Night enveloped a chaotic field. The moon rose over the Wilderness to
create a fantastic landscape of shadows broken by shafts of light. The
men of Rodes and Colston, "mingled together in inextricable confusion"
during the attack, would have to be sorted out. Hill's brigades made
their way to the front. The Eleventh Corps lay scattered over several
miles, and thousands of its soldiers would not be available for further
service for many hours. Third Corps units involved in the fighting at
Catharine Furnace and the Wellford house found themselves isolated from
the main Union position and struggled to link up with comrades along the
plank road and at Chancellorsville.
By 9:00 P.M., Sickles's men had settled into position at Hazel Grove
facing northwest. To their right, Brigadier General Alpheus S.
Williams's division of Slocum's corps extended the line to the plank
road. Its right touched the left of Berry's division, positioned north
of the plank road and, like Williams's command, facing west. Other units
of the Second and Twelfth corps were spread around the Chancellorsville
crossroads. The Fifth Corps line angled from a position just north of
Chancellorsville toward Scott's Dam on the Rappahannock, and the
divisions of John Reynolds's First Corps, which had begun the day on the
Confederate side of the river at Fredericksburg, were slowly making
their way from United States Ford to Chancellorsville. Between 11:00
P.M. and midnight, Sickles mounted a groping assault from Hazel Grove
toward the plank road during which his men came under artillery and
musket fire from the Twelfth Corps. "I have no information as to the
damage suffered by our troops from our own fire," confessed Henry
Slocum, "but fear that our losses must have been severe."
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SITUATION: MAY 2, 9 P.M. MIDNIGHT|
Jackson's afternoon assault routs the Eleventh Corps, but throws
Rodes's and Colston's divisions into disorder. While they reform near
Wilderness Church, Jackson orders A. P. Hill's corps to the front to
continue the assault. As Hill moves into position, Jackson reconnoiters
in front of Lane's brigade and is injured. Sickles unsuccessfully
attacks the Confederates from Hazel Grove at midnight, while Reynolds's
First Corps crosses the river at U.S. Ford and hurries into position on
AT CHANCELLORSVILLE, SOME ELEVENTH CORPS SOLDIERS TURNED NORTH AND
HEADED FOR THE FORDS. OTHERS CONTINUED THEIR HEAD-LONG FLIGHT, PASSING
THROUGH THE UNION LINES INTO THE ARMS OF MCLAWS'S CONFEDERATES BEYOND.
Lee continued to oversee the Confederate right. There Richard H.
Anderson's division held a line between Scott's Run, just east of
Catharine Furnace, and the plank road. Lafayette McLaws's brigades
nestled between the plank road and turnpike.
THE WOUNDING OF JACKSON
During a lull in the fighting, Stonewall Jackson rode out to his
skirmish line on a personal reconnaissance of the Union position. As he
and members of his party were returning, a line of Confederate soldiers
mistook them for Union cavalrymen and fired a volley into them. Several
horsemen were hit, including Jackson, who was struck by three bullets:
two in the left arm and one in the right hand. Lieutenant Joseph G.
Morrison was the general's brother-in-law and a member of his staff. In
an article later published by Confederate Veteran magazine, he
described that tragic night in the Wilderness.
"It was now nine o'clock, and Gen. Jackson, who had been for some
time near the front line, rode a little in advance of it to reconnoiter
the enemy's position. A heavy skirmish line had been ordered to the
front, and he supposed he was in the rear of this line. He was at this
time accompanied by Capt. J. K. Boswell, of the engineers, Capt. R. F.
Wilburne [sic], of the signal corps, Lieut. J. G. Morrison, aid-de-camp,
and five or six couriers, and had ridden but a short distance down the
pike when a volley was fired at the party by the Federals in front and
to the right of the road. To escape this fire the party wheeled out of
the road to the left and galloped to the rear, when our own men,
mistaking them for Federal cavalry making a charge, and supposing the
firing in front to have been directed at the skirmish line, opened a
galling fire, killing several men and horses and causing the horses that
were not struck to dash panic-stricken toward the Federal lines, which
were but a very short distance in front. The General was struck in three
places, and was dragged from his horse by the bough of a tree. Capt.
Boswell was killed instantly.
WHEN RETURNING FROM A RECONNAISSANCE AT THE FRONT, JACKSON WAS
MISTAKENLY SHOT BY HIS OWN TROOPS. (BL)|
Lieut. Morrison, leaping from his horse that was dashing into the
enemy's lines, ran to an interval in our line and exclaimed: 'Cease
firing! You are firing into our own men.' A colonel commanding a North
Carolina regiment in Lane's Brigade cried out: 'Who gave that order?
It's a lie! Pour it into them.' Morrison then ran to the colonel, told
him what he had done, and assisted him to arrest the firing as soon as
possible. He then went to the front in search of the General, and found
him lying upon the ground, with Capt. Wilburne and Mr. Wynn, of the
signal corps, bending over him examining his wounds. In a few moments
Gen. Hill, accompanied by Capt. Leigh and a few couriers, rode up to
where the General was lying and dismounted. On examining his wounds,
they found his left arm broken near the shoulder and bleeding profusely.
A handkerchief was tried around the arm, so as partially to stop the
While this was being done, and while the party were bending over the
General, two Federal soldiers, with muskets cocked, stepped up to the
party from behind a cluster of bushes and looked quietly on. Gen. Hill
turned to several of his couriers and said in an undertone, 'Seize those
men,' and it was done so quickly that they made no resistance. Lieut.
