"For Ninety Nine Years or the War" The Story of the 3rd Arkansas at Gettysburgby Maurial P. Joslyn

“For Ninety Nine Years or the War” The Story of the 3rd Arkansas at Gettysburgby Maurial P. Joslyn

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mauriel P. Joslyn of Sparta, Georgia, received her B.A. in History from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1978. She has participated in living history events for nearly twenty years and is a freelance writer on historical topics, mostly the War Between the States. Her first book is a biography of the Immortal Six Hundred, entitled Immortal Captives: The Story of 600 Confederate Officers and the Union Policy of Retaliation. Her second book: Charlotte’s Boys: The Wartime Correspondence of the Branch Family of Savannah, is due to be released in April.

It was raining on June 26. 1863, the day Confederate Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson’s brigade crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland. It was a steady drizzle that had commenced the day before falling on the already soaked Southerners slogging through the slippery roads leading to their destiny. With Robertson’s three regiments of lean, tanned Texans crossed a fourth regiment who had the distinction of being the only Arkansas troops in the Army of Northern Virginia.’ They were considered misfits as much by themselves as by the Texans with whom they fought. Six months earlier, their colonel had requested the regiment be sent back to Arkansas. “This regiment has served hard and faithfully in the war, but it has now almost lost its identity,” wrote Vannoy H. Manning.

“Every member of it desires a transfer to some parish where there are more troops from Arkansas.” The request was denied.

Around noon the 3rd Arkansas reached the river, where a tangle waited on a single pontoon bridge insufficient to accommodate the mixture of limbers, caissons, and ordnance wagons, troops, and mounted officers. Soon the traffic clogged the single lane pontoon bridge but the Arkansans were not to be deterred. Already wet, some stripped from their waist down, others completely, tying clothing to muskets. Covering all as best they could with rubber blankets, in they plunged and waded across with the bundles held above their heads. The men had given no thought to the spectacle they presented, and just as they had all reached the Maryland side and began to reform along the road, the most embarrassing thing that could have happened, did. Down the road came a buggy, its passengers almost exclusively women. They were among the soldiers before realizing that here stood the Confederate army, nearly naked, lining the path. The awkwardness passed with the trotting horse, and the incident was made light of by the invaders, whose high spirits were mischievous anyway. Thus was Lee’s entry into Maryland.

Even dressed in their finest available clothing, the troops of the Texas brigade “were poorly clothed, in a variety of uniforms, a dingy gray color prevailing,” according to newspaper reporter’s description of Lee’s troops. “Some wore jackets, others gray-skirted coats trimmed on collars and sleeves. There were many ragged slouch hats, and caps of various kinds with visors. Some wore boots, others shoes, and many were barefooted.” Nevertheless, the journalist was impressed with their demeanor. “Most of them were finely formed fellows, with resolute faces, and evidently good soldiers.”

Outside Williamsport the Arkansans considered themselves fortunate when they found barrels of whiskey and were given the go-ahead by commanding officers to issue the refreshment to the troops. Soon overindulgence led to a drinking spree that ended with many too drunk to walk. Their twenty-four-year-old colonel, Van H. Manning, who had raised two of the companies in the 3rd, was disgusted with such behavior. He dragged the inebriated culprits to a nearby creek and proceeded to dunk heads as long as it took to sober the men up. There was no time to lose, and the brigade pushed on through another day of rain to Greencastle, Pennsylvania, where they camped on the damp ground. They had marched in three states that day, having left Virginia early the same morning.

June 27 found them on the move, rambling through the lush Pennsylvania countryside. It was a land of plenty, and the awestruck boys, who- had lived in the desolate war zone of Virginia for the last year, gaped with wonder at the untouched fields, where fat livestock grazed and orchards hung laden with cherries. The recent rains had made the pastures a brilliant summer green, and now the sun brought with its drying warmth an unwelcome, intense humidity. The Arkansans made camp a mile north of Chambersburg in a grove of trees, where they would rest until June 30. The respite gave them time to write home or record in journals the chronicle of their journey north and its reception. It gave time to think of home, so distant, and that day over two years earlier, when the first of their number had enlisted as raw recruits.

The explanation for the regiment’s tenacity on the battlefield came in part from the command’s birth. The nucleus of the 3rd, two companies formed near Hamburg, was spawned in patriotism, when Arkansas was in danger of being forced to stay in the Union/The central figure was an ambitious young lawyer and wealthy planter of small stature but big aspirations, Vannoy Hartrog Manning.

A native North Carolinian, Manning had come to Hamburg via Mississippi after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Nashville. Manning married Mary Wallace in Holly Springs, Mississippi, May 3, 1859, then moved to Hamburg and began a law practice. Tragedy struck the couple in January 1861, with the death of their first son. The grief was still fresh as the winds of war swept through Arkansas.

Manning was raising two companies in Ashley County even before Arkansas seceded on May 6, pledging his services as captain and his men to Confederate service. Like many Western volunteers, they believed the war was in Virginia, and without political influence their chance of being in it looked slim. Nevertheless, they drilled in the nearby fields, paraded through town on offered occasions, and accepted the attentions of young ladies, while the energetic captain sought acceptance into a regiment.

Finally on May 20, 1861, the journey began when they were mustered in officially as Captain Manning’s company and left for Vicksburg where they hoped to attach themselves to a regiment. Manning paid all the traveling expenses, and upon arrival they joined the throngs of other eager warriors, but found no command who could take them.

Manning would not give up. He used political influence from his days in the Arkansas legislature and went to the former Confederate capital, Montgomery, Alabama. There his lobbying paid off when Arkansas Senator Albert Rust not only intervened on his behalf with Secretary of War Leroy Walker, but offered himself as colonel to the nucleus of a regiment. With Rust, Manning and his company were ordered to Lynchburg, Virginia, where they would meet other independent commands from Arkansas and be united into one regiment. They took their flag, yet to be scarred by battle, and began the journey by river, rail, and road that led to the likely scene of action. When they mustered in as Company C of the 3rd Volunteer Regiment Arkansas Infantry in Lynchburg, Virginia, on July 3, 1861, they numbered 900 men. Almost two years later to the day, in a Pennsylvania field, their strength was 508, 42 of whom were officers, led by the same vigor of Manning, now colonel of the 3rd.

Preceding the army’s entry into Pennsylvania, Gen. Robert E. Lee specifically prohibited pillaging and stealing, but the Arkansas and Texas boys of Robertson’s Brigade interpreted General Orders No. 72 as not applicable to foraging. Pvt. Samuel Henry Emerson of Co. F, 3rd Arkansas, was seventeen years old, a fresh faced youth who had seen two years of war. He could not resist the temptation of sweet honeycomb offered by a row of beehives near one farmhouse. He was joined by Pvts. Morgan Beaucham and Dick Stribling in a plan to come into possession of one of these hives. While Emerson approached the matron of the house and diverted her attention, his comrades made off with one of the hives, and all three rejoined the line of march. As they passed the spring house, a glance inside revealed crocks of butter and milk, one of which was also “liberated” from its Pennsylvania owner by the three boys.

Early in the afternoon of June 30, the 3rd left Chambersburg. Robertson’s brigade fell in behind Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ division and marched east, reaching Fayetteville later that evening. The morning of July I dawned with the promise of another hot day, and the brigade broke camp early. Texans and Arkansans set out on a twelve-mile march, which became a halting, fatiguing pace when their path of travel was interrupted by Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s division of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s corps, also en route to Cashtown. The column would advance “a hundred yards or so, and then stop and stand still,” wrote J. B. Policy of Company I, 5th Texas. So frequent was the interruption of their gait that when the troops did stop, men stood instead of sitting down for the short five or ten minutebreaks. Consequently, by the time they reached Cashtown, they were so exhausted that most stacked arms and immediately stretched their frames on the ground and fell asleep.

A mere two hours later, at 4 a.m. they were roused and pressed onward, down the Chambersburg Pike towards Gettysburg, by the light of a nearly full moon. This time they marched in the vanguard of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s corps and arrived with the sunrise just west of town. Here, near the headquarters tent of General Lee behind Seminary Ridge, the Western boys halted, awaiting orders. It was July 2, and Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood’s division would that day paint its name in history with the blood of the brave.

As the sun appeared in full, Colonel Manning had his 3rd Arkansas formed on the Chambersburg Pike. Riflemuskets were inspected, while breakfast and a fair rest left the men fresh and ready for whatever was demanded of them. They learned that orders were to make their way to the right of Lee’s battle line, and canteens were their first concern as the heat of another day descended.

The Union left was their destination, just on the other side of the Emmitsburg Road. Longstreet’s corps struck out along Willoughby Run, crossing the Fairfield (Hagerstown) Road and tramping through a wheatfield. The column came to an abrupt halt, as McLaws’ division was forced to backtrack. Figures at a Union signal station atop a large outcrop of rocks on some high ground to the front jeopardized the mission. Although the destination was only a few miles away, it necessitated a roundabout march to screen the Confederate army from Union reconnaissance. Hood’s division was to take the lead with Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law’s brigade, just arrived from New Guilford some twenty-three miles away. These panting troops had been on the march since 3 a.m., and were nearly spent. Next came Robertson’s, then Brig. Gens. George T. Anderson’s and Henry L. Benning’s Georgians.

As if the five-mile march under a hot sun were not enough, the route became an obstacle course of stone walls and rail fences. Time was consumed in dismantling and climbing these, until finally, at 3:30 p.m., nearly eight hours after the initial plans were decided, Longstreet’s corps arrived on its front line, a wood fronting the Emmitsburg Road. To some of the men of the deep South it was a mountain, to those of the Appalachians, a hill. To all it would become known as Little Round Top.

