was disposed behind earthworks and stone walls. How this could have been selected as the point, above all others, for attack, and followed up until four whole divisions had been sacrificed, I cannot comprehend. As I stand here today, the impossibility of carrying this ground by direct assault is no more apparent than it was when I made my observation preparatory to ordering Humphreys's division forward. But it is evident that General Burnside never forgave me for counseling him on that occasion as I did, for on January 23d he drew up an order, known as General Orders, No. 8, of his series, dishonorably dismissing me from the service, together with three other prominent general officers, at the
same time relieving five other officers from duty. I was grossly maligned by the press of that day, and it was generally believed by the people at the North that I had not faithfully supported General Burnside in this battle, and that I was aiming thereby to supplant him. If these brave men who are sleeping here beneath our feet could speak, they would bear testimony to my sincerity and fidelity to the cause we were battling for; and though I have suffered in silence, and my reputation has been grossly aspersed, I have rested in the firm belief that my conduct on that day would be justified by the American people."
These Orders, No. 8,* were prepared on the 23d of January, 1863, and would have been immediately promulgated had not General Burnside been counseled first to lay them before President Lincoln, of whom he asked that they be approved, as drawn, or that his own resignation be accepted. The President refused to accept his resignation, but relieved him of the command of the Army of the Potomac; and so little effect had the order upon the mind of Mr. Lincoln that he decided to place Hooker, at whom the shaft was chiefly aimed, at the head of the army. And yet so strong a hold had this unjust opinion on the public mind that even the President was tinctured with it, and in his remarkable letter of January 26th to General Hooker, informing him of his appointment, he said:
"I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with
* Following is the text of the orders: "HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, January 23d, 1863. GENERAL ORDERS, No. 8. (1.) General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigade-general, U. S. Army, having been quilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by ommissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking in disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed [from] the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, confidence, consideration, and patriotism are due from every soldier in the field. This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States. (2.) Brigadier-General W. T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States. (3.) Brigadier-General John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brigadier-General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the United States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States. (4.) It being evident that the following-named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U. S. Army: Major-General W. B. Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division; Major-General W. F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brigadier-General Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brigadier-General Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps; Brigadier-General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Taylor, Assistant Adjutant-General, Right Grand Division. By command of MAJOR-GENERAL A. E. BURNSIDE, LEWIS RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General."**
** In the "Official Records" the above order is
by the following note of explanation: "This order was not approved by
President, and was, therefore, never issued. It appeared in the public
prints, is referred to in the correspondence between Halleck and
and in Burnside's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the
your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither which more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward, and give us victories."
The caution against rashness may have been suggested to the mind of Mr. Lincoln by the epithet of "Fighting Joe Hooker," which the general never heard without expressing his deep regret that it was ever applied to him. "People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit," he said; when in fact he was one of the most kindly and tender-hearted of men.
We were accompanied on our ride to the Chancellorsville field, some ten or twelve miles above Fredericksburg, by Major George E. Chancellor, a son of Melzi Chancellor, whose home at the time of the battle was at Dowdall's Tavern, where General Howard had his headquarters. On setting out, General Hooker suggested that we should take some lunch along with us, as, when he was there last there was very little to eat in all that region. Major Chancellor thought it unnecessary, and, in fact, we were feasted most sumptuously at his farther's house.
