: The Battle of Chancellorsville and the German Regiments of the Eleventh Crops
: The Battle of Chancellorsville and the German Regiments of the Eleventh Crops
Abstract and Keywords
Not all the events preceding the battle of Chancellorsville boded so negatively for the German American regiments. In early February, the regimental commanders of the Eleventh Corps submitted status reports to their brigade commanders. The news was very good. Both the twenty-seventh and seventy-fifth Pennsylvania, for instance, were in excellent condition, numbering 449 and 355 effectives, respectively. Colonel Franz Mahler of the seventy-fifth mentioned the “flattering remarks made on several occasions by our esteemed Brigade Commander, Col. Wladimir Krzyzanowski”, about the precision in drill of the regiment. Later, on the tenth of April near Brooks Station, Abraham Lincoln and other notables from Washington reviewed the Eleventh Corps as it paraded by at the salute. Lieutenant Colonel Alwin von Matzdorff called his regiment's performance “brilliant”, and remarked “that all were astonished at the grand appearance of the Dutch!”. Private Adam Muenzenberger of the twenty-sixth Wisconsin boasted to his wife that his regiment was the largest in the Eleventh Corps, and “also the cleanest and the neatest”.
“All Were Astonished at the Grand Appearance of the Dutch”
In the months prior to Major General Joseph Hooker's spring campaign of 1863, the veteran German American regiments of the newly formed Eleventh Corps moved from their encampments at Fairfax to winter quarters at Stafford Court House, north of Fredericksburg. Arriving at the scene of battle too late to have taken part in Ambrose Burnside's calamitous frontal assaults at Marye's Heights in early December, the men in the New York and Pennsylvania regiments nonetheless participated in the ill-conceived and frustrating “mud march” that occurred afterward. Although letters home from this period were filled with complaints about the weather and bungling on the part of the generals, the men generally considered themselves fortunate to have avoided the slaughter at Fredericksburg and looked forward to the spring under the leadership of Major General Franz Sigel. They also welcomed ethnic comrades from several new regiments assigned to the corps. Two of them, the 82nd Illinois and the 26th Wisconsin, hailed from the Midwest and were posted to the eastern command because of their ethnicity. The 82nd was recruited from Chicago's German-speaking wards, and was led by the fiery forty-eighter Friedrich Hecker. Many men who had seen European service filled the ranks of the 82nd, a fact that would serve the regiment well later in the battle. Composed of Milwaukee Germans and other Teutonic immigrants from the Badger State, the newly raised 26th was as yet untested in battle but its men were hankering for a fight. Also joining the corps was the 119th New York, a new, predominantly German regiment led by Elias Eisner, supposedly the illegitimate son of the King of Bavaria, and the nine-month 153rd Pennsylvania, an amalgam regiment with both German American and Pennsylvania Dutch recruits from Lehigh and Northampton counties.1
The winter of 1863 was not as grueling as the previous one, but German American politics proved just as troublesome. Suffering from poor health, chafed by the smallness of his corps compared to others in the Army of the Potomac, annoyed by the lack of promotions of fellow German officers (for which he believed Army Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck responsible), and deluded by his own inflated sense of importance, Franz Sigel resigned (p.47) command of the Eleventh Corps on 11 March. Both Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were enraged at his arrogance and refused to give him back command of his old corps when Sigel reconsidered his action in April. Instead, they appointed Major General Oliver Otis Howard, a West Point graduate and an evangelizing New Englander, as new commander of the Eleventh Corps, with Brigadier General Carl Schurz taking temporary command until Howard reached his charge. The beloved Sigel, darling of Germans nationwide, never again commanded German troops in the Army of the Potomac.2
The realization that Sigel would not be with them for the coming spring campaign unsettled many Eleventh Corps soldiers, both German and non-German. Captain Theodore Howell of the 153rd Pennsylvania wrote, “I would rather fight under Sigel than any other Gen'l in the army as he tries to save his men and don't go in blind.” Private William Charles of the 154th New York lamented, “I heard yesterday that Gen. Sigel had resigned. For one I am very sorry for I believe him to be a very good General and one that wishes to put down this Rebellion.” Sergeant Otto Heusinger of the 41st New York recalled that “the news surprised us very much,” and blamed it on “miserable politics, that sore spot in American military history.” Sigel “had the gift to make himself beloved among the soldiers,” especially with the Germans. Who could replace him? Many believed he would succeed in being reinstated, but in the event Sigel failed to get his old command back, Lieutenant Colonel Alwin von Matzdorff of the 75th Pennsylvania predicted another German officer from within the Eleventh Corps would replace him: “in this case Genr'l Schurtz will probably take command of the corps.” But neither Schurz nor any other German received the coveted permanent position. Instead, the teetotaling, one-armed Howard, a tested Anglo American veteran of the Army of the Potomac who had never before served with Germans, rode into camp. Baron Friedrich Otto von Fritsch, special aide to the 74th Pennsylvania's former colonel (now brigadier) Alexander Schimmelfennig, remembered escorting Howard to Schurz's headquarters to take formal command of the Eleventh Corps. Upon his arrival, “the Generals turned out to salute the new Commander and then made very long faces. It was a surprise to everybody. General Schurz had hoped to succeed General Siegel if the latter should resign.”3
Riding through the camps of the German regiments after nightfall, von Fritsch noticed that the “piety” of Howard along with their natural affection for Sigel prejudiced the troops against the new corps commander. “I heard various exclamations in the tents: ‘Boys, let us pray.’ ‘Tracts now, instead of Sauerkraut.’ ‘Oh Jesus!’ ‘Oh Lord!’” According to von Fritsch, Schimmelfennig himself “prophesied that the troops would not like the new commander.” The baron also correctly noted that “not quite half” of the Eleventh Corps was (p.48) composed of non-Germans, who might receive Howard's religious inclinations more favorably. But even they, apparently, were unhappy with him. The new commanding general perceived the dissatisfaction among his troops, and recalled in his autobiography, “I soon found out that my past record was not known here; that there was much complaint in the German language at the removal of Sigel… and that I was not at first getting the earnest and loyal support of the entire command. But for me there was no turning back.”4
Not all the events preceding the battle of Chancellorsville boded so negatively for the German American regiments. In early February, the regimental commanders of the Eleventh Corps submitted status reports to their brigade commanders. The news was very good. Both the 27th and 75th Pennsylvania, for instance, were in excellent condition, numbering 449 and 355 effectives, respectively. Few men were sick in either regiment, their drill and discipline were good, and their morale high. Colonel Mahler of the 75th mentioned the “flattering remarks made on several occasions by our esteemed Brigade Commander, Col. Krzyzanowski,” about the precision in drill of the regiment. Later, on 10 April near Brooks Station, Abraham Lincoln and other notables from Washington reviewed the Eleventh Corps as it paraded by at the salute. Lieutenant Colonel von Matzdorff called his regiment's performance “brilliant,” and remarked “that all were astonished at the grand appearance of the Dutch!” Private Adam Muenzenberger of the 26th Wisconsin boasted to his wife that his regiment was the largest in the Eleventh Corps, and “also the cleanest and the neatest.” When it marched past the reviewing stand, Carl Schurz's daughter reportedly asked him which regiment it was, to which he answered, “that is the 26th Wisconsin.” Then she said, “That is the finest looking regiment in the army.” With flags flying and bands playing, the German regiments paraded by crisply at the eyes right, and a smile reportedly pursed Lincoln's lips. Colonel Wladimir Krzyzanowski's brigade, containing both the 26th Wisconsin and the 75th Pennsylvania, was universally acclaimed as the “best drilled and most soldierly” of all.5
Governors of various states also visited the camp of the Eleventh Corps at Stafford Court House that spring and remarked favorably. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, for example, arrived in late March and extensive preparations were made to receive him. In the camp of the 153rd Pennsylvania, “triumphal arches, with appropriate inscriptions, devices, and festoons greeted the august visitor in great profusion.” The camp looked like a “fairy land” to one observer. Curtin reviewed the regiment, addressed the men “in a neat and appropriate manner” and left amid “hearty cheers.” Two days later the governor visited the 75th Pennsylvania “and made an excellent speech to our troops,” von Matzdorff wrote. Afterward, “he stopped in my tent, and placed himself (p.49) upon my bed—took some wine—in fact he was very pleasant.” The German American governor of Wisconsin, Edward S. Salomon, paid the 26th Wisconsin a visit on 19 April. Adam Muenzenberger was jubilant about the occasion in a letter home to his wife. He noted the camp had been “decorated… with green boughs and festoons,” and that the governor praised the 26th and felt honored by it. That night members of the Milwaukee Sängerbund serenaded Salomon and his guests, including Carl Schurz. The camp echoed with the harmonies of the old German songs, “In der Heimat ist es Schoen” and “Das treue deutsche Herz,” and the governor was so moved that he exclaimed, “In my whole life, I have never before been so proud of my German descent as I am now.” Three cheers for the Union and the governor followed, “but they didn't go so well…. But when [Colonel William H. Jacobs] called for three cheers for General Schurz they went! Schurz merely smiled.”6
Many in the Army of the Potomac had reason to smile that early spring of 1863. The new army commander, Major General Joseph Hooker, had instilled a renewed sense of élan and pride among his troops. Gone was the depression following Fredericksburg, replaced instead by a firm, even cocky confidence in the success of the impending campaign. Hooker's plan was simple: outflank Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, stationed at Fredericksburg, by marching the bulk of the Federal army in a wide arc to the west, cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers well upstream, and advance on Lee's rear and flank. At the same time, a smaller segment of the army, under Major General John Sedgwick, was to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg and occupy Lee's attention. Hooker would then close in on the southerners from the west. Lee would be caught in a gigantic northern pincer movement, and, already outnumbered over two to one, be forced to “ingloriously fly” or “give battle” on ground of the Union commander's choosing. It was definitely a good strategy, but much depended on Robert E. Lee's idleness. That was a trait the Confederate leader had not yet shown.
