Page images



* May 5,


Ford, pursued as vigorously, as the nature of the country (hilly, furrowed by ravines, and thick-wooded) allowed, until dark, when the chase ended. Before morning, Sedgwick, with the remnant of his corps, passed to the north side of the Rappahannock, over pontoon bridges, near Banks's Ford, under cover of thirty-two pieces of artillery. In the space of two days he had lost more than one-fifth of his entire command. Gibbon also withdrew from Fredericksburg to Falmouth that night, passing the river on pontoon

bridges, just below the ford; and on Tuesday Lee had only Hooker to contend with, and was free to concentrate all his forces

against him. So he recalled McLaws and Anderson, to add strength to his main army, leaving Early and Barksdale to hold the line of the river from Fredericksburg to Banks's Ford, and prepared to strike Hooker a crushing blow before night. A heavy rain storm came on, which suspended operations, and caused a postponement of the forward movement until the next morning.

Meanwhile Hooker had been busy in preparations to avoid or avert the blow. When, on Monday night, he was told of the situation of Sedgwick, then hovering on the bank of the Rappahannock, under the shelter of great guns, and utterly unable to co-operate with the main army, he determined to retreat across the river and save it. He conferred with five of his corps commanders' that night, when two of them (Couch and Sickles, whose forces, with Slocum's, had borne the brunt of the battle on Sunday) agreed with him, and one (Reynolds) did not express any opinion. Finding himself in accord with a majority of his active counselors, and with his chief of staff, General Butterfield, who was present, Hooker determined to retreat on the

following day, and made preparations accordingly. The storm May 5.

that restrained Lee favored Hooker, but it made the passage of the river a perilous task, for its banks were submerged at each end of his pontoon bridges, and the latter were in imminent danger of being swept away by the violent current at any moment. The passage, covered by Meade's corps, was safely made, however, without molestation, during the

night, and, on the morning of the 6th,' the Army of the Potomac May,

returned to its old quarters opposite Fredericksburg. On the same day the Confederate army resumed its former position on the heights in the rear of the city. The losses of each had been heavy. That of the Confederates was reported twelve thousand two hundred and seventy-seven, including about two thousand prisoners, and that of the Nationals was


i Generals Meade, Reynolds, Howard, Couch, and Sickles. Slocum was not present, for the reason that the messenger who was sent failed to find him.

* In his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War (volume I., 1865, pages 134 and 135), General Hooker said that General Reynolds, being very weary, threw himself on a bed, saying that “his opinion would be the same as General Meade's," and went to sleep; and that General Howard voted for an advance assigning as a reason that he felt that his corps (Eleventh), by its bad conduct, had placed the army in its perilous position, and that he had to vote for an advance under any circumstances." General Meade was at first for an advance, because he did not believe a safe retreat across the river possible; but, according to the testimony of Generals Sickles and Howard (pages 135 and 186), he yielded his opinions to those of General Hooker, and acquiesced in his commander's decision. Couch and Sickles were decidedly in favor of a retreat. Howard was the only officer, at the close of the conference, who was decidedly in favor of an advance. The author of a history of the Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, has recorded an error into which he was led, in saying, concerning the conference, that a majority of the corps commanders present “were in favor of an advance rather than a withdrawal," and giving as an inference, because the chief insisted on retreating, that * Honker had lost all stomach for fight."

3 Lee, in his report of the Battle of Chancellorsville (September 21, 1563), did not give an account of his

[blocks in formation]

seventeen thousand one hundred and ninety-seven, including about 'five thousand prisoners. The latter left behind their dead and wounded, thirteen pieces of artillery, about twenty thousand small arms, seventeen colors, and a large quantity of ammunition. Among their notable slain were Generals Berry and Whipple. Thus ended, in defeat and disaster to the Nationals, after a struggle of several days, the BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE.