Upon our arrival at the broad, open, rolling fields opposite Banks's Ford, some three or four miles up the stream, General Hooker exclaimed, waving his hand significantly:
"Here, on this open ground, I intended to fight my battle. But the trouble was to get my army on it, as the banks of the stream are, as you see, rugged and precipitous, and the few fords were strongly fortified and guarded by the enemy. By making a powerful demonstration in front of and below the town of Fredericksburg with a part of my army, I was able, unobserved, to withdraw the remainder, and, marching nearly thirty miles up the stream, to cross the Rappahannock and the Rapidan unopposed, and in four days' time to arrive at Chancellorsville, within five miles of this coveted ground,* -- and all this without General Lee having discovered that I had left my position in his front. So far, I regarded my movement as a
* The demonstrations began on April 21st, and were made at intervals at Kelly's Ford, Rappahannock Bridge, and Port Royal. The movement of Sedgwick below the town was disclosed to Lee on the 29th, when the pontoons were laid and the crossing took place at the point where Franklin's Left Grand Division crossed in December, 1862. Hooker's flanking column, consisting of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth corps and two divisions of the Second Corps, crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford on the 28th and 29th by pontoon-bridges, and passed the Rapidan by fording and by means of pontoons, arriving at Chancellorsville on the 30th. The Third Corps, after taking part in the demonstrations before Fredericksburg, crossed the Rappahannock at United Sttaes Ford and reached Chancellorsville on May 1st, and was followed by the First Corps on the 2d. -- EDITORS.
great success. On the morning of the fifth day my army was astir, and was put in motion on three lines through the tangled forest (the Wilderness) which covers the whole country around Chancellorsville, and in three hour's time I would have been in position on these crests, and in possession of Banks's Ford, in short and easy communication with the other wing of my army. But at midnight General Lee had moved out with his whole army, and by sunrise was in firm possession of Banks's Ford, had thrown up this line of breastworks which you can still follow with the eye, and it was bristling with cannon from one end to the other. Before I had proceeded two miles the heads of my columns, while still upon the narrow roads in these interminable forests, where it was impossible to manoeuvre my forces, were met by Jackson with a full two-thirds of the entire Confederate Army. I had no alternative but to turn back, as I had only a fragment of my command in hand, and take up the position about Chancellorsville which I had occupied during the night, as I was being rapidly outflanked upon my right, the enemy having open ground on which to operate.
"And here again my reputation has been attacked because I did not undertake to accomplish an impossibility, but turned back at this point; and every history of the war that has been written has soundly berated me because I did not fight here in the forest with my hands tied behind me, and allow my army to be sacrificed. I have always believed that impartial history would vindicate my conduct in this emergency."
Soon after having the open ground opposite Banks's Ford we entered the dense forest, or "Wilderness," which covers the entire Chancellorsville battle-ground, -- "a dense forest," says General Warren, "of not very large trees, but very difficult to get through; mainly of scrubby oak, what they call black-jack there, so that a man could hardly ride through it, and a man could not march through it very well with musket in hand, unless he trailed it." Every important position was observed and commented upon by the man who on those fierce battle-days had wielded, on this very ground, an army of a hundred thousand men. On approaching the pine-tree under which Generals Lee and Jackson had planned the mode of attack, General Hooker observed:
"It was under that tree that the mischief was devised which came near ruining my army. My position at Chancellorsville was a good one for this monotonous country. I felt confident when I reached it that I had eighty chances in a hundred to win. To make sure that everything was form and strong, very early on the 2d of May, the first day of the battle, I rode along the whole line, and personally examined every part, suggesting some changes and counseling extreme vigilance. Upon my return to headquarters I was informed that a continuous column of the enemy had been marching past my front since early in the morning, as of a corps with all its impedimenta. This put an entirely new phase upon the problem, and filled me with apprehension for the safety of my right wing, which was posted to meet a front attack from the south, but was in no condition for a flank attack from the west; for this marching of the enemy's corps, to my mind, meant
a flank movement upon my right. I immediately dictated a dispatch* to "Generals Slocum and Howard," the latter commanding the Eleventh Corps, which stood upon the extreme right, saying that I had good reason to believe that the enemy was moving to our right, and that they must be ready to meet an attack from the west. This was at 9:30 in the morning. In the course of two hours I got a dispatch from General Howard, saying that he could see a column of the enemy moving westward, and that he was taking the precautions necessary "to resist an attack from the west."** I had previously put Williams's division of the Twelfth Corps on an interior line looking westward, and had it fortified, so that if Howard should give way, this interior linewould be for safety, as it afterward proved my salvation.
