The Battle of Chancellorsville by LBM

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all felt it --are all tired but hopeful. I would say here, I do not think there is any labor -any physical trial so severe as hard marching to the man who carries the musket. There is no place or situation in life where men get so tired, and still plod on after being completely tired out --hour after hour perhaps, like an ox in the furrow, not knowing when the misery will end but doggedly stagger on, seeming more dead than alive, yet keep going because the rest do. It's the orders. The second (or perhaps the third) day we cross the Rapahammack river on a pontoon bridge, and later the Rapidann. There is some firing ahead and think the battle may soon be on, but we march on and on through a miserable country "the Wilderness" and finally go into camp (May 1 t 1863) near Dowdall's (?) near the extreme right of the Union line in the battle of Chancellorsville. The next morning we are placed in line and Gen. Hooker's order is read to us, congratulating the army on the brilliant move made and assuring us of certain victory. W. S. Wickham receives his commission as second Lieut. and I am appointed lst Sergt. Our position is on the right of our brigade. One small German brigade Schimalfennegts I think, being to our right, one small regiment and the l53rd Pa. a new regiment being refused or placed at right angles to the general line. Gen. Howard (the one armed veteran of Fair Oaks) has been placed in command of our (llth) corps. Gen. Deven commands the division and Gen. McIene the brigade. Col. Lee of our regiment had been commanding brigade and McLane the division for some months previous.

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We were placed along a road branching off from the "plank road", and leading off to the southwest (?) past the Wilderness Tavern. We loitered around nearly all day. Toward noon I was near corps headquarters and could see through a glass. The rebel army was moving southward and rumors were rife that Lee's army was falling back and was retreating toward Richmond. About two o'clock when some of our boys came in from the skirmish or picket line, there were rumors that the Rebs were massing on our right. I my-self, heard one of the men say that he could hear the artillery rattle or rumble as it moved over the roads, could hear the commands of the rebel officers as the troops were moved into position. In our front the ground was clear, while to our right there was timber, it being about 10 rods from where I was to a brush fence along the edge of the timber. In our rear across the road there were low scrubby pines somewhat open. About four o 'clock I went down to the extreme right some thirty rods. There were slight breastworks thrown in from of our troops, a tree or two fallen into or across the road, but the woods were so dense I could not see off to the flank but a few feet. The rebel calvery were in the timber to our right and these "Blinkers" - germans not being good skirmishers had no pickets out down the road. Some scouts sent out from the 25th by Col. Richardson went out to our right flank and saw infantry and artillery in there and so reported and Cols. Richerdson and Lee, with Gen. McLene went to Gen. Deven and Howard with these scouts to try for the third or fourth time to convince Howard that our flank was to be attacked and to make disposition accordingly. From these and a score of other warnings, Gen. Howard had ample warning of a flank attack. The

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Rebel Army (some 3,000, Jackson's whole corps --fully one half of Lee's whole army at this time Longstreet's corps, most of it, being away) was in sight for a short distance only way off to the southwest of the center of whole army. Sickels with part or all of 3rd corps had gone out to investigate, and sending back for reinforcements. Howard had sent him Barlow's brigade held in reserve in rear of the right of our corps. Hooker himself had been along our lines early in the day, but at 9:30 a.m. sent order to Howard warning him that indications were that the enemy were moving around onto the right flank. About 5 o'clock Gen. Howard himself said to a battery hear his headquarters, "Unharness those horses, boys, give them a good feed of oats, we will be off for Richmond at daylight." Meanwhile Jackson's corps had passed across the front of our army and around our flank (a march of 15 miles) and worked to within close musket range of our flank at right angles to our line and extending far to our rear, five lines of battle one behind another. Word had been passed along the line for the boys to eat supper and make themselves comfortable. Our band was playing in the pine grove to our rear , When like a crash of thunder from a clear Sky there came a volley of musketry from the right. As I looked down the road I could see the German officers trying to rally the men as everything seemed to be giving way, just then a couple of deer came out of the timber to our right and Sergt. Major Lowe says, See those deer," as a bullet struck the top of his cap and scorched his head. I then saw the rebs as they were coming out of the timber. A rebel battery had opened up in the road and began sending grape up the road by the hatfull.