The situation had changed dramatically by now. When they had left the field behind Seminary Ridge, they were dispatched to attack the Union left flank. During the march there, Union forces had beaten them to it. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, had advanced and occupied the commanding ground at Wentz’s peach orchard, unlimbering cannon to command the ground west of and south of the Emmitsburg and Wheatfield Roads. To attack would mean certain destruction, and Hood requested an alternative plan of flanking, marching around the Federal left by way of Big Round Top, and hitting Meade’s forces in the rear. But Longstreet was adamant, and his field commanders steeled themselves for the inevitable.

Hood formed his division behind a line of woods, fronting the Emmitsburg Road, as a screen to avoid being spotted by the Federals. The Texas brigade stood in a double line of brigades, with Law’s and Robertson’s in front. Colonel Manning and his Arkansans marked Hood’s left flank, linked with McLaws’ division posted in Biesecker’s Woods to their left. Next to the 3rd Arkansas, moving toward the Confederate right, were the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas, in that order. The 5th Texas joined with Law’s 4th Alabama to unite the brigades. Capt. James Reilly’s Rowan North Carolina artillery of 12-pounder Napoleons and IO-pounder Parrots stood on a slight rise near the edge of the woods. The Carolina gunners and Texan foot soldiers had supported each other on many a hard fought field. Both commands would face their worst trial this day.

Despite the careful shielding of troops in the trees, the sun glinting off bayonets alerted Union skirmishers and Brig. Gen. Governor K. Warren on Little Round Top that the Confederate army was massing in the Federal front. Reinforcements were hurried by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade to the Union left, and Sickles’ Third Corps was positioned in time for the opening shots of Reilly’s battery. The rest of the artillery supporting Hood’s division let loose with their earthshaking volleys. They were answered swiftly by four guns of Capt. James E. Smith’s 4th New York Battery posted among the maze of scattered boulders atop Houck’s Ridge.

The deadly iron found marks among Robertson’s men standing in the ranks. He ordered the brigade to move back and lie down. “It seemed they could hit our line every time,” wrote John A. Wilkerson, Company H, 3rd Arkansas. “I could look down the line and see our men knocked out constantly.” Wilkerson was a private in the front rank, “by the side of my captain. Soon a shell hit and killed him. I saw the orderly sergeant’s head knocked off, then a corporal’s leg. I don’t know how long we were held there under fire, but the time seemed endless.”

It must have felt an eternity to the sweating, waiting men flat on their bellies. The shell that wreaked such havoc in Wilkerson’s company bounced down the row of men before rolling off into the field. Another shell burst over the 4th Texas, killing or wounding fifteen men. John C. West and his comrades nearby were splattered with the blood of a friend when a solid shot decapitated him, then cut another soldier in half a few feet away.

In reality, the seeming endlessness of this hellacious fire lasted only fifteen minutes. As soon as the duel slacked off, Hood ordered his men forward. Manning quickly formed the 3rd, and they emerged from the line of trees ready to advance While awaiting the signal of the battery to charge, they studied the rocky position of their enemy. Pure courage must have shored up many a heart to muster the strength for the assault.

It was only minutes past 4 p.m. when a single artillery shot from Reilly’s battery challenged the silence across the pastoral valley of Plum Run, resounding off the boulders and sides of Devil’s Den and the Round Tops. Then began a rolling barrage over the heads of the Confederate infantrymen, as Manning’s Arkansans and the rest of the Texas Brigade charged with fixed bayonets and the Rebel yell. Soon they came upon a rail fence. “Grab it by the bottom rail and heave!” ordered General Robertson. The fence came down in the gray wave steadily rolling toward the slope of Little Round Top.

As Confederates threaded through the trees in Rose’s Woods, the Southern battle line lost its alignment in the confusion of the broken terrain. Robertson had orders to keep his right on Law’s left, with his own left resting on the Emmitsburg Road. But the distance between these two was too great for his brigade to fill, and, given the options, he decided to bandon the road and shift to the right, staying tight against Law’s Alabamians, who were being hard pressed by Union forces near Big Round Top. Unfortunately for the 3rd Arkansas, just as Robertson shifted away, their flank was attacked by Federal forces under Col. Regis de Trobriand, who should have been kept busy by McLaws. To prevent Manning’s annihilation in a cross fire, Robertson ordered the 1st Texas under Col. Phillip A. Work to go in on Manning’s right. This caused the Texas brigade to split, as the 4th and 5th Texas continued veering to the right to touch Law. The Texas brigade became two separate fighting forces, leaving a gap in the Confederate assault line. Hood’s division would fight for an hour before McLaws came to their aid. During that hour would pass perhaps the most intensive fighting the 3rd would see during its time in service.

“About four o’clock I was ordered to move against the enemy,” wrote Manning. “After marching in line of battle at a brisk gait, part of the way at a double-quick for about a thousand yards, all the time exposed to a destructive fire from artillery, we engaged the enemy at short range, strongly posted behind a rock fence at the edge of woods.” The fighting continued to be a stubborn contest on both sides as Robertson’s men battled for toeholds on the slopes of Houck’s Ridge and Little Round Top. A giant heap of boulders caused the Texas brigade to split, and the 3rd Arkansas and 1st Texas were on their own.

“For an hour and upwards, these two regiments maintained one of the hottest contests against five or six times their number that I have witnessed,” wrote Robertson in his official report. The Arkansans advanced against “a heavy and destructive fire of canister. . . and shell from . . . [four] pieces of their artillery on the mountain… and the same number on a commanding hill but a short distance to the left of the mountain, and from the enemy’s sharp-shooters behind the numerous rocks, fences, and houses in the field.”

As the flush of battle combined with the summer heat, men discarded everything but fighting gear. Knapsacks, blankets, and a trail of clothing marked the Confederate advance. Two crumbling stone fences were hopped, and as the troops crossed Rose Run, a few stopped to dip handkerchiefs, or take a quick drink, as musket balls whizzed overhead. Up the banks and onward the men scrambled, until blue met gray. The skirmishers pulled back, beckoning the Confederate charge onward.

Even with the arrival of Benning’s Georgians support around 5 p.m., the 3rd could gain no ground. “As fast as we would break one line of the enemy another fresh one would present itself, the enemy reinforcing his lines in our front from his reserves at the base of the mountain to our right and front, and from his lines to our left…. Having no attack from us in his front, [he] threw his forces from there on us.

The sound of battle drowned out the shouts of officers as they called commands. Manning, frustrated at his position of fighting on three fronts, had to take troops by their shoulders and turn his line to face the flank attack. The only salvation was more troops from reserve, but the Confederates simply had no reinforcements to send, and Manning continued to shift his fire from one threat to another. “Soon I was again admonished that my left was seriously threatened, when I ordered the command back fifty or seventy-five yards to meet this contingency.” The enemy gave way slightly, “and I stretched out my front twice its legitimate length, guarding well my left and advanced to the ledge of rocks from which we had previously been dislodged.” Manning was more than a little relieved by the appearance of the 11th and 59th Georgia of “Tige” Anderson’s brigade on his left. Still the Federals would not yield. It was at this point in the battle that Manning was hit in the face.

The determination of the Texas brigade was reflected in the high loss of officers through wounds and death. General Hood had his left arm shattered from wrist to shoulder while he stood near an artillery battery, only minutes after his command became engaged. General Robertson and three of his four regimental commanders were disabled when their leadership was most needed. One of these was Col. Van Manning.”

“Just after the arrival of Gen. [George T.] Anderson on my left, I learned that the gallant Colonel Van H. Manning, of the Third Arkansas, had been wounded and carried from the field,” wrote Robertson. Shrapnel cut a gash across the colonel’s forehead and the bridge of his nose. The wound was severe enough to disable him, and some of his soldiers guided him to the shelter of a rock until he could be assisted to the rear.

The command of the 3rd devolved upon Lt. Col. Robert S. Taylor, and with the men of Benning’s brigade at their assistance, Taylor resumed Manning’s urge forward. Their goal was to reach Captain Smith’s Union battery playing havoc in front, between the rocks of Houck’s Ridge. Amid a shower of bullets and shrapnel, the Arkansans strove to rush the guns, and the fighting became hand-to-hand. The Federal artillerists of Smith’s battery were forced to abandon their pieces, and the smell of victory boosted the spirits of the exhausted Arkansans to push on. Forty or fifty prisoners were taken, and the Confederates clung tenaciously to their position, in and around the battery, as the Federals fought to regain it.

Private Wilkerson wrote of his part in the action in his diary:By evening our ranks were getting thin. It was fight all the time. Each side wanted the protection of those rocks. One in particular, it was very large, about four or five feet high. I saw smoke coming from behind that one and made a run for it, swerving to the right, with my gun ready. I cried, “Hands up,” they dropped their guns and came out from behind the rock. There were six of them. One said, “Young man, where is your troops?” I told them I was it, and showed them to the rear, and saw to it that they went. I went for that same rock, but went on the wrong side, right into the muzzle of the Yank’s gun. He could easily put his gun in my face. He jabbed the gun out and fired, but it didn’t touch me. Then he threw the gun up and begged me to spare his life. At that instant a comrade came on the other side of the rock and would have shot the Yank, had I not stopped him.

As the sun started its descent, resting on the low crest of Seminary Ridge, Houck’s Ridge, and Devil’s Den were occupied by boys from the South. Three guns of Smith’s battery were trophies in Southern hands, but the Confederates had to take a breather. The stress of battle and heat had taken a toll on Hood’s troops. Empty canteens were no comfort to parched throats. Devil’s Den offered a grisly haven from the deadly contest, and the men rested behind its fortress-like boulders. Away on the left, in a peach orchard, steady firing signified that McLaws was still heavily engaged, but only the distant furry of battle invaded the senses of Hood’s men.

The immediate battle sounds died away into a deadly sporadic sharpshooting duel. Balls ricocheted off rocks and whined through the trampled brush and grass on Little Round Top’s slopes, muffling the cries of the wounded and dying. The reality of the day’s work set in with its nightmares for the survivors.