"I sent Sickles to pierce this moving column of the enemy, and made preparations to flank the portion of Lee's army that was still upon my front, in the direction of Fredericksburg, and, sweeping down in reverse, to destroy it if possible. But a swamp intervened which had to be corduroyed, and a small stream had to be bridged, which consumed time; and though Sickles was successful in breaking in upon the enemy's column and making some captures, yet, before he was in position to make his decisive attack, Jackson, who had led his column by a long circuit, out of sight and hearing, through the dense forest, came in upon my right flank, and by one concentrated blow of his whole corps, some 25,000 men, had crushed and put to flight almost the entire corps of Howard; and it was with the utmost difficulty that I could lead up my reserves to the interior line of Williams, and bring Jackson's victorious forces to a halt. This failure of Howard to hold his ground cost us our position, and I was forced, in the presence of the enemy, to take up a new one. Upon investigation I found that Howard had failed properly to obey my instructions to prepare to meet the enemy from the west."
In this connection the following extracts from a letter to Hooker from Schurz (who subsequently gave General Hooker leave to print it) will be rear with interest:
"40 W. 32D ST., NEW YORK, April 22d, 1876.
MY DEAR GENERAL: York letter of the 8th inst. was forwarded to me from St. Louis, and reached me here early this morning, and I hasten to reply. I regret very much that, my papers being boxes up, I have no access to a memorandum of the circumstances connected with the
* "H'DQ'RS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, CHANCELLORSVILLE, VA., May 2d, 1863, 9:30 A. M. Circular. MAJOR-GENERALS SLOCUM AND HOWARD: I am directed by the Major- General commanding to say that the disposition you have made of your corps has been with a view to a front attack by the enemy. If he should throw himself upon your flank, he wishes you to examine the ground and determine upon the position you will take in that event, in order that you may be prepared for him in whatever direction he advances. He suggests that you have heavy reserves well in hand to meet this contingency. The right of your line does not appear to be strong enough. No artificial defenses worth naming have been thrown up, and there appears to be scarcity of troops at that point, and not, in the general's opinion, as favorably posted as might be. We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe, in order to obtain timely infromation of their approach. J. H. VAN ALEN, Brigadier-General and Aide-de-camp." [This is the dispatch which General Howard states he did not receive at the time. See p. 196. In the "Official Records" the word circular does not appear, and the address is "Major-Generals Howard and Slocum." -- EDITORS.]
** "HEADQUARTERS, 11TH CORPS, May 2d, 10 m. to 11
[10:50 A. M.] MAJ.-GENL. HOOKER, Comd'g Army. GENERAL: From Gen.
headquarters we can observe a column of infantry moving westward on a
parallel with this on a ridge about 1 1/2 to 2 miles south of this. I
taking measures to resist an attack from the west. Respectfully, O. O.
HOWARD, Maj.- Gen."
battle of Chancellorsville, as they came under my observation, which memorandum I put on paper shortly after that event. So I have to depend upon my memory in answering your questions. According to my recollection, you are mistaken in your impression that General Howard put your dispatches and orders into his pocket without communicating them to his division commanders. About noon or a little after on the day of the attack on the Eleventh Corps I was at General Howard's headquarters, a house on the Chancellorsville road near the center of our position. General Howard, being very tired, wanted to rest a little, and asked me as next in rank to open dispatches that might arrive and to wake him in case they were of immediate importance. Shortly after a courier arrived with a dispatch from you calling General Howard's attention to the movement of the enemy toward our right flank, and instructing him to take precautionary measures against an attack from that quarter. I went into General Howard at once and read it to him, and, if I remember rightly, while we were speaking about it another courier, or one of your young staff-officers, arrived with a second dispatch of virtually the same purport. We went out and discussed the matter on the porch of the house. I am not sure whether General Steinwehr was present or not....
"I have seen it stated that my troops were already gone when General Devens's division in its hurried retreat reached my position. This is utterly untrue. Some of my regiments, which had remained in their old position, succeeded in wheeling round under the fire of the enemy; others were swept away, but those whose front I had changed during the afternoon in anticipation of the attack held their ground a considerable time after the debris of General Devens's division had swept through our line. I saw General Devens, wounded, carried by, and he had long been... in the rear when we were overpowered and fell back upon Colonel Buschbeck's position, where General Howard in the meantime had been trying to rally the routed troops. This also you will find in my report. My loss in killed and wounded was quite heavy: if I remember rightly, about twenty per cent.