After much anticipation and in high spirits, the Army of the Potomac broke camp in the last days of April 1863 and commenced the campaign that would so affect the course of the war in the East as well as the stature and self-esteem of the North's German Americans. On a rainy and overcast 27 April that belied the happy mood of the men, the Eleventh Corps left its winter quarters, assembled by regiments, brigades, and then divisions, and marched south toward Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock River. It was in the lead because it was the smallest corps in the army, and thus supposed the fastest, but by some bungling on the part of O. O. Howard or his staff, the entire train of the corps accompanied it, including herds of cattle to be slaughtered later for food. All of the extra baggage delayed the progress of the corps and those marching behind it, but in (p.50) the end it made no difference. Two days of marching saw the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Fifth Corps safely across the ford. Carl Schurz remembered that “officers and men seemed to feel instinctively that they were engaged in an offensive movement promising great results. There was no end to the singing and merry laughter.” The men carried at least 60 rounds with them, as well as ten days' worth of rations. Knapsacks bulged with 30 tablespoons of coffee, 15 of sugar, and 80 pieces of hardtack, and five pounds each of salt pork, beans, rice, and potato meal followed each soldier in the trains.7
Philadelphian Adolphus Buschbeck, former colonel of the 27th Pennsylvania (now in command of a brigade in Adolph von Steinwehr's division) also gave the men reason to laugh. Buschbeck and his brigade, sent out in advance of the main Eleventh Corps column, were settling down for a hard-earned rest when suddenly very loud barking was heard from a nearby cabin. The noise was so loud that the men could not fall asleep, so the colonel sent his aide to take care of the problem. When the aide returned, obviously unsuccessful in his mission, Buschbeck knocked on the door of his cabin and confronted the owner himself, exclaiming, “Hullo dere wy you not stop dem dogs bark?” The “old rebel” replied, “I can't make them quit barking,” to which Buschbeck blurted, “Git up and ketch dem dog or I burn your house down right away!” The discussion ended there; the dogs were duly silenced by their owner and Buschbeck's regiments slept through the night. For his efficient quelling of the rebellious dogs the German colonel was praised by the editor of the Pittsburgh Gazette: “When this officer is surprised in his camp, or fails in the discharge of his duty as a soldier, there will be reason to doubt all men, and to trust none.” Just how well these words applied to Buschbeck's performance at Chancellorsville, and how quickly they were forgotten in the anti-German prejudice that followed, is uncanny.8
On rainy 29 April the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps marched to Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River. The water was high—about four feet—and flowing swiftly. Most of the men held their rifles and cartridge boxes over their heads as they crossed late in the evening, but a few regiments had the advantage of a hastily built and jerry-rigged footbridge constructed by the 123rd New York. Regardless of the method of crossing, however, everyone got wet. Sergeant William H. Weaver of the 153rd Pennsylvania wrote that it rained hard that night, and since the men were tired and worn out, they just “lay down there in the mud and rain” until ordered to cross. Lieutenant Karl Doerflinger of the 26th Wisconsin described that night “as a short sleep in the mud or water between the corn hills of a level field.” The next day the rain-soaked troops of the Eleventh Corps arose early, cooked their coffee and breakfasts, and marched to within ten miles of Chancellorsville. On 1 May—May Day to the Germans—the (p.51) regiments encamped directly to its west along the Orange Turnpike. It was a “splendid” day according to one soldier, the sun shining for the first time since they embarked on the campaign. The German troops were in a festive mood. They could finally dry out, rest for a whole morning, and enjoy themselves. One man remarked that he and his comrades were “cheerful” and “happy.” But on that same day, Joseph Hooker, whose plan to outflank and surprise Robert E. Lee had so far succeeded brilliantly, relinquished the initiative to the Confederates. After running into rebel resistance at the Zoan Church, west of Fredericksburg, the army commander decided to adopt a defensive position in the deep woods around Chancellorsville. When asked about this curious change of posture by one of his generals, Hooker replied, “It is all right, Couch; I have got Lee just where I want him; he must fight me on my own ground.” He knew he had numerical superiority and wanted to consolidate his army before pressing on. If Lee attacked, all the better. He also thought he had time on his side. The problem for Hooker, and very soon for the Eleventh Corps, was that Lee would not sit idly by and await the Federals' next move. He and Stonewall Jackson had to act immediately to prevent a southern disaster, and in so doing, they scored their greatest victory.9
“A Queer Jumble of Sounds”
The Eleventh Corps occupied the extreme right flank of the Army of the Potomac on 2 May 1863. Why exactly it was positioned at the far right end is puzzling. It may have been the result of pure circumstance, the corps having marched in from the west behind the Twelfth Corps. Some historians have argued that the Eleventh was still considered the unwanted stepson of the Army of the Potomac, a vestige of Major General John Popes's Army of Virginia, defeated at Second Manassas the year before. Others have claimed that the number of new regiments in the corps, eleven out of twenty-seven, prompted Hooker to place it in an area where it would likely see little action should Lee attack. Then, too, the high percentage of German troops in the corps still aroused suspicion among Anglo American veterans in the high command. Over half of the organization's 12,000 men were German-born or of direct German lineage. Although many of these soldiers were themselves veterans and had fought hard on previous battlefields, their reputation for plundering civilians, service under unsuccessful commanders like Frémonth and Pope, and perhaps most importantly, their foreign language and customs rankled many Yankee officers. A combination of all of these reasons probably obliged Hooker to deploy the Eleventh Corps as far as possible from what he thought would be the heart of his operations—the center of his line near Chancellorsville.10
(p.52) German and non-German regiments alike spread their camps out facing south along the Orange Turnpike and in the clearings just to its north, in expectation of an attack by or against the rebels in that direction. At the extreme right of the Eleventh Corps' line, bivouacked in the forest, were the regiments of Colonel Leopold von Gilsa's brigade of Brigadier Charles Devens's First Division. Von Gilsa's men were nearly all German Americans or of German decent. Three of the regiments (the 41st, 45th, and 54th New York) as well as their commander were tested veterans, having first served under Blenker in his German division around Washington in 1861–62. They took credit for stemming the Federal rout after First Manassas and participated in the grueling march over the Virginia mountains to join Frémont, fought at Cross Keys, Freeman's Ford, and Second Manassas, and were now ready to fight again. The fourth regiment, the 153rd Pennsylvania, composed primarily of Pennsylvanians of direct German decent (Pennsylvania Dutch), was new to the army, but eager to show its mettle. Howard had ordered von Gilas to place the camps of the 54th New York and 153rd Pennsylvania perpendicular to and north of the turnpike, a token nod to the possibility of an attack from the west. He then deployed the second brigade of Devens's division, under the command of Brigadier General Nathaniel McLean, directly to the east of von Gilsa and just north of the road in the Talley House clearing. McLean and his men, mainly Ohioans, were nearly all Anglo American and also battle tested, with the exception of the 107th Ohio, which was a veteran German regiment. Carl Schurz's Third Division came next in line along the turnpike, with a few regiments of Krzyzanowski's brigade, including the 26th Wisconsin, positioned north of the road in the Hawkins Farm/Wilderness Church clearing. Finally, at the end of the mile-and-a-half-long Eleventh Corps line near Dowdall's Tavern, Adolph von Steinwehr's Second Division made camp. Howard decided to make the tavern his headquarters. As he fell asleep there on 1 May, he rested with the knowledge, passed down from Hooker himself, that Lee would either retreat or attack the Union army in its center. The scrub pines, tangled vines, briars, and thick shrubbery of the wilderness to the west ensured that his right flank, “hanging in the air,” could not possibly be assailed.11
The men in all the regiments had spent the afternoon of 1 May preparing for an assault from the south, digging entrenchments, felling trees in a make-shift abatis, and positioning the artillery in key locations. Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow's brigade of von Steinwehr's division had partially dug some shallow rifle pits in a line running north to south at Dowdall's Tavern, but other than a few even more incomplete breastworks near the Wilderness Church, no other earthworks were ordered dug to meet a potential assault from the west. Early on Saturday morning, 2 May, General Hooker rode out along the (p.53) Eleventh Corps line and, cheered by the men, acclaimed the position secure. But shortly thereafter, signs began to appear that the Confederates were up to something.12
Union lookouts at Hazel Grove, a clearing in the forest to the south located about halfway between Dowdall's Tavern and Chancellorsville, had climbed some trees around nine o'clock and observed rebel infantry moving to the west. They were about a mile and a half distant. Hooker received this news at his headquarters after returning from his inspection of the Eleventh Corps' positions. He was puzzled. Were the southerners retreating, as he had hoped? Or could it be possible that Lee and Jackson were trying to outflank him? Hooker played it safe, and at 9:30 issued the following order to Howard and Major General Henry Slocum, commanding the neighboring Twelfth Corps:
I am directed by the major general commanding to say the disposition you have made of your corps has been with a view to a front attack by the enemy. If he should throw himself upon your flank, he wishes you to examine the ground, and determine upon the position you will take in that event, in order that you may be prepared for him in whatever direction he advances.
He suggests that you have heavy reserves well in hand to meet this contingency.
J. H. Van Alen, Brig. General and a.d.C.
We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe in order to obtain timely information of their approach.13
About the same time as Hooker issued the order, Carl Schurz was alerted to the possible danger by some of his men, who had spoken to soldiers in Devens's division claiming they had seen gray infantry moving off to the west about a mile away. Schurz argued with twenty-twenty hindsight years later that “it flashed upon my mind that it was Stonewall Jackson, the ‘great flanker’ marching toward our right.” He recalled immediately riding to Howard's headquarters at Dowdall's and trying to convince the corps commander that precautions had to be taken, but that “he clung to the belief which, he said, was also entertained by General Hooker, that Lee was not going to attack our right, but was actually in full retreat toward Gordonsville.” Whether or not Schurz actually foresaw Jackson's flanking movement at this point in the day is debatable. It is ironic, however, that about the same time as Hooker became alarmed at the (p.54) possibility of being flanked, his corps commander on the very flank in question was convinced nothing was amiss. To Howard's credit, he independently sent off a letter to Hooker at 10:50 informing him of the discovery Devens's pickets had made, indicating “I am taking measures to resist an attack from the west,” but in reality Howard did nothing except move the corps' reserve artillery behind Barlow's rifle pits and change the location of a signal station. According to Schurz, Howard soon settled down for a nap, and asked to be awakened if any important dispatches arrived.14
Not long after Howard fell asleep, Schurz awakened him, Hooker's 9:30 dispatch in hand. Schurz claims that he read it in full to Howard “and put it into his hands.” A few minutes later a second dispatch arrived from Hooker with the same message. The German division commander and his New England corps commander proceeded to have a lengthy discussion about the prudence of preparing for a possible assault from the west. Schurz pleaded to realign the corps. Howard declined. Schurz then asked to simply change the front of his division. Howard again refused.
