Reports of Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox,, C. S. Army,
April 27-May 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
HEADQUARTERS W1LCOX'S BRIGADE,
Near Salem Church, Va., May 10, 1863.
Maj. THOMAS S. MILLS,
Assistant Adjutant-General of Division.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part borne by my brigade in the recent engagements with the enemy in this vicinity, commencing on the 1st and ending on the 5th instant:
On the 29th ultimo, orders were received to be ready to move at a moment's notice, it being known that the enemy were advancing in heavy force from the direction of Chancellorsville.
The following day artillery was heard at intervals in that vicinity, and on the next (the 1st instant) the brigade moved under orders up the Plank road, and soon came within hearing of musketry. Arriving at the intersection of the Plank road and the old turnpike, the command followed the latter, and it was not long till they came under a distant artillery fire, our troops being at the time engaged skirmishing with the enemy, about I mile off. Having reported to General McLaws, commanding on this road, the brigade was ordered to the right, on the Mine road, and a battery was directed to be posted with the view of engaging one of the enemy's, then sweeping with its fire the old turnpike. [John W.] Lewis' battery, attached to my command, was soon in position. The enemy, however, ceasing to fire, the brigade was formed in line on the right of General Perry's brigade, and this on the right of General Wofford's. This brought my command to occupy in part a line of rifle-pits running from Banks' Ford to within a few hundred yards of the Mine road.
At 6.30 p.m. orders were received to advance to the front. This forward movement was continued, though with much difficulty, owing to the densely thick forest, till the darkness of the night rendered it impracticable to go farther. The command was halted near Duerson's Mills, on Mott's Run, three-fourths of a mile from the Rappahannock, and, having established pickets in our front and on our flanks, the command bivouacked for the night. Two companies were ordered out on patrol, with the view of ascertaining whether or not the enemy occupied the River road near Decker's house, and, if not, to communicate with our pickets, left near Banks' Ford. The enemy were found not to occupy the River road. The companies, returning, captured 3 Federal soldiers, making their way, so they stated, to the United States Ford.
At 10 p.m. orders were received to return to the old turnpike, and halt for the remainder of the night in rear and near the advanced troops on that road. This point was reached near 2.30 a.m., and soon after orders came to return to Banks' Ford, and to hold it at all hazards, it being reported that the enemy were in force there and threatened to cross. The ford was reached at daylight; the command had thus been on the march the entire night.
The 2d instant, the brigade remained near Banks' Ford. Large bodies of the enemy's infantry and artillery were seen moving up on the opposite side of the river. Artillery was also heard in the direction of Chancellorsville. Strong pickets were kept up during the night near the ford.
Having visited my line of pickets on the morning of the 3d instant, I found that the enemy had reduced very much (apparently) his force. The sentinels on post had their haversacks on, a thing unusual. This induced me to believe that much of the force from Banks' Ford had been sent to Chancellorsville, and, having been ordered the day before by the commanding general to leave a small force to watch the ford if in my judgment I was satisfied that the enemy did not intend to cross, and then move up the Plank road, reporting the fact to him, I relieved my pickets, being convinced, as stated, that the enemy had removed most of his forces from Banks' Ford and did not intend crossing there. Leaving only about 50 men and two pieces of artillery to guard Banks' Ford, my command was being formed to march to Chancellorsville, when one of my pickets (infantry) came running from the canal in front of Dr. Taylor's to report to me that the enemy were advancing up the road between the canal and the river. Hurrying rapidly to the canal, I saw the enemy advancing on the direct road from Fredericksburg, three regiments being seen, the leading one not more than 1,000 yards distant. Gathering in my pickets along the canal and at the dam above Taylor's-in all less than 20 men--they were deployed as skirmishers on the crest of the hill in front of Dr. Taylor's, and near the canal. Two rifled pieces of [Frank] Huger's battery, already prepared to move to Chancellorsville, were ordered into position in the battery across the road from Taylor's.