"I ought to add that he [General Howard] thought he
not carry out as well as he desired your instruction to hold a strong
in hand, for the reason that General Barlow's brigade of Steinwehr's
had been ordered to the support of Sickles. All the precaution that was
taken against a flank attack, aside from what I did without orders, was
the construction of a small rifle-pit across the Chancellorsville road
in the rear of my division, near the house [Dowdall's Tavern] occupied
by General Howard as headquarters.... Of course this hasty note is not
written with any expectation on my part to see it printed as part of an
historical narrative. It is simply to give you to information you wish
for, and which it gives me pleasure to furnish.
Very truly yours,
"P. S.- Whether General Howard received on that day any dispatches or instructions from you subsequent to those mentioned, I do not know."*
When we arrived at the Chancellor House (which is all there is of Chancellorsville), where General Hooker had his headquarters,and where he received the hurt that came near proving mortal, General Hooker said,
"I was standing on this step of the portico on the Sunday morning of the 3d of May, and
* The following are extracts from the official report of General Schurz, who shows, besides, that his division made streneous effrots to stem the assaults of Jackson's men:
"In the course of the forenoon I was informed that
columns of the enemy could be seen from General Devens's headquarters,
moving from east to west.... I observed them plainly as they moved on.
I rode back to your [General Howard's] headquarters, and on the way
Captain Dilger to look for good artillery positions on the field
west, as the troops would in all probability have to execute a change
front. The matter was largely discussed at yur headquarters, and I
and expressed in our informal conversations the opinion that we should
form upon the open ground we then occupied, with our front at right
with the Plank road, lining the church grove and the border of the
east of the open plain with infantry, placing strong echelons behind
wings, and distributing the artillery along the front on ground most
for its action, especially on the eminence on the right and left of
Tavern.... In the absence of orders, but becoming more and more
that the enemy's attack would come from the west and fall upon our
and rear, I took it upon my own responsibility to detach two regiments
from the second line of my Second Brigade and to place them in a good
on the right and left of Ely's Ford road, west of Hawkins's farm, so as
to check the enemy if he should attack our extreme right and penetrate
through the woods at that point. This was subsequently approved by
these exceptions, no change was made in the position occupied by the
The losses suffered by my division in the action of May 2d were very
in proportion to my whole effective for
ce. I had 15 officers killed, 23 wounded, and 15 missing, and 102 men killed, 365 wounded, and 441 missing,-- total, 953.**... My whole loss amounted to about 23 per cent.... In closing this report I beg leave to make one additional remark. The Eleventh Corps, and, by error or malice, especially the Third Division, has been held up to the whole country as a band of cowards. My division has been made responsible for the defeat of the Eleventh Corps, and the Eleventh Corps for the failure of the campaign. Preposterous as this is, yet we have been overwhelmed by the army and the press with abuse and insult beyond measure. We have borne as much as human nature can endure. I am far from saying that on May 2d everybody did his duty to the best of his power.
"But one thing I will say, because I know it: these men are no cowards.. .. I have seen with my own eyes, troops who now affect to look down upon the Eleventh Corps with sovereign contempt behave much worse under circumstances far less trying...." EDITORS
** This was the loss reported by General Schurz,
recently revised table of the War Department shows 9 officers and 120
killed, 32 officers and 461 men wounded, and 8 offices and 290 men
or missing, -- a total of 920. -- EDITORS.
was giving direction to the battle, which was now raging with great fury, the cannon-balls reaching me from both the east and the west, when a solid shot struck the pillar near me, splitting it in two, and throwing one-half longtitudinally against me, striking my whole right side, which soon turned livid. For a few moments I was senseless, and the report spread that I had been killed. But I soon revived, and, to correct the misapprehension, I insisted on being lifted upon my horse, and rode back toward the white house, which subsequently became the center of my new position. Just before reaching it, the pain from my hurt became so intense that I was likely to fall, when I was assisted to dismount, and was laid upon a blanket spread out upon the ground, and was given some brandy. This revived me, and I was assisted to remount. Scarcely was I off the blanket when a solid shot, fired by the enemy at Hazel Grove, struck in the very center of that blanket, where I had a moment before been lying, and tore up the earth in a savage way."