Morrison. thinking these were scouts in front of an advancing line,
stepped to the pike, about twenty yards distant, to see if it were so,
and distinctly saw cannoneers unlimbering two pieces of artillery in the
road, not a hundred yards distant.
Returning hastily, he announced this to the party, when Gen. Hill,
who was now in command of the army, immediately mounted and rode to the
head of Pender's column (which was coming up by the flank) to throw it
into line. He left Capt. Leigh, of his staff, to assist in removing Gen.
Jackson. About this time Lieutenant J. P. Smith, aide-de-camp, who had
been sent to deliver an order, rode up and dismounted.
"Once the General attempted to rise, but Lieut. Smith threw his
arms across his body and urged him to lie quiet a few moments, or he
would certainly be killed."
Capt. Wilburne had gone a few moments previous after a litter. The
party thought it best not to await Wilburne's return, and suggested that
they bear the General off in their arms, when he replied: 'No; I think I
can walk.' They assisted him to rise, and supported him as he walked
through the woods to the pike and toward the rear. Soon after reaching
the road they obtained a litter, and placed him on it; but had not gone
over forty yards when the battery in the road opened with canister. The
first discharge passed over their heads; but the second was more
accurate, and struck down one of the litter bearers, by which the
General received a severe fall. The firing now increased in rapidity,
and was so terrific that the road was soon deserted by the attendants of
the General with the exception of Capt. Leigh and Lieuts. Smith and
Morrison. These officers lay down in the road by the General during the
firing, and could see on every side sparks flashing from the stones of
the pike caused by the iron canister shot. Once the General attempted to
rise, but Lieut. Smith threw his arms across his body and urged him to
lie quiet a few moments, or he would certainly be killed.
After the road had been swept by this battery with a dozen or more
discharges, they elevated their guns and opened with shell. So the
little party now had an opportunity of removing their precious burden
from the road to the woods on their right, and continued their course to
the rear, carrying the General most of the way in their arms. Once they
stopped that he might rest, but the fire was so heavy they thought it
best to go on. The whole atmosphere seemed filled with whistling
canister and shrieking shell, tearing the trees on every side. After
going three or four hundred yards an ambulance was reached, containing
Col. S. Crutchfield, Gen. Jackson's chief of artillery, who had just
been severely wounded, a canister shot breaking his leg. The General was
placed in this ambulance, and at his request one of his aids got in to
support his mangled arm.
During all of this time he had scarcely uttered a groan, and
expressed great sympathy for Col. Crutchfield, who was writhing under
the agonies of his shattered limb. After proceeding over half a mile the
ambulance reached the house of Mr. Melzi Chancellor, where a temporary
hospital had been established. Here Dr. Hunter McGuire, medical director
of Gen. Jackson's Corps, checked the bleeding of the General's arm and
administered some stimulants. He was then taken to a field infirmary,
some two miles to the rear, and about two o'clock in the night his arm
was amputated by Dr. McGuire, assisted by Surgeons Black, Wells, and
Nightfall did not extinguish Stonewall Jackson's offensive spirit. He
hoped renewed assaults would carry his troops to a position between the
Army of the Potomac and the fords over the Rappahannock (a vain desire
because thousands of Federals blocked the way and the ground favored
Hooker). Jackson and a small party of riders moved east along the plank
road about 9:00 P.M in search of information about the ground across
which any new attacks would pass. Accompanied by a nineteen-year-old
private in the Ninth Virginia Cavalry named David Kyle, who had grown up
on the Bullock farm north of Chancellorsville and thus knew local roads
intimately, Jackson spurred slightly ahead of the rest of the group on
the Mountain Road. That small track branched off the plank road slightly
more than a mile west of Hooker's headquarters at Chancellorsville and
paralleled the main route a few dozen yards to the north.
Eventually satisfied that he had ventured far enough east, Jackson
turned Little Sorrel back to the west on the Mountain Road. He had
covered but a short distance when scattered shots and then a volley rang
out from North Carolinians of Brigadier General James H. Lane's brigade
to his left front. Struck by three balls, Jackson was helped to the
ground, carried rearward, and eventually transported to a field hospital
several miles behind Confederate lines where surgeons amputated his left
arm. Command of the Second Corps devolved briefly on A. P. Hill,
Jackson's senior lieutenant, who shortly received his own disabling
wound. Authority passed finally to Jeb Stuart, summoned from his
troopers during the night to take charge of the westernmost piece of the
Army of Northern Virginia.
AFTER BEING SHOT, JACKSON WAS TAKEN TO A FIELD HOSPITAL AT THE
WILDERNESS TAVERN. THERE, DOCTORS REMOVED HIS INJURED LEFT ARM. (NPS)|
Jackson's flank attack on May 2 marked one of the most dramatic
moments in Confederate military historyyet it conveyed no
substantive advantage to Lee. Only Howard's corps had been seriously
damaged, and the arrival at Chancellorsville of the First Corps during
the night of May 2-3 more than made up for Federal losses. The two parts
of Lee's army remained separated by many thousands of Hooker's soldiers.
Indeed, Hooker enjoyed a situation favorable beyond the imaginings of
most generals. With nearly 90,000 available men, he could overwhelm the
much smaller forces under Stuart and Lee. Darius Couch argued vigorously
after the war that the Confederate dilemma on Stuart's front was "a
desperate one . . . front and right flank being in the presence of not
far from 25,000 men, with the left flank subject to an assault of
30,000, [from] the corps of Meade and Reynolds." Although writing many
years after the events he described, Couch still evinced passion in
concluding that "it only required that Hooker should brace himself up to
take a reasonable, common-sense view of the state of things, when the
success gained by Jackson would have been turned into an overwhelming