|May 3 - May 7, 1864 - Battle of the Wilderness, Va.
Reports of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, U.S. Army, commanding Second Army Corps.
|WASHINGTON, D.C., February --, 1865.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Second Army Corps from May 3 to May 7, 1864, including the battle of the Wilderness, this being the first epoch of the campaign, according to the division established by the major-general commanding:
The corps left its winter quarters near Stevensburg, Va., on the night of the 3d of May, with about 27,000 officers and men for duty. The First and Second Divisions, under Generals Barlow and Gibbon, were composed of the troops of the old Second Corps. The Third and Fourth Divisions, under Generals Birney and Mott, were formed by the consolidation of the old Third Corps with the Second. The Artillery Brigade, attached to the Second Corps, under the command of Col. J. C. Tidball, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, consisted of nine batteries, four of them of rifled guns and five of smooth-bore guns. The two battalions of the Fourth Heavy Artillery were attached to the brigade.
My command moved at midnight toward Ely's Ford, preceded by Gregg's division of cavalry, which met with no resistance at the river. When the infantry came in sight of the ford, the cavalry was well across and had the canvas bridge nearly laid. The bridge was soon completed by my troops, and the corps proceeded to Chancellorsville, arriving there about 9 a.m. The cavalry moved well out in advance toward Fredericksburg and Todd's Tavern.
During the afternoon communications were established with Warren's corps, on my right, by way of the plank road. My troops bivouacked for the night near the cross-roads at Chancellorsville, on the battleground of May 3, 1863.
At 5 a.m. on the 5th of May the Second Corps moved toward its designated position, at Shady Grove Church, taking the road by the Furnaces and Todd's Tavern. My advance was about 2 miles beyond Todd's Tavern, when, at 9 a.m., I received a dispatch from the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac to halt at the tavern, as the enemy had been discovered in some force on the Wilderness pike.
Two hours later I was directed to move my command out the Brock road to its intersection with the Orange plank road. I immediately gave orders for the troops to march toward the point designated. Proceeding ahead of my command to the junction of the Brock road and Orange plank road, I there met Brigadier-General Getty, commanding Second Division, Sixth Corps, who, with a part of his division, had encountered the enemy's advance at that point, and after a sharp contest had taken possession of the crossroads.
Lieut. Col. C. H. Morgan, my chief of staff, was sent by me at this hour to inform Major-General Meade that I had joined General Getty on the Brock road. General Getty's command was then in line of battle along that road, his left resting near the junction with the Orange plank road. At 2 p.m. the head of my command (Major-General Birney's division) joined General Getty's troops on the Brock road, and was at once formed on Getty's left in two lines of battle along that road.
Mott's and Gibbon's divisions, coming up rapidly, took their position on Birney's left in the same formation. Barlow's division, with the exception of Frank's brigade, which was stationed at the junction of the Brock road and the road leading to the Catharpin Furnaces, held the left of my line, and was thrown forward on some high, clear ground in front of the Brock road. This elevated ground commanded the country for some distance to the right and left covering the Fredericksburg and Orange Court-House Railroad in front.
Owing to the dense forest which covered my front this was the only point on my line where artillery could have an effective range, and I, therefore, directed that all of the batteries of my command, save Dow's (Sixth Maine) battery and one section of Ricketts' (F) company, First Pennsylvania Artillery, should be placed in position there, supported by Barlow's division, and forming the extreme left of the line of battle of the army.
Dow's battery was placed in position in the second line of battle near the left of Mott's division. One section of Ricketts' battery, under the orders of General Getty, was placed on the Orange plank road, at the point where our line of battle crossed it. My division commanders had been directed to erect breastworks immediately upon going into position. This was accomplished without delay.
Commencing at the point where my right joined General Getty's left, a substantial line of breast-works was constructed of earth and logs the whole length of my line of battle, running along the Brock road until the line diverged to the right. It inclosed the high ground occupied by Barlow's division and the artillery, from which point it was refused sharply to the left and carried across the Brock road to protect my left flank. An important road connecting the Brock and Catharpin roads came into the Brock road near where my line of breast-works terminated on the left. The second line of battle also threw up breast-works in rear of the first line, and subsequently a third line was constructed in rear of the Third and Fourth Divisions.
At 2.30 p.m. I received a dispatch from Major-General Humphreys, chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, stating that the enemy's infantry had driven our cavalry down the Orange plank road from Parker's Store, and that a portion of A. P. Hill's corps was moving on that road toward its intersection with the Brock road. This dispatch stated further that General Getty's division, of the Sixth Corps, had been ordered to drive the enemy back on the Orange road, but that it might not be able to do so. I was directed to move out the Orange plank road, supporting General Getty's division toward Parker's Store; to drive the enemy beyond that point, to occupy it, and to unite with General Warren's left on the right of Parker's Store. General Warren's line was said to extend from the Orange turnpike to within 1 mile of the plank road in the vicinity of the store.
At 2.15 p.m. I had received a dispatch from General Humphreys to the effect that the enemy held the Orange plank road nearly to its junction with the Brock road, directing me to attack with General Getty's and my own command, and to endeavor to connect with General Warren on the Orange plank road, the same dispatch stating that Griffin's division, of the Fifth Corps, had been driven back somewhat on the Orange pike; that Warren's left (Crawford's division) was within 1 mile of Parker's Store, but that it was possible that Crawford would be withdrawn or be driven in by the enemy.
When these dispatches reached me the greater portion of my troops were coming up on the Brock road from Todd's Tavern to join General Getty. Birney's division had already taken position on Getty's left. The remaining divisions were forming as they arrived on the ground, as has been described.
Owing to the fact of the Brock road being very narrow and heavily wooded on both sides, the formation of the infantry in line of battle was extremely slow. The troops were greatly retarded in their march by the artillery occupying the road. When I first joined General Getty near the Orange plank road he informed me that two divisions of Hill's corps were in his immediate front, and that he momentarily anticipated an attack. I had therefore directed that the breast-works already mentioned should be completed in order to receive the assault should the enemy advance.
Between 3 and 4 p.m. I was ordered to attack with Getty's command, supporting the advance with my whole corps. At 4.15 p.m. General Getty moved forward on the right and left of the Orange plank road, having received direct orders from General Meade to commence the attack without waiting for me. His troops encountered the enemy's line of battle about 300 paces in front of the Brock road and at once became very hotly engaged.
|[ HOME ]|