As he ended this recital General Hooker turned to Major Chancellor, who was standing by, and said, "Ah, Major! Your people were after me with a sharp stick on that day."
A short distance from the Chancellor House, in the direction of Dowdall's Tavern, our carriage was halted, and, dismounting, Major Chancellor led us a few paces out of the road, along a faint cart-path, when he said, "This is the place where Stonewall Jackson received the wounds that proved mortal." "I have always been struck," observed General Hooker, "with the last words of General Jackson, evincing how completely he was absorbed in the progress of the battle. In his delirium he was still upon the field, and he cried out, 'Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action -- pass the infantry to the front rapidly -- tell Major Hawks --' when he stopped with the sentence unfinished. After a little his brow relaxed, as if from relief, and he said, 'Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees,' -- and these were his last words."
Arriving at Dowdall's Tavern, General Hooker pointed out the excellent position here afforded for Howard's corps to have made a stout defense. "Buschbeck's brigade of that corps," said he,
"did wonders here, and held the whole impetuous onset of the enemy in check for an hour or more, which gave me opportunity to bring my reserves into position. The loss of this ground brought me into so cramped a condition that I was obliged to take up a new position, which I successfully accomplished. I now ordered Sedgwick, who commanded the Sixth Corps, the largest in my army, some 22,000 men,
which had been left to demonstrate in front of Fredericksburg, to cross the river and move rapidly up to my left. The effect of so heavy a body of fresh troops coming in upon the enemy's flank I calculated would be decisive. But Sedqwick was dilatory in moving,* which gave the enemy time to concentrate and stop him before he had moved over half the distance, and I consequently got no help from him."
I ventured to ask why he did not attack when he found that the enemy had weakened his forces in the immediate front and sent them away to meet Sedgwick. "That," said he,
"would seem to have been the reasonable thing to do. But we were in this impenetrable thicket. All the roads and openings leading through it the enemy immediately fortified strongly, and planted thickly his artillery commanding all the avenues, so that with reduced numbers he could easily hold his lines, shutting me in, and it became utterly impossible to manoeuvre my forces. My army was not beaten. Only a part of it had been engaged. The First Corps, commanded by Reynolds, whom I regarded as the ablest officer under me, was fresh and ready and eager to be brought into action, as was my whole army. But I had been fully convinced of the futility of attacking fortified positions, and I was determined not to sacrifice my men needlessly, though it should be at the expense of my reputation as a fighting officer. We had already had enough grievous experience in that line, I made frequent demonstrations to induce the enemy to attack me, but he would not accept my challenge. Accordingly, when the eight days' rations with which my army started out were exhausted, I retired across the river. Before doing so I sent orders to General Sedgwick to hold his position near
* See statements in "Sedgwick at Fredericksburg and Salem Heights," p. 224.-- EDITORS.
Banks's Ford, on the south side of the stream, and I would bring my whole army to his support; but the order failed to reach him until he had already recrossed the river.* Could I have had my army in the open grounds at that point where I could have manoeuvred it properly, I felt assured that I could have gained a decisive victory. But this, my last chance, was frustrated." **
* The "Official Records" (Vol. XXV., Part II, p. 418) show that Sedgwick recrossed the Rappahannock in obedience to an order from General Hooker, dated May 5th, 1 A. M., and received by Sedgwick at 2 A. M. At 1:20 A. M. Hooker sent the following order to Sedgwick (Ibd., p. 419): "Yours received, saying you should hold position [as ordered]. Order to withdraw countermanded." This countermand was received by Sedgwick at 3:20 A. M., but meanwhile almost his entire command had recrossed under the order of 1 A. M. -- EDITORS.