Now incidents occurred that would remain clear, as remembrances of men in their old age, scenes out of place with their surroundings. Sgt. William J. Barbee, Company L, 1st Texas, stood calmly “erect, exposed and fearless” on a huge boulder, loading, aiming and firing as if hunting squirrels in the woods back home. Man after man fell as game from his marksmanship.

Wounded comrades crouching at the foot of his rock loaded weapons and handed them up to him until he was finally hit in the thigh. The wound was minor and Barbee climbed back on his rock and continued firing. He fired twenty-five times before being hit in the other leg, even then refusing to surrender his perch. He declined to yield his rocky perch until the stretcher-bearers carried him away, “crying and cursing” in resistance.

An Arkansas soldier sang .out in a steady voice the words to a popular song,” Now let the wide world wag as it will, I’ll be gay and happy still!” as he banged away steadily at any sign of movement on the Union line.” In this manner, Hood’s troops kept Union gunners pinned down. The artillerymen of Lt. Charles E. Hazlett’s Company D, 5th U.S. Artillery made futile attempts to man their pieces, but the sure shots in Devil’s Den picked them off. These feats of shooting skill were noted by R. K. Beecham of Meade’s Third Corps:We have had occasion heretofore to speak of the expert marksmanship of the Confederate soldiers, but on no field of the war did they exhibit greater skill in that capacity than at this time and place. The rocks of Devil’s Den are certainly five hundred yards, and probably more, from the summit of Little Round Top; but across the yawning chasm of Plum Run they made life uncertain for the Union soldiers who guarded it.”

Another soldier was impressed by the 3rd Arkansas in particular.They… proved to be of the Third Arkansas, Hood’s Division, Robertson’s Brigade, and were as ragged, unkempt and tough looking a body of men as it had ever been our fortune to see in the Army of Northern Virginia. They were all dead shots, armed mostly with the old-fashioned muzzle-loading Mississippi, or squirrel rifle….”

Robertson’s brigade had won the first round. The cost had been enormous, a price the Confederate army could ill-afford. Its wages lay scattered in front of the ominous boulders as bloodied and broken bodies. Lt. Col. Phillip A. Work of the 1st Texas examined the field for wounded who could safely be brought in and surveyed the carnage. “Many were killed and wounded, some losing their heads, and others so horribly mutilated and mangled that their identity could scarcely be established.”

The evening hours before sunset saw one last Confederate push, but the Union moved to meet it. A company of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters was posted among the rocks to answer the Confederate snipers. The sun dropped behind South Mountain as Hazlett’s battery finally brought its guns into play on Devil’s Den. Many Southern soldiers died as a consequence. They were found among the boulders, without a mark on their bodies killed by the concussion of shell and solid-shot against the rocks.

Private Wilkerson was one of the casualties that day. Before he was wounded, he managed to help other friends. Pvt. H. C. Coffman of Company H raised to shoot over a boulder and was struck across the bridge of the nose, shooting out both his eyes. Wilkerson dragged Coffman to safety, promising to be back. Five minutes later Wilkerson was hit while running back to a less exposed position.When the sun was about an hour high in the evening we made another charge and drove the enemy back a short distance. Then we were ordered to fall back. The smoke was so thick, and the roar of the muskets so loud we didn’t hear all the command. I, with those who had not heard the order, went on forward and got too close. We thought our Regiment was still back of us. The enemy were reinforced into two lines of battle, one directly behind the other. I dropped on my knees and fired at the two lines. When I raised up my comrades were gone and it seemed every Yank shot at me. Fortunately they shot too low. I was alive, but my left leg was shattered, below the knee. I fell, and they did not shoot at me any more. They thought I was riddled with bullets. I crawled on my back and dragged my leg to a large rock near by; on the side next to our men. I was then between two fires. W. S. Cockman found me. He said, “John, if I live until it is over, I’ll come and get you.”

Another casualty was young Sam Emerson. “I was shot down about sundown, and five others of my company were killed. My surroundings at this point were awful to contemplate.” A bullet had sheared across the crown of his head, cutting down to the skull and leaving him temporarily blind and paralyzed. As he regained consciousness and sight, he was left to ponder the surrounding battlefield and whether he would survive.There was a calm luster in the sky as I surveyed it from the valley in which I lay. The blue expanse was untarnished by a cloud. Around me everything presented the glorious beauties of a summer’s day save the havoc of the broad battlefield, which lay bestrewed with the dead and wounded. The scene was too distressing for description occasionally the rattle of musketry and the roar of cannon came rushing over my lacerated brain like traces of fire. . . . I doubted the reality of all around me, and strove to shake it off as a horrible dream. . . I was mad with terror and anguish. The stars and bars were lying at my feet. By and by the storm of battle passed away. The distant mutterings of the cannons soon ceased to fall upon my ear. Then again all was dark.

About 8 p.m. the firing died away. As darkness brought an end to the battle, an uneasy truce allowed the Confederates to search for wounded comrades, while all through the night both sides dug in for the next day’s action. Whatever that might be, neither would retreat. Both Emerson and Wilkerson were found by friends. Private Cockman returned for Wilkerson.About ten o’clock in the night he called for me, and at least fifty answered. I heard him tell the boys with him, “Let me call again.” This time he yelled “Seven Pines.” None answered but me. He was from my home town ‘way down in Arkansas. They put me on a litter and carried me back to the rear of our lines, near a brick barn that our men were using for a hospital. I was left in that wheat field with about one hundred of my Regiment, too badly wounded to be moved with my Regiment, and the Army.

Emerson was nearly dead when he was found late in the night.I knew not even where I was then. At length the thick clouds of gloom began to disperse. A feeble voice seemed to call: “Oh Sam!” Judge, those who can, how intently I listened for the second call: “Oh Sam!” Yet how I trembled that it should prove a delusion. 0 God, it was not. It was the voice of one of my comrades, who had been sent back by the captain of my company, he knowing that several had fallen in that particular locality, . . . [in Rose’s Woods] near the stone fence, as it will ever be remembered by the survivors of the Texas Brigade. For the first time in three long years did I think of home and friends as memory came rushing back to my brain. May I never witness another such night:”

While friends searched for friends, the commanders tried to sort out the tangled lines in the darkness. “I.. . proceeded to the Third Arkansas Regiment, of which General Robertson had ordered me to take charge,” reported Work. “After the loss of some half hour in searching for the Third Arkansas, I found Lieutenant-Colonel [Robert S.] Taylor and Major [John W.] Reedy, of that regiment, both alive and uninjured, and in charge of the regiment, which was doing its duty nobly and well.

At 2 a.m. Colonels Work and Taylor moved the 3rd Arkansas to the right and up the slope between the two Round Tops, consolidating the division’s position and reuniting Robertson’s brigade. The men formed a line along Plum Run, between Devil’s Den and Big Round Top. From 3 a.m. until dawn, Texas brigade survivors worked on defenses, piling rocks on an old stone wall, building loopholes in the makeshift breastwork. Cartridge boxes and canteens were replenished, and a few winks of much needed sleep were caught on the fly.

The divisions of Hood and McLaws had done the majority of the fighting for the Sooth on July 2. One-fourth of the men in Hood’s division were casualties. In the 3rd Arkansas, 41 were killed and 141 wounded or missing, thirty-eight percent of its strength and the second highest casualties in Robertson’s brigade. The loss was particularly heavy among officers. Although not seriously wounded. Colonel Manning was out of action for several days. Longstreet would note that the July 2 action was “the best three hours of fighting ever done by any troops on any battlefield.”

With first light on July 3, firing resumed sporadically between the Confederate right and Union left. The morning was greeted by nervous cannon fire from batteries on Seminary Ridge, while sharpshooting was the order of the day on the Plum Run defenses. The cloudy sky and patchy fog obscured visibility and lessened the desire to shoot at less than clear targets. An accidental wounding of two men in Company F, 3rd Arkansas by their own artillery caused most of the excitement.

Early hours passed slowly under these circumstances until 11 a.m. when the sky cleared to reveal another breezeless, sultry day, under a broiling sun. Men tended to doze under any shelter to escape the heat and lost interest in the sniping contest with Federals. Just to hold their ground seemed success enough. Occasional firing kept them cautious enough not to forget their deadly purpose on this field.

The careful vigilance was distracted by the earth-shaking volley of the Confederate cannonade preceding the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge. The roar over-shadowed the popping of muskets and caused blue and gray alike to turn eyes northward. During the artillery barrage, the 1st Texas was withdrawn from behind its crumbling stone wall and double-quicked down Plum Run Valley to a position between Big Round Top and the Emmitsburg Road, to prepare for a possible cavalry attack. The 3rd Arkansas moved to the right to fill the gap. Then all waited.

The men of Robertson’s brigade had been told they would receive orders to move forward when the artillery barrage ceased. Meanwhile, the 3rd Arkansas bugged the ground, now trembling beneath them, absorbing the concussion of hundreds of cannon.

“An earthquake, a cyclone, a thunderstorm, a hurricane, all in one, could not be more terrific,” wrote Pvt. John West.” But when the roar ceased. Robertson’s brigade could gain no ground. The Union line among the rocks stood fast, and the Arkansans knew that the commotion from the center of the field was the culminating end to a disastrous day.

Pvt. William Fletcher watched in awe and admiration as the charge moved across the field towards Cemetery Ridge. “From our elevated position we could see the battle line in the valley and hear the roar of cannon that were on an elevation to the rear. . . . There was sure noise enough, from the roar of guns and bursting of shells, to have moved the Yanks when the Rebs charged, if they had been movable; but they were like those in front of Hood.”