While Hooker and Lee were contending, a greater portion of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General Stoneman, was raiding on the communications of the Army of Northern Virginia with Richmond. Stoneman crossed the Rappahannock with the main body at Kelly's Ford, and Averill (who had been ordered to

May 29, push on through Culpepper Court-House to Gordonsville, and keep the Confederates in that direction employed, while detachments from the main column were destroying the railways running north from Richmond) passed the river with one division at the crossing of the Orange and Alexandria railroad. He soon encountered some of W. H. F. Lee's brigade, almost the only mounted force the Confederates could then spare to oppose Stoneman's ten thousand, but he pressed forward through Culpepper to the Rapid Anna, and no further. He failed to protect the right of the main column, and was recalled. Stoneman Weeded his army of weak materials, and, with his best men and horses, in light marching order, pressed forward Buford was sent out to the left, and, skirmishing frequently with small bodies of cavalry, reached the Rapid Anna on the night of the 30th, and encamped near Raccoon Ford. Stoneman marched cautiously on, crossed the Rapid Anna at the same ford, and the whole force reached a point on the Virginia Central railway, a mile from Louisa Court-House, at two o'clock on the morning of the 2d of May. Much of the railway in that vicinity was immediately destroyed, and at daylight Col




losses, and it is only from those of his subordinates, published with his report in 1864, that the number, above given, has been ascertained. A Confederate surgeon at Richmond reported their loss, innmediately after the battle, at 18,000 men; and in a congratulatory address to his troops, Hooker declared that they had "taken 5,000 prisoners, 15 colors, captured and brought away 7 pieces of artillery, and May 6, placed hors de combat 18,000 of Lee's chosen troops." He also averred that they had inflicted 1863 "heavier blows than they had received." Lee, in a similar order, congratulated his troops on their glorious victory;" told them that they were entitled to the praise and gratitude of the Confederate * nation;" that they should return their " grateful thanks to the only Giver of victory for the signal deliverance He had wrought, and appointed the following Sunday as a time for these united ascriptions of “glory due His name,

1 The latter were recovered a fow days afterward.

? The authorities from which this narrative of the Battle of Chancellorsville was drawn, are the reports of Generals Hooker and Lee, and their subordinate commanders; of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, volume I., 1865; history of The Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, by William Swinton ; Chancellors. tille, by Hotchkiss and Allan; and written and oral statements to the author by participants in the campaign.

As usual, in cases of disaster, there was much crimination and recrimination after the battle of Chancellors. ville, and men were blained without sufficient cause. Among those who suffered the penalties of displeasure, was Brigadier-General Joseph W. Rerere, who had been in the service of his country, without reproach, as a sailor and soldier, for thirty years. He commanded a brigade of the second division of Sickles's corps, in the battle on Sunday, the 3d of May. In the hurly-burly of that fight he found himself in the position of commanding officer of his division, after the death of General Berry, and left to act in accordance with his own judgment, in the absence of orders from his superiors. That judgment led him to make a movement to another part of the field of action, where he thought he could be more useful. For this his corps commander relieved him from duty, and would not accept his offer to serve as a volunteer in any capacity. A week after the army recrossed the Rappahannock, he was tried by a court martial, found guilty of the charge of conduct to the prejudice of discipline and good order," and dismissed from the service. It is the opinion of experts, who have well weighed the circumstances and the testimony before the irt, that General Rerere acted the part of a true patriot and brave soldier in doing that for which he was condemned ; that he was unjustly accused and illegally punished.

[blocks in formation]


onel Kilpatrick, with his regiment, dashed into the little village of Louisa Court-House, terrifying the inhabitants by his unexpected visit, and obtaining some supplies. After skirmishing with some of W. H. F. Lee's troops that attacked them, the Nationals, toward evening, moved off to Thompson's Four Corners, where, at midnight, Stoneman gave orders for operations upon Lee's communications by separate parties, led respectively by General David MeM. Gregg, Colonel Percy Wyndham, Colonel Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, and Colonel Hasbrouck Davis.

In the bright moonlight these expeditions started on their destructive errands. Wyndham, with the First Maine and First New Jersey, pushed southward to Columbia, on the James River, and on the morning of the 3d, destroyed canal boats, bridges, a large quantity of Confederate supplies and medical stores; tried to demolish the massive stone aqueduct there where the waters of the canal flow over the river, and then rejoined Stoneman. Kilpatrick, with the Harris Light Cavalry (Sixth New York), reached Hungary Station, on the Fredericksburg railway, on the morning of the 4th, destroyed the depots and railroad there, crossed to the Brook turnpike, and, sweeping down within two miles of Richmond, captured a lieutenant and eleven men within the fortifications of the Confederate capital. Then he struck the Virginia Central railway at Meadow Bridge, on the Chickahominy, destroyed that structure and some railway property, and, dashing across the Pamunkey and the Mattapony the next

May 5, day," went raiding through the country without molestation, destroying Confederate property here and there, and reaching Gloucester Point, on the York, on the 7th.

