Splendid Advance of Sykes’s Regulars: Harper’s Weekly, May 23, 1863, page 333

Splendid Advance of Sykes's RegularsSplendid Advance of Sykes’s Regulars, drawn by A. R. Waud.  The following is the description of this image given on page 331 of the same issue:

Sykes’s Advance On Our Left.

This sketch represents the brilliant advance of Sykes’s division of Meade’s corps. Watson’s battery is partly seen hurling shells over the heads of our advancing lines at the rebel position on the top of the hill. In three lines, the gallant Second Brigade leading the attack, with that steadiness which the regiments of the regular amy have always shown, they moved up the hill, the line of battle being formed across the road. The fire was to a great extent reserved till the crest of the hill was reached, and the enemy driven in confusion. In this affair the old Fifth Corps well maintained its old reputation; and after, when it was drawn back to take its place in the line of battle then forming, it repulsed with slaughter the attack which the enemy in their turn made upon them.

A Retrograde Movement: The Clearfield Republican, May 13, 1863, page 2

The War News.

A Retrograde Movement.

[From Thursday's National Intelligencer.]

Official information received last evening at the War Department authorizse us to state that Gen. Hooker, after waiting in vain near Chancellorsville on Tuesday last for a renewal of the battle by the enemy, recrossed the Rapahannock on the evening of that day, influenced by prudential motives, springing doubtless in part from the great and sudden rise of the Virginia rivers, in consequence of the recent heavy rains.

We do not learn that Gen. Hooker was apprized, before making this retrograde movement, of the success which is alleged to have attended the operations of Gen. Stoneman in breaking the enemy’s communication with Richmond. If this fact had been known to him, (assuming it to be a fact,) it may be doubted whether Gen. Hooker would have deemed it necessary to take a step which must tend to deprive him of some at least of the advantages resulting from Gen. Stoneman’s co-operative expedition.

Among events which have not transpired officially, but of which there are rumors having the appearance of truth, it may be stated that Gen. Sedgwick, in endeavoring on Monday evening last, with the greater part of his command, to effect a junction with General Hooker’s army near Chancellorsville, encountered the enemy in force and met with serious reverse, the particulars of which are not yet known.

Further Particulars

The New York Tribune says:

We have authentic intelligence that Gen. Hooker has sustained a reverse in a battle fought on Tuesday, but has succeeded in placing his army in safety on this side of the Rappahannock. Gen. Lee having been heavily reinforced, appears to have found himself in sufficient strength to renew his assault on Hooker’s exhausted troops, and was so far successful that it has been deemed prudent to withdraw the army across the river. It is only too evident that here, as so often before, the rebels succeeded in concentrating their forces upon the point of attack, while those which should have strengthened the national army were too far distant or to long withheld to enable General Hooker to maintain the position which he had gained by masterly strategy, and hold through two tremendous battles. It must be presumed that the effort to break Lee’s communications with Richmond failed. He was able, therefore, to bring up the whole rebel force from Richmond and points below, and Gen. Hooker is compelled to retire from before overwhelming numbers.

The hard rain storm will swell the Rappahannock and protect Hooker from an advance of Gen. Lee.

The Star of the 7th inst., further remarks:

By arrivals from the Rappahannock this morning we learn that Hooker completed his crossing at 3 o’clock P. M. yesterday and reached Falmouth, bringing all his material away safely from his late position. While we were so unfortunate as to lose some artillery, we have taken at least as many pieces as we have lost.

Gen. Hooker, it is understood, estimated his losses in the late battles at about ten thousand men, all told, killed, wounded and missing. It is believed that the rebel losses (which their officers admit were terrific) were nearly if not quite double this amount.

The rebels made a futile attempt two or three times on yesterday to shell our camps at Falmouth from the opposite side of the Rappahannock. They found their little piece of bravado was costing them powder and shell to no purpose, and finally abandoned it.

Brig. Gen. Averill has been ordered to report to the Adjutant General of the army in Washington, being relieved from command of the 2d cavalry division, army of the Potoomac. The statement that he has been under arrest is an error.

Movements of General Sedgwick.

We find the following letter in the New York World:

Washington, May 6.—The capture of Fredericksburg by Gen. Sedgwick was the last principal item of news from that locality. After obtaining possession of the rebel batteries he marched four miles on the plank road to Chancellorsville, where he met a large force of the enemy, doubtless a part of Longstreet’s division sent to meet him from Suffolk. It appears that a portion of the rebel army got getween Gen. Sedgwick and the force menacing Gibbons, who held possession of Fredericksburg. Thus Lee was between Sedgwick and Hooker, and Sedgwick in turn between two parts of Lee’s army. Gen. Sedgwick had been reinforced by some troops that had before been employed in holding the heights east of Fredericksburg, and the enemy took possession of a part of these deserted works. On Monday morning Gen. Sedgwick was attacked near Burksford by a large force of the enemy, superior in numbers to his own.—Pressed on front and flank, his men fought bravely, but were finally compelled to retire.