Did O. O. Howard willfully disobey his superior's orders? After the war, Henry M. Kellogg of the 55th Ohio swore an affidavit in front of a notary public that he had been assigned to Colonel T. A. Meysenberg, Howard's assistant adjutant general, and “had charge of the records and files of letters, telegrams, and orders received” of the Eleventh Corps. All of the official correspondence addressed to and from Howard went across his desk so that he could write duplicate copies for the corps' files. “There was not among these papers the famous and all important order of May 2nd, 9:30 a.m., from headquarters of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville House, from General Joseph Hooker,” Kellogg affirmed. Later, however, on 30 June during the Gettysburg campaign, “within 48 hours following the departure of General Joseph Hooker from the said army as its commander,” Meysenberg entered Kellogg's tent and handed him a field order, saying “There is a very important order relating to the Chancellorsville campaign; you will file it in its proper place, among the papers of that campaign, and record it in your book, giving it the proper date, May 2nd.” Kellogg read the order “with amazement and astonishment and immediately made a copy of the order from the original, which for two months had been concealed and kept from the files until General Hooker had been relieved from command.” Filing the original in “its proper place,” the clerk said nothing until his 1897 deposition, where he noted that the original had now mysteriously “disappeared from the files in the War Department.”15
Howard claimed after the war in Century Magazine that he never received the famous 9:30 order. But the evidence from both Schurz and Kellogg indicates that he almost certainly did, even allowing for discrepancies created by memory (p.55) and damaged egos. Meysenberg would have had no reason to keep the order away from his general on 2 May, so it is unlikely he simply pocketed it. Schurz would not have made such a punctilious effort of documenting his conversation with Howard about the order on the same day if he did not receive it. What most likely happened is that Howard got the order and ignored the spirit of it, firm in his belief that the Confederates would not, could not, attack his flank through the thick underbrush. His commanding general shortly rein-forced this belief by reversing his earlier cautionary concern about a possible flanking movement, allowing Major General Daniel Sickles, commanding the Third Corps, to pursue what was believed to be a retreating foe at Catharine Furnace. Sickles was adamant that Lee was retreating, and even if not, he thought he could strike him before the rebels struck the Union army. Hooker convinced himself that Sickles had to be right and could do the job. Ultimately he gave him nearly all of the Third Corps and most of the Twelfth Corps—the very troops that connected the Eleventh Corps with the rest of the army—and, around 4:00, Barlow's brigade of von Steinwehr's division. Thus, the Eleventh Corps not only became isolated from the rest of the army at one fell swoop, but also lost its only infantry reserve, sent away on a wild goose chase that would result in only a few bagged enemy prisoners. Howard accompanied Barlow on this ill-fated expedition, and therefore the corps also temporarily lost its commander. Stonewall Jackson's flanking march would proceed undeterred. But it would not go undetected by the rank and file of the Eleventh Corps.16
The first soldiers in the corps to notice that Confederates were moving around them and massing on their right belonged to Devens's First Division. Germans and Anglo Americans of multiple regiments reported numerous times that they had either seen the rebel column approaching or actually bumped into Jackson's battle line forming up. The picket line of the 55th Ohio, for instance, had started sending in status reports of the rebel movements as early as 11:00, and continued throughout the afternoon. Devens ignored them. Lieutenant A. B. Searles of the 45th New York, on picket well in front of the flank, heard a “queer jumble of sounds” to his front, including what he thought were commands being shouted “and bugles sounding the call to deploy.” His report made it all the way to Howard, but was dismissed with a warning that “Lieutenant Searles must not be scared of a few bushwhackers.” Major Owen Rice of the 153rd Pennsylvania and in charge of von Gilsa's picket line, actually witnessed Jackson's men lining up for the assault about 2:45. His report was emphatic: “A large body of the enemy is massing in my front. For God's sake make dispositions to receive him.” Von Gilsa was convinced, and personally brought the dispatch to Howard, but the corps commander rebuked him. By this point in the day, thanks to reports from Sickles that he was driving the rebels, Howard (p.56) was so certain that the enemy was in retreat that he simply closed his mind to any contrary idea. His division commander on the flank was even more recalcitrant, and could not even plead Howard's myopic excuse. Three of Devens's veteran regimental commanders reported to him at the Talley House with clear evidence from their scouts that Confederates were massing on the right, and Devens did nothing except castigate some of them for being scared. Colonel William Richardson of the 25th Ohio, Colonel John C. Lee of the 55th Ohio, and Colonel Robert Reilly of the 75th Ohio all came to their division commander at various times during the afternoon and were brushed off. Divans said to Lee, “You are frightened sir,” and angrily told their brigade commander, General McLean, that his “western colonels” belonged with their regiments rather than constantly coming to him. The most unfortunate aspect of this failure in command is that most of the men in the ranks of at least McLean's brigade knew they were going to be attacked and had not been adequately prepared. Skirmishing with the enemy earlier in the afternoon had put them ill at ease, and camp rumor had fully circulated the reports of the pickets. Colonel Lee later wrote, “we sent all our non-combatant material to the rear. The opinion throughout our brigade was general that we would soon be attacked from our right flank.”17
Von Gilsa received a last-minute report from a picket in the 41st New York, his old regiment, and again rode to Howard, recently returned from his foray with Sickles and Barlow, about 5:00. An interesting exchange ensued. Von Gilsa: “General, I must have reinforcements.” Howard: “With the help of God, you have to keep this position.” Von Gilsa: “The Devil! Of what use is God's help—I must have soldiers!” According to one account, the first Confederate shells began to fall at that very moment.18
Stonewall Jackson's 26,000 Confederate veterans, organized in 70 regiments, began springing forth from the underbrush about half-past five on 2 May 1863. Their appearance was preceded by frightened animals, deer, rabbits, and birds, which scampered in fear through the camps of Devens's division. Most of the men were alert to the possibility of danger from the west but had been ordered to continue preparing dinner. Their beef still boiling in cooking pots, the hungry soldiers at first found the traveling feast of game a source of great amusement. That mood abruptly changed as artillery shells suddenly exploded in their midst and the unmistakable, spine-tingling sound of the rebel yell reverberated through the forest. The 8,500 men of the Eleventh Corps were about to fight their most infamous battle.
“We Held Firm as Long as We Could”
The Germans of the 153rd Pennsylvania and 54th New York were the first struck by Jackson's onslaught, specifically the Alabamans of O'Neal's brigade.
(p.57) The Federal pickets barely escaped back to their own lines, followed by the steady tread of “a perfectly solid mass of men” and an especially shrill-sounding rebel yell. Major Eugene Blackford of the 5th Alabama remembered, “we moved on about 1/4 of a mile in silence and then suddenly came upon the Dutchmen cooking in the woods…. With a yell we reached in.” The Confederates fired a devastating volley that brought the leaves of the trees “fluttering down upon us as though a thunder storm had broken loose,” said one Pennsylvanian. Leaves were not the only things falling. “Here and there a soldier dropped,” Private Francis Stofflet of the 153rd wrote. He could not yet see the enemy, “but fired into the thicket, others did likewise, reloaded and fired again.” The regiment, in this unexpected baptism by fire, somehow managed to form a makeshift battle line, but within minutes the Southern vanguard had converged on it and that of the 54th New York, surrounding them on three sides. Captain Theodore Howell of Company D of the 153rd realized an immediate withdrawal was imperative: “I know if our regiment had stood 3 minutes longer we would all have been cut to pieces.” The Confederates got so close that “they struck some of the men with the butts of their rifles.” In the end, the Northampton and Lehigh County men managed to fire four or five volleys (p.58) before being overwhelmed. No records or personal accounts exist for the 54th New York, but it appears they did likewise. Colonel Charles Glanz of the 153rd wrote a month after the battle that even after the neighboring 45th and 54th New York “were in full retreat,” “I stood with 7 companies of brave Pennsylvanians, fighting as old veterans for the honor of their state and their country.” Withdrawing at first in good order, the regiment's cohesion broke down as the men realized running was the only alternative to capture.19
The soldiers of the 41st New York, one of the most German of all the regiments in the Eleventh Corps, found themselves especially disadvantaged because their regiment was encamped in close quarters along the Orange Turnpike, right at the bend in the “L” of von Gilsa's brigade, and literally perpendicular to the Confederate battle line when it hit. Sergeant Otto Heusinger made no apologies: “A panicked fear overcame us, how crazily we plunged away, the rest of the division running with us.” Sergeant William Burghart of Company A, 45th New York, was distributing rations to his men when “a terrible fire from front and right and rear” crashed into the regiment. “We could not see a rebel,” he exclaimed, but “the boys did not wayt for the distribution of the balance and run, nobody knew where to.” His comrade, Luis Keck, wrote his wife that “we had them at our back and in the front,” and then added, “if the rebels had not been so drunk, there would not have been more than 500 of our men left” in the entire corps. These supposedly “drunken” Confederates attacked as if they “wanted to completely annihilate us, the Eleventh Corps, those damn Dutchmen! We sure had to suffer for it!” Keck probably took the attack on his regiment and his corps a bit personally, but his words reveal the sudden nature and ferocity of the rebel assault. Like the 41st New York, the 45th was encamped in close quarters along the turnpike, hemmed in by the thick woods on either side. Not only was there no time to change front and face the enemy, but there also was no space to execute such a maneuver. Individual soldiers in the 41st and 45th probably got off a few shots, but beyond that, the regiment' resistance was negligible. The gunners manning two pieces of Captain Julius Dieckmann's New York battery, stationed at the edge of the 41st, managed to fire only two rounds before being overrun.20
As Von Gilsa's regiments collapsed, fragments from them immediately streamed into the formations of McLean's brigade. Because many of the commanders of these Anglo American regiments were certain of the impending attack, they had their men up and ready as much as possible, but most had not yet changed position and faced west. They were waiting for official orders from Devens to do so. The orders never came. Instead, the Confederates of Doles's Georgia brigade came charging, right on the heels of von Gilsa's skedaddling soldiers, and rolled up the Ohio regiments like clockwork. Staff officer Charles (p.59) T. Furlow of the 4th Georgia wrote, “the men gave a yell which shook the very earth under them and charged forward at a run…. We came into an open field where the enemy had constructed breastworks and here they endeavored to make a stand but it was no use, they could not resist the impetuosity of our charge.” The 25th Ohio hurriedly tried to change front and fired off three volleys; the 55th reportedly got off two. The 75th Ohio, acting as brigade reserve, successfully changed front and held for about ten minutes, but the refugees from other regiments continually broke its lines and disrupted its cohesion. Soon, it, too, joined the rout. Private Luther Mesnard of the 55th remembered, “we stopped the rebs in our front for a moment, but there was a perfect hail of lead flying, a perfect mass of rebs not twenty feet away, the man on my right and left both fell.” When the enemy “surged ahead,” Mesnard “ran toward our left flank, and how I did run.” Private John Lewis of the 17th Connecticut, the lone Yankee regiment in McLean's “Ohio brigade,” also ran: “We got most of the regiment together but the Rebbles came down on us with such great numbers that we broke and fell back.” Lewis ran so hard and so far that he became “completely exhausted” and hid behind a pine tree. Jacob Smith of the German 107th Ohio correctly noted that “the losses were enormous” in Devens's second brigade, “the battle [having] assumed the character and appearance of a massacre.” The 107th stood as long as it possibly could, but it, too, quickly disintegrated under the extreme enemy pressure and joined the rout.21
