Report of Brig. Gen. S. D. Ramseur, C. S. Army, Commanding Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
CAMP NEAR HAMILTON'S CROSSING,
May 23, 1863.
Maj. G. PEYTON,
SIR: In obedience to General Orders, No. ----, dated May 7, 1863, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my brigade in the series of skirmishes and battles opening at Massaponax Creek and ending in the splendid victory at Chancellorsville:
Wednesday a.m., April 29, the brigade was placed below Massaponax Creek, to dispute the enemy's crossing, and remained in that position, occasionally annoyed by their artillery (by which I lost a few men) and kept on the alert by picket firing, until Thursday evening, when we were withdrawn to a point near Hamilton's Crossing.
Friday, May 1, at 3 a.m., we were aroused for the march, and led the advance of Major-General Rodes' division in the direction of Chancellorsville. At a distance of 7 miles from Fredericksburg we were detached from our own division and ordered to report to Major-General Anderson, when we advanced upon the enemy, who fell back in confusion before our sharpshooters for several miles, strewing the way with their arms and baggage, this brigade, with General Posey on our right and General Wright on our left, for upward, perhaps, of 2 miles, being in advance.
About 6 p.m. we found the foe in force upon our front, and supported by batteries that poured grape unsparingly into the woods through which we were still advancing. Night approaching, a halt was ordered, and we slept on our arms, with a strong picket line on the outposts.
Saturday, May 2, we were relieved about sunrise, and shortly thereafter marched by a series of circuitous routes, and with surpassing strategy, to a position in the rear of the enemy, whom, at about 5 p.m., we were ordered to attack.
This brigade was directed to support Brigadier-General Colquitt, with orders to overlap his right by one regiment, and was placed accordingly. At the command, we advanced with the division, preserving a distance of about 100 yards in rear of General Colquitt. Brisk firing was soon heard upon our front and left, indicating that General Doles had encountered the foe. At this point General Colquitt moved by the right flank, sending me word by an officer of his staff that the enemy was attempting to turn his right. I immediately moved by the right flank, but heard no firing in that quarter. Again he sent his staff officer to inform me that the enemy was passing by his right flank, when I directed him to say to General Colquitt (in effect) that the firing indicated a sharp fight with General Doles, and that my impression was that his support was needed there, and that I would take care of his right flank. General Colquitt moved to the front, with the exception of one regiment, which continued to the right. I then pressed on by the right flank to meet the enemy that General Colquitt's staff officer twice reported to me to be in that direction, and prosecuted the search for half a mile, perhaps, but not a solitary Yankee was to be seen. I then came up to the division line, and moved by the left flank to the support of General Colquitt, whose men were resting in line of battle on the field General Doles had won.
Saturday night our division occupied the last line of battle within the intrenchments from which the routed corps of Sigel had fled in terror. My brigade was placed perpendicular to the Plank road, the left resting on the road, General Doles on my right and Colonel [E. A] O'Neal, commanding Rodes' brigade, on my left. I placed Colonel [F. M.] Parker, Thirtieth North Carolina, on the right of my brigade; Colonel [R. T.] Bennett, Fourteenth North Carolina, on right center; Colonel [W. R.] Cox, Second North Carolina, left center, and Colonel [Bryan] Grimes, Fourth North Carolina, on left.
Sunday, May 3, the division being, as stated, in the third line of battle, advanced about 9 o'clock to the support of the second line. After proceeding about one.fourth of a mile, I was applied to by Major [W. J.] Pegram for a support to his battery, when I detached Colonel Parker, Thirtieth North Carolina, for this purpose, with orders to advance obliquely to his front and left, and rejoin me after his support should be no longer needed, or to fight his regiment as circumstances might require. I continued to advance to the first line of breastworks, from which the enemy had been driven, and behind which I found a small portion of Paxton's brigade and Jones' brigade, of Trimble's division. Knowing that a general advance had been ordered, I told these troops to move forward. Not a man moved. I then reported this state of things to Major-General Stuart, who directed me to assume command of these troops and compel them to advance. This I essayed to do; and, after fruitless efforts, ascertaining that General Jones was not on the field and that Colonel [T. S.] Garnett had been killed, I reported again to General Stuart, who was near, and requested permission to run over the troops in my front, which was cheerfully granted. At the command "Forward," my brigade, with a shout, cleared the breastworks, and charged the enemy. The Fourth North Carolina (Colonel Grimes) and seven companies of the Second North Carolina (Colonel Cox) drove the enemy before them until they had taken the last line of his works, which they held under a severe, direct, and enfilading fire, repulsing several assaults on this portion of our front. The Fourteenth North Carolina (Colonel Bennett) and three companies of the Second were compelled to halt some 150 or 200 yards in rear of the troops just mentioned, for the reason that the troops on my right had failed to come up, and the enemy was in heavy force on my right flank. Had Colonel Bennett advanced, the enemy could easily have turned my right. As it was, my line was subjected to a horrible enfilade fire, by which I lost severely. I saw the danger threatening my right, and sent several times to Jones' brigade to come to my assistance; and I also went back twice myself and exhorted and ordered it (officers and men) to fill up the gap (some 500 or 600 yards) on my right, but all in vain. I then reported to General Rodes that unless support was sent to drive the enemy from my right, I would have to fall back.