At this movement was about commencing the Vermont brigade charged furiously and succeeded in driving the Confederates off the ground. It was a bloody day for both sides, and the Federal command had done nobly in maintaining their ground against such numbers. A retirement across the river was determined on, with a view to recross at United States Ford and endeavor to join Hooker’s main army. Accordingly, at a little past midnight he ordered the movement, and as silently as possible the troops took up the line of march over the bridge. The enemy soon discovered this movement, and opened a heavy fire on the bridge with artillery, killing and wounding a large number of our men. They did not, however, succeed in cutting off any portion by destroying the bridge, which was their principal object.

It may be that instead of attempting again to join Gen. Hooker, Sedgwick will return to the relief of Gibbons, as the rebels were discovered on Monday morning only two miles below United States Ford, and at daybreak commenced shelling our trains on this side of the Rappahannock. How large a force have thus got in the rear of Hooker’s army it is yet impossible to decide.

Recapture of Fredericksburg by Jackson.

The morning and evening attacks on Monday by the rebels under Jackson on Gen. Gibbon’s force at Fredericksburg have resulted in their gaining possession again of the greater part of the place. It must not, however, be regarded as anything like a disaster. Fredericksburg now is not one-tenth as important as Fredericksburg before Gen. Hooker’s first movement. Our armies are on its flank and rear, and our heavy pieces across the river on its front. About evening they rushed on our right, and for a long time the battle was hotly contested, each party alternatively gaining the advantage. Finally our force was obliged to retire, and during the night held a defensive position. Next morning Col. Hall crossed his brigade over the river on the Fulmouth side, and both bridges were taken up. It is suspected that the enemy have pontoons sufficient to cross the river, and a lively watch is kept up to prevent raids on their part.

The following is from the New York Herald, which had advices up to Tuesday morning, 2 o’clock:

After the struggle of Sunday, General Lee detached a large body of his main army to go down and meet Gen. Sedgwick. It is also known that Gen. Longstreet was rapidly getting into his rear at that time. Early Monday morning large masses of rebels appeared on the heights to the east of Fredericksburg, which had been partially evacuated by our forces in order to strengthen Sedgwick’s column. Those remaining made but a brief resistance, and relinquished the position to the enemy, having first removed all their guns.

Some fighting occurred above Fredericksburg, the particulars of which have not been received, but it is supposed to have been an effort to hold the rebels from moving up to reinforce the body engaged against Sedgwick. In this, however, we were unsuccessful. It is generally understood that this force was Longstreet’s column, just arrived from Suffolk.

On Monday Gen. Sedgwick was hotly engaged throughout the entire day, the enemy pressing him at all points, and cutting him up badly. His men were obliged to give way before the overwhelming masses of the enemy constantly, and his discomfiture seemed certain, when the gallant Vermont brigade made a noble charge, repulsing the rebels in fine style, and securing the safety of that portion of the army.

The slsughter of the enemy in this action, which occurred in close proximity to Banks’ Ford, is without a parallel in the history of warfare, considering the number of men engaged. Whole brigades of the rebels were wiped out; but their force was so many times greater than that at the command of Gen. Sedgwick that it was impossible that he could hold his position, and he therefore concluded to extricate himself by recrossi the river.

This hazardous expedient was attempted and successfully carried out between midnight and two o’clock on Tuesday morning. The enemy held positions with their artillery, raking our bridges over which Sedgwick was obliged to move his men, necessarily creating some confusion in our ranks as the columns moved over, and causing considerable loss of life. They also pressed hotly upon his rear, and harrassed him incessantly. But he succeeded in getting his force over as above stated in wonderfully good order.

On Monday morning at daybreak the rebels obtained a position on the hills on the south bank of the Rappahannock, scarcely two miles below the United States ford, and commenced a vigorous shelling of our trains lying on the north side of the river, close to the ford. Several men were inured by these shells and one or two killed.

Some of the shells entered a hospital on the south bank of the river, killing several of the patients. One poor fellow was just reading a letter from home when a shell exploded close by him, tearing off the entire upper portion of his head, killing him instantly. A panic was imminent among our teamsters, and would have been general and disastrous but for the stoppage of hostilities by the enemy.

The Washington Star referring to the attack on Sedgwick, says:

Our loss was about 4,000 killed, wounded and missing, making the total loss of Sedgwick’s and Gibbons’ commands (including those lost on the previous day) about 5,000, or half the whole loss of Hooker’s army in the four day’s fighting. On that (Monday) night Sedgwick recrossed his own and Gibbons’ force to the north bank of the Rappahannock.

It is evident here that the Confederates played their old game of massing their troops in crushing force on our exposed points with rapid change of position, and that after throwing themselves with all their weight on Hooker, they with great celerity moved off to repeat the blow upon Sedgwick’s detached force; and this fact explains that mysterious silence in front of Hooker, while they were thus occupied with Sedgwick.