23 May 1863: “About 9 a.m. the enemys firing being still kept up and proving very annoying I endeavored to drive off the enemy with Capt. Moody’s Battery”

Item description: Letter, 23 May 1863, from Edward Porter Alexander, providing great detail about the Battle of Chancellorsville.

His original report contained several edits in blue ink, which are noted in the transcription below in brackets. Interestingly, in the report he submitted to his superiors, he appeared to have omitted the last page and a half of his original description, which commends the bravery and conduct of many soldiers. That part of the original report is included in the transcription below.


Item citation: From folder 14 of the Edward Porter Alexander Papers, #7, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Chancelorsville

[Report of Col Alexander of operations of his Battalion May 1st to 6th 1863]

Hd Qrts Alexanders Battalion Arly

May 23rd 1863

[to Maj. G. M. Sorrel Adjt Genl 1st Corps]

Sir,

I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my Battalion in the recent engagements on the Rappahanock: Marching from Carmel Church Caroline Co., at 1 p.m. on the 29th, we reached the plan road at its intersection with the mine road at 10 a.m. on the 30th. Capt. Jordan’s Battery was here put into position, an attack being threatened, and the rest of the Battalion held in reserve near by:  On the morning of the 1st inst Lt. Brown with his section of Parkers Battery was sent to man two 10 Par Panolts assigned to Parker from Rhetts Battery, then detached from the Battalion. These guns were by order of Genl. Lee left in position on Maryears Hill under Lt. Brown: About 1pm the general advance towards Chancellorsville commenced. Capt. Jordans Battery detached was sent with the advance infantry on the turnpike. The rest of the Battalion comprising Moody with 4 guns, Woolfolk with 4 guns, Parker with 2 guns and Lt. Taylor with 4 guns Capt. Jordan was engaged very obstinately on the turnpike and suffered in both men and horses but eventually but eventually broke the enemy’s Infantry by his effective firing and drove off a six gun Battery which engaged him at short range. On the plank road the rest of the Battalion was slightly engaged, the enemy falling back before our advance. And by night we held the ground immediately in front of his fortified position at Chancelorsville. In this advance Lt. James Woolfolk rendered conspicuous service accompanying on advance skirmishes with a Howitzer.

On the morning of the 2nd order were read to fall in colum marching under Gen. Jackson to turn the enemy’s flank, and in the afternoon the Battalion was held in reserve during the attack near Wilderness Church. There being an opportunity to use artillery, the advance of the Infantry was followed (?) and the night spent in the fields. I was called during the night to the command of the artillery on the field, by the wound received by Col. Crutchfield. The Battalion under Maj. Huger took an active and honorable part in the fight on Sunday morning the 3rd inst Lt. Taylor being detached and fighting on the plank road. The rest of the Battalion in the field to the South, where it was formed during the actions by Capt. Jordan who arrived with Andersons Division. After the victory of the morning I resumed the command of the Battalion and was ordered down the plank road to the assistance of Genl. McLaws then fighting near Salem Church. The fighting was over however before we arrived, we bivouacked near the fields: On the morning of the 4th I received orders to post guns to prevent Gen. Sedgwick from forcing his way up the river road to the position occupied by Gen. Hooker and accordingly posted Capt. Jordans Battery (which had returned from shelling enemys camp at U.S. Ford) on a commanding bluff where he entrenched himself. Capt Parker was sent to the assistance of Maj. Hardaway who with several rifle pieces was directed to drive off a Battery of the enemys on the north bank of the river, overlooking Banks Ford which was done in the afternoon. The rush of the Battalion under Maj. Huger was ordered to support Gen. Anderson’s attach on the right, and followed it up but was not engaged. During the afternoon in anticipation of the enemys retreat that night I marked points of direction to Banks Ford for night firing and notified Genl Lee; About 10 pm. orders were received to fire upon the ford over which the enemy was retreating.

