|[The following extracts from
a private letter of Major Leigh, who was then serving on General A. P.
Hill's staff, have never been in print, and will be appreciated as sheding
additional light on the events of which they treat.]
CAMP NEAR HAMILTON'S CROSSING,
SPOTSYLVANIA COURTHOUSE, VIRGINIA,
12th May, 1863.
"On Friday the 1st, D. H. Hill's,
Trimble's and A. P. Hill's divisions-that is to say, all of Jackson's corps,
except Early's division-marched from the vicinity of Hamilton's crossing
to a point on the Plank road,
about eight miles westward of
Fredericksburg. Early's division was left to watch a body of
the enemy who
had crossed the Rappahannock
at a point opposite to Hamilton's crossing, whilst the rest of the troops
marched towards Chancellorsville, where the enemy's main force had been
concentrated. The greater part
of Anderson's and McLaw's division
had been driven from their positions near Chancellorsville by the advance
of the enemy, and we were marching to the support of those divisions.
"Saturday the 2d I found General
A. P. Hill with his staff at a point about three-fourths of a mile from
Chancellorsville. General Lee, General Anderson, General Pender, and a
number of general officers were here. There was some skirmishing going
on in our front and several minnie balls from the enemy's skirmishers passed
near us. "Jackson's corps had already commenced the flank movement.
"D. H. Hill's division, under
Brigadier-General Rodes, had gotten out of our way, and had been followed
by Trimle's division, under Brigadier-General Colston. A. P. Hill's division
came last. We left the Plank road at a point so near the enemy that his
balls whistled over our heads, and marching from 9 o'clock in the morning
till 3 in the evening-a distance of ten or twelve miles, through a dense
wilderness-found ourselves at the other end of our detour, on the right
flank of the enemy, and not more than three or four miles from the point
at which we had left the Plank road. A part of our march was
alongside of a road in plain view of the enemy and under fire from one
of his batteries. Why he did not attack us I can hardly conjecture.
I have understood that they believed we were in full retreat to the southward;
it is certain they never guessed our real design, for their right flank
was assailed by us when
they so little expected an attack
that many of their troops were cooking their supper.
"Arrived at the point of our
destination and having driven in the enemy's pickets, General Jackson made
his dispositions for the attack.
"It consisted simply in deploying
D. H. Hill's and Colston's divisions and all but two brigades of A. P.
Hill's division on each side of the old turnpike leading
to Chancellorsville, with one
brigade of (I believe) D. H. Hill's division deployed across the Plank
road, and the remaining brigades of A. P. Hill's division marching by the
Plank road down the old turnpike. * * *
General A. P. Hill rode along
down the road, occasionally dashing off to the right or left to see what
some particular brigade was doing, and, of course, his staff accompanied
him. This state of things continued from 6 o'clock in the evening, when
the attack commenced, until 9 1/2 o'clock. In the meantime our troops had
driven the enemy about three or four miles towards Chancellorsville.
They had run like sheep on our approach-throwing away their arms, knapsacks
and everything of which they could divest themselves; they had been completely
surprised. They had thrown up entrenchments to meet an attack from
the front, but as we assailed their right flank, their entrenchments had
been useless to them and they abandoned them. They had, it is true,
the roads, and some of their
entrenchments were in
the right direction to meet
our attack; but neither barricades nor entrenchments enabled them to even
delay our progress. Our troops marched in line of battle through the woods
filled with thick undergrowth and across ravines at a rapid pace for several
hours. The thick woods, the combat and the coming on of darkness had deranged
our lines, and brigades, and even divisions, had gotten mixed together.
In this state of things we nevertheless pressed forward until we reached
the brow of the declivity opposite that on which the tavern, etc., know
as Chancellorsville, is situated. Here we were met by the fire of a heavy
battery, posted as so to enfilade the road. The troops halted, and General
Jackson and General Hill rode forward for the purpose, as I suppose, of
making arrangements to take the position occupied by the enemy's battery.
"At one point we were subjected
to a severe fire
from the battery but it slackened
after awhile and
we pursued our course; we soon
passed our most advanced line, and were still riding down the
road, when suddenly a musketry fire opened to our right in the wood.
From whom this fire proceeded I have near learned, but it seemed to serve
as a signal for the enemy's battery to resume its fire. In
an instant the road was swept by a storm of grape and canister; the shells
burst above us, around us and amongst us. General Hill and staff turned
back towards our lines, and as we approached them we abandoned the road
which was, as I have said, enfiladed by the enemy's battery-and turned
off to our right in woods. Whether it was that our troops mistook us for
a body of Federal cavalry, or for some other reason, I do not know, but
as we approached within fifteen or twenty paces of our line we were received
with a blaze of fire. This alone, without the fire from the enemy's battery,
which still continued, would have rendered our situation a most perilous
one. As it was, it seemed as if we were all doomed to destruction.