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I remember so well seeing a rebel color bearer as he jumped over the fence waving his flag. I fired five Shots from this our first position and I watched my chance and jumped across the road between the Charges of canister. I noticed several dead in the road and that the grape as it swept up the road turned one over. I ran about fifty feet into the pines across the road as I found myself running right into the rebs. They were all yelling as only rebels can, and it seemed to me, ramming cartridge into their guns. I careened off to my right toward our left and the 25th Ohio, which had been in reserve was just deploying into line at right angles to our original front, and I fell into line. We stopped the rebs in our front for a moment, but there was a perfect hailstorm of lead flying -- a perfect mass of rebs not twenty feet away. The man on my right and left both fell, their heads toward rebs, our right being overlapped crumbled away. The rebs surged ahead and I ran toward our left flank , and how I did run. I saw Col. Lee's cap on the ground; I knew it by the letters, etc. on it. I soon saw Paul Jones who by the way was regimental color bearer now. He had the colors on one arm and Gen. Devens(?) on the other, the" general having been wounded in the foot. I passed on but soon Paul overtook me. I said, "Where is your genera1?" He said, "Oh, d--- him he is drunk. About this time I saw Gen. Howard. This was about twenty minutes after he had talked to the battery boys about starting for Richmond. I soon saw Col. Lee, rallying men of all commands at a favorable place where some breastworks deflected around the brow of a slight hill. We formed a good strong line, with a battery' to our right, a valley in front. The rebs seemed to stop a moment and form in line, I noticed as they came

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down the slope opposite us that three lines of battle fired at once over each others heads but as they came into the valley they became badly mixed up, and that the battery to our right plowed great gaps through their ranks. I felt that we were going to hold them this time for sure but in a moment I saw our battery was gone and the rebs through the smoke to our right. They had extended way beyond our right (although we had been firing toward our original right rear) I had my gun nearly loaded and wanted to give them one more shot. As I rose to fire over the low breast works the rebs were jumping over within a few feet of me and as I stuck my gun forward to fire they were very close in front and as I turned to run, I saw there was not a union solder to my left. I believe I was the very last man to leave this line. As I started to run, I think it the most dangerous place I was ever in. I had always thought somehow that the Lord was not going to let me be killed in the war, and I remember thinking this was the test case. "If the Lord was ever going to do anything for old Ira, now's the time." to quote a well-known negro story, which came into my mind at the time as I saw the dead and wounded so thick on the ground and heard the lead and cannon shot so filling the air. When I had crossed an open field, some thirty rods, I had my gun loaded and turned around behind the first tree and fired. As I passed into the woods I noticed a lot of ambulances, wagons and artillery which I think belonged to the l2th or 3rd corps. I thought there'll be a stampede, and I turned toward the left along a timbered side hill, while to my front (as I was going to the southeastward along our general line of battle) there was a large

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space near a hundred acres of open or cleared ground, and I saw a sight which made my heart bleed. I saw a battery rushing down a hill and the lead horses fell or stumbled into a small creek and the others right onto and over them. The horses literally piled into the creek bed and others rushing right along over them, While to the right or left or in front as far as I could see everything was fleeing in panic. It seemed to me that the whole army had gone to pieces in a panic. All was lost. Oh, my country! Can this be? There was no one near whom I knew. I look back to this as the darkest hour of my war experience. I went on sane distance (too much to the right it seems) say 3/4 of a mile, it was getting quite dusk as I came to some good breastworks manned by troops with guns pointing the way I was going. This, I think, was the extreme left flank of the Union forces. I then turned back bearing to the north and came onto Plank Road near Chancellorsville house and having picked up one or two 55th boys, heard that more of the regiment and most of the llth corps were back along the road. About 9 o'clock we got back among our corps, and found Lt. C. P. Wickham and some 30 men of the regiment. About this time we heard that Gen. Jackson was killed, being very soon after he was mortally wounded. Early the next morning the survivors of the regiment got together, and with the rest of the corps were marched past the Chancellorsville house, and back toward our rear left flank where we lost a few men on skirmish line and from sharpshooters but saw no more real fighting, although we stayed for two days. We were called in from the picket line near eleven