While these dispositions were being made, our infantry were seen taking position in the rifle-pits near Stansbury's house. Huger's two rifled pieces, being now in position, opened with a fire of shell upon the enemy, who had halted in the road upon the display of our skirmishers. The advanced one of these regiments moved down the river in front of Falmouth, and sought shelter from our artillery fire in the rifle-pits along the river; the other two regiments remained in the road, lying down, the stone knolls on either side of which gave good protection. The enemy being so easily checked by the display of such a small force on our side, I was induced to believe that it was only a demonstration to keep us near Fredericksburg and prevent re-enforcements from going to Chancellorsville. Seeing a group of officers near Stansbury's house, I rode to them, and met Generals Barksdale and Hays. The former informed me that the enemy were in considerable force in and below Fredericksburg (this was the first intimation I had of the fact), and expressed some anxiety as to his right flank, and said that he should have re-enforcements. I now determined not to move my command up the road until I knew definitely the intention of the enemy, and ordered them in the ravine opposite Dr. Taylor's, where they would be near and yet out of sight. I now rode to the vicinity of the Marye house, to see and confer with General Barksdale. While near the house, I saw great numbers of the enemy in Fredericksburg, and a battery in the street running near the cemetery was firing occasional shots at a battery of ours to the left of the Plank road. I returned to my command without seeing General Barksdale, and, on my return, saw several regiments of the enemy's infantry moving out of the upper edge of the town. I had been with my command but a few minutes when one of General Barks-dale's staff reported to me that the general was hard pressed, and wanted me to send him a regiment. I instantly ordered the Tenth Alabama to move in the direction of the Marye house, and rode rapidly in that direction myself, and when in the open field and high ground between Stansbury's and the Plank road, saw Hays' brigade moving over in the direction of the Plank road. This I supposed to be for the support of General Barksdale, but upon inquiry from one of Hays' regiments learned that the enemy had taken Marye's Hill end a portion of two of Barks-dale's regiments, and that Hays' brigade was falling back to the Telegraph road. Soon a courier from General Barksdale confirmed this report, and with a suggestion from General Barksdale that I also had better fall back to the Telegraph road. On the left of the Plank road the ground in rear of Marye's Hill is higher, and overlooks and commands well that hill. Believing that my own and Hays' brigade could form in line, extending from near Stansbury's house along the crests of the hills toward the Plank road, and contest the field at least for a time successfully, with the enemy, I asked General Hays not to cross the Plank road, but to remain with me. This he declined doing, having been ordered to fall back to the Telegraph road, and was soon out of sight.
Thus far I have given a simple narrative of incidents as they occurred. Finding myself alone on the left of the Plank road, with the enemy in full view on the crests of the first range of hills in rear of Fredericksburg, and with three times my own force clearly seen and in line, I felt it a duty to delay the enemy as much as possible in his advance, and to endeavor to check him all that I could should he move forward on the Plank road. With this view, I formed my brigade promptly in line along the crests of the hills running near Stansbury's house, at right angles to the Plank road. Two rifled pieces of Lewis' battery were placed in position to the rear of the left of my line, and two slightly in front of my right, which rested some 500 or 600 yards in front of Guest's house. Skirmishers were thrown forward, covering my entire front. As soon as the four pieces of artillery were in position, they opened fire upon the enemy's lines, some 800 or 900 yards to the front. This held the enemy in check for some time. At length they deployed skirmishers to the front and began to advance. This was slow, and, delayed by frequent halts, they seemed reluctant to advance. The enemy now brought a six-gun battery to the front on the left of the Plank road, not far from Marye's house, and opened with a fire of shells upon my line. The enemy's skirmishers now advanced and engaged ours, not nearer, however, than 350 or 400 yards, their solid lines remaining some distance behind the skirmishers. The enemy's battery having fired for some time, both the skirmishers and lines in rear advanced. They had also moved by a flank across the Plank road, and it was reported to me that they were moving up on the far side of the road, and were on a line with my right flank. The artillery was now directed to withdraw; then the skirmishers rejoined their regiments, and all moved to the rear on the River road, half a mile in rear of Dr. Taylor's, where they were halted for a few minutes.
In this affair with the enemy, Lieutenant [A.] Barksdale, of Lewis' battery, received a severe wound in the shoulder from a piece of shell 3 infantry killed, and 18 or 20 wounded by skirmishers.