Jackson's veterans pressed onward, driving the panic-stricken survivors of the First Division before them. The regiments in Major General Carl Schurz's Third Division, next in line along the Orange Turnpike and in the Hawkins Farm/Wilderness Church clearing directly above it, were alerted to the imminent danger by the sounds of fighting directly to their west, but many of the officers and men had suspected a Confederate attack was coming since the early afternoon. Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig had sent out numerous scouts who returned with reports of Confederates massing to the south and west, and Captain Hubert Dilger of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery had actually discovered the Confederate battle line forming up about two o'clock. Narrowly escaping capture by rebel cavalry pickets, Dilger frantically rode to Hooker's headquarters, where he was rebuffed by a “long-legged major of cavalry” who advised him to “tell his yarn” at Eleventh Corps headquarters. Reaching Dowdall's Tavern, he was even more discourteously received, lampooned for having made his unauthorized reconnaissance, and told that Howard had gone off with Barlow to the south. Dejected and “crestfallen,” Dilger then reported to Schurz, returned to his battery and prepared it for action, even refusing to allow his horses to be watered. Schurz had long convinced himself the attack was coming, and after the ill-starred conversation about Hooker's 9:30 a.m. order, tried (p.60) once again to persuade Howard to change front and face west. According to his 1907 recollection, Schurz stood with Howard about three o'clock on the porch of Dowdall's Tavern and mentioned that an assault from the west would “crush Gilsa's two regiments,” deployed to “protect the right and rear” of the Eleventh Corps. He asked Howard if von Gilsa would have any chance to resist, to which Howard supposedly replied, “Well, he will have to fight.” Riding away, Schurz claimed, “I was almost desperate,” and on his own volition ordered the 26th Wisconsin and 58th New York of Colonel Wladimir Krzyzanowski's brigade to fall into line, face west, and send out skirmishers. The 82nd Ohio was encamped just south of the other two regiments and was also ordered to turn to the west in support. “This was all, literally all, that was done to meet an attack from the west,” Schurz lamented. “I was heartsick.”22
Schurz's men were nearly all German. Only two regiments out of nine in his division—the 82nd Ohio and 157th New York—were composed primarily of Anglo Americans, and even so there were Germans among them. By five o'clock, some of his soldiers were already prepared to fight, rifles in hand or close by, eyes facing west. Those who belonged to regiments not repositioned had still been uneasy as the afternoon wore on. Like some of their Anglo American comrades in Devens's division, the men had known something was afoot. Rumors from the various scouting parties filtered about, proliferating camp gossip. Rifles were stacked, but the soldiers sat near them. Campfires still cooked some of the freshly slaughtered beef, but the men ate quickly. When the rabbits, deer, and birds frightened off by Jackson's advancing columns ran through their camps about 5:45, they were not greeted by whoops of joy and hilarity. Schurz's men knew what was coming behind the animals, and could already hear the approaching battle.23
Soldiers in the 75th Pennsylvania (in Vladimir Krzyzanowski's brigade), most of whom were on picket duty in the woods south of the main Eleventh Corps line, may have discovered the Confederates' game long before Jackson actually launched the attack. During the early afternoon, Private Jacob Ullmann and Sergeant Charles Mehring both reported that they watched helplessly as “the enemy appeared and marched quietly along in our front. They were so close that… any ordinary marksman could have taken aim and pick[ed] away the leading officer.” This account is a bit suspect, doubtless clouded by the fog of memory, but Ullmann and Mehring were not the only members of the 75th to remember seeing the flanking Confederates. Ullmann's brother, Private John Ullmann, also supposedly spotted the rebels that afternoon, and noted that “the sun was about to set when [we] heard firing in [our] rear.” Most of the pickets hesitated only a few minutes before retreating in the direction of Hazel Grove. Assembling at “the headquarters of the pickets” in a small clearing in the forest, (p.61) the Ullmann brothers, Mehring, and their comrades prepared to deploy in line of battle. Lieutenant Colonel Alwin von Matzdorff gave the order, “but found such at the next moment impossible, as the enemy appeared in sight with their customary indianlike yell.” Cut off from their comrades by the advancing Confederates, “nothing more was left our men than to take to their heels.” In the end, most soldiers of the 75th did manage to elude capture, like many in Devens's First Division, by first retreating at the double-quick and then literally running. According to Sergeant Hermann Nachtigall in a postwar letter, a good portion managed to find sanctuary among the Union batteries posted at Hazel Grove, but their journey there through the dense underbrush and over streams and fences was far from easy. Hotly pursued by the rebels, some of whom were screaming “Give it to the damn Yankees,” the Philadelphia Germans did not even have time to unsling their knapsacks to ease their escape. Importantly, however, a sizeable percentage of the 75th regained order after its flight and even rejoined the battle as infantry support for the Federal artillery at Hazel Grove.24
Immediately after hearing the first crashes of musketry directly to their west, the company and regimental officers of the 61st Ohio, 68th New York, and 74th Pennsylvania jumped into action, barking commands in both English and German, trying desperately to form the men up by company before the tempest broke upon them. Yet for these regiments posted along the Orange Turnpike there was just not enough time, not enough space because of the thick woods, and far too much chaos. First the fleeing soldiers, wagons, mules, and artillery from the broken regiments of the First Division crashed into their ranks, and then the Confederates themselves appeared, screaming the rebel yell and rushing on with a sort of wild abandon that Union survivors remembered years later. In his official report, Carl Schurz wrote that “the officers had hardly had time to give a command when almost the whole of General McLean's brigade, mixed up with a number of Colonel von Gilsa's men, came rushing down the road from General Devens's headquarters in wild confusion.” Along with the wave of frightened men came the batteries of the First Division, which “broke in upon my right at a full run. This confused mass of guns, caissons, horses, and men broke lengthwise through the ranks of my regiments,” making it “an utter impossibility to establish a front at that point.” On top of that, Schurz continued, the enemy had followed right on the heels of the fugitives, and succeeded in firing into the backs of the 74th Pennsylvania, some companies of which could not turn about-face to meet them as a result of the confusion caused by Devens's skedaddling survivors.25
The Pittsburgh Germans of the 74th Pennsylvania (in Alexander Schimmelfennig's brigade) were just about to settle down for the evening when the bugles (p.62) and drums suddenly sounded the call to arms. Hearing the din of battle growing louder by the minute, and assaulted by the first groups of First Division refugees, the men nonetheless attempted to form up and resist the onslaught. Schimmelfennig was everywhere, exhorting the troops of his old regiment to rally to the colors and stand firm, but the chaos wrought by the fleeing human and animal flotsam steadily grew worse and severely hampered his attempts. Lieutenant Colonel Adolph von Hartung reported that “the different regiments on our right were in a few minutes all mixed up with the Seventy-Fourth.” He claimed that “a restoring of order was an utter impossibility.” Private Martin Seel wrote his brother that “there was no more time to… change the formation of the front line. Bullets came from somewhere behind us. The rebels took advantage of the confusion, they charged ahead with all their might.” The 74th simply could not form a proper regimental line in its current position, and, according to Seel, Schimmelfennig's entire brigade “could not even fire off any bullets so as not to hit our own people.” For the first time in the war the discipline and good order of the 74th broke: “everyone scattered apart in a wild rout.” But the battle was far from over for most of these Germans. They would fight again, and soon. Retreating by companies, groups, and individuals through the woods to their east, the men of the 74th joined those of the 61st Ohio and 68th New York, regiments that had also been shattered along the road, and fell into a quickly growing battle line in front of the Wilderness Church.26
The 119th New York, also of Schimmelfennig's brigade, found itself in only a slightly better position than the 74th Pennsylvania. Posted at the intersection of the Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike, its ranks were not as badly broken by the fleeing soldiers of the First Division, but surgeon Carl Uterhard nonetheless told his family that “thousands of people suddenly burst forth from the woods in wild flight,” creating confusion in the New Yorkers' ranks. Colonel Elias Peissner still managed to form the regiment into line while under heavy enemy fire, and had succeeded in holding it for several minutes when he was suddenly shot dead. Along with eight other men of the color guard, flagbearer Joseph Carter also fell, mortally wounded, at the feet of his father. In 1864, Captain Charles Lewis remembered the incident in his diary, writing that “Old man Carter” took the flag from his dying son's hands and began to wave it back and forth, shouting “Poor Joe, poor Joe, I'll save your flag.” The sight was “truly dramatic, and did more, I think, than any other one thing to keep the line steady and firm during these awful moments when we were exposed to the full fire of that line of Jackson's.” Exactly how long the 119th held firm is unknown—it could not have been more than twenty minutes—but it paid a high price in blood for its stand against Doles's Georgians. So did Hubert (p.63) Dilger's Ohio battery, which had deployed behind the 119th and 61st Ohio and fired over their heads until the infantry withdrew. For several minutes thereafter Dilger's artillerymen and their six cannon stood alone as the only Federal forces still resisting west of the Wilderness Church. Sweeping “his entire front with charges and double charges of canister,” Dilger did his best to hold up the rebels, but as gunner Darwin Cody observed, “such yelling I never heard before as the Rebs made…. [They] soon commenced to charge on our battery,” and were determined “to get one of our guns.” Dilger shouted the order to retire, but it was too late to salvage the gun the Confederates had aimed for. He ended up leaving it to the triumphant enemy but miraculously saved the other five amidst repeated calls to surrender. Evading capture with the help of a small boy who picked him up after his horse was shot, Dilger and his battery retreated beyond the Wilderness Church and resumed firing.27
Positioned just north of the Orange Turnpike close to the Hawkins Farm, the Chicago Germans of the 82nd Illinois, commanded by forty-eighter Friedrich Hecker, had a bit more time to react, but were still in the process of forming up when the battle erupted upon them. Private Frantisek Stejskal, a Czech serving in the 82nd, had to leave his supper of coffee, rolls, and beef to grab his musket. “We vainly tried to defend ourselves” he noted, “but the stronger forces of Jackson forced us to retreat.” Sergeant Friedrich Kappelman wrote his parents that “our regiment would have stood its ground better, but the attack came unforeseen, and we were caught down.” The official regimental report was a bit more optimistic, claiming the regiment had already fallen into line when the rebels attacked. Then it “marched in good order to the top of a little hill” in the immediate rear of its original position and turned to face the enemy. Their ranks continually broken by fleeing First Division soldiers, the men of the 82nd still managed to retain their regimental cohesion and fired “at least six rounds” from the hill. But the Confederates were “fighting like tigers,” according to Kappelman, and quickly closed in to the front and right, creating a veritable “hailstorm of grape and musketballs.” The regiment could not stand such punishment for long, and finally Schimmelfennig rode over to Hecker and ordered him to fall back. Retreating only 15–20 yards, Hecker stopped his regiment and grabbed the national colors, cheering on his men to make a charge, but soon realized such an act of suicidal heroism would avail him or his men nothing. Returning the flag to the colorbearer, Hecker was then shot in the thigh and fell from his horse. Major Rolshausen, who ran to his side, was also quickly wounded, and command passed to Captain Greenhut of Company K. His colonel and major down, the regiment surrounded on three sides, Greenhut led the bulk of the 82nd “in good order” to the Wilderness Church, ordering several halts to fire at the closely pursuing rebels. These halts cost the (p.64) regiment dearly in dead and wounded, but preserved its integrity and bought valuable time for other Eleventh Corps units further back to mount an organized defense. Along with sizeable portions of Schimmelfennig's other regiments, the 82nd joined the growing line of Third Division regiments forming at the church.28
The 58th New York and 26th Wisconsin, regiments Carl Schurz had ordered to change front late in the afternoon, were ready and waiting, side by side, at the western edge of the Hawkins Farm clearing. They occupied the northernmost positions in the entire Eleventh Corps deployment, and were under the direct command of their brigade commander, Colonel Vladimir Krzyzanowski. Although many of the men sat around campfires “boiling coffee,” eating, or relaxing in the late afternoon sun, they were also vigilant, rifles by their sides. Their skirmishers were deep in the forest ahead of them, eyes alert and muskets primed. Lieutenant Karl Doerflinger was among them. Suddenly a cannon boomed—presumably one of Dieckmann's two guns at the end of von Gilsa's line—and the young officer heard “the rattle of musketry in a Southwesterly direction.” He and his comrades were tense, unsure of what was about to ensue. Then, through the gloom of the scrub pines and brambles, his eyes picked out human forms “skipping from tree to tree,” and “later the grey uniforms” of the advancing Confederate picket line. Behind them came a wall of gray and butternut, Iverson's and O'Neal's men, who soon let loose with a heavy volley. Doerflinger and his comrades replied in turn. When the order arrived for the skirmishers to retreat, Doerflinger gladly obliged, and dashing back through the woods, emerged opposite the line of the 58th New York. “We then and there annihilated all our previous records for 75 yard runs,” the Milwaukee German remembered. He safely made it back to his regiment.29