The work at hand summoned them back to duty as the Union line opened fire. Around 5 p.m. the 3rd witnessed the cavalry attack of Union Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth; it was easily repulsed by the Confederate infantry. Then all was quiet. Later the Texas brigade withdrew to a position near the Emmitsburg Road, remaining in battle formation throughout July 4, awaiting a Federal counterattack that never came.” That evening, drenched by torrential rains, the 3rd Arkansas and the Texas brigade began the retreat to Virginia with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, occupying the center of the army. For the men of the 3rd left behind too severely wounded to be moved, the painful ordeal of healing began. Pvt. John Wilkerson, who had been rescued by friends was one of those left in enemy hands:We lay on the bare ground with nothing over us or under us but the heavens above and the earth beneath, completely at the mercy of green flies, swarming by the thousands. They kept our wounds full of creepers, and these sucked off the poison from our festering wounds. My head was on a sweet gum bush, for a pillow. There were two volunteer nurses…. [They] braced my foot and broken leg up by driving sticks round it, to keep it from falling over.

Wilkerson recovered without losing his leg.” Pvt. Sam Emerson was fortunate enough to be able to travel and rode in the wagon train with the Confederate wounded, crossing the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland, and safely arriving back in Virginia. He recovered and was back with his regiment by September.”

The 3rd reached Hagerstown on the afternoon of July 6 and camped southeast of town on the Sharpsburg Road. Here they stayed and nursed their wounds until July 10. It was a much needed and well earned rest. For the first six days of July they had marched, fought, and stood on alert with little or no food or water all in merciless heat or driving rain with no chance to even take off accoutrements or change clothes. On that one day of July 2 the men had fought three hours, most of it a continuous uphill struggle, on no sleep, a few bites of breakfast, and no dinner or supper. It failed because it was more than human flesh could accomplish.

On July 14, Hood’s division, now led by Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law, crossed back into Virginia (since mid – June the new state of West Virginia) at Falling Waters. It had won eternal fame with its war record, even in defeat. Now it would remain on Southern soil for the rest of the war. Joseph B. Policy of the Texas brigade left this simple epitaph to their service: “Judged by its losses, which are usually held true criterions of the gallantry of a regiment and the dangers it faced, the 3rd Arkansas bore the brunt of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Colonel John Griffith

Colonel John Griffith

    Colonel John Griffith was born August 1, 1831 in South Carolina and was the oldest of four brothers who served in the Confederate army. His parents, Samuel Acass “Case” Griffith (b. 1805 in South Carolina) and Barbara Way Davidson Riddlesperger (b. 1806 in South Carolina) had moved first from South Carolina to Lauderdale County, Mississippi and then to Sebastian County, Arkansas before the Civil War. John Griffith’s other siblings were Charity (b. 1833 in South Carolina), Samuel Arthur “Moss” (b. 1837 in South Carolina), Benjamin H. (b. 1840 in Mississippi), Barbara R. (b. 1842 in Mississippi), Mary Harlow (b. 1844 in Mississippi), and major Ellis Ringold (b. 1846 in Mississippi). The Griffiths owned considerable land and slaves in Sebastian County just before the Civil War: over 2000 acres according to Freedmen’s Bureau documents. In 1873, John Griffith married a young widow named Mary Catherine Weaver Weldon (b. 1851 in Arkansas) and became step-father to her son Oscar Weldon (b. 1870 in Texas); John and Catherine also had one daughter, Nancy (Nina) Way (b. 1874 in Texas).

    John Griffith first enlisted in the 3rd Arkansas (Gratiot’s) State Infantry, C. S. A. with the rank of captain and commanded Company E in the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri on August 10, 1861. His younger brother, Benjamin, also in Company E, was slightly wounded at that time. John Griffith became a lieutenant-colonel in the 17th Arkansas (Rector’s) Infantry on December 17, 1861 and was elected colonel of the regiment on April 16, 1862. On September 26, 1863, he was listed as commanding the 11th & 17th (Griffith’s) Consolidated Arkansas Infantry. Colonel Griffith saw action at Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas; Iuka, Mississippi; Corinth, Mississippi; Port Hudson, Louisiana; Clinton, Mississippi; Bogue Chitto Creek, Mississippi; Franklin, Mississippi; and orchestrated the capture of the Federal tinclad U.S.S. Petrel by Confederate cavalry on the Yazoo River, Mississippi on April 22, 1864. The 11th & 17th Consolidated Arkansas Infantry was ordered to join up with General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command in April, 1865 and being unable to do so, Colonel John Griffith and his men were surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama by Lieutenant-General Taylor on May 4, 1865. Colonel Griffith was then paroled at Jackson, Mississippi on May 13, 1865.

    According to one version of family history, Colonel Griffith returned home to the family plantation in Sebastian County, Arkansas after the war only to find things in ruin and his family absent. Former slaves could only tell him that his family had “gone to Texas.” Archival documents, however, indicate that he found his family living near Richmond, in Sevier County. Arkansas after the Civil War. This area became part of the new county of Little River, formed in 1867.

    Colonel John Griffith became involved in organizing armed resistance to Federal militia during reconstruction in and around Sevier and Little River Counties during this time. During this time, the surname Griffith became very familiar to the Federal authorities—notably General B. F. Catterson and Governor Powell Clayton; martial law was declared for Little River County by Governor Clayton in 1868. Shortly after his younger brother, Ben Griffith, was killed by Freedman’s Bureau agents in Clarksville, Red River County, Texas in July of 1868, Colonel John Griffith and the rest of his family left southwestern Arkansas for sanctuary in Texas.

    Traveling with a younger brother (M. E. R. Griffith) and two other Confederate veterans (Mat McCrary and Joseph Bishop), Colonel Griffith managed to avoid Federal patrols and made it across the Red River into Texas. One day, Colonel Griffith rode into Comanche and recognized an old, one-eyed mule that belonged to his family. He hid and waited to see who would claim the mule, and was elated to find it was his nephew, S. A. “Bud” Griffith.

    Colonel Griffith then lived in Taylor and Kimble Counties, Texas where he was instrumental in the early days of each county’s organization and government. Then, on March 7, 1889, Colonel John Griffith was shot and killed by two brothers, Joab and Mack Brown under unclear circumstances. He is buried with his wife Catherine in the Copperas Cemetery in Kimble County, Texas. On April 24, 1966 the state of Texas dedicated a historical monument to Colonel John Griffith at the Junction Courthouse in Kimble County.

Biographical sketch written by the great-great-nieces and -nephew of Col. John Griffith:

    Jessie Jo Caveness—Junction, Texas
    Loraine Fleming Ake—Abilene, Texas
    Kenneth Elburn Byrd—Indianapolis, Indiana
    Rolene Guthrie Stewart—Junction, Texas

Negligence on the Right: The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville

Negligence on the Right: The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville

Chancellorsville, Virginia, May 2, 1863

 My God, here they come!” Such was the exclamation of Captain Harry Russell of Joseph Hooker’s staff when he saw panic-stricken men of the Eleventh Corps racing down the Plank Road toward Chancellorsville. Russell’s cry was the first indication Hooker had of “Stonewall” Jackson’s celebrated flank attack, which left the Union commander’s once promising campaign in ruins.1 Also ruined was the reputation of the Eleventh Corps, the object of Jackson’s assault. Unjust censure by Hooker and others left an indelible stain on the corps’ honor, which the blood of subsequent battles could not remove.

The Eleventh Corps, joined the Army of the Potomac late in 1862 following the Battle of Fredericksburg. Their arrival was greeted with suspicion and mistrust. This was due in part to their new affiliation with the army, but it was due in larger measure to the composition of the Corps itself. Army veterans saw two points of concern here. First was the large percentage of new units in the corps. Eleven of 27 regiments–a full 40 percent–had never been tested in battle. Second was the corps’ large foreign element. More than half of the unit’s 12,000 men were born in Germany or were of recent German descent.2 This ethnic preponderance was reflected in the officer corps, which featured names like Schurz, Schimmelpfennig, Buschbeck and von Gilsa.

The commander, too, had been a German. Franz Sigel was not only the military, but also the spiritual leader of these men, and if the expression “I fights mit Sigel” elicited smiles in the rest of the army, it was a matter of solemn pride to those in the Eleventh Corps. Sigel, however, did not remain to fight with the Army of Potomac. A dispute in rank led to his resignation in April 1863, and he was replaced by Oliver O. Howard, formerly of the Second Corps.

Howard at thirty-two was one of the North’s youngest major generals. He had graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1854, and was an assistant professor of mathematics there when the war began. During the first years of the struggle he had proved himself a brave, if not brilliant, commander. In 1862, as brigadier general in the Second Corps, he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, an injury which cost him his right arm. Yet an empty sleeve and a reputation for valor would not gain him a warm reception when he joined the Eleventh Corps. For all his qualities he was still an outsider; for all his virtues, he was not Franz Sigel.

Optimism filled the ranks when the army broke camp for the opening of the 1863 campaign. The high spirits may be credited to the army’s new commander Joseph Hooker–“Fighting Joe” to the press–who, through various measures had restored the army’s morale and confidence after the recent debacle at Fredericksburg. Hooker had at his command 135,000 eager, well-trained troops forming what he proudly dubbed “the finest army on the planet.”

The Union commander’s opening move was superb. Splitting his army, he left a portion of force within sight of the Confederate line at Fredericksburg to hold his enemy in place, while he personally led the bulk of the army in a forty-mile march around the rebel left, gaining their rear. But then, with victor in his grasp, Hooker lost his nerve and ordered the army into a defensive position centering on a brick house known as Chancellorsville.

Hooker’s line at this point resembled an overturned “L.” The smaller leg of the “L,” held by the Second and Fifth Corps, ran from the Rapidan River south to Chancellorsville. Here the line turned abruptly to the right and followed the Orange Turnpike west two and one-half miles further, ending a short distance beyond the Wilderness Church. This larger leg of the “L” was held by the Twelfth, Third, and Eleventh Corps. The entire line lay within the bounds of the Wilderness, an area of dense thickets and heavy undergrowth.