From this slight affair with the enemy, I felt confident, if forced to retire along the Plank road, that I could do so without precipitancy, and that ample time could be given for re-enforcements to reach us from Chancellorsville; and, moreover, I believed that, should the enemy pursue, he could be attacked in rear by General Early, re-enforced by Generals Hays and Barksdale. I now directed Major [C. R.] Collins, [Fifteenth] Virginia Cavalry, who was with me with some 40 or 50 men, to move over to the Plank road slightly in rear of Downman's, and, dismounting a part of his men in rear of a thickets of pine, to deploy them to the right and left of the road as skirmishers. The command then moved on to the red church (Salem Church), on the Plank road. The enemy followed up the Plank road, and halted when the skirmishers of Major Collins were seen by them. Having examined the ground near the tollgate, I determined to make a short stand there. My brigade was then moved back in line from Salem Church, and halted in rear of the gate. Two rifled pieces were placed in the road, and we waited the approach of the enemy. They were soon heard to fire on Major Collins' skirmishers (who retired after a short skirmish), and at length appeared in lines preceded by skirmishers. Major Collins' men mow retired to the rear, and skirmishers were deployed from the regiments to their front. Our artillery opened fire upon the enemy's advancing lines. This caused a halt, and a slight fire ensued between the skirmishers. The enemy now brought up artillery, and began a brisk shelling of our lines. At this time Major [James M.] Goggin, assistant adjutant-general to General McLaws, reported to me that General McLaws had sent three brigades to my support, and that they would soon arrive. These brigades were directed to be halted in rear of the church, and out of view of the enemy. In this affair with the enemy, Lieutenant [James S.] Cobbs, of Lewis' battery, received a severe wound in the arm, rendering it impossible to command his pieces longer. They were then ordered to the rear. Three of the infantry were killed and 15 wounded. My command was now ordered back to the church.
The conduct of my men during all this time was such as I knew it would be, leaving nothing to be desired, and I felt the utmost confidence in my ability to make a successful stand at the church with the three supporting brigades. At Salem Church line of battle was formed, crossing the road at right angles. Two regiments of my brigade (the Eleventh and Fourteenth Alabama) were on the left of the road, the latter on the left of the two; the Tenth Alabama on the right next to the road, and the Eighth Alabama on the right of the Tenth. There was an interval of 75 or 80 yards between the left of the Tenth and the right of the Eleventh. In this interval on the road four pieces of artillery were in battery. The Ninth Alabama was in rear of the Tenth, one company of the Ninth being stationed in the school-house, to the right of the church, and in front some 60 yards. A second company of this regiment was placed in the church, with orders to fire from the windows of the lower floor and from the windows of the gallery (this church being occupied with furniture of refugees from Fredericksburg). Such was the formation of my brigade for battle. I am thus particular in giving details, for the reason that the principal attack was made at the church and its immediate vicinity. Kershaw's brigade was on the right of my brigade; Semmes and Mahone on the left; Mahone to the left of Semmes. The brigades had not been in position long before the enemy were seen advancing up the Plank road in line of battle. Their lines crossed the road at right angles. A field battery accompanied their advance. This was halted at the gate, about 1,000 yards distant, and soon opened with a brisk fire of shells upon our battery near the church. The two batteries fired some fifteen or twenty minutes, when ours was withdrawn for the want of ammunition.
The enemy then threw shells to the right and left of the church, through the woods, endeavoring to reach our infantry. These latter were well protected while lying down, and no casualties occurred from explosions of shells.
The enemy's artillery ceased to fire near 5 p.m. Their skirmishers then advanced; a spirited fire ensued between the skirmishers for some fifteen or twenty minutes. Ours then retired, firing as they fell back. The enemy's skirmishers pursued, followed by their solid lines of infantry and still a third line in rear. On either side of the road, as they advanced from the toll-gate, were open fields, and the ground slightly ascending. These fields continued to within about 250 yards of the church, and then woods, thick, but of small growth. When the front line of the enemy reached this wood, they made a slight halt; then, giving three cheers, they came with a rush, driving our skirmishers rapidly before them. Our men held their fire till their men came within less than 80 yards, and then delivered a close and terrible fire upon them, killing and wounding many and causing many of them to waver and give way. The enemy still press on, surround the school-house, and capture the entire company of the Ninth Alabama stationed in it, and, pressing hard upon the regiment in rear of the school-house, throw it in confusion and disorder, and force it to yield ground. The Ninth Alabama, in rear of this regiment, spring forward as one man, and, with the rapidity of lightning, restore the continuity of our line, breaking the lines of the enemy by its deadly fire and forcing him to give way, and, following him so that he could not rally, retake the school-house, free the captured company, and in turn take their captors. The entire line of the enemy on the right of the road is repulsed, and our men follow in rapid pursuit. The regiment that had given way to the first onset of the enemy now returned to the attack and joined in the pursuit. The enemy did not assail with the same spirit on the left of the road, and were more easily repulsed, and now are followed on either side of the road, which is crowded with a confused mass of the discomfited enemy. With a good battery to play upon this retreating mass, the carnage would have been terrific. There was no rallying or reforming of this line. Another line came up the Plank road at a double-quick, and, filing to the right and left, formed line in front of my brigade. This line was scarcely formed before they were broken by the fire of my men, and fled to the rear.