As the Confederates charged out of the woods right behind the skirmishers, the 58th New York and 26th Wisconsin, well-deployed in battle lines a bit further back into the clearing, began firing by volley. Corporal Adam Muenzenberger of the 26th described the scene to his wife: “They came out of a bluff in great numbers and outnumbered our regiment seven to four. As we were back of a small hill it was hard for them to hit us but every round our regiment fired mowed down rows of southerners.” Private Frank Smrcek agreed with his comrade that the 26th, in its baptism by fire, held its own against the superior numbers of the enemy. “The enemy wallowed from the forest throwing in our lines the deadly fire. We paid them back in their own coin. At first it seemed as if the rebels were giving in, but then they attacked us so violently that we could not hold against their attacks. Three times we retreated and then faced them again.” The 26th fought the Confederates in the Hawkins Farm clearing approximately twenty minutes, first standing toe to toe against their (p.65) numerically superior foes, then refusing their right flank when the rebels outflanked them, and finally by stubbornly retreating a few paces, turning about, firing, and retreating again. As the historian of the regiment put it, “it was an unequal battle of hundreds against thousands,” but the men seemed intent on proving their courage. Karl Wickesberg noted that even as dear friends and comrades fell all around them, “[we] stood there coldbloodedly and shot at the Rebs.”30
The Wisconsin Germans were not alone in their valor on this part of the field. To their south, in a loose order of battle that became known as the “Wilderness Church line,” fought the 58th New York, 82nd Ohio, 82nd Illinois, 157th New York, and large fragments of the 74th Pennsylvania, 61st Ohio, and 68th New York regiments, which had been shattered along the turnpike further west but now reformed and rallied at the church. The 119th New York and Dilger's battery made their stand at the southern end of this Federal line, but were somewhat isolated from their comrades. Indeed, the total number of Eleventh Corps defenders numbered close to 5,000 along the Wilderness Church line, and proved a welcome sight to some of Devens's fleeing soldiers. Lieutenant A. B. Searles of the 45th New York, falling back through the woods south and west of the Hawkins House, clearly remembered emerging into the clearing and seeing “Schurz's line of battle, with its flags waving right toward us…. Round came his line like a top, swinging sharply as though upon a pivot…. Their front was to the west—in unbroken line, shoulder to shoulder, to stem that oncoming torrent of men.” Searles probably saw the 26th Wisconsin and 58th New York, which did stand closely together, but gaps between other regiments' battle formations, combined with the continuing confusion caused by Devens's fleeing soldiers, rendered the Wilderness Church line less effective than it could have been. Private Benjamin Carr of the 20th North Carolina in Iverson's brigade recalled that “their line… was formed across a field… and was about 400 yards from the woods from which we emerged charging with a yell.” The Yankees ultimately retired, “firing only a few shots at us.” Nonetheless, the resistance here—certainly more than “a few shots”—did stall the relentless southern advance for at least twenty minutes and bought precious time for most of the corps baggage train, cattle, and reserve artillery to escape. Martin Seel of the 74th Pennsylvania claimed “we fired[d] ferociously and stopped their quick advance from continuing.” Most importantly, German bravery at the Wilderness Church and Hawkins Farm allowed Buschbeck's brigade adequate time to prepare a defense at Dowdall's Tavern, and that action proved critical for the survival of the Eleventh Corps and, arguably, the Army of the Potomac. Friedrich Hecker, lying wounded on the field near the Hawkins House, probably summed it up best when he observed that the German regiments, and Krzyzanowski's brigade in particular, “fought as long as possible (p.66) against superior numbers that would have snuffed out resistance from any other troops.”31
The makeshift line at the Wilderness Church finally collapsed under the overwhelming pressure of four Confederate brigades, outflanked on both sides and penetrated in various points in between. The Eleventh Corps regiments fighting along it withdrew one at a time, some of them conducting fighting withdrawals and others simply double-timing it back through the woods and over the Orange Turnpike. Intermingled with them were the last refugees from the First Division. General Howard, astride his horse on the road, supposedly attempted to stop the retreat at this point, believing it a continuation of the earlier rout. Recent historians disagree about when the corps commander supposedly grabbed a stand of abandoned national colors, placed it under the stump of his right arm, and tried by sheer heroics “to arrest the tide.” Based on contextual primary-source evidence, it appears likely that the event occurred between the stand at the Wilderness Church and that at the Busch beck line. In any case, there are also conflicting accounts about Howard's personal bearing during this episode: one soldier from Schurz's division asserted that the general behaved like a child, crying, “Halt! Halt! I'm ruined, I'm ruined! I'll shoot if you don't stop!” Another claimed he recognized Howard “on his horse in the roadway, as cool as if on parade, but urging and insisting and entreating the flying men to go slower.” Whichever version of the story is true, it is likely that the corps commander did all he could to direct his men and contain the damage once the battle had opened. He did not want for courage, and may have even admitted his terrible error in not preparing for the flank attack when he wrote his wife, “I felt… that I wanted to die… but that night I did all in my power to remedy the mistake, and I sought death everywhere I could find an excuse to go on the field.” In the end, death would not find Oliver Otis Howard at Chancellorsville, but controversy and accusations of incompetence would. Perhaps he was thinking about that very possibility as he wheeled his horse around and hurried to the next axis of resistance, literally right in front of his headquarters at Dowdall's Tavern. It was half-past six.32
That resistance was formed along what historians have subsequently titled “the Buschbeck line.” This shallow and unfinished line of breastworks, hastily constructed the day before by Barlow's now departed brigade, fortuitously faced west, intersecting the Orange Turnpike at Dowdall's. The regiments of Brigadier General Adolph von Steinwehr's Second Division had originally made camp along the turnpike on either side of the tavern, facing south, just like their sister units in the now wrecked First and dissolving Third Divisions. When the Confederates attacked, the Second Division found itself blessed by its rearward location and the proximity of the breastworks but cursed by the departure of (p.67) half of its fighting power. The earlier detachment of Barlow left only the four regiments of Colonel Adolphus Buschbeck's brigade at von Steinwehr's disposal. The division commander himself was also initially absent from the field, having accompanied Barlow and his men in their hapless march to assist Sickles, but Colonel Buschbeck quickly took stock of the precarious situation. Buschbeck had been educated in the military schools of Germany and knew his tactics. After a minimal delay, he ordered the German 27th and 73rd Pennsylvania and 29th New York and (non-German) 154th New York to file into line behind Barlow's shallow entrenchments. The officers and men, their ears filled with the sounds of approaching battle, moved fast, and had rifles cocked and ready when the first retreating elements of Schurz's and Devens's divisions reached them. Right behind them came the rebels.33
The scenes that confronted the men of Bushbeck's brigade must have been at once awe inspiring and unsettling. Scrambling back to them by whole regiments, partial regiments, companies, and lone individuals, their comrades in blue presented a motley appearance; some retreating doggedly and in good order, even turning and firing on their pursuers, others running for their lives. Gun teams and single horses from the remnants of Dieckmann's First Division Battery and Michael Wiedrich's Second Division Battery thundered past on the road. Most of Devens's men, either panic-stricken or completely fought-out, refused to stop and rally at the Buschbeck line—although Hamlin indicates that some did—but the majority of Schurz's soldiers heeded their officer' calls to halt and quickly filled in the line north of Buschbeck's regiments. There was precious little time to reorganize and prepare—the enemy was literally only minutes away. Elements of six Confederate brigades—Doles's, Iverson's, Nicholl's, Colquitt's, O'Neal's, and Ramseur's—began to emerge out of the woods to the west and southwest of the Dowdall clearing and advanced at the double-quick, flushed with victory and confident that this last Yankee line would be crushed like the others before it. Other men in gray tramped through the woods to the north of the clearing, already overlapping the short Federal line. The rebel yell resounded over the open field and through the forest as the sun began to set.34
Numbering slightly over 4,000 men, of whom approximately 2,000 hailed from Carl Schurz's regiments, the Buschbeck line stretched for a thousand yards behind rifle pits that barely shielded the soldiers' knees. The men were badly crowded and had no artillery support except for one gun of Captain Hubert Dilger's Ohio battery. The powerful Eleventh Corps artillery reserve, which had previously occupied the narrow stretch of cleared land between the breastworks and the treeline, had been ordered out to save it from presumable capture. Although the gunners would have been sorely pressed to operate their (p.68) pieces efficiently in such close conditions, their absence deprived the Buschbeck line of much-needed clout and staying power. Nonetheless, the men crouched behind Barlow's old entrenchments girded themselves for the onslaught, confident they could give as much as they got. South of the Orange Turnpike, the 154th New York anchored the position, with the 73rd and 27th Pennsylvania to its right, followed by loose companies of soldiers from Schurz's and Devens's divisions. On the road itself, Hubert Dilger placed his remaining cannon under his personal command, flanked by two companies from the 61st New York. North of the road, the New York and Philadelphia Turners of the 29th New York were first, followed in line by more loose companies from Schurz's and Devens's commands and then the intact 82nd Illinois, 82nd Ohio, 58th New York, and 26th Wisconsin. As a general reserve, Buschbeck ordered the 157th New York to take position behind the 82nd Illinois, on the edge of the treeline.35
Carl Schurz and Alexander Schimmelfennig joined Buschbeck behind the hastily formed Eleventh Corps line and desperately worked to reorganize the regiments and partial regiments of the Third Division. Schurz wrote that he and corps commander Howard also “made every possible effort to rally and reorganize” a “confused mass of men belonging to all divisions” that milled around behind the regiments manning the rifle pits. But time had run out. The Confederates were upon them.36
Schurz took the initiative, gathered a number of the non-aligned men around him, jumped the rifle pits, and with a “hurrah” led them on a counter-attack. They followed him a few steps, but were “dispersed by the enemy's fire.” Nonplused, Schurz “tried the experiment two or three more times, but always with the same result.” The 82nd Illinois also charged the enemy, to the point of entering the woods to the right of the Union line, but soon fell back, hopelessly overpowered by Iverson's advancing North Carolinians. Unlike the previous hour's fighting, the Confederates of Iverson's and Nicholl's brigades had outstripped the progress of their comrades in gray to the south, and now exerted incredible pressure on the northern half of the Buschbeck line from front and flank. Private William Clegg of the 2nd Louisiana wrote his cousin, “the musketry was very heavy and continuous. They seemed to make a determined stand behind some rifle pits, but were soon routed from them.” The 82nd Ohio, 26th Wisconsin, and 58th New York fought for as long as humanly possible, but already badly depleted from their earlier stand near the Wilderness Church, were forced to withdraw and abandon the line. They retreated in good order through the woods to their rear. Jacob Smith of the 107th Ohio, fragments of which also joined the northern end of the line, recalled the ferocity of the fight on this sector of the field, claiming that “the resistance was desperate, but without change of front could avail nothing against the advancing hosts of the (p.69) enemy.” John Haingartner of the 29th New York, occupying a position just north of the turnpike, also termed the fighting “desperate” as his regiment and others tried to “check the impetuous attack of a victorious foe.” Haingartner “fired 14 shots” from behind what he called “mere dugouts,” but then was struck by a piece of shell in the right leg and put out of action. Like many wounded men in the Eleventh Corps that day, he knew his fate was in his own hands and would be determined by how quickly he moved to the rear. “Between excruciating pain and fear of being captured by the onrushing foe,” the Philadelphia German managed to find one of the last remaining corps ambulances and survived his stand on the Buschbeck line. Many of his German-speaking comrades, especially those south of the turnpike, did not.37
At close to seven o'clock, around the time the northern end of the Busch-beck line began to unravel, Adolph von Steinwehr reigned in his frothing horse behind the southern end of the line. He had ridden to the sound of the guns from Barlow's brigade under his own prerogative, and was pleasantly surprised to find his other brigade already in line and repelling the rebel onslaught. Buschbeck and his men were holding—for now:
When I arrived on the field I found Col. A. Buschbeck, with three regiments of his brigade (the Twenty-Seventh and Seventy-Third Pennsylvania and One Hundred and fifty-fourth New York), still occupying the same ground near the tavern, and defending this position with great firmness and gal-antry. The fourth regiment (the Twenty-ninth New York) he had sent to the north side of the road. The attack of the enemy was very powerful. They emerged in close columns from the woods… Colonel Buschbeck succeeded in checking the progress of the enemy, and I told him to hold his position as long as possible.