This was done by Capts. Jordan & Parker all night and occasionally by other Batteries. The enemeys accounts represent this fire to have been destructive. On the morning of the 5th I received orders to accompany Capt. S. Johnston of the Engineers to reconnoiter a position whence the line of Battle of the enemy beyond mine run could be reached. I accordingly moved the whole Battalion by the river road to the vicinity and during the night had six pits partially completed by our cannoneers and some Infantry and at dawn on the 6th inst I moved into the pits. Lt. Taylors 4 Napoleons and a section of Capt. Jordans Battery under Lieut. J. Donnell Smith, the whole under command of Capt. Jordan. The enemy had constructed during the night entrenchments across the river about 800 yds distant to prevent the occupation of this point and at daylight opened a sever fire on the men employed in completing our unfinished works. About 9 a.m. the enemys firing being still kept up and proving very annoying I endeavored to drive off the enemy with Capt. Moody’s Battery, Capt. Parkers Battery and a 24 pdr. Howitizer of Capt. Woolfolk’s seven guns in all. They took position in front of enemys Batteries and opened assisted by the guns in the pits. The enemy returned the fire of the guns in the field from their pits & opened two new Batteries on our right where none of our guns could be brot(?) to bear. The duel was kept up for a half hour briskly when finding that the enemy were too well sheltered in the pits to be run off (though his fire was much reduced) and the two Batteries on the right of our pits punished them severely exploding two ammunition chests and destroying a third while we could make no reply to them. I ordered the firing to cease.

It was discovered in the mean time that the enemy had evacuated their line of Battle behind mine run and our work was consequently useless. I accordingly withdrew the guns not in pits, to camp. Those in the pits remained silent under occasional but most accurate shots from the enemy, until dark when Capt Jordan withdrew them successfully. During the day one of St. Taylors guns had a wheel shot off but another was immediately substituted. St. Brown’s section of Parker’s Battery was captured on Marycas Hill, where is twas left by order as heretofore stated, after a severe and gallant fight, protracted until after the enemys flag was within our works and in which there is evidence that they suffered loss. The body of one of the detachment and seven horses were found where it fought.

Our total loss is 6 killed, 35 wounded, 21 prisoners & missing, & 46 horses killed, disabled, & captured. [I am Major - very respectuflly yours, EP Alexander] [End.]

[Omit] to the splendid fighting of both officers and men in their engagements I cannot pay too high a tribute. Maj. Huger commanding the Battalion in the severest engagement that at Chancellorsville and in this as on every other occasion displayed a gallantry and ability worthy of the highest praise. To my Captains Moody, Jordan, Woolfolk, Parker, and Taylor, veterans all it is the acme of praise to say they fought with their usual coolness, obstinancy and success. I could but feel at the time that it was but the work of a (?) to command such officers on the field of Battle; the Battalion Surgeons Dr. Grey and Montress, Capt Franklin, gr(?) Mast. and Lieut Vaughan Commissary, managed their respective departments under the great difficulties of our recent arrival and constant movements with great credit to themselves and entire satisfaction to myself: Lieut F. M. Colston ordnance officer was invaluable to me both in replacing most promptly the expended ammunition, so that we were never out and as an aid on the field and acting Adjutant of the Battalion from the 2nd inst when my Adjutant Lieut T.H. Smith was compelled to leave duty from illness. I am also under personal obligation to Lieut Thurman of Jordans Battery for valuable assistance in the constructing of pits on the night of the 5th inst. Lieut J. Donnell Smith of Jordans Battery is specially mentioned by Capt. J as having remained on duty throughout the fight though painfully wounded the first day, and fought with remarkable judgement and courage. The following officers and men are also mentioned by their immediate commanders for specially gallant and conspicuous conduct: Lieut Sillers, of Moodsy Battery, Lieut Burroughs of same Battery, Lieut Wedell of Taylors Battery, Lieut Woolfolk, Terrel and Mercer of Woolfolks Battery, Private J.S. Hurt of Jordans Battery, Sergts. Woolfolk, Terrel & CAson and Corporals Slate and Reviere of Woolfolks Battery

I am Major, very Respectfully
Your Obeit Svt
(Signed) E. P. Alexander
Col. Arly Comdg Batt

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