Meanwhile Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, with the Twelfth Illinois, swept along the line of the South Anna to the Fredericksburg railway at Ashland, where he intercepted an ambulance train filled with wounded soldiers from Chancellorsville. These were paroled. Then the road and other railway property was destroyed there, when Davis pushed on to Hanover CourtHouse, on the Virginia Central railway, swept away the depot by fire, and tore up the track in that vicinity. He then followed the line of the road to within seven miles of Richmond, when he inclined to the left and started for Williamsburg. Near the site of the White House' he met and skirmished with Confederate cavalry, and being repulsed, he inclined still more to the left, crossed the Pamunkey and Mattapony, and reached Gloucester Point without further interruption. Gregg and Buford had, meanwhile, been raiding in the neighborhood of the South Anna, closely watched by Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. They burnt the bridges in their march. Dashing upon Hanover Junetion, they destroyed the railway property there, and damaged the road. Finally the whole of Stoneman's command, excepting the forces under Kilpatrick and Davis, was concentrated at Yanceyville, when it marched northward, crossed the Rapid Ama at the Raccoon Ford, and on Friday, the sth of May, recrossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford. Much property had been destroyed during the raid, but the chief object of the expedition, namely, the effectual destruction of Lee's communications with Richmond, was not accomplished, and the week's work of the cavalry,

1 See page 386, volume II.



as bearing upon the progress of the war, was of very little consequence. The damages to the railways were repaired by the time the raiders had recrossed the Rappahannock. Had Stoneman's forces been concentrated, and their destructive energies been applied to the single object of Lee's direct communications, the Confederate army might, after its success at Chancellorsville, have fallen into the hands of the Nationals, for at that time its supplies came from Richmond, and it had not more than a few days' rations ahead at any time.

Let us now turn for a moment and view events of the greatest importance, which were occurring in Southeastern Virginia, at the time of the struggle at Chancellorsville.

We have observed (page 21) that Lee had sent Longstreet to command the troops operating against General John J. Peck, at Suffolk. Ever since the Confederates lost Norfolk, and with it the mouth of the James River and the region bordering on the Nansemond and the Dismal Swamp, they had been devising measures for recapturing it, and the territory they had lost. To prevent this, and to establish a base for operations against the Weldon and Petersburg railway, a strong body of National soldiers was stationed at Suffolk, at the head of the Nansemond River, and upon a railroad branching to Weldon and Petersburg. This was an important military position, and became the center of stirring scenes in 1862 and 1863.

In September, 1862, Major-General John J. Peck was placed in command of nine thousand men at Suffolk, and at the same time Generals Pettigrew and French, with about fifteen thousand Confederates, were on the line of the Blackwater, menacing that post. Peck comprehended the great importance of his position, and immediately commenced the construction of a system of defenses for its protection. The authorities at Richmond, believing he was preparing a base of operations for a grand movement against that city, in co-operation with the Army of the Potomac, caused the adoption of countervailing measures. A series of fortifications were erected from the line of the Blackwater to Fort Powhatan, on the James River, and late in February, 1863, General Longstreet was placed in command of all the Confederate troops in that region. He had then full thirty thousand troops, including those already on the line of the Blackwater, so posted that he could concentrate them all near Suffolk in the course of twenty-four hours.

Early in April, Longstreet prepared to make a sudden descent upon Peck. He determined to march with an overwhelming force, cross the Nansemond, capture or disperse the National garrison, and then, without further difficulty, seize Portsmouth and Norfolk, and seriously menace, if not actually

1 In his report on the Battle of Chancellorsville, at page 15, Lee said: “The damage done to the railroad was small and soon repaired, and the James River canal was saved from injury." During the raid Stoneman and his command disabled but did not destroy Lee's communications, but they captured and paroled over 500 Confederate officers and soldiers; destroyed 22 bridges, 7 culverts, 5 ferries, 3 trains of railroad cars, and 122 wagons; burned 4 supply trains, 5 canal boats, 2 store houses, 4 telegraph stations, and 8 depots; broke canals in three places, and railways in 7 places; cut the telegraph wires in 5 places, and captured 356 horses and 104 mules. See Brackett's History of the United States Cavalry, page 311.

? See page 388, volume II.

3 The first work constructed by him was begun on the 25th of September, and was named Fort Dix, in honor of the commander of the department. The position and names of the forts, and other fortifications and localities nained in the text, may be observed by reference to the map on page 42, which is a careful copy, on a small scale, of one made by General Peck's engineers, and kindly lent by that commander to the writer.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
« PreviousContinue »