Howard’s three divisions defended the Federal right. Responsibility for guarding the army’s flank fell to his First Division, commanded by Charles Devens. Devens was a Harvard law graduate and had been a prominent barrister and a state senator in Massachusetts. He was not, however, purely a political general. Prior to the war he had served as a brigadier general in the state militia and for two years he had fought with the Union forces in the East, first in the Fourth Corps, later in the Sixth Corps. Like his commander, O. O. Howard, he joined the Eleventh Corps just days before the campaign opened. Like Howard, too, his arrival was a source of discontent among long-standing Eleventh Corps veterans. 3 At Chancellorsville, Devens would command two brigades, Nathaniel McLean’s “Ohio Brigade” and Leopold von Gilsa’s Brigade of Pennsylvania and New York troops.

Howard’s Second Division was led by Adolph von Steinwehr. Steinwehr had been born into a German military family and had himself received training in several European military academies before emigrating to America. Like his counterpart, Devens, he had been a general of a state militia before the war. Steinwehr’s two brigades maintained the left of Howard’s line. Francis Barlow’s First Brigade acted as corps reserve and was massed north of the Orange Turnpike in the fields surrounding Dowdall’s Tavern. The Second Brigade, under Adolphus Buschbeck, lay in line south of the inn, and connected Birney’s Third Corps Division on the left with Schurz’s Eleventh Corps Division on the right.

Carl Schurz was perhaps the most interesting officer in the corps. Born in Prussia in 1829, he had played a leading role in the 1848 Revolution in Germany. When the uprising failed, Schurz fled his homeland and emigrated to America. Schurz was highly educated and possessed great oratorical skills, which found use in the cause of abolition. His influential support of Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election won him a diplomatic post abroad in 1861 and a commission as brigadier general of volunteers one year later. At Chancellorsville he commanded the Third Division of the Eleventh Corps, which was placed at the center of Howard’s line, near Wilderness Church. His two brigades were led by Alexander Schimmelpfennig and Wladimir Krzyzanowski.

The Eleventh Corps position on May 2nd invited attack. The corps was strung out in a one and one-half mile line along the Orange Turnpike, extending from Dowdall’s Tavern on the east, past the Wilderness Church, and ending a short distance beyond in the thick woods west of the Talley House. The entire line fronted south with the exception of the 153rd Pennsylvania and the 54th New York Volunteers of Gilsa’s Brigade, which faced west toward the open right flank. More troops should have been placed so as to defend the right, especially since the ground itself offered no protection.

Harbored deep in the forest where maneuver was difficult and surprise possible, the flank was entirely “up in the air.” The line was not refused to meet an attack from the west, nor was there any natural barrier like a creek or hill on which to anchor the line. The only protection was the thick brush and the defenses constructed by the men themselves.

These man-made defenses, too, proved woefully insufficient, consisting only of rifle pits supplemented by slashings of trees and brush. These earthworks, like the men who dug them, faced south. The only line facing west toward the open flank was a line of shallow rifle pits, which stretched across the rolling, open fields behind Dowdall’s Tavern. Constructed on May 1st by Barlow’s Brigade, these earthworks were not completed and stood but waist high.4 That the defenses were not stronger nor better placed was largely the fault of Howard, who did not believe Confederate troops capable of penetrating the dense thickets to his front. 

At that time the Confederates were miles away, threatening the Union left and center; Howard’s position seemed secure. This changed early on May 2nd when Third Corps scouts high atop trees at Hazel Grove described a sizable Confederate column two miles distant moving east to west across the Union front. Hooker learned of this movement at 9 a.m. From high ground, near the Chancellor house the commanding general could himself see the column. He was baffled, though, as to its meaning. Returning to his headquarters, he spread a map out before him. “It can’t be retreat,” he muttered, “retreat without a fight? That is not Lee. If not retreat, what is it?” Then the answer came to him. “Lee is trying to flank me.”

Immediately Hooker sent a dispatch to Generals Howard and Slocum on the right. Written by his aide-de-camp, J. H. Van Alen, it read:

Major-Generals Howard and Slocum:

I am directed by the major-general commanding to say that the position 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 positions 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 a 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 information of their approach.7

The warning proved unnecessary. Before receiving Hooker’s dispatch, Howard had himself spotted the column. At 10:50 a.m. he wrote back:

General:

From Gen. Devens’ headquarters (Taylor) we can observe a column of infantry moving westward on a road parallel with this on a ridge about 1½ to 2 miles south of this. I am taking measures to resist an attack from the west.

The measures taken were minor. They consisted of placing reserve artillery behind Barlow’s rifle pits, and posting Captain D. E. Castle’s signal station beyond the Eleventh Corps right flank. Beyond those two things, nothing was done

Hooker could only speculate as to the measures Howard was taking. It mattered little to him, however, for by noon he was convinced that the Confederates were not attacking, but were in retreat.10 If this was a hasty assumption, it was not an illogical one. Hooker outnumbered Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia by more than two to one, Lee was boxed in on two sides, and Union cavalry would soon be playing upon Confederate lines of communication. What alternative was there but retreat? Such were the thoughts that dominated Hooker’s thinking that day and continued to engross his mind until Russell’s cry broke the spell early that evening.

Hooker was so thoroughly convinced that the Confederate movement was a retreat that at noon he granted Daniel Sickles’ request to allow David Birney’s Division to leave the line and march south and harass the progress of the enemy. 11 Reinforcements were later dispatched, until by late afternoon more than 20,000 men had been sent south, including much of Henry Slocum’s Twelfth Corps. The removal of Slocum and Birney’s men from the defensive line isolated the Eleventh Corps and left it without support. When Jackson’s attack came, Howard’s men would have to fight alone.

Evidence of Jackson’s impending attack was abundant that day had Howard and his officers chosen to heed it. Foremost in neglect was Charles Devens. Sometime after 10 a.m. Captain Castle reported sighting a Confederate column marching west, across the Eleventh Corps front. Devens undoubtedly knew of the report, but did not investigate the matter.12 By noon Union pickets of the First Division were engaged in heavy skirmishing. A short time later Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Friend officer-of-the-day for the division, reported an enemy force moving around the Union right. Much to Friend’s surprise, the general seemed unimpressed by the news and took no action.

Colonel John C. Lee of the 55th Ohio later confirmed Friend’s report, only to be told by Devens that no sizable enemy force could be in the vicinity without Howard notifying him of the fact. Lee returned twice that day to repeat his warnings and brought with him several men who had witnessed the enemy concentration. Still Devens would not listen. When Lee, in his third visit, persisted in his warnings, Devens grew impatient and said to him, “You are frightened, sir!” later remarking, as Lee remembered, that it was “not worth while to be scared before we were hurt.”

Other reports were brought to the Talley house that afternoon. Pickets brought in two men who had seen the Confederates moving on the Union right flank.15 Union cavalrymen reported being fired upon when they tried to advance west on the Orange Turnpike.16 Colonel William Noble of the 17th Connecticut Volunteers warned of a Confederate concentration on the right.17 These warnings only made Devens irritable. When Colonel William P. Richardson of the 25th Ohio arrived at 3 p.m. bearing tidings of danger, the general exploded. The rebels were in retreat, he said, and Richardson was unnecessarily scared. The unfortunate colonel was ordered back to his regiment.

For six hours Devens did nothing while reports of danger circulated through the camp. Only at 5 p.m. did he send a cavalry patrol down the Turnpike to investigate. The horsemen returned after a short time to announce that a large body of Confederate infantry blocked the road a short distance beyond Gilsa’s line. Even now, Devens was unconvinced. “I wish I could get someone who could make a reconnaissance for me!” he complained. “General, I can go further”, replied the squadron leader, “but I cannot promise to return.” The cavalrymen were ordered into bivouac.

If Devens acted unwisely, he did no worse than his superior. From the beginning, O. O. Howard did not believe an attack from the west possible due to the dense thickets which surrounded him. Now, with the sound of Birney’s artillery rumbling in the distance and rumors of Confederate retreat racing through the camp, Howard was blinded from the truth. He rejected out of hand all reports of an enemy threat on his right, dismissing them as the product of a few excited imaginations on the picket line.

To a military man like Howard false information, willful or not, was a serious offense to be dealt with harshly. Colonel Friend was the first to suffer from the general’s misguided wrath. After failing to impress Devens with his report of the Confederate concentration, the colonel reported his intelligence to Howard, who upbraided him for “trying to get up a scare.” When Friend returned an hour later to reiterate his warning, Howard angrily told him that the Confederates were in retreat and charged him with cowardice.

Other reports were received in like manner. Lieutenant A. B. Searles who was sparring with enemy skirmishers on the Union right, heard beyond the rebel line “a queer jumble of sounds, a confusion of orders, and then their bugles sounding the call to deploy.” He correctly surmised that the Confederate army lay just beyond his view. Repeatedly, he sent officers to the rear bearing warnings to this effect, but as he later recalled, “they all came back without anything being done. The last one reported back to me that General Howard said ‘that Lieut. Searles must not be scared of a few bushwackers.'”

Nearby, Major Owen Rice of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, too, had discovered the enemy’s presence. At 2:45 p.m. he issued the following urgent dispatch to Colonel Leopold von Gilsa:

Col. L. Von Gilsa,

A large body of the enemy is massing in my front. For God’s sake make dispositions to receive him!22

Gilsa hand-carried this message to Devens, then to Howard, but he was rebuked.