The pursuit continued as far as the toll-gate. Semmes' brigade and my own were the only troops that followed the retreating enemy. In rear of the gate were heavy reserves of the enemy. Our men were now halted and reformed, it being quite dark, and retired, not pursued by the enemy, leaving pickets far to the front in the open field. The vigor of the enemy's attack at the church was doubtless due to the fact that they believed there was only one brigade to resist them, and that they anticipated an easy affair of it, while the number of dead and wounded left on the field attests the obstinacy of the resistance of our men--200 of the former and more than 150 of the latter, and largely over 200 prisoners not wounded and 1 Federal flag captured.
Thus ended this spirited conflict at Salem Church; a bloody repulse to the enemy, rendering entirely useless to him his little success of the morning at Fredericksburg. The rear of our army at Chancellorsville was now secure and free from danger, and the Sixth Army Corps of the enemy and a part of the Second were now content to remain on the defensive.
I beg to assure the major-general commanding that the conduct of both officers and men of the brigade was in the highest degree creditable. They were furiously attacked by superior forces, and not only stood their ground, but repulsed the enemy with great loss, pursued him, and, encountering a second line in their pursuit, they scattered and dispersed this body also. Night and want of ammunition prevented a farther pursuit.
This success, so brilliant for our men, was dearly earned by the sacrifice of the lives of 75 of the noble sons of Alabama, and the wounding of 372, and 48 missing, an aggregate of 495. Of the missing, the most, wounded in the early part of the day near Stansbury's and afterward at the tollgate, fell into the hands of the enemy. Six officers were killed and 23 wounded. The killed were Capt. R. A. McCrary, Eighth Alabama, a valuable officer, much lamented by his regiment; Capt. W. C. Murphy, Ninth Alabama, highly distinguished at the battle of Williamsburg, where he received two severe wounds. He fell at Salem Church in the thickest of the fight, and in advance of his men. Lieutenants [M. J. T.] Harper, Tenth Alabama; [O. L.] Strudwick, Eleventh Alabama; [M. L.] Bankston and [H. M.] Cox, Fourteenth Alabama, all fell fighting, with the heroism of veteran soldiers, against greatly superior forces of the enemy.
Among the severely wounded are Colonel [Y. L.] Royston, Eighth Alabama; Colonel [L.] Pinckard, Fourteenth Alabama; Major [R. A.] McCord, Fourteenth Alabama; Captain [E. M.] Cook, Tenth Alabama; Lieutenants Barksdale and Cobbs, Lewis' battery, all alike distinguished for their intelligence and valor.
I cannot call to your notice all officers that are deserving of special praise, for the conduct of all was excellent. I will, however, report that the five regimental commanders--Colonel Royston, Eighth Alabama (and, after his severe wound, Lieutenant-Colonel [H. A.] Herbert, who commanded the Eighth Alabama); Colonel Pinckard, Fourteenth Alabama; Colonel [William H.] Forney, Tenth Alabama; Colonel [J. C. C.] Sanders, Eleventh Alabama; Major [J. H. J.] Williams, Ninth Alabama--were intelligent, energetic, and gallant in commanding, directing, and leading their men.
The brigade slept on the field at Salem Church the night of the 3d instant. On the morning of the 4th, the enemy were seen in our front, and fired occasional shots during the day from a battery some 1,200 yards distant. Three additional brigades arrived on the 4th, and late in the afternoon a general advance was made against the enemy, Early on the right, Anderson in the center, and McLaws holding his position on the left. The enemy gave way rapidly, and was soon driven across the river, having been on this side little over twenty-four hours. I followed the enemy in the direction of Banks' Ford with two regiments (Eighth and Ninth Alabama) of my brigade, supported by Kershaw's brigade, this advance being made about 9.30 p.m. Above and near Banks' Ford, 13 officers and 150 men were taken prisoners; among the officers, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 major, and 2 captains. No loss on our side in this affair.