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o 'clock (night of May 5th, I think) and marched someone and a half miles to U. S. Ford across the swollen Rappehammack on a Shaky pontoon bridge. Thence the next day back to our old camp ground at Brooks Station near Belle Plain Landing. This is my personal experience in the battle of Chancellorsville rather than a history of the battle. Which however, I ask you to read up carefully and in detail as far as you can find it, with a map of the field before you. How it came off -under "Fighting Joe Hooker" whom we all loved; how he had fully 120,000 men while Lee had but 60,000. Note: the army of the Potomac (Hooker's army) was man for man equal to the army of Va. (Lee's army). That Hooker threw the bulk of his army across the river without loss. It cost Grant the battle of the Wilderness a year later but Hooker had sent nearly all his cavalry off on a raid toward Richmond, which he so much needed to protect his flanks. That Hooker after he had gained the open ground in Lee's rear, with the bulk of his army, hesitated to fight but instead of moving right out and pitching into Lee's rear, he hesitated, drew back and formed a line and waited. Note the very hazardous but brilliant move suggested by Jackson, the greatest Lieutenant the war produced. His brilliant flank moves had decided every battle in Virginia. Lee consented under the desperate situation to divide his army permitting Jackson with half his whole army to move across our front around our right flank. No doubt Hooker himself made the inexcusable mistake of thinking Lee was falling back without a fight and also Sickels was deceived. But how can we excuse Gen. Howard for permitting a formidable army to assail his weakened corps in flank and rear after scores of warnings when, if he would have

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permitted it, a reconnaissance by one of his best regiments would have developed the danger in time to have averted disaster, and still less should he be excused or pardoned for trying as he did immediately after the battle and ever since to carry the impression that the llth corps would not fight. There is not an instance in the history of the world where a line has been held under the circumstances existing at the moment of the attack --circumstances for which Howard more than another man was responsible. Note also that this disaster to some three-fourths of the llth corps some 9000 men, did not necessarily lose the battle. Lee's army was divided) with more valiant fresh troops practically between the parts than there were in Lee's Whole army, with many more within supporting distance. This evacuation of Hazel Grove, an elevated plain commanding the position about the Chancellorsville House) and permitting Lee and Jackson to join forces. The Union lines were so contracted that not more than one-half of the army was engaged and that when Sedgewick: finally crossed the river and drove the few rebs left to hold Fredericksburg out and moved up to attack Lee, he fought alone the balance of the army being held in check by a skirmish line. Evidently Hooker showed an incapacity for commanding a great army. Though he was "fighting" Joe Hooker, he seemed to hesitate, and shrink from contact or combat with the enemy. It is quite a different thing to fight when ordered, from saying when and where to fight. Strategy and tactics differ from individual heroism. While the rebel army suffered quite as heavy losses as our army at Chancellorsville, yet the moral effect was that of defeat, when it Should have been an overwhelming victory from all human probability. The battle

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was to be lost. Human slavery had not been atoned for. "God was marching on. Tramping out the vintage where the Grapes of wrath are stored." A loss of about one-third of our regiment in killed and wounded (loss -153) left many vacancies in our ranks and much sadness as we settled down to camp life again at our old quarters at Brooks Station. Here I began to be troubled with camp or Chronic diarrhea, Which became quite serious as we broke camp and marched up through Va. between Lee's army ( which had started for the North) and Washington. I remember that at Goose Creek a branch of the upper Potomac, we waded the stream about waist deep and went into camp, dried our clothes and the next morning I secured a sort of fishing tackle and caught three nice eels when some of the other boys came around and accused me of fishing on Sunday which I think was my only experience in that line, but the eels were very good eating for our mess just the same. In a day or two we crossed the Potomac on a long pontoon bridge and tramped on to South Mountain where a severe batt1e had been fought the year previous. About this time we heard Meade had superceeded Hooker. We lay there some thirty-six hours and about four P.M. June 27th, 1863, we started on a twenty-five hour march. The 28th was hot and showery. My bowels were troubling me exceedingly so I was not with my company after about eight o'clock in the morning. I was compelled to stop often and then hurry forward along the side of the road or anywhere I could get a chance. A soldier out of ranks had no rights in a vast marching army. About two o'clock there was a halt and I thought it my chance to

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