Had Gilsa’s warning come one hour earlier, Howard might have been more wary and less abrupt. Just before the brigade commander arrived, the general had received another caller. This was Captain Alexander Moore of Hooker’s staff. Moore reported that Birney was handsomely driving in the Confederate rearguard at the Furnace and expected soon to come into contact with the main rebel force. Would Howard be able to send a brigade to his support? The general demurred. The only brigade not in line was that of Barlow, his corps reserve. Moore left to consult with Hooker, but the information he brought remained with Howard. The Confederates were in retreat, and Sickles was among their trains! When Gilsa arrived, his frantic plea took on the appearance of baseless fear. New troops! They could not be trusted. The only enemy Gilsa’s men faced were a handful of rebel cavalrymen covering the withdrawal. Tell the men that they should not be frightened by a few bushwackers!

An hour later Moore returned bearing a dispatch from Hooker ordering that Barlow’s brigade be released immediately for duty at the Furnace. Since his 9:30 order that morning, Hooker had successively removed every supporting unit within two miles of the Eleventh Corps: first Birney’s Third Corps Division, then Williams’ Twelfth Corps Division, and now Barlow’s Brigade. Would he do this if he was not sure of the enemy position? Any doubts Howard might have had were dispelled. No only did he release Barlow’s Brigade for duty with Sickles, but he joined the unit on its march to the Furnace.

There was one high-ranking officer in the corps who was worried that day. This was Carl Schurz. He had been present at Dowdall’s Tavern when many of the earlier warnings had arrived. He was convinced that there was danger on the Union right and urged Howard to face Devens’ entire division west to meet the threat. Howard refused. On his own responsibility, Schurz turned two of his own reserve regiments toward the open flank. It was to be the only precaution taken by a general that afternoon.

Schurz shared his fears with a battery commander, Captain Hubert Dilger. He ordered Dilger to seek out an area whence his guns could fire to the west. Dilger did so, then rode out into the woods beyond the Federal right to make personal reconnaissance. One-quarter mile from Gilsa’s line the dense brush gave way to an open field, wherein thousands of greyclad soldiers were arrayed for battle. Dilger had barely caught a glimpse of the scene when a group of rebel cavalrymen came dashing toward him. Back into the thickets he went, enemy horsemen at his heels. Furiously he galloped across the woodland paths, urging his horse on, until at length the sound of pursuing hoofbeats faded. The artillery chief was alone.

He was also lost. For what seemed like a long time, Dilger stumbled blindly along the meandering forest trails until finally he reached the Federal line north of Chancellorsville. In haste, he rode to Hooker’s headquarters and told his story to one of the general’s aides. The officer laughed and told him to go tell his yarn at Eleventh Corps headquarters. Dilger mounted his weary steed and rode west.

It was past 4 p.m. when he arrived at Dowdall’s Tavern. Howard was not there. He had gone to capture some Confederate regiments, Dilger was told. Again the captain recited his story to staff officers; again he was not believed. Dejected, he returned to his battery.

Meanwhile, not far away, the colonels of McLean’s Brigade were conferring. All knew of the danger lurking in the western woods. Repeatedly they had warned their superiors, only to be rebuffed with taunts and rebukes. The group rode over to Gilsa’s line for observation. Captain Elias R. Monfort of the 7th Pennsylvania remembered that:

when Colonel Riley returned to the regiment, he seemed very much excited, and, calling the regiment to their feet behind their stacked guns, made a very impressive speech that no member of the regiment present can easily forget. Among other things, he said: “A great battle is pending in which many lives will be lost. Some of us will not see another sunrise. If there is a man in the ranks who is not ready to die for his country, let him come to me, and I will give him a pass to go to the rear, for I want no half-hearted, unwilling soldiers or cowards in the ranks tonight. We need every man we have to fight the enemy. If a comrade falls, do not stop to take him away or care for him, but fight for the soil on which he falls and have him by victory.” Concluding his speech, which was made under the appearance of great excitement, he told the men to lie down and rest, but under no circumstances to leave their guns.25

Not all officers were so circumspect. Indeed, a visitor casually viewing the camp late that afternoon would have seen little to indicate the near presence of danger. Soldiers appeared scattered about the landscape, laughing, chatting, and smoking. Some, disburdened of knapsacks and other trappings, played poker; others cooked evening meals over a fire. In the distant fields parties of soldiers were engaged in the butchering of cattle, and nearby a regimental band buoyed the troops’ lagging spirits with song.

A closer inspection, however, belied the carefree appearance. Officers, chatting in hushed tones beside the road wore anxious expressions as they nervously scanned the western horizon. The men, though seemingly in disorder, remained close to their place in line, ready to “fall in” at a moment’s notice. Arms were held by soldiers or carefully stacked, so as to be readily available. Aware of the danger, regimental commanders had prepared their troops for action. When Jackson’s attack came, each man would be at his post, rifle in hand.


On the threshold of disaster: The Eleventh Corps at 5 p.m., May 2, 1863


        The attack commenced about 5:30 that evening.27 One man noted that “its first lively effects, like a cloud of dust, driving before a coming shower, appeared in the startled rabbits, squirrels, quail, and other game flying wildly hither and thither in evident terror, and escaping, where possible, into adjacent clearings.”28 Federal soldiers, not yet perceiving the cause of this phenomenon, cheered. Hardly had their cry been raised when it was silenced by the boom of hostile artillery on their flank. In a moment bugle calls filled the air, followed by the shrill cry of the rebel yell. Jackson was upon them. As one Union officer reported:

The enemy rushed forward with an alacrity only explained by the wild enthusiasm that nerved them and fused their manhood. The close array, broken to shreds of alignment by the now bleeding thickets, compacted again and again, at opportunity by the ceaseless ‘Close up’ of the officers, swept forward like a cyclone, reeling amidst a forest of titans. Obstacles that had harassed our advance, and hampered our retreat, yielded to the fierce momentum of an army, in three-fold volume of masses, all saturated with the spirit of their almost superhuman leader. . . . The confident enthusiasm and resolute ardor of that massive attack, clad in ashen gray and simple trappings, have never been surpassed.29

The first victim of Jackson’s assault was the brigade of Leopold von Gilsa on the Federal right. Gilsa had five regiments at his command, but only two faced west toward the enemy. These units fired three rounds before being overwhelmed and forced to flee. Their sister regiments, facing south, were raked by enfilading fire on their right and rear, and ran without a shot.

Within seconds Gilsa’s well-ordered brigade became a panic-stricken mob, each man fending for himself. Many threw down their rifles to facilitate their flight; others retained their weapons and fell back firing and reloading with dogged determination.31 One man, in the center of the fury, became engaged in a personal duel with a member of the opposing army. A comrade remembered that under shelter of a tree, with stagey gesture and a mumbled “ye ca-ant fool me,–ye ca-ant fool me,” he repeatedly loaded, feinted and drew back,–advanced and retired, and with a wild “who-o-o-o!” fired. His vis-a-vis at length, called up a comrade to draw the Yank’s fire, and planted a ball in his exposed knee. Limping to the rear, [he] fairly bellowed: “damn ye, ye fooled me that time,–ye fooled me that time,” his mortification at being fooled overcoming all other suggestions.32

The men of Gilsa’s Brigade fled eastward, where they encountered Colonel Reilly’s 75th Ohio Volunteers of McLean’s Brigade coming to their support. The rush of Gilsa’s men nearly broke the Ohio line, but Reilly managed to hold his unit in place until the crowd had passed. By then the enemy was but 30 yards away. Over the tumult the voice of Reilly was heard ordering his men to fire. A crash of rifles, a cloud of smoke, and the Confederates were thrown back. Before they could recover, another volley was poured into their ranks. Yet the Confederates came on, their mighty force bearing down upon Reilly’s small line like an avalanche. The regiment broke ranks and fled, leaving their gallant colonel mortally wounded in the hands of the foe Colonel William Richardson’s 25th Ohio now advanced into the fray. Like the 75th Ohio, it had been posted in rear of McLean’s main line and turned to meet the enemy when he attacked. Like the 75th too, it took on Jackson’s corps alone, was enveloped, and was quickly driven from the field. Richardson, who Devens had charged earlier with cowardice, fell dangerously wounded at the head of his men.

McLean’s three remaining regiments lay in line facing south along the Orange Turnpike. This placed them in a position to receive Jackson’s fire, but not to return it. Colonel John Lee, commanding one of these regiments, had foreseen this problem, and at the first sign of battle had ridden to division headquarters to urge Devens to change front. “Not yet,” he was told. Lee returned to the right to find Gilsa’s line breaking and McLean’s remaining regiments under a severe enfilading fire. Again he rode to the Talley House and implored Devens to change front. The request was again denied. Lee returned to the open flank in time to see his hapless command crumble beneath the weight of the superior Confederate numbers. Lee was temporarily disabled in the fight and his counterparts Colonel Seraphim Meyer of the 107th Ohio and Colonel William H. Noble of the 17th Connecticut, were wounded.

Over 20 minutes had elapsed since Jackson’s horse artillery had signalled the Confederate advance, yet in that short time the Southern legions had destroyed Devens’ Division and gained their first objective, the Talley house plateau. On a rise a short distance east of the Talley plateau sat General Howard. He had returned from the Catharine Furnace just minutes before Jackson’s attack began. From a vantage point near the Wilderness Church, the general witnessed the whirlwind of his folly.