The men fought with great determination and courage. Soon, however, the enemy gained both wings of the brigade, and the enfilading fire which was now opened upon this small force, and which killed and wounded nearly one-third of its whole strength, soon forced it to retire.38
Private Adolph Bregler of the 27th Pennsylvania wrote that “our division did not have enough time to correctly deploy before the running rebels hurled themselves at us, but we still held firm as long as we could, and pushed them back hard several times.” Lieutenant Colonel Adolph von Hartung of the 74th Pennsylvania of Schurz's division, whose regiment had partially rallied on the southern end of the Buschbeck line, reported that “we were… furiously attacked, but the enemy was handsomely checked and driven back. The men stuck to their colors and fought bravely, but renewed attacks of superior forces (p.70) and flank movements of the enemy made all the troops on our left fall back.” Private James Emmons of the 154th New York, the non-German regiment on the southernmost edge of the Buschbeck line, told his parents that “we would mow a road clear through [the rebels] every time but they would close up with a yell and come on again.” There was no stopping the Confederates. As Emmons put it, “before we run we g[ave] the rebs enough.” Emmons may or may not have run, however: Buschbeck and von Steinwehr claimed they oversaw an orderly retreat and filed at least their four badly mauled regiments onto the Orange Turnpike, stopping now and then to turn and face the enemy. Captain Dilger and his single gun covered Buschbeck's retreat, stubbornly firing canister and solid shot by prolong as they followed the infantry up the Orange Turnpike toward Chancellorsville. Still accompanied by the stalwart companies from the 61st New York, as well as Generals Howard and Schurz, Dilger kept firing until there were no more Confederates to fire at. The resistance at the Buschbeck line had broken some of the impetus of Jackson's attack, forcing the rebels to pause and reorganize before pressing forward.39
Accounts differ regarding how long the Buschbeck line held. Some veterans of the fight remember holding for nearly an hour, others for about twenty
Throughout the night of 2 May and into the early hours of 3 May, the German Americans of the Eleventh Corps reorganized their shattered regiments, fully expecting to be hotly engaged at any moment. By nine o'clock, about onehalf of the corp' survivors, approximately 3,200 to 3,500 men, had been successfully rallied at the western end of the Fairview clearing, near Chancellorsville.41 With the last ounces of their energy, Howard, Buschbeck, Schurz, and Steinwehr managed to establish yet another defensive line, this one mightily protected by artillery and joined, after a short while, by Major General Hiram Berry's division of the Third Corps. As more Union reinforcements arrived to (p.72) shore up the Federal position, the Eleventh Corps was ordered to retire behind the Chancellor mansion (Hooker's headquarters) and continued the process of reconstitution. Soldiers who had earlier skedaddled returned to their regiments, comrades who had been separated in the confusion and smoke of battle found each other and embraced, thankful to be alive, and many simply collapsed in exhaustion among the trees. In the wee hours of the morning the men were roused and marched into line along the Mineral Springs Road, near the Union left. There they would remain for the rest of the battle. Baron Otto von Fritsch got little chance to sleep, however, as he helped Alexander Schimmelfennig regroup his brigade and align it closely with neighboring troops.42
Fritsch was undoubtedly among the first to feel the stings of the nativist backlash. Word had quickly spread among the other corps of the Army of the Potomac about the so-called “flight” of the Eleventh. Encountering the colonel of the regiment bordering his brigade, Fritsch reported that a gap existed between his German brigade and that particular regiment (which, based on the location of Schimmelfennig's brigade, probably belonged to the Second Corps), and asked if the colonel would assist in doing something about it. “We are comfortable enough here,” was the reply, “fill it with runaway Dutchmen.” Angered, Fritsch shouted “I will not stand this! I am no more of a Dutchman than you are, but I have no doubt that you are uneducated enough to believe that Germany is a province of Holland; besides let me tell you that the Dutch were always honorable and brave men.” The situation grew dangerous. Rising with his hand on his sword hilt, the American colonel appeared ready to finish the argument through a duel, but Fritsch wisely mounted his horse. Just before riding away, he exclaimed, “I am sorry that I addressed a Colonel who is not a gentleman!” Fritsch obviously plugged the gap, however, because the following day Schimmelfennig's brigade, indeed the entire Eleventh Corps, held their positions firmly as they skirmished with enemy snipers. In a fit of hyperbole, the Philadelphia Freie Presse stated that “the German division fought bravely, as if it were aware it had to make amends, and the enemy was repulsed with great loss.” The fighting was over for these troops at last.43
“Literally Cut to Pieces”
Considering the poor tactical situation in which they found themselves at the start of the battle, the Eleventh Corps had fought reasonably well at Chancellorsville. As private Charles E. Davis of the 13th Massachusetts wrote years later, “not Napoleon's Old Guard, not the best and bravest troops that ever existed, could [have] held together in such a case.” The casualty rates speak for (p.73) themselves. The corps as a whole lost close to 2,500 men, about 25 percent of those engaged; of that number, just under 1600 were killed and wounded. Twelve of 23 regimental commanders were casualties. Moreover, the Confederates paid for their success on the evening of 2 May with approximately 1,000 dead, wounded, and missing.44
An analysis of casualties suffered just by the Pennsylvania German regiments indicates that Jackson's Confederates certainly did not simply “stampede” their foreign-born adversaries.45 In Schurz's division, the already small 75th Pennsylvania lost 24 percent of its total strength, 59 men, with its lieutenant colonel, adjutant, surgeon, and two captains prisoners of war. While 51 of these casualties were captured, the 75th Pennsylvania had little chance to resist thanks to its low numbers, the vast numerical superiority of the enemy in its position on the field, and its poor position. Some companies lost over a third of their men. The 74th Pennsylvania, a larger regiment, had suffered 52 casualties, approximately 15 percent of its total strength, but 22 killed and wounded. It, too, had been plagued by its unlucky original position, but fought well on the Buschbeck line, losing as prisoners two captains and its major. The 73rd Pennsylvania of Buschbeck's brigade in von Steinwehr's division suffered grievously. The colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and four captains were casualties, one captain mortally. Almost the entire color party was killed or wounded, and over a third of the regiment's sergeants were hit. A total of 74 dead and wounded and 29 missing reduced the number of effectives by 24 percent. The 73rd Pennsylvania would never recover its numbers lost at Chancellorsville. In the words of Samuel H. Hurst, a private in the 73rd Ohio, Buschbeck's brigade had been “literally cut to pieces,” losing just shy of 500 men, over a third of its total strength.46
The 27th Pennsylvania had fared somewhat better, but its stand on the Buschbeck line had been costly, too. Of the 345 men engaged, 56 were lost, a casualty rate of 16 percent. Of that number, 37 were dead or wounded. The nine-month 153rd also had substantial casualties: 85 men out of approximately 700 effectives, or 12 percent, evenly distributed between captured and dead and wounded.47
The losses of the Pennsylvania German regiments taken as a whole present a mixed picture reflecting that of the larger Eleventh Corps. Those regiments which had some time to prepare themselves for the rebel attack, such as the 27th and 73rd Pennsylvania, fighting on the Buschbeck line, appear to have suffered a higher number of dead and wounded compared to their sister regiments. Standing up to a superior foe in a full-fledged shooting match naturally produced more deaths and wounds than firing a few volleys and retreating. Units that did that, such as the 75th and 153rd Pennsylvania, though they had good reason to flee because of their closer position to the point of attack, had (p.74) higher numbers of captured. Colonel Adin B. Underwood of the 33rd Massachusetts observed, “every old soldier knows it to be true, that if soldiers, even the best of them, are put in a position where there is not a living chance for them, or for anybody, they will not fight.” As if in reply to Underwood, Captain William Saxton of the 157th New York noted that even if the entire Eleventh Corps had stood and fought, “Stonewall Jackson with his 33,000 men would have soon had them all killed, wounded, or prisoners.” Saxton exaggerated the size of the Confederate force, but considering the overwhelming numbers that struck the regiments of the Eleventh Corps, particularly those on its right flank, it is a wonder any of them stood and fought at all.48
Compared to the losses of other Eleventh Corps regiments, the Pennsylvanians fell about in the middle. Among the Germans, the stalwart 26th Wisconsin and 82nd Illinois were shattered. These two regiments paid dearly for their valor at Hawkins Farm, the Wilderness Church, and the Buschbeck line, losing 204 and 155 men, respectively, many of them killed and wounded. Their casualty rates approached 40 percent. Yet the 54th New York suffered only 42 casualties and the 41st New York, 61. These regiments were positioned next to the 153rd Pennsylvania, and like the 153rd received the initial hammer blow of Jackson's assault. Most of their casualties were captured.49 The casualty rates in the American regiments of the corps also ran the gamut. In Brigadier General Nathaniel McLean's brigade, also positioned near the western edge of the Eleventh Corps' line, the 17th Connecticut suffered 111 casualties and the 25th Ohio, 152, many of whom were captured. The 61st Ohio of Schimmelfennig's brigade, a mixed Irish American regiment, lost 60 men. The 154th New York, however, was decimated fighting on the Buschbeck line, losing 240 men, or 40 percent of its strength. It suffered the highest loss in the Eleventh Corps.50
Overall the casualty rates of the Eleventh Corps portray a corps whose regiments stood and fought when possible and retreated and ran when necessary. According to the figures, the Germans had done their duty. Beyond the grisly statistics, however, lay the courageous reality. Hamlin, perhaps, put it best: “For an hour and a half the nine thousand men of the Eleventh Corps, attacked in rear and flank, and in detail, without any assistance from the rest of the army, had endeavored to stay the impetuous march of Jackson's determined battalions.” Those attacking “battalions” outnumbered the defending Eleventh Corps by three to one, and many German American soldiers recognized the long odds against which they fought. Private Adolph Bregler certainly did. “I know this much,” he wrote, “it has been the ugliest battle of the war, and again many people have been killed.” Second Lieutenant Wilhelm Roth of the 74th Pennsylvania probably summed up the feelings of most German troops immediately after the battle: “The last few days, from 26 April to 4 May were the (p.75) most difficult of my life. We had to march or fight day and night and had little to eat. The rebels will long remember this attack.” Very soon Roth and his comrades would themselves remember Chancellorsville, not only for the battle and the losses suffered there, but also for the resurgence of nativism that it spawned.51
(1.) Eric Benjaminson, “A Regiment of Immigrants: The 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry and the Letters of Captain Rudolph Mueller,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 94, no. 2 (2001): 140–1; James S. Pula, For Liberty and Justice: The Life and Times of Wladimir Krzyzanowski (Chicago: The Polish-American Congress Charitable Foundation, 1978), 64–68; Kaufmann, The Germans in the American Civil War, 198–99.