In the meantime Colonel Parker, of the Thirtieth [North Carolina], approaching my position from the battery on the right, suddenly fell upon the flank and handsomely repulsed a heavy column of the enemy who were moving to get in my rear by my right flank, some 300 or 400 of them surrendering to him as prisoners of war. The enemy still held his strong position in the ravine on my right, so that the Fourteenth [North Carolina] and the three companies of the Second [North Carolina could not advance The enemy discovered this situation of affairs, and pushed a brigade to the right and rear of Colonel Grimes, and seven companies of Colonel Cox's (Second [North Carolina]), with the intention of capturing their commands. This advance was made under a terrible direct fire or musketry and artillery. The move necessitated a retrograde movement on the part of Colonels Grimes and Cox, which was executed in order, but with the loss of some prisoners, who did not hear the command to retire. Colonel Bennett held his position until ordered to fall back, and, in common with all the others, to replenish his empty cartridge-boxes. The enemy did not halt at this position, but retired to his battery, from which he was quickly driven, Colonel Parker, of the Thirtieth [North Carolina], sweeping over it with the troops on my right.
After replenishing cartridge-boxes, I received an order from Major-General Rodes to throw my brigade on the left of the road, to meet an apprehended attack of the enemy in that quarter. This was done, and afterward I was moved to a position on the Plank road, which was intrenched, and which we occupied until the division was ordered back to camp near Hamilton's Crossing.
The charge of the brigade, made at a critical moment, when the enemy had broken and was hotly pressing the center of the line in our front with apparently overwhelming numbers, not only checked his advance, but threw him back in disorder, and pushed him with heavy loss from his last line of works.
Too high praise cannot be accredited to officers and men for their gallantry, fortitude, and manly courage during this brief but arduous campaign. Exposed as they had been for five days immediately preceding the fights on the picket line, they were, of course, somewhat wearied, but the order to move forward and confront the enemy brightened every eye and quickened every step. Under fire all through Wednesday, Wednesday night, and Thursday, without being able effectually to return this fire, they bore all bravely, and led the march toward Chancellorsville on Friday morning in splendid order. The advance of the brigade on Friday afternoon was made under the very eyes of our departed hero (Jackson), and of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill, whose words of praise and commendation bestowed upon the field we fondly cherish. And on Sunday the magnificent charge of the brigade up in the enemy's last and most terrible stronghold was made in view of Major General Stuart and our division commander, Maj. Gen. R. E. Rodes, whose testimony that it was the most glorious charge of that most glorious day we are proud to remember and to report to our kindred and friends.
To enumerate all the officers and men who deserve special mention for their gallantry would be to return a list of all who were on the field. All met the enemy with unflinching courage; and for the privations, hardships, and splendid marches, all of which were cheerfully borne, they richly deserve the thanks of our beautiful and glorious Confederacy.
I cannot close without mentioning the conspicuous gallantry and great efficiency of my regimental commanders. Colonel Parker, of the Thirtieth [North Carolina], who was detached during the fight of Sunday to support a battery, and having accomplished that object moved forward on his own responsibility, and greatly contributed to wrest the enemy's stronghold at Chancellorsville from their grasp, as well as prevent their threatened demonstrations upon the right of my brigade; the gallant Grimes, of the Fourth [North Carolina], whose conduct on other fields gave promise of what was fully realized on this; Colonel Bennett, of the Fourteenth [North Carolina], conspicuous for his coolness under the hottest fire, and last, though not least, the manly and chivalrous Cox, of the Second [North Carolina], the accomplished gentleman, splendid soldier, and warm friend, who, though wounded five times, remained with his regiment until exhausted. In common with the entire command, I regret his temporary absence from the field, where he loved to be.
Major [Daniel W.] Hurtt, Second North Carolina State troops, commanded the skirmishers faithfully and well.
To the field and company officers, one and all, my thanks are due for the zeal and bravery displayed under the most trying circumstances.
To the gentlemen of my staff, I owe especial thanks for services rendered on the march and upon the field. Capt. Seaton Gales, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant [Caleb] Richmond, aide-de-camp, were with me all the time, promptly carrying orders under the very hottest fire. I take pleasure, too, in speaking of the bearing of Private James Stinson, courier, a youth of twenty, who displayed qualities a veteran might boast of, and of the conduct of Private J. F. Beggarly, also a courier to headquarters.
To Dr. [G. W.] Briggs, senior surgeon of the brigade, my thanks are due for his skill, zeal, and care of the wounded.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
STEPHEN D. RAMSEUR,
RETURN TO CHANCELLORSVILLE ORDER OF BATTLE (ANV) PAGE