I could see numbers of our men–not the few stragglers that always fly like chaff at the first breeze, but scores of them–rushing into the opening some with arms and some without, running or falling before they got behind the cover of Devens’ reserves, and before General Schurz’s waiting masses could deploy or charge. The noise and the smoke filled the air with excitement, and to add to it Dieckmann’s guns and caissons, with battery men scattered, rolled and tumbled like runaway wagons and carts in a thronged city. The guns and the masses of the right brigade struck the second line of Devens before McLean’s front had given way; and, more quickly than it could be told, with all the fury of the wildest hailstorm, everything, every sort of organization that lay in the path of the mad current of panic-stricken men had to give way and be broken into fragments.35

Howard’s previous negligence was acquitted in some measure by the courage he now displayed. Seizing a discarded banner from the ground, he rose among Devens’ terrified masses exhorting them to stand their ground. Though bullets filled the air and his horse fell beneath him, he persisted in his efforts to rally his men. Some heeded his cry and joined the line forming near the church. Others shouted “We’ve done all we can!” and ran on.36

The fighting, which heretofore had raged mostly in the woods, now shifted to the open fields around the Wilderness Church. This ground was held by the division of Carl Schurz. Schurz had anticipated an attack from the west and was prepared. He used the brief time allotted him to effectively wheel his southward-facing brigades into a line fronting west across the clearing.37 A picket vividly recalled the pageantry and precision of the movement:

I remember as we came out through that valley we saw the Hawkins house and Schurz’s line of battle, with its flags waving, right toward us. Devens’ First Division had melted away and was screaming back upon him. Round came his line like a top, swinging sharply as though upon a pivot. I never saw anything done so quick. Not more than two minutes before Schurz’s men were facing south. Now their front was to the west–in unbroken line, shoulder to shoulder, to stem the torrent of men.38

In all, Schurz was able to muster 5,000 men to meet the rebel advance. Opposing him were 18,000 Confederates, “a perfectly solid mass of men,” as one hard-pressed Federal noted.39 Howard recalled that “as the attacking force emerged from the forest and rushed on, the men in front would halt and fire, and, while these were reloading, another set would run before them, halt and fire, in no regular line, but in such multitudes that our men went down before them like trees in a hurricane.”40

The gray-clad masses were an inviting target for artillery and Howard’s reserve batteries, posted on the cast edge the clearing, opened on the Confederate lines with telling effect.41 Equally telling was the fire of Dilger’s battery near the Turnpike. In accordance with Schurz’s earlier instructions, this conscientious officer had searched out a position from which his guns could resist an attack from the west. Now, as the Confederate line entered the clearing, Dilger’s canister-filled guns reaped a frightful harvest. “Capt. Dilger’s guns in the road were served with marvelous rapidity, “remarked one soldier, “The ground shook with the frequency of their discharge, and there seemed a continuous thunder peal from their iron throats.”42

Thus aided by artillery, Schurz resisted the rebel advance. His stand was brief. On his right, the 26th Wisconsin and 58th New York were coming under a heavy fire. Few regiments fought better that day. They had been among the first regiments struck by Jackson’s corps, and though heavily outnumbered, had maintained their post until ordered to withdraw. Now, as they held the right of Schurz’s beleaguered line, their flank was again threatened with envelopment.43 On the division’s left the situation was equally bad. There, too, Confederates had gained a flanking position and were enfilading the Federal line. Enveloped on both left and right, Schurz’s line toppled after only 20 minutes.44

Jackson pursued his shattered enemy across the open fields. Though his men had marched more than 12 miles that day and had gone largely without food, they displayed neither languor nor fatigue. Flushed with victory, they advanced with increased vigor toward the last of Howard’s lines. A wounded officer of McLean’s Brigade watched them as they rushed by. “They came on with very little attention to line formation,” he remembered, “and clad in as motley an array of uniforms as could be imagined; but they were all disciplined and eager to go on. I heard one officer cry, ‘Oh, for only one more hour of daylight!'”45

The battle was more than an hour old. The First and Third Divisions had been demolished; only Buschbeck’s Brigade of the Second Division remained unconquered. This unit had been holding the line south of Howard’s headquarters when Jackson struck. For a time, the colonel held his troops in place to defend against an attack from the south. When no attack from that quarter was forthcoming, Buschbeck hurried his men across the road and occupied the shallow shelter trenches Barlow had constructed earlier. There his troops waited until Schurz’s vanquished masses came screaming back upon them. About 2,000 of Schurz’s men were rallied at the new line, raising the Union strength there to 4,000 rifles in all.46

This time the Federal troops would have to fight without the support of artillery. Hemmed in by Barlow’s crowded earthworks ahead and the woods behind, the three reserve batteries could neither fire nor retreat effectively. Howard wisely ordered them to the rear. Dilger’s battery on the road was coming under a heavy fire, and with the exception of a single gun, it too was withdrawn.

Confused, outnumbered, and fighting, without artillery support, the troops behind Barlow’s rifle pits stood little chance of success. Yet they defended themselves stubbornly, resisting Confederate assaults and even launching counterattacks of their own.47 Had they only had to contend with frontal assaults, they might have held the line until dark, but as had happened so often before, Jackson’s long lines overlapped the Union flanks. The Confederates poured a destructive fire down the Northern ranks, and the Buschbeck line, like previous Union lines that day, evaporated.48

The collapse of the Buschbeck line signalled a general panic among Howard’s troops. Men and officers alike fled in confusion down the turnpike and through the woods in an effort to escape capture. Only Buschbeck and Dilger retired in order. The former marched his men down the road in column, while the latter, his battery reduced to one gun by the narrowness of the road, kept up a steady fire of canister as he withdrew. The Confederates did not closely pursue.49

Unaware of this fact, members of the corps continued their mad rush to the rear. John L. Collins of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry described the scene west of Chancellorsville:

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 Eleventh Corps that crowded each other on the road. . . . 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.50

Even before the fighting on the Buschbeck line had ended, Eleventh Corps refugees were arriving at Chancellorsville, bearing news of the debacle. Their plight excited great alarm but little sympathy among their comrades. Captain T. W. Osborne of the Third Corps noted that Howard’s men

had been routed, and were fleeing to the river like scared sheep. The men and artillery filled the road, its sides, and the skirts of the field; and it appeared that no two of one company could be found. Aghast and terror-stricken, heads bare and panting for breath, they pleaded like infants at the mother’s breast that we should let them pass to the rear unhindered.51

 When they reached Chancellorsville, many fugitives turned left onto Ely’s Ford Road, hoping to gain safety north of the river. “‘Var ish de pontoons?'” they cried, “‘Der wash too many mens for us.’ ‘I ish going to mine company,’ they continually exclaimed. . . .”52 

One German, unable to find his way in the confusion, asked Winfield Scott Hancock for directions to the pontoons. Unfortunately, the general’s response is not recorded, the chronicler of the episode not wishing to put the words into “cold and unsympathetic type.” Other Eleventh Corps members were so frightened that in their rush to the rear, they passed through Hancock’s lines and were captured by McLaw’s Confederates on the other side of the army.53

Meanwhile, west of Chancellorsville, Eleventh Corps officers were attempting to rally their men. John Collins had joined the stampede and recalled the scene:

In the very the 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 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. . . . 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. . . . 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.54

By 9 p.m., officers were successful in rallying about half of the corps’ remaining strength. Howard, with more than 2,000 men, formed to the left of Hiram Berry’s Third Corps Division, while on Berry’s right, astride the Bullock Road, stood Carl Schurz with 1,200 others.55 As the shells whistled overhead, the battered corps infantry awaited an attack which would not come. “Stonewall” Jackson had fallen, and the Confederate advance had stalled.

Eventually, as reinforcements arrived on the field, the Eleventh Corps was withdrawn to Chancellorsville where officers spent the rest of the night reforming their fragmented commands. By morning the depleted corps was placed in line along the Mineral Springs Road near the Union left. Three days remained before the army would recross the river to safety, but for the Eleventh Corps the fighting was over.

If their part in the battle had been short, it had also been severe. More than 2,400 had been lost–over 25 percent of those engaged.56 Losses had been especially high among officers. Of the 23 regimental commanders entering the battle (less Barlow’s Brigade), 12 were casualties, including every colonel in the Ohio Brigade.

The Eleventh Corps was blamed for the defeat at Chancellorsville, but upon reflection this seems unfair. The men in the ranks had performed admirably. In reconnaissance they had been vigilant; in combat, brave; and in defeat, persistent. They had discovered Jackson’s flanking movement early in the day and reported the threat repeatedly to their commanders. When struck in flank and rear by an enemy force twice as large as themselves, the corps fought stubbornly, inflicting about 1,000 casualties on their foe and delaying his advance for one and one-half hours.57 

When finally broken and driven from their trenches, members of the corps were quickly reformed and put back in line, ready to fight again.

Yet for all of this, they were denounced by the army and the press alike as the “Flying Dutchmen.” Censure of the corps began with Howard himself, who just hours after the attack ascribed the debacle not to his own negligence, but to a want of resistance by his men.58 

Hooker accepted this explanation without question and was quick to disseminate it. On May 7th, he wrote to President Abraham Lincoln: If in the first effort we failed, it was not for want of strength or conduct of the small number of troops actually engaged, but from a cause which could not be foreseen, and could not be provided against. . . . [The troops] should not be discouraged or depressed, for it is no fault of theirs (if I may except one corps) that our last efforts were not crowned with glorious victory.59

Hooker’s criticism of the corps the war was more direct and caustic. He claimed, among others things, that the corps “had been completely surprised and disgracefully routed” and that “they left guns, knapsacks, and everything, and the whole corps ran back like a herd of buffaloes.”60 

Hooker was not alone in expressing his opprobrium. Sickles, Pleasonton, Birney, and Warren all blasted the corps in later congressional testimony.61 

Howard and Devens remained curiously silent. t is interesting to note that each of the corps’ main detractors played a large role in determining the outcome of that day’s events. Foremost in rank and perhaps culpability was Joseph Hooker. He set the stage for disaster in April when he sent the bulk of his cavalry away on a fruitless raid. Deprived of its “eyes and ears,” the army was left vulnerable to surprise. He must also be criticized for his incredible indolence throughout May 2nd. The Confederate movement, as noted early in the day, could signify one of two things: retreat to Gordonsville, or an attack on the Union right. If a retreat, Hooker should have vigorously pressed all corps forward in pursuit; if an attack, he should have personally reviewed the measures taken by Howard to meet such an assault.62 

Hooker did neither. Instead he allowed Birney’s Division to leave the line, thus isolating the Eleventh Corps. He exacerbated the situation still further when he later ordered Barlow’s Brigade to report to Sickles. Deprived of support either within or without the corps, Howard’s troops were destined to ruin. Finally, Hooker’s very demeanor was deleterious to the army. During the afternoon as Jackson impatiently urged his men on, Hooker lounged on the veranda of the Chancellor house enjoying the spring day. His confidence in the Confederate retreat was contagious. It not only impaired his own vigilance, but that of his subordinates.