(2.) Stephen D. Engle, Yankee Dutchman: The Life of Franz Sigel (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1993), 156–58. Engle believes the departure of Sigel the month before the advent of the 1863 spring campaign was a critical error: “Sigel left when his superior knowledge of tactics would have been extremely useful at Chancellorsville (p.180) and would have given him the opportunity to prove his worth as a commander.” Had Sigel been in command on the afternoon of 2 May, it is conceivable he would not have summarily disregarded the myriad warnings of an imminent Confederate attack that numerous German officers and scouts reported. All of these warnings were dismissed out of hand by the officers to whom they were reported.
(3.) Capt. Theodore C. Howell, Co. D, 153rd Pennsylvania to his wife, 19 March 1863 (Lehigh County Historical Society, MPF502Hovell); William Charles to “Dear Ann,” 6 March 1863, quoted in Mark H. Dunkelman, “Hardtack and Sauerkraut Stew: Ethnic Tensions in the 154th New York Volunteers, Eleventh Corps, during the Civil War,” Yearbook of German-American Studies 36 (2001): 79; Otto Heusinger, Amerikanische Kriegsbilder: Aufzeichnungen aus den Jahren 1861–1865 (Leipzig, 1869), reprint Wyk auf Foehr, Germany: Verlag für Amerikanistik, 1998, 110; Lt. Col. Alwin von Matzdorff, 75th Pennsylvania, to Annie von Matzdorff, 20 March 1863 (transcriptions of this and other letters by Annie von Matzdorff in her widow's pension file, NARA, certif. 361.665, app. 549.875, hereafter referred to as Matzdorff Pension File); Diary of Friedrich Otto Baron von Fritsch, unpublished manuscript written in 1903, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, MMC416, 146–47 (hereafter referred to as “Fritsch”). Howell was not a German himself, but most of the men in his company were of German birth or direct German descent.
(4.) Fritsch, 147; Oliver Otis Howard, The Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army (New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1917), 1: 349. James Pula notes that “to the German free-thinkers [Howard'] demeanor exuded a much despised clericalism,” and the regimental commanders “found it impossible to elicit from their men that ‘spontaneous’ cheer that traditionally greeted general officers as they rode before their troops” (Pula, For Liberty and Justice, 74).
(5.) RG-94, Unbound Regimental Papers Filed with Muster Rolls, Box 4259, 27th Pennsylvania, NARA; 75th Pennsylvania Regimental Letter, Order, and Endorsement Book, NARA; Alwin von Matzdorff to Annie von Matzdorff, 13 April 1863, Matzdorff Pension File; Adam Muenzenberger to wife, 12 April 1863, available at www.agro.agri.umn.edu/~lemedg/wis26/26pgam63.html and Pula, For Liberty and Justice, 74. Howard also appears to have begun warming up to his troops by the time of the review, remarking with delight in letters to his wife about how beautifully the Germans had decorated his headquarters for the president' visit. See O. O. Howard to Elizabeth Howard, 10 and 12 April 1863, Bowdoin College Library Special Collections.
(6.) William Simmers and Paul Bachschmid, “The Volunteer' Manual, or Ten Months with 153rd Penna Volunteers” (Easton, Pa.: D. H. Neiman, Printer, 1863), 18; Alwin Von Matzdorff to Annie von Matzdorff, 28 March 1863, Matzdorff Pension File; Adam Muenzenberger to wife, 20 April 1863. Carl Schurz had a mixed, but improving reputation among the Germans in the Eleventh Corps. Most of them knew he was a recent political appointee, some disliked his forty-eighter radicalism, and others resented the fact that someone with no military experience could succeed the likes of Blenker and Bohlen. But in the end, the fact that he was a German mattered most to the troops, as did his preoccupation with their care and well-being. In the latter area he was often compared with Sigel (see 15 November 1862 Louisville Anzeiger for an example). After Chancellorsville, where most German Americans believed Schurz had displayed both competence and bravery, his reputation was secure with his ethnic countrymen. Soldiers and civilians alike vigorously defended him against nativistic accusations stemming from the Anglo American press.
(7.) Sears, Chancellorsville, 146–47; Carl Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life: The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville,” McClure', June 1907, 162; Otto Heusinger, Amerikanische Kriegsbilder, 115.
(8.) Weekly Pittsburgh Gazette, 5 May 1863, “An Incident of the Late Advance.”
(9.) Sears, 164–65, 181; William H. Weaver diary entry, 29 May 1863, reprinted in Easton Daily Free Press, 3 May 1913; Doerflinger quoted in James S. Pula, The Sigel Regiment: A History of the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862–1865 (Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing Company, 1998), 115; Louise Winkler Hitz, ed., Letters of Frederick C. Winkler, 1862–1865 (William K. Winkler, 1963), 46, 49–50; Bigelow, Chancellorsville, 259.
(10.) Hamlin, 37; Pfanz, “Negligence on the Right: The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863,” available at http://www.morningsidebooks.com/notes/eleventh.htm, 1; Sears, 271.
(11.) Hamlin, 36–37; Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life,” 163.
(12.) Furgurson, Chancellorsville, 148.
(14.) Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life,” 164–65; Bigelow, Chancellorsville, 279.
(15.) Kellogg quoted in A. H. Nelson, The Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (Minneapolis: Alansan, 1899), 37–38.
(16.) Nelson, 34; Furgurson, Chancellorsville, 149–54; OR, I, vol. 25, 386; Pfanz, “Negligence on the Right,” 3. Nelson is forthright in his accusations of Howard, claiming that he “willfully disobey[ed]” Hooker's orders, thereby committing “one of the highest crimes known in military law. The penalty is death” (p. 40). If Kellogg's affidavit is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, then Howard and/or Meysenberg knew full well that ignoring Hooker's order was the immediate cause of the disaster that befell the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, and afterward squirreled away the incriminating document until intervening events—such as Hooker's dismissal—made it safer to file it officially. In this light, Howard's postwar protest that he never received the order appears to be a lie designed to protect his reputation. Perhaps the actual order disappeared from the files of the War Department to erase the evidence that would incriminate Howard. Regardless of what happened to it originally, the actual order has somehow returned to the official Eleventh Corps files. I found it in NARA, RG-393, pt. 2, Entry 5319, Letters Received, January 1863–1864, 11th A.C.
(17.) Hartwell Osborn, Trials and Triumphs: The Record of the Fifty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 1904), 68–71; A. B. Searles quoted in “On Picket at Chancellorsville,” Boston Journal, n.d., copy in archives, Fredericksburg-Spot-sylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg, Va. (hereafter FSNMP); Edward C. Culp, The 25th Ohio Vet. Vol. Infantry in the War for the Union (Topeka, Kans: Geo. W. Crane and Co., 1885), 61–62; Owen Rice, Afield With the Eleventh Army Corps at Chancellorsville(Cincinnati: H. C. Sherrick and Co., 1885), 23.
(18.) Otto Heusinger, Amerikanische Kriegsbilder, 117.
(19.) Eugene Blackford memoir, Civil War Misc. Collection, 3rd series, USAMHI; Simmers and Bachschmid, “The Volunteer's Manual,” 22–23; A. B. Searles, “On Picket at Chancellorsville”; Francis Stofflet quoted in Easton Daily Free Press, 3 May 1913; David Ackerman, 153rd Pennsylvania, to Jacob H. Ackerman, 11 May 1863 (Ackerman Letters, 153rd Pennsylvania, P5–3, Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle, Pa.); C. V. Strickland, “What a Drummer Boy Saw at Chancellorsville,” National Tribune, 14 May 1908; Theodore Howell to wife, 10 May 1863 (MPF 502, Lehigh County Historical Society); Colonel Charles Glanz, 153rd Pennsylvania to Governor Andrew G. Curtin, 2 June 1863 (RG-19, 153rd Pennsylvania folder, PASA). Glanz' language here is obviously self-glorifying, but it still conveys the fact that the 153rd stood and fought before retreating.
