Reports of Brig. Gen. E. A. Perry, C. S. Army, Commanding Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
HEADQUARTERS PERRY'S BRIGADE,
May 9, 1863.
Maj. THOMAS S. MILLS,
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command, consisting of the Second, Fifth, and Eighth Florida Regiments, in the recent engagements in Spotsylvania County:
On the evening of April 29, in compliance with orders from division headquarters, I moved my command to the heights in front of Falmouth, and, throwing my pickets out to the river bank, remained in line of battle until about 11 o'clock in the morning of May 1, when, in obedience to orders from Major-General Anderson, I moved with my command up the Plank road and into the old Turnpike road. I advanced up this road until I came to our line of battle held by Major-General McLaws on the right. I then received an order from Major-General McLaws to form my brigade on the right of Brigadier-General Wolford's brigade. This threw me some distance to the right of the Old Mine road. I at once formed my line of battle, and, receiving information from Major-General McLaws that the enemy was advancing on the Old Mine road, I threw out skirmishers, and so disposed my line as to enable me to command both the Old Mine road and the Duerson Mills road. Brigadier-General Wilcox soon coming up, and forming his brigade on my right, I was relieved from giving further attention to the Duerson Mills road, and resumed my original line, my right regiment resting in the rifle-pits on the left of the Duerson Mills road.
About 5 p.m. I received orders from Major-General McLaws to double my line of skirmishers and advance. I did so for about 14 miles, encountering no enemy. I halted, with Brigadier-General Wofford's brigade on my left. Brigadier-General Wilcox, not receiving orders to advance at the time, did not join my right. General Wofford, having become disconnected from the line on his left, determined to bivouac for the night. Accordingly, I threw out a strong line of pickets, and disposed my men for rest. They were very much exhausted, owing to the nature of the country though which they had advanced.
About 10 o'clock, I received an order to retrace my steps, and march up the Turnpike road to Major-General McLaws' position. I did so, and having arrived with my brigade near General McLaws' headquarters, received an order revoking the former order, and directing me to move my command back to the position I had just left. Having retaken that position, I remained until morning, everything in my front continuing quiet. Brigadier-General Wofford having re-established his connection with the line on his left, the line of battle was advanced, I moving in conformity with the line on my left, keeping out a strong line of skirmishers and sending out scouting parties to my front and right. We encountered no resistance to our advance, the enemy falling back without firing a gun. We took a few prisoners, and found some abandoned commissary stores, arms, &c.
About 4 o'clock in the evening, the line was closed up to the left, by order from Major-General McLaws, until my left rested a few paces to the right of the Pike road. My skirmishers here became engaged with the enemy, driving back the enemy's skirmishers and holding the ground gained against a brisk fire from both infantry and artillery. At dark I received an order from Major-General McLaws to report with my command to Major-General Anderson, on the left of Major-General McLaws' line, and, in obedience to Major-General Anderson's orders, bivouacked my men in the woods for rest.
Some time before daylight of the morning of May 3, I moved my command, by direction of Major-General Anderson; down the Catharpin road, for the purpose of scouring the country to the left of, and rear of the left of, Major General Anderson's line. I found the country clear, and moved up by the furnace on the left of the line, and came up with the other brigades of the division near to the enemy's works. I at once formed my line of battle, and pushed forward upon the right flank of the enemy's works, on the left of the line of General Anderson's division. The fire was quite brisk here from a line of the enemy thrown back at right angles to this front to protect his flank and rear. This line soon gave way, and, pushing forward, I found myself inside of his breastworks.
Having no knowledge of the ground, and the woods being so thick as to entirely obstruct the view, I was at a loss for some time as to the direction of the enemy's next line. Their musket-balls soon gave me the proper direction, and I changed front, and, sending out skirmishers, soon found their line on the thickly wooded hill in the rear of their breastworks, and to their right of the field in front of Chancellor's. I ordered a charge, and the enemy, after one or two rounds, broke in the utmost confusion, throwing down arms, knapsacks, &c., great numbers of them running into our lines. No sooner had the enemy's line vanished than their batteries poured a most terrific fire of grape and canister into my lines. The men lying down, and being partially protected by a small ridge, the fire was not as fatal as I had reason to fear. Upon going to the front, I found no infantry in my front between me and the Turnpike road, and that I could not lead my men against the enemy's battery without encountering the range of our own battery on the left of the rear of my line, which was then clearing out the enemy in double-quick time. While making this charge, portions of two other brigades, who were lying down in the woods, and whom a portion of my line had charged over, rushed back from the sudden and terrific fire poured into us before the enemy gave way, and the Eighth Florida Regiment, which had not then passed over them, mistaking them for the left of their own brigade, allowed themselves to be swept back a short distance by them. They were not, however, at all panic stricken, but were rallied at once, their morale and spirit in no manner impaired. I cannot think any blame should be attached to either the officers or the men of the regiment. I remained in that position until the rest of the division was marched up by General Anderson, and moved by the right flank with them to the Turnpike road, where the division halted. Soon after, I was directed, by order from General Anderson, to occupy the works on the right of the Pike road, to prevent the enemy from throwing a force into them. I remained in these works until ordered to follow the division toward the United States Ford.
