Report of Maj.
Gen. Lafayette McLaws, C. S. Army, Commanding Division, First
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
May 10, 1863.
Major [W. H.] TAYLOR,
On May 1, instant, at 12.30 o'clock at night, the brigades of Generals Kershaw, Semmes, and Wofford were put in march up the Plank road by orders from your headquarters, the brigade of General Barksdale remaining in Fredericksburg and vicinity, and by 6 o'clock in the morning were in position behind the rifle-pits about Smith's Hill, and extending to the right and left, joining General Anderson's command on the left, to defend the approaches from the United States Ford and from the direction of Chancellorsville.
About 11 a.m. General Jackson, who had arrived with his forces and assumed command, directed me to advance along the Turnpike road, having Mahone's brigade, of Anderson's division, in advance. I collected my own division as rapidly as possible from the rifle.pits, each brigade as it was relieved falling in rear of the others as they advanced in the march. After proceeding but a short distance, the skirmishers became engaged. The main column, advancing slowly until the enemy appeared in force, was deployed, and the line of battle formed across the Turnpike road, Semmes' brigade on the left and those of Mahone, Wofford, and Perry, of Anderson's division, in the order here named to the right, extending so as to cover the Mine road, [Tyler C.] Jordan's battery on the main turnpike. Our skirmishers were driven in. Fire was opened on our lines from a battery 400 or 500 yards in front, and, after skirmishing to the right and left, the main assault was made on the left. (Semmes) by Sykes' Regulars, but they were repulsed at every attempt. Before the first assault, I sent word to General Jackson, by my aide-de-camp, that the enemy were in force in my immediate front, and were advancing, and that a large force could be seen along the heights about I mile or more to the rear, and that the country was favorable for a flank attack from his side. After the first assault, I received answer from General Jackson to hold my position, and that he would advance, or was advancing, his artillery, and if that did not answer he would endeavor to gain the rear of the enemy. General Kershaw coming up, his brigade was placed in support of General Semmes, extending beyond his left. The cavalry reporting that the enemy were advancing along the Mine road, General Wilcox's brigade was ordered and took position (guided by Captain [S. R.] Johnston, of General Lee's staff) to protect my right, taking artillery with him. General Jackson's artillery and his advance, in conjunction with the failure of the attack on my front, forced the enemy to retire, when, by General Jackson's order, my whole line advanced in the same order as they had been displayed as above stated. The order to advance was received at 4 p.m. My line halted at dark, and bivouacked along the heights just beyond the point where the Mine Run crosses the turnpike.
The next morning (the 2d), my line of battle was reformed along the heights in the same order as before, excepting that General Wilcox had been ordered during the night previous to return to Banks' Ford and hold that position, it having been reported that the enemy were moving down the River road, and, besides, were making demonstrations to cross the river at that ford. Two batteries were placed on the heights between General Semmes and Wofford. A strong line of skirmishers was advanced, and were constantly engaged with those of the enemy, General Kershaw's brigade held in reserve. I received orders from General Lee to hold my position, as General Jackson would operate to the left and rear. Not long after, I was directed to replace General Posey's brigade, on my left, by one from my command, and General Kershaw moved to that position on the left of General Semmes. Following this order, I was directed to send the brigades of Generals Ma-hone and Perry to the left, and close in my command so as to connect with General Anderson's right, holding my right at the turnpike, but constantly pressing to the left, so as to be in communication with General Anderson; to do which, as the country was broken and densely wooded, and the direction constantly changing, I ordered.the two brigades on the left (Kershaw's and Semmes') to advance by battalion from the left, so as to form a broken line, but still covering the front and forming the connection.
The batteries opened whenever the masses of the enemy on the hills in my front offered an opportunity, and with marked results.
My orders were to hold my position; not to engage seriously, but to press strongly so soon as it was discovered that General Jackson had attacked. It was not until late in the evening that it was known General Jackson had commenced his assault, when I ordered an advance along the whole line to engage with the skirmishers, which were largely re-enforced, and to threaten, but not attack seriously; in doing which General Wofford became so seriously engaged that I directed him to withdraw, which was done in good order, his men in good spirits, after driving the enemy to their intrenchments.
As General Jackson advanced, the enemy massed in front of the batteries on my line, which opened on them with excellent effect. This continued until darkness prevented any further efforts in my front. Generals Kershaw and Semmes had been pressing to the left and front and engaging the enemy with their skirmishers, which had left an open space, so far as the main body was concerned, between my right and center of considerable distance, but the skirmishers of General Semmes, composed of the entire Tenth Georgia Regiment, were perfectly reliable, and kept the enemy to their intrenchments, so there was nothing to be apprehended from an advance in this direction.