Captains [J. H.] King and [M. G.] May, Ninth Alabama, were distinguished for their activity and gallantry, having captured these prisoners with their two companies.
[Capt. B. C.] Manly's battery rendered valuable service in shelling the retreating enemy near Banks' Ford. Twenty of the enemy were wounded by this shelling, and fell into our hands the next day, and many were killed.
The morning of the 5th instant, the brigade moved in the direction of Chancellorsville, in common with the other brigades of the division, and bivouacked during the night to the left and near Chancellorsville.
Next morning, moved out to take our position in line of battle, but soon ascertained that the enemy had retired, and recrossed the Rappahannock. The brigade then returned to its former camp near Banks' Ford.
While my entire command acquitted themselves handsomely in their engagement of the 3d instant with the enemy, I cannot close this report without calling to your especial notice the conduct of one entire regiment of the brigade--the Ninth Alabama. This regiment, the weakest in numbers, occupied a position in rear of the strongest regiment of the brigade. This strong regiment, hotly pressed by the enemy in heavy force, was thrown into confusion, and gave way. The Ninth Alabama sprang forward instantly into the vacant space left in our line, boldly confronting the enemy, and by a close and deadly fire of musketry broke his line and drove him back.
To my staff--Capt. W. E. Winn, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieut. M. M. Lindsay, aide-de-camp--I am under obligations for services cheerfully rendered during our recent operations. Captain Winn was conspicuous for his gallantry at Salem Church in assisting to rally and reform promptly one of my regiments that had been thrown into disorder and confusion, and while thus engaged his horse was shot.
To Major Goggin, assistant adjutant general to General McLaws, I am also indebted for his gallant and valuable services rendered at the same time and on the same occasion.
I also beg to commend to your favorable notice my two couriers--Private[John C. J.] Ridgeway, of the Eleventh Alabama, and Private [J. W.] Brundidge, of the Ninth Alabama. The former had his horse killed at Salem Church.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. M. WILCOX,
Brigadier-General, Commanding, &o.
HEADQUARTERS WILCOX'S BRIGADE, May 14, 1863.
Maj. G. MOXLEY SORREL,SIR: I have the honor to report that during the recent operations in this vicinity my command have lost no colors or standards, but that one Federal flag (Stars and Stripes) was taken on the 3d instant by the Eleventh Alabama---a small, coarse, and much-worn flag. It was given to General McLaws.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. M. WILCOX,
Brigadier-General, Commanding, &c.
WILCOX'S BRIGADE, June 5, 1863.
Maj. W. H. TAYLOR,
SIR: In my report of the engagement with the enemy at Salem Church on the 3d ultimo, I mention that 200 of the enemy's dead were left on the field of battle, more than 150 wounded, and largely over 200 prisoners not wounded. The dead on the field in front of my brigade and buried by them was 248; 189 wounded. The prisoners were 375, as near as can be ascertained.
On the 5th, at night, near Banks' Ford, I mention that 13 officers and 150 men were taken; the number taken was 236. The two captains whose companies (as skirmishers) took them, have given me these numbers. I mention that one Federal flag was taken on the field, but failed to report that two others were found on the field, abandoned by the enemy. As to the time that the enemy crossed at Banks' Ford, there can be no doubt that their entire army was over by 11 or 11.30 o'clock Monday night. This fact I learn from a lieutenant of the Ninth Alabama Regiment, who got far in advance of his company, while deployed as skirmishers, and in the darkness of the night and thick undergrowth of pine fell into the enemy's hands and was taken down to the pontoon bridge at the ford, and made his escape from the enemy when thrown into confusion by our shelling of them. I make this report about the time of the crossing at Banks' Ford for the reason that I have heard it stated that the enemy were crossing all night and until broad day next morning. One of the Federal surgeons told me himself that they were crossing until sunup but I knew myself that he was mistaken. There was not one of the enemy on this side at Banks' Ford by 12 o'clock at night. As to the counting, as to numbers of dead, wounded, prisoners, &c., I make it merely to be correct, and for no other motive. Semmes and Mahone must have done, of course, good service also.
C. M. WILCOX,
Brigadier-General, Commanding, &c..
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