Today in History:

1079 Series I Volume XXV-I Serial 39 - Chancellorsville Part I


time that I could carry the position by a charge, the same as was done at Kelly's Ford on the 17th of March, but it would require the sacrifice of a hundred officers and men. I determined to make a strong, feint, under the action of which the bridge should be destroyed, and then cross the river rapidly, above or below, and get at them where the chances would be in my favor. My sharpshooters were placed in houses on the north bank, the battery placed in position, and the pioneers prepared with their combustible materials. All these arrangements were necessarily conducted with caution, and occupied some time. My guns and sharpshooters opened simultaneously with the advance of the two squadrons rapidly, as if to cross. The enemy developed his strength, and, under the impression that I was about to carry the position, he set fire to the bridge. The telegraph wires and a bridge 3 miles north of the station had been destroyed during the night by my men. I occupied the enemy while the bridge was burning, and a portion of my force crossed Robertson River and went to Barnett's Ford, on the Rapidan, which caused the enemy to shift a portion of his forces in that direction. I then determined to draw in my right, cross at Raccoon Ford, and fight the enemy if I should find him, join Buford, or throw myself on the left flank of the enemy's main body, according as circumstances and the news from our army should determine me.

Some twelve hours had been occupied at the bridge, but the enemy had been occupied during the same period, which was important, and the bridge had been destroyed, which General Hooker had desired, and many valuable lives had been saved, which I did not care to sacrifice where all the objects of the expedition could be satisfied without it. The first news I received from the army was at 6.30 a.m., May 2, when the order marked E was received, while I was carrying out my intentions mentioned above.

The division was marched to Ely's Ford, the vicinity of which it reached at 10.30 p.m. On the following morning the terrible battle of Sunday began. I sent an officer, with a party of 20 men, to examine the left of the enemy's position, resolved to throw my division upon his left flank or rear if there was any chance of striking him. The country was almost impracticable for infantry and impassable for cavalry-a thick black-jack jungle.

I then proceeded to United States Ford, and reported in person to Major-General Hooker, who did not intimate by his deportment or conversation that he entertained any dissatisfaction with regard to my operations, excepting that he had not understood why I was at Rapidan Station. I showed him my orders, and he directed me to make out a report and get up supplies for my command, and hold it in readiness for some work he should probably have for me on the morrow.

At daylight on the 4th, I received the order relieving me, before my report had been finished. My report was completed and sent up, substantially the same as this. Major-General Hooker had directed me to address the report to him, which was done. Later in the day I discovered a trifling error in the copy I had retained, and sent an aide to correct it, when, to my astonishment, I discovered that the report had not reached the general, and it was reported that Brigadier-General Van Alen, aide-de-camp, had carried it off to Falmouth. I immediately sent up a copy of it.

My loss in the above operations was 1 officer, Lieutenant Phillips, First Massachusetts Cavalry, fatally wounded, and 3 slightly wounded, 2 men killed, and a few wounded. The absence of reports from subordinate officers makes it impossible to state exactly my loss. Besides