** The subjoined letter has been kindly furnished to us for publication by Lieutenant Worth G. Ross, son of the late Colonel Samuel Ross, to whom it is addressed. It is believed that it had not been printed before its appearance in "The Century" for April, 1888.-- EDITORS.
COLONEL SAMUEL ROSS, Commanding Brigade, Twelfth Corps."
MY DEAR COLONEL: For some reason your letter was a ling time in reaching me. When the Eleventh Corps gave way on Saturday, Berry's division and Gaus's brigade were dispatched to seize and hold the ground occupied by the left of that corps. Berry double-quicked his men to the point, but was too late. The enemy were already in possession. When this was reported to me I directed my engineers to establish a new line, which was pointed out to them on the map, and at the same time stated to them that we would probably have to move on it as soon as the enemy opened on us in the morning, as his batteries would sweep the plain in front of the Chancellorsville House, and, besides, enfilade the line held by the Second and Twelfth corps nearly its entire length. Soon after these instructions were given to the engineers, peremptory orders were sent to General Sedgwick to advance over the Plank road from Fredericksburg and attack the enemy in front of the Second and Twelfth corps at daylight. My single object in holding on to the position as long as I did was to hear Sedgwick's guns, which I momentarily expected, of course. General Warren had been sent to guide him. The orders reached him between 10 and 11 o'clock, [he] had but eight miles to march, a bright moonlight night, with only a small force to oppose. Probably had he marched as directed, not a gun would have been fired. With Lee in my front and Jackson on my flank I was unwilling to attempt to force my way through Lee, especially as the roads through the forests would only enable me to present my column with narrow fronts, which the enemy could cut down as fast as they were exposed. I knew that I could do this, and I gave the enemy credit for being able to do as much as I could, but no more. Had Sedgwick come up on Lee's rear, the latter would have found himself between two armies, and would doubtless have followed Jacksons's flank movement, which I desired, as that would throw the enemy off the short road to ichmond and our troops on it. I do not know that you ever heard that I had one and a half millions of rations afloat in the Potomac to throw up the Pamunkey River in view of this contingency.
I recrossed the Rappahannock, expecting to return at or near Franklin's Crossing, where I had elbow-room [see p. 74], and at least an even chance for being victorious, and so stated to the President at the time. No general battle was fought at Chancellorsville, for I was unwilling to give battle with such great odds against me. I rejoice that what was not gained was not lost.
We lost no honors at Chancellorsville. With all of our misfortunates the enemy's loss exceeded our own by one-third. Of this I have abundant evidence in the official returns of the enemy's casualties, as they have from time to time been published. [But see p. 238.] If I did not cross the river again it will appear that it was for reasons over which I had no control. The rains had nothing to do with our returning from Chancellorsville, for it had been determined on in my mind long before the rain commenced falling. I do not like to be quoted as authority on this subject until after the official report is published, and for the flattering terms in which you speak of me-- not ever. I hope that you and yours are well. My kindest regards to Mrs. Ross and my best wishes for yourself.
I've stood on this ground, and it is a wilderness even today. You cannot walk 5 feet off of a road or track without encountering the thickest, nastiest briar laden brush than you can imagine. It has changed little, and not for the better. It is in your face, and that accounts for the confusion, surprise, and close at hand combat. Jackson was foolishly, out in front of Confederate brigades that were passing through one another as one relieved the other, searching for the federal line in the dark. He should never have been there, but could not have known the ground in advance. Some say he intended a night attack. I'm not so sure. It would have been a bad idea if he thought to attempt it. The ground is BAD!
The circumstance and situation favored the South inside that ground. Federal perponderance of artillery was negated. Hooker had sent his cavalry away on a raid, and could not find Lee in front of him. Meade had almost cleared the wilderness, but was recalled. The Federals NEEDED to get clear of the close terrain to make their numbers felt (remember Longstreet with half Lee's army was away in Suffolk), and they almost succeeded, but Hooker recalled his advance elements even as they cleared the wilderness, a foolish error.