That night I halted with the division, being on its left; put out strong pickets, and rested until about two hours before daylight of May 4, when I received orders to throw one regiment forward upon each of two roads running toward the ridge occupied by the enemy in the rear of Chancellorsville. I sent forward the Fifth Florida on the road leading by Grady's house, and the Second Florida about half a mile farther to the left, throwing forward a connected line of skirmishers in front of the two regiments. These skirmishers encountered the enemy's pickets in considerable force, but they offered feeble resistance, and were pressed back I or 1 miles to the enemy's intrenchments. I was then ordered by General Anderson to draw in the two regiments and line of skirmishers, and follow the division toward Fredericksburg, which I did, and was next posted on the left of the line of the division, my line being to the rear of Downman's house, Brigadier-General Posey being on my right. There being an interval of three-fourths of a mile between my left and the right of General McLaws' line, I was ordered to hold the position I then occupied until further orders, unless, when the right of our line had advanced up the Plank road to a point opposite me, I should see an opportunity to strike. I had thoroughly scouted the woods to my left, and, from the information I had obtained, felt confident of capturing both the battery at Guy's house and much of the infantry thrown up between that and Downman's house. That hope, however, as well as all opportunity for me in the position in which I was to strike a single blow to advantage, was destroyed by Brigadier-General Wright's brigade swinging across the line of battle, and charging across the field in my front before our right could so engage the enemy on the Plank road as to prevent the artillery and infantry from escaping by that road. Upon reporting my position to General Anderson, I was directed to remain there until morning.
On the morning of May 5, by direction of General Anderson, I moved to the vicinity of the Morgan house, on the Plank road; there I remained until about 4 p.m., when, with the other brigades of the division, I moved up the Plank road, and bivouacked for the night.
Early in the morning of the 6th, by order of General Anderson, I detached two regiments; posted one on the Catharpin road and one at fork of Plank road and the road leading to Spotsylvania Court-House, halting the other regiment where the Furnace road crossed the Plank road. About 1 o'clock I called in my regiments and returned to my old camp.
The conduct of both officers and men of my command through the tiresome marches and continued watching, as well as while engaging the enemy, was such as to merit high praise. The firm and steadfast courage exhibited, especially by the Fifth and Second Florida Regiments in the charge at Chancellorsville, attracted my particular attention.
I am indebted to Captain [W. E.] McCaslan, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant [D. B.] Taylor, aide-de-camp; Lieutenant [William] Scott, volunteer aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant [H. F.] Riley, acting inspector, for the great assistance they rendered me by their attention to their duties and gallant conduct.
My command was kept supplied with rations by the persevering energy of Major [T. C.] Elder, brigade commissary. Major [D. W.] Hinkle, brigade quartermaster, for his untiring efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded, who were collected at the station awaiting transportation to Richmond, has merited my particular thanks.
I inclose the list of casualties.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c.,
Brigadier-General, Provisional Army Confederate States.
HEADQUARTERS PERRY'S BRIGADE,
May 14, 1863.
Maj. THOMAS S. MILLS,
MAJOR: I have the honor to report, in compliance with instructions contained in communication from corps headquarters of May 12, that one standard was captured by my command at the last charge at Chancellorsville. It was given by my assistant adjutant-general (Captain McCaslan) to a member of the ambulance corps, to be taken to the rear, for at that time, being in the thickest of the charge, Captain McCalan did not stop to take the name of the party to whom he gave it, or the command to which he belonged; nor did he give him as definite instructions as he should have done, and the standard cannot be found.
I have the honor to report that no colors were lost by any of the regiments of my command.
I have the honor, major, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. PERRY,
Brigadier-General, Provisional Army Confederate States.
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