Second on the list of culpability is O. O. Howard. From the start, he believed an attack on his corps impossible due to the heavy brush. He failed to throw up formidable earthworks, or to take substantial measures to “resist an attack from the west,” even when the threat of attack from that quarter was brought to his attention by Hooker. His confidence in the Confederate retreat was such that he not only disregarded warnings of danger sent to him by his pickets, but on more than one occasion chided them for cowardice. When ordered by Hooker to send Barlow’s Brigade to Sickles’ support Howard did not protest this action, but personally accompanied the movement, leaving the Eleventh Corps leaderless for two hours.

The last major culprit is Charles Devens. As commander of the westernmost division of the army, it was his duty to acquaint himself with the roads of the region and make sure they were well guarded. This he did not do.63 When his pickets were driven in by rebel skirmishers that afternoon, Devens took no steps to ascertain the force confronting him. Later, when officers brought information suggesting the massing of troops on his flank, he refused to credit their reports, or even to make a personal investigation of the situation.64

Other critics of the Eleventh Corps played lesser roles in the tragedy. Sickles, author of the foray to the Catharine Furnace, isolated the Eleventh Corps. Birney’s advance to the ironworks was extremely slow, and he failed to recognize the small force which confronted him there. Warren, as the army’s chief engineer, was partly responsible for the weak defensive line held by Howard. Pleasonton, as commander of Hooker’s cavalry force at Chancellorsville, should have used his force in actively patrolling the exposed Union flank.65

When the reports and testimony of Hooker et al were known, members of the Eleventh Corps were incensed. Led by Carl Schurz and Alexander Schimmelpfennig, they protested the attacks on their reputation and requested a Court of Inquiry. This request was denied. Schurz then asked that his official report be made public. This, too, was refused. In this way, the truth was suppressed.66

After the war, articles were published exonerating the corps from all charges of neglect and cowardice. But it was too late. The image of the “Flying Dutchman” was firmly impressed upon the public mind. A century has passed, and still the image persists. It may be hoped that future historians will disregard the prejudices of the past and examine the facts anew. Only then will the loyal service of the Eleventh Corps be recognized and its stain of dishonor removed.


FOOTNOTES

  1. John Bigelow, Jr., The Battle of Chancellorsville. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1910), 301.
  2. For a discussion of the Eleventh Corps composition at Chancellorsville, see Augustus Choate Hamlin, The Battle of Chancellorsville. (Bangor, Maine: Augustus Hamlin, 1896), 38-43.
  3. Ibid., 43-44. See also Hartwell Osborn, “On the Right at Chancellorsville,” Military Essays and Recollections. Vol. IV, (Chicago: Cozzens & Beaton Co., 1907), 176.
  4. Hamlin, 37.
  5. Early on May 2nd, Hooker inspected the Eleventh Corps line. With him came Captain Cyrus B. Comstock of the Engineers. During the inspection Comstock noticed several gaps in Howard’s line and admonished the general to fill them.
            “The woods are thick and entangled; will anybody come through there?” Howard asked.
            “Oh, they may!” replied the engineer.
    Taken from: Oliver O. Howard, “The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville,” 
    Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Vol. III, (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle, 1983), 195. This book is cited hereinafter as B & L.
  6. Bigelow, 276. He quotes J. Watts DePeyster.
  7. B & L III, 219 fn. A short time later, Hooker sent a second dispatch of like import to Howard alone. The Eleventh Corps commander denied having received these messages, though Carl Schurz asserted that he was with Howard when the dispatches arrived. B & L III, 220. See Howard’s comments on the matter in B & L III, 196. See also Joseph Hooker’s interview in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1872.
  8. Bigelow, 279.
  9. Hamlin, 22.
  10. Early in the afternoon Darius Couch, commander of the Second Corps, went to Chancellorsville. He was met outside by the commanding general who exclaimed, “Lee is in full retreat toward Gordonsville, and I have sent out Sickles to capture his artillery.” B & L III, 163.
  11. Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889), 386. This source is hereinafter cited O.R.
  12. Hamlin, 143. Bigelow, 287.
  13. John Lee, article in Philadelphia Weekly Times, February 1, 1888. A similar article of his appeared in the National Tribune on May 19, 1885. See also Bigelow, 288.
  14. Osborn, 185. Hamlin, 145.
  15. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 633-634.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Elias R. Monfort, “The First Division, Eleventh Corps, at Chancellorsville,” G.A.R. War Papers. Vol. 1, (Cincinnati: Fred C. Jones, n.d.), 62.
  18. Ibid. See also Hamlin, 59-60. See also account of man who calls himself “Scalpel,” in the manuscript collection of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
  19. Hamlin, 145.
  20. Lee article, Philadelphia Weekly Times, February 1, 1888.
  21. Account of Alvey Searles in manuscript collection of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
  22. Owen Rice, Afield With the Eleventh Army Corps at Chancellorsville. (Cincinnati: H. C. Sherrick & Co., 1885), 23.
  23. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 652.
  24. Roland Lowery, The Story of Battery I, First Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, 1861-1865. (Cincinnati: Roland Lowery, 1971). See also Hamlin, 56-57.
  25. Monfort, 62-63.
  26. James H. Peabody, “Battle of Chancellorsville,” G.A.R. War Papers. Vol. I, (Cincinnati: Fred C. Jones, n.d.), 50.
  27. Accounts vary widely as to when the attack began. Among Southern sources, George Doles says 5 p.m., Robert Rodes 5:15 p.m., and Raleigh Colston 6 p.m. “precisely.” In general, Confederate sources place the commencement of hostilities at around 5 p.m., while Union sources put it later, at around 6 p.m. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 941, 966, 1003.
  28. B & L III, 197.
  29. Rice, 24-25.
  30. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 636. For a good account of Gilsa’s stand by a participant, see Owen Rice, Afield With the Eleventh Army Corps at Chancellorsville.
  31. Monfort, 64.
  32. Rice, 28.
  33. Monfort, 64.
  34. Scalpel Manuscript. Bigelow, 296. Monfort, 64-67.
  35. B & L III, 198. Howard and his Chancellorsville biographer, John Carpenter, maintain that he returned just prior to the attack. Other sources, including Augustus Hamlin and John Bigelow, believe that Howard had not yet returned to his headquarters when Jackson struck. Carpenter, 54. Bigelow, 296. Hamlin, 158, 165.
  36. B & L III, 199. James Peabody, a harsh critic of Howard, says he found the general near the Wilderness Church “completely confused and bewildered.” He further states that Howard wielded a revolver in his left hand and shouted to those who ran past, “Halt! Halt! I’m ruined, I’m ruined; I’ll shoot if you don’t stop; I’m ruined, I’m ruined.” Peabody’s essay is little more than a diatribe against Howard and must be read accordingly. Peabody, 53.
  37. In his official report, Schurz described the difficulty he encountered in effecting his maneuver. He stated, “The officers had hardly had time to give a command when almost the whole of General McLean’s brigade, mixed up with a number of Colonel von Gilsa’s men, came rushing down the road from General Devens’ headquarters in wild confusion, and, worse than that, the battery of the First Division broke in upon my right at a full run. This confused mass of guns, caissons, horses, and men broke lengthwise through the ranks of my regiments deployed in line on the road. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 654-655.
  38. Searles manuscript.
  39. Ibid.
  40. B & L III, 199.
  41. Hamlin, 70-74; O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 652.
  42. Searles manuscript.
  43. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 666-667.
  44. Carpenter, 55.
  45. Osborn, 189.
  46. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 662.
  47. Ibid., 657.
  48. Howard claims the Buschbeck line held its ground only 15 minutes, Confederate General George Doles estimates the line stood 20 minutes, and General Schimmelpfennig says the line stood for more than one hour. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 662, 966. Carpenter, 55.
  49. Lowery. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 645-646, 657.
  50. B & L III, 183-184.
  51. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 483.
  52. Bigelow, 311. He quotes Three Years in The Army of the Potomac, by H. N. Blake of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers.
  53. Bigelow, 311.
  54. B & L III, 184.
  55. Hamlin, 77-78.
  56. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, p. 183.
  57. Hamlin, 127, 131-132.
  58. Ibid., 158.
  59. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. II, p. 438.
  60. Hooker interview with San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1872, and the Philadelphia Weekly Times, February 15, 1879.
  61. Hamlin, 160-166.
  62. B & L III, 163.
  63. Scalper manuscript.
  64. Colonel John Lee, later governor of Ohio, maintained that Devens was drunk at Chancellorsville. If true, this would explain the general’s unusually negligent behavior that day. Lee interview with the Philadelphia Weekly Times, February 1, 1888.
  65. It is interesting to note that of the seven men here cited for misconduct leading to the disaster, five–Howard, Devens, Pleasonton, Warren, and Birney–were promoted before the war’s end. In contrast of the six men most active in trying to avert the disaster–Schurz, Lee, Dilger, Buschbeck, Friend, and von Gilsa only Schurz later received full promotion.
  66. Hamlin, 170-172. O.R., Series I, Vol. XXV, pt. I, pp. 658-663.