Hooker complains of Sedgewick failing to come behind Lee, but he
Early stood him off, fought him to a standstill. Joe blew this
I'm afraid. He let Lee's reputation scare him back into the
and then back across the Rappahannock.
Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears, Houghton Mifflin, New York, New York, 577 pages, $35.
For the members of the Union Army of the Potomac, particularly those in the XI Corps, the close of May 2, 1863, appeared at hand. Twilight neared, suppers simmered, and men lounged. They believed that Major General Joseph Hooker, commander of the army, had the Confederates where he wanted them. Perhaps in a day or two of hard fighting, the luckless Federals would score a stunning victory.
But before the sun set, a sound came from the west. At first it was indistinct, unidentifiable. Then it became clear the noise was coming from thousands of men, arrayed in battle lines, advancing through the Wilderness at Chancellorsville, Virginia. It was the Rebel Yell. The assault by Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's troops ravaged the XI Corps and unraveled Hooker's carefully constructed plans.
Three more days of bloody work lay ahead for both armies. When the Chancellorsville Campaign ended with the retreat of the Union army across the Rappahannock River during the night of May 5-6, the combined casualties exceeded 30,000. Only the Seven Days Campaign, 10 months earlier, had exacted a greater toll. For the Confederates, however, Chancellorsville marked the zenith of General Robert E. Lee's and their fortunes in the East.
Civil War historians have neglected this complex, 10-day campaign. Their oversight may be attributed, in part, to the shadow cast by John Bigelow's 1910 study, The Campaign of Chancellorsville. A detailed tactical work, Bigelow's book has long been regarded as the standard account of the operations. Ernest B. Furgurson's 1992 study, Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave, presented a modern analysis, but it did not supplant Bigelow's classic.
With the publication of Stephen W. Sears's Chancellorsville, however, Civil War historiography has a worthy rival to Bigelow's book. Although Sears's book does not duplicate Bigelow's in its tactical detail, it renders a fuller overall treatment of the campaign. Sears combines the best of modern history into this finely crafted, superb study. The book is well researched, wonderfully written, balanced, fair, and judicious.
Sears brings years of study and writing on the Eastern campaigns to this new work, and that experience results in a fresh analysis of the Chancellorsville operations. The book opens with the resignation of Major General Ambrose Burnside in January 1863 and concludes with the return of Hooker's army to its camps north of the Rappahannock. In between, the narrative flows through the preparations for spring operations, the campaign's opening movements, the carnage of May 2 and 3, and the ultimate triumph of Lee's army.
If Sears's work does nothing else, it refurbishes the reputation of Joseph Hooker. Sears offers the fairest assessment yet of the maligned general's performance, presenting solid information on the role of Union intelligence operations and communications as they affected Hooker's decisions. He destroys the old canard that Hooker admitted losing confidence in himself. Without sparing the commander from deserved criticism, he fashions a corrective portrait of the general that will undoubtedly spark discussion.
Sears finds fault with other subordinate Union officers who by their action or inaction contributed to the army's defeat. To him, none deserve more censure than Major Generals Oliver O. Howard, commander of the XI Corps, and John Sedgwick, commander of the VI Corps. He presents a compelling case against both generals and also particularly criticizes the performances of Major Generals Daniel Sickles and George Stoneman and Brigadier General Charles Devens. For the most part, it is a damning indictment of these men.
Sears's assessment of the Confederate high command is no surprise. He shows amply why Lee and Jackson have merited history's judgment of their performances on this battlefield. In turn, he clarifies that the decision to attack Hooker's flank was Lee's and that Lee and Jackson then worked out together how to do it. Sears also finds much to praise about Major General J.E.B. Stuart and much to criticize about Major General Lafayette McLaws.
But this excellent book is more than a study of generals and command decisions. There is so much good about it, but at its best, it is a compelling story of common soldiers caught in a battle amid the demonic landscape of the Wilderness. Sears describes much of the combat through the words of those in the ranks, which results in a narrative of particular force. His Chancellorsville is an excellent campaign study and a sheer pleasure to read.