General Hill's staff disappeared as if stricken by lighting. I perceived
that my only hope of escape was in getting to the ground and lying down,
that I might expose as little of myself as possible to the fire of our
men. I accordingly endeavored to dismount, but my horse was
and plunging so violently that
I could not do so. Just at this time he was shot-as I judged from his frantic
leap-and whether he threw me or I managed to get
off myself, I am unable to say,
but I found myself
lying on the ground. I received
a smart blow on the side of my head, and put up hand to see if I was wounded,
but soon found I was unhurt. I laid on the ground for a short time-until
our troops discounted their fire-and then rose. I saw a number of dead
and dying men and horses around me, and a horse standing near me; I immediately
mounted him and rode about in the woods to see if I could find General
Hill; I soon found and rejoined him. We came out into the road together
at the point at which we had left it, and he informed me-or I heard some
one say-that he was going forward to see General Jackson who had been wounded.
I perceived that almost all his staff
had disappeared. * * * * *
"We soon came up to where General
Jackson was; we found him lying by the side of the road, under a little
pine tree. General Hill directed me to go for a surgeon and an ambulance
for the General, and I hastened off for the purpose.
"I had not gone more than a hundred
I met General Pender marching
up the road with his brigade. I told him that General Hill had sent me
a surgeon and an ambulance for
General Jackson, and he said there was an Assistant Surgeon-Dr. Barr-with
his command; he called for Dr.
Barr, and that gentleman speedily appeared. Dr. Barr said there was no
ambulance within a mile of the place, but that he had a litter with him.
I hastened with Dr. Barr and
the litter-bearers back to where
I had left General Jackson, and I also carried with me Captain Smith, General
Jackson's Aid-de-Camp, who had ridden up inquiring for the General. We
had been with the General but a short time, when the enemy's battery again
commenced to fire upon us. * *
"General Jackson rose and walked
a few yards leaning on my arm. His left arm had been broken above the elbow,
and a ball had passed through his right hand. * * *
"We had not gone far when he
laid down on the litter and we took it up and were carrying him along,
when the cannonade became so terrific that the two litter carriers abandoned
the litter, leaving no one with General Jackson but Captain Smith and myself.
laid the General down in the
middle of the road and ourselves beside him. The road was perfectly swept
by grape and canister. A few minutes before, it had been crowded with men
and horses, and now I could see no man or beast or thing upon it but ourselves.
After a little, General Jackson again rose and walked a short distance
to the rear, turning aside off the road, partly because the enemy's fire
was mainly aimed at the road and partly because the road was again becoming
encumbered with infantry and artillery, and it was easier to go through
the woods. But he soon became faint, and we again put him on the litter.
I could not induce any of the men we met to act as litter-bearers-
I had myself brought the litter
on after the General undertook to walk a second time-until I told them
that it was General Jackson
whom we wished to carry. This I was reluctant to do, as we wished to conceal
from the troops as long as possible the fact of his having been wounded.
As soon, however, as I mentioned his name, I found every one willing to
aid us. We proceeded in this
way for, I think, about half a mile. As we were going through the woods
one of the men got his foot entangled in a grape vine and fell, letting
General Jackson fall on his broken arm. For the first time he groaned piteously;
he must have suffered agonies. He soon recovered his composure, however,
and we again took the road to avoid the repetition of such an accident.
It was a long time before we got out of the space on which the fire of
the battery seemed to be concentrated;
as long as we were in it, the shells burst around us thick and fast; they
seemed like falling stars. At length I met Dr. Whitehead, who, as I have
since learned, had been summoned when General Jackson was found to be wounded.
Dr. Whitehead had procured an ambulance, in which was placed the General.
It was already occupied in part by a person whom I did not then recognize,
but whom I afterwards found to be Colonel Crutchfield, of the artillery,
who had his leg broken. General Jackson at this time complained of
great pain in the palm of his left hand, and repeatedly asked for spirits,
of which we were unable to find any for a long time, but Dr. Whitehead
at length procured a bottle
of whisky. After we had
gone a short distance with
the General in the ambulance,
we stopped at the
house of Melzei Chancellor to
get some water for
the General and Colonel Crutchfield.
At Melzei Chancellor's, Dr. Hunter
McGuire, Chief Surgeon of our corps, joined us and took charge of
"Arriving at the hospital, I
found Drs. Coleman, Taylor and Fleming; * * * that General Jackson had
already arrived; and the surgeons told me it would be necessary to amputate
his arm. No one at that time seemed to think that his life was in danger".
*Taken from the Southern Historical Society
Volume VI, Richmond, Va, November, 1878