May 3, nothing occurred during the night save the magnificent display caused by the night attack of General Jackson. My skirmishers, well to the front and strong in numbers, engaged the enemy as day advanced. The batteries were run forward, and played upon the masses of the enemy, in good range, producing much confusion. Finally the repeated attacks of the forces on my left forced the enemy to give way from Chancellorsville, and our troops could be seen advancing across the plains.
General Wofford threw a portion o his command across the valley between him and the Chancellorsville heights, and thus prevented the escape of a considerable body of the enemy which had been opposed to his brigade and to his left and front during the morning. I directed a flag of truce to be sent them, and they surrendered. I think that General Wofford is entitled to the most credit for their capture, although the Tenth Georgia, General Semmes, and General Wright, of Anderson's division, claimed their share equally.
Kershaw and Semmes, bearing to the left to cooperate with General Anderson, to unite with the two wings of the army, had now swept around to the plains of Chancellorsville, and I directed them to march down the Plank road and unite with General Wofford's left. As this was in the act of accomplishment, information was received that the enemy had carried the heights about Fredericksburg and were advancing up the Plank road. General Lee here rode up, and ordered that the brigades of Generals Mahone and Kershaw should march at once toward Fredericksburg, with [B.C.] Manly's battery, to meet the enemy, and after their brigades were in march, and had advanced some distance, he directed me to proceed in the same direction with the remainder of my division, which was done so soon as the brigades could be formed.
On reaching the rifle-pits just beyond the junction of the Turnpike and Mine roads, I formed General Mahone's brigade along the rifle-pits; General Kershaw's halted along the road; General Wilcox's brigade was marching to the front. I ordered them all forward, but as I was here informed that the enemy in considerable force were going down the Telegraph road, and as I thought that it was perhaps their intention to march forward by the Plank and Mine roads, which came together just beyond the junction of the Plank and Turnpike roads, now in my rear, I halted General Wofford, with directions to watch the Mine road on his right. I then rode on, and found General Wilcox with his brigade in line across the Plank road at Salem Church, General Kershaw forming on his right and General Mahone on the left. I directed General Mahone still more to his left, as he was acquainted with the country, and placed General Semmes to the immediate left of General Wilcox. General Wofford was ordered forward and placed on the right of General Kershaw.
The batteries which I had brought with me had been engaged all the morning and had but little ammunition left. They had been ordered back in such haste that there was no time for them to replenish their chests, but they engaged the enemy until their supplies were nearly exhausted, and then withdrew, and were posted in the rear to command the ground on the flanks and front. The batteries of the enemy were admirably served and played over the whole ground.
Before my command was well in position, the enemy advanced, driving in our skirmishers, and, coming forward with loud shouts, endeavored to force the center (Wilcox) and left center (General Semmes), extending the attack somewhat to Mahone's brigade. One of Wilcox's regiments gave way, and, with the skirmishers running back, created a little confusion. But General Wilcox himself soon corrected this, and, reforming his men, charged the enemy in conjunction with two regiments of Semmes' brigade, led by General Semmes, and drove them back for a considerable distance. I now strengthened the left of Mahone's, which was strongly threatened, with two regiments from Wofford's brigade, on the right, and closed General Kershaw to the left, strengthening the center, supposing that the attack would be renewed; but no other assault was attempted, and, as night drew on, the firing ceased on both sides, and my command bivouacked in line of battle.
In this engagement 300 or 400 prisoners were taken, and about the same number of the enemy were killed and buried.
Just previous to the assault, I sent my inspecting officer, Major [E. L.] Costin, to try and communicate with General Early, and to bring back information as to his position and designs and the whereabouts of the enemy in that direction. A courier late in the night brought me a note from General Early, informing me that he would concentrate his forces in the morning and drive the enemy from the heights, Marye's Hill included. I sent his note to General Lee, who approving it, I forwarded to General Early, who on the next morning carried the heights with but little opposition. After this, General Early sent me word by his staff officer that, if I would attack in front, he would advance two brigades and strike at the flank and rear of the enemy. I agreed to advance, provided he would first attack, and did advance my right (Kershaw and Wofford) to co-operate with him; but finding my force was insufficient for a front attack, I withdrew to my line of the evening previous, General Early not attacking, as I could hear.
In the meanwhile I had informed General Lee of the plan proposed, and asking for an additional force. I was informed, in reply, that the remainder of General Anderson's division had been ordered forward. I then directed that no attack should be made until General Anderson arrived. General Lee came in person to superintend the movement, arriving about the same time with General Anderson's head of column. General Anderson was ordered to the right with his three brigades. My understanding was that the troops of my own division and the brigades of Wilcox and Mahone were to continue in line facing the enemy, and those of General Early and three brigades of General Anderson were to attack their right and rear. Orders were given that my troops on the right--Kershaw and Wofford--should advance after it was known that the attack on the right had commenced, which would be indicated by the firing in that direction. I was on the right of my line, straightening it and extending to the right, when notice was given that the attack would shortly be made by Generals Early and Anderson, and that Colonel [E. P.] Alexander--who had established a strong battery on a prominent hill, which commanded one of nearly equal force on the other side, which would take my line in reverse and in a measure enfilade it--should open fire. The orders were given at once. Alexander opened his batteries, and Generals Kershaw and Wofford advanced to the front through a dense woods. Distant firing in the direction of Fredricksburg was heard, indicating that the attack had commenced on the extreme right. Night now came rapidly on, and nothing could be observed of our operations.
