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Battle of Chancellorsville - Forming Union Lines

After the Eleventh Corps "disgracefully" runs away, Couch's Corps forms a new line of battle at Chancellorsville.

The Library of Congress, where A.R. Waud's drawing is maintained, provides the following information:

Couch's Corps forming line of battle in the fields at Chancellorsville [Virginia] to cover the retreat of the Eleventh Corps disgracefully running away.

"Couch's Corps" refers to troops under the command of Union Major General Darius N. Couch. He was Commanding General, II Corps, for the Army of the Potomac. Although he respected General Hooker, who was in overall charge of Union forces at Chancellorsville, Couch believed that Hooker was losing his way as a battle leader:

To hear from [Hooker's] own lips that the advantages gained by the successful marches of his lieutenants were to culminate in fighting a defensive battle in that nest of thickets was too much, and I retired from his presence with the belief that my commanding general was a beaten man." (See "Chancellorsville Staff Ride Briefing Book," published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, at page 3 of the online PDF version.)

Union Major General Oliver O. Howard was commanding the 11th Corps, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, when his men were attacked by the advancing Confederates. Howard wrote about these events, explaining why his men ran away on the 2nd of May, 1863:

I had come to my last practicable stand. The Confederates were slowly advancing, firing as they came. The twelve guns of Schirmer, the corps chief of artillery, increased by a part of Dilger's battery, fired, at first with rapidity; but the battery men kept falling from death and wounds.

Suddenly, as if by an order, when a sheet of the enemy's fire reached them, a large number of the men in the supporting trenches vacated their positions and went off.

No officers ever made more strenuous exertions than those that my staff and myself put forth to stem the tide of retreat and refill those trenches, but the panic was too great. Then our artillery fire became weaker and weaker.

I next ordered a retreat to the edge of the forest toward Chancellorsville, so as to uncover Steinwehr's knoll, the only spot yet firmly held. The batteries, except four pieces, were drawn off and hurried to the rear. The stand at the edge of the forest was necessarily a short one.

General Steinwehr, being now exposed from flank and rear, having held his place for over an hour, drew off his small remnants and all moved rapidly through openings and woods, through low ground and swamps, the two miles to the first high land south of Hooker's headquarters.

Captain Hubert Dilger with his battery sturdily kept along the Plank road, firing constantly as he retired. The Confederate masses rushed after us in the forest and along all paths and roads with triumphant shouts and redoubled firing, and so secured much plunder and many prisoners.

It was after sundown and growing dark when I met General Hirman G. Berry, commanding a division of the Third Corps, as I was ascending the high ground above named. "Well, General, where now?" he asked. "You take the right of this road and I will take the left and try to defend it," I replied.

Our batteries, with many others, were on the crest facing to the rear, and as soon as Steinwehr's troops had cleared the way these guns began a terrible cannonade and continued it into the night. They fired into the forest, now full of Confederates, all disorganized by their exciting chase, and every effort of the enemy to advance in that direction in the face of the fire was effectually barred by the artillery and supporting troops.

Stonewall Jackson fell that evening from bullet-wounds, in the forest in front of Berry's position. And here, on the forenoon of the next day, May 3d, the gallant General Berry met his death. It was here, too, that officers of the Eleventh Corps, though mortified by defeat, successfully rallied the scattered brigades and division, and, after shielding the batteries, went during the night to replace the men of the Fifth Corps and thereafter defend the left of the general line. (See Howard's narrative, "The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville.")

What did Oliver Howard think of his opponent, Stonewall Jackson? He respected him enormously and thought he was irreplaceable:

Stonewall Jackson was victorious. Even his enemies praise him; but, providentially for us, it was the last battle that he waged against the American Union. For, in bold planning, in energy of execution, which he had the power to diffuse, in indefatigable activity and moral ascendency, Jackson stood head and shoulders above his confreres, and after his death General Lee could not replace him.

To create this drawing, which Waud produced at the time of the battle, the artist used:

...brown paper: pencil, Chinese white, and black ink wash.

Click on the image for a full-page view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5139stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 26, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Sep 27, 2016


Media Credits

Drawing by A.R. Waud, created contemporaneously with the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863). Maintained at the Library of Congress where its digital reproduction number is  LC-DIG-ppmsca-22527.

 

The Library of Congress provides additional information about this drawing:

 

  • Title inscribed below image.
  • Signed lower right: A.R. Waud.
  • Inscribed on verso: Battle May 1-3, 1863 Chancellorsville, Va. 11; Corps ... 26 Wisconsin; 25 Ohio; 82 Illinois; 55 Ohio; No II 2. MJB 32.
  • Gift, J.P. Morgan, 1919 (DLC/PP-1919:R1.2.726)
  • Reference print available in the Civil War Drawings file 1863.
  • Reference print available in Ray, Plate 53 (p. 132).
  • Forms part of: Morgan collection of Civil War drawings.
  • Exhibited: "The Civil War in America" at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 2012-2013.

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