It being reported to me from Mahone's position that the noise of crossing on the pontoon bridge at Banks' Ford could be heard, I sent to Colonel Alexander, requesting him to throw shells so as to drop them as near as possible about the crossing, which was promptly done.
Shortly afterward General Kershaw's arrival on the Plank road was reported to me, and I requested General Wilcox to assume the direction of it, and with such portion of his own brigade as he thought necessary proceed down the Banks' Ford road, taking a battery with him, to press the enemy, seize the redoubts suitable for shelling the crossing, and open fire with the battery; all of which was done in the most prompt manner, General Wilcox being acquainted with the localities, of which I knew nothing except by report.
I was as yet ignorant whether or not the attack upon the right had been a success, but the noise of their passage over the pontoon bridges convincing me that the enemy were in full retreat, I thought it best to press on in pursuit. After these orders had been given and were in execution, I received a communication from General Lee, dated 10 p.m., from Downman's house, informing me of the success of the attack on the right, and his desire that the enemy should be pushed over the river that night. Wofford's brigade advanced as far as the River road, engaging the enemy as he went, and driving them before him. He halted for the night beyond the River road, extending his pickets. Wilcox and Kershaw pushed on, driving the enemy before them, and occupied the redoubts commanding the ford and its approaches, and opened fire with artillery in that direction. As my troops advanced, I sent to Colonel Alexander, requesting him to fire on the approaches from the other side only, as I did not wish to risk his shells dropping among our troops. He did as requested, and the fire from all the batteries is reported by citizens about the ford as producing great confusion, and as being very destructive. The enemy, throwing away their arms and breaking ranks, fled across the river in the greatest disorder, as evidence of which the accompanying report of ordnance and ordnance stores picked up by my own division on this side of Salem Church shows how complete must have been the demoralization. The darkness of the night, ignorance of the country, and of the events transpiring on the other end of the line, prevented that co-operation which would have led to a more complete success; but I believe that all was gained that could have been expected under the circumstances. The enemy had several batteries (sixteen guns) in front of the left of my line, sweeping every approach from my left. I am not informed when they were withdrawn, but I suppose they were immediately after dark.
By the next morning the enemy had retired from this side of the river, and my command was employed in burying the dead, attending to the wounded, and collecting arms and accouterments. I received orders during the morning to assemble my division, send General Anderson's brigade to rejoin him, and to send an intelligent officer to the position of General Heth, at or near the junction of the River and Mine roads, to inform himself of the points to be occupied, and, if General Heth had left, to replace him by the brigade of General Mahone and another of my own; but afterward, in conversation with General Lee, he directed me to move one of my brigades (General Kershaw's) to relieve General Heth. The brigade was already in motion, and I joined with it and went to General Heth's position. The march was not delayed for a moment, as the brigade did not halt even once, and it arrived at its destination before the storm. General Heth's main command was posted in rear of the rifle-pits which had been constructed 200 or 300 yards on the Plank road side of the junction of the River and Mine roads, with smaller bodies more to the front. His men and officers had their shelter and other tents pitched, and there were no indications of his moving on my arrival. I think he received orders after my arrival to move when I arrived. General Kershaw had relieved him, and was in position before the storm commenced. General Heth informed me that the strength of the three brigades under his command was about 1,900 aggregate, which was not so numerous as the single brigade of General Kershaw. Colonel [Williams C.] Wickham offered his services to point out the different crossings on the river, and I rode down the River road with him. A terrible storm of wind and rain delayed my return to my headquarters until between 8 and 9 o'clock at night, when I learned that General Semmes had been ordered to join General Kershaw.
The next morning early I rode to the position of Generals Kershaw and Semmes, and, advancing the skirmishers and scouts, discovered that the enemy had gone over the river. Shortly after, I received orders to retire to my former position in front of Fredericksburg, leaving a brigade (Wofford's) at Banks' Ford.
The number of killed, wounded, and missing in my division [is as follows]: Kershaw's brigade, 104, of which 2 are missing; Barksdale's brigade, 592, of which 341 are missing, besides 14 officers; Semmes' brigade, 603, of which 26 are missing; Wofford's brigade, 562, of which 9 are missing; artillery, 28, of which 2 are missing. Total, 1,889.
My inspector-general reports over 1,200 prisoners taken.
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