(20.) Otto Heusinger, Amerikanische Kriegsbilder, 117; William Burghart to A. C. Hamlin, 2 November 1891, bMS Am 1084 (temp. box 22, file N–O), Houghton Library, Harvard University; Luis Keck to “Dearest wife and child,” translation and transcript in archives, FSNMP, original letter in memoirs of James C. McCown, in possession of David R. Wiltse, Arlington Heights, Illinois; William J. Halpin, “A German Regiment in the Civil War: The 45th New York State Volunteer Infantry, '5th German Rifles,'” Military (p.182) Images 21 (March–April 2000): 20. Hamlin states that about 300 of the 41st and 45th New York managed to cross to the north side of the turnpike and briefly join the stand of the 153rd Pennsylvania and 58th New York, before joining them in running to the rear (Hamlin, 65).
(21.) Culp, The 25th Ohio Vet. Vol. Infantry, 65–66; Hartwell Osborn, “On the Right at Chancellorsville,” Illinois MOLLUS, Military Essay and Recollections, vol. 4 (Chicago: Cozzens and Beaton Company, 1907), 188; Charles T. Furlow journal, 2 May entry, p. 35, copy in archives, FSNMP, original in Yale University Archives; Luther B. Mesnard Reminiscence, 6 May 1901, Civil War Misc. Collection, USAMHI; John Lewis to wife, 14 May 1863, Lewis Leigh Collection (Books, Folder 39), USAMHI; Jacob Smith, Camps and Campaigns of the 107th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 74.
(22.) Hamlin, 56–57, 60, 69; Gustav Schleiter, “The Eleventh Corps: Who Was Responsible for its Disaster at Chancellorsville?” National Tribune, 30 July 1885; Carl A. Keyser, Leatherbreeches: Hero of Chancellorsville (Rye Beach, N.H.: Amherst Press, 1989), 40–41; Carl Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life: The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville,” 167–69. Schurz believed the repositioning of these three regiments was the most he could accomplish considering what he called “Howard' singular obstinacy.” Howard assented to Schurz' independent preparations only reluctantly.
(23.) Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life,” 168.
(24.) Jacob and John Ullmann and Mehring quoted in Hermann Nachtigall to A. C. Hamlin, 16 February 1893, bMS Am 1084 (temp. box 22, file N–O), Houghton Library, Harvard University; Hermann Nachtigall, “History of the 75th Regiment, Pa. Vols.,” (1886, translation North Riverside, Ill.: n.p., 1987, by Heinz D. Schwinge and Karl E. Sundstrom), 20–21; Hamlin, The Battle of Chancellorsville, 42–43; Bates, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 4: 919.
(25.) OR, I, vol. 25, 654–55; Sears, Chancellorsville, 276.
(26.) Martin Seel to Georg Seel, 10 May 1863, copy and translation in archives of FSNMP, original owned by Bob Seel, Tucson, Arizona; Pittsburgher Freiheitsfreund, 18 May 1863; Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life,” 169; OR, I, vol. 25, 665.
(27.) Dr. Carl Uterhard to “my dear Marie and Mama,” 17 May 1863, reprinted in Helbich and Kamphoefner, eds., Deutsche im Amerikanischen Bürgerkrieg, 219; Charles F. Lewis diary transcription, 2 May 1864, Civil War Misc. Collection, 3rd Series, USAMHI; Sears, Chancellorsville, 276–77; OR, I, vol. 25, 668; Hamlin, 71–73; Darwin D. Cody to parents, 9 May 1863, copy in archives of FSNMP. Dilger's battery was not the only Eleventh Corps battery active at this time; the corps' reserve batteries also opened up on the advancing Confederates from positions behind Dilger. They retreated, however, before his battery did.
(28.) Frantisek Stejskal memoir originally published in Josef Cermak, Dejiny Obcanske Valky (Chicago: August Geringer, 1889), 219–21, copy and translation in archives, FSNMP; Friedrich P. Kappelman to “Dear Parents,” 10 May 1863, transcription and translation in Civil War Times Misc. Collection, USAMHI; Pittsburgher Freiheitsfreund, 22 May 1863; Report of Lt. Col. Edward S. Salomon, 82nd Illinois, to Brig. General Alexander Schimmelfennig, found in Carl Schurz Papers, Container 4, LOC. Salomon was not present at Chancellorsville, recovering from an illness in Chicago, yet felt it his duty to submit the official report to Schimmelfennig. This account was written “according to the statements I solicited from the officers of the regiment.” How the report ended up in the Carl Schurz Papers is unknown, but it is almost exactly the same one reprinted in the Official Records, Part 1, 663–64.
(29.) Hamlin, 69; Doerflinger quoted in James S. Pula, The Sigel Regiment, 120–21.
(30.) Adam Muenzenberger to wife, 7 May 1863 and Frank Smrcek diary entry, May 1863, both translated and available at http://www.agro.agri.umn.edu/~lemedg/wis26/; Pula, The Sigel Regiment, 126–29; Wickesberg quoted in Pula, 125.
(31.) Hamlin, 70; Pula, 126; William H. Clark, 157th New York, to sister, 8 May 1863, copy in archives, FSNMP; A. B. Searles quoted in “On Picket at Chancellorsville”; Benjamin B. Carr memoir, “Sketch of the Battle of Chancellorsville,” p. 5, copy in archives FSNMP, original in Misc. Records, Civil War Collection, North Carolina State Archives; Martin Seel to brother, 10 May 1863; Hecker quoted in Pittsburgher Freiheitsfreund, 22 May 1863.
(31.) Furgurson and Sears disagree about the approximate timing of Howard's incident. Sears places it after the Wilderness Church line crumbled and Furgurson inserts it after the disintegration of Devens' division but before Schurz' men assembled at the church. I am inclined to agree with Sears on this account. See Sears, Chancellorsville, 277, and Furgurson, Chancellorsville, 181. Howard quoted in Furgurson, 181; J. H. Pea-body, 61st Ohio, quoted in Furgurson, 182; Hartwell Osborn, 55th Ohio, “On the Right at Chancellorsville,” Military Essays and Recollections (Chicago: MOLLUS Illinois, 1907), 4: 188.
(33.) Hamlin, The Battle of Chancellorsville, 74–75; Furgurson, 186, OR, I, vol. 25, 645.
(34.) Hamlin, 75.
(36.) OR, I, vol. 25, 657.
(37.) Ibid., Hamlin, 76; William Clegg to “Dear cousin,” 8 May 1863, copy in archives, FSNMP, original in Clegg Papers, The Filson Club, Louisville, Ky.; Jacob Smith, Camps and Campaigns of the 107th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, From August, 1862, to July, 1865 (n.p., n.p., 1910), 74; John Haingartner Civil War Memoir, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
(38.) OR, I, vol. 25, 645–46.
(39.) OR, I, vol. 25, 665; Adolph Bregler to “Dear Parents,” 10 May 1863, Bregler Pension File, 27th Pennsylvania, App. 172.294, certif. 128.498, NARA; James Emmons letter quoted in Mark H. Dunkelman and Michael J. Winey, The Hardtack Regiment: An Illustrated History of the 154th Regiment, New York State Infantry Volunteers (Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1981), 61; Charles Cresson Pension File, 27th Pennsylvania, App. 846278, certif. 629.838; Bates, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, I: 389–90, and IV: 865; Hamlin 76. The casualties in the 73rd Pennsylvania were especially grievous. Its colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and most of its captains were wounded, one mortally. It suffered 103 casualties total.
(40.) Both Ernest B. Furgurson and Stephen W. Sears allot one paragraph each to the stand of Buschbeck' brigade. As one veteran of the brigade put it in 1908, most histories “hurry past to tell about the great charge of a division of the Third Corps into the woods in front of Jackson's advance,” but neglect the “very gallant defense” of Buschbeck's men. See C. W. McKay, 154th NY, “Buschbeck's Brigade,” National Tribune, 8 October 1908; Hamlin, 74; Dunkelman and Winey, 57–59.
(41.) This number excludes Barlow's brigade, which was still en route from the south.
(42.) Hamlin, 77; Pfanz, “Negligence on the Right,” 11–12.
(43.) Fritsch, 173–74; Bates, IV: 865; Philadelphia Freie Presse, 8 May, 1863. Fritsch's reaction to the term “Dutchmen” is interesting, indicating a foreigner' lack of understanding with what had become almost a standard term used by Anglo Americans to describe any ethnically German group.
(44.) Charles E. Davis, Three Years in the Army: The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers from July 16, 1861, to August 1, 1864 (Boston: Estes and Laurist, 1894), 203; Hamlin 127, 131; Pfanz, “Negligence on the Right,” 12.
(45.) By using the term “Pennsylvania German” here I am referring to all German-speaking regiments that hailed from Pennsylvania, not simply those composed of Pennsylvania Dutch troops. For a detailed explanation of the difference between “German (p.184) Americans” and “Pennsylvania Dutch” (frequently called “Pennsylvania Germans”), see Valuska and Keller, Damn Dutch, chapter one.
(46.) OR, I, vol. 25, 660; “Report of killed wounded and missing of the 75th Reg't. PV,” RG-19, Box 45, folder 13, PASA; 73rd and 75th Pennsylvania Morning Report Books, April–May, 1863, RG-94, NARA; Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin, 8 May 1863; Philadelphia Freie Presse, 17 and 18 May 1863; National Tribune, 12 January 1893; Samuel H. Hurst, Journal-History of the Seventy-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Chillicothe, Ohio: n.p., 1866), 57; Sears, Chancellorsville, 280.
(47.) Philadelphia Freie Presse, 18 May 1863; National Tribune, 12 January, 1893, Sears, 487–88.
(48.) Adin B. Underwood, The Three Years' Service of the Thirty-third Mass. Infantry Regiment, 1862–1865 (Boston: A. Williams and Co., Publishers, 1881), 98; Cortland County Historical Society, A Regiment Remembered: The 157th New York Volunteers, From the Diary of Captain William Saxton (Cortland County, N.Y.: The Society, 1996), 57.
(49.) OR, I, vol. 25, 660; National Tribune, 12 January 1893; James S. Pula, The Sigel Regiment: A History of the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862–1865 (Camp-bell, Calif.: Savas Publishing Co., 1998), 136. Of the 359 combined casualties of the 26th Wisconsin and 82nd Illinois, 275 were dead and wounded.
(50.) National Tribune, 12 January 1893; Sears, 280, 487.
(51.) Hamlin, 79; Adolph Bregler to “Dear Parents,” 10 May 1863, Adolph Bregler pension file, NARA; Wilhelm Roth to “Dear Brother,” 11 May 1863, Civil War Times Miscellaneous Collection, USAMHI. Bregler lamented that he could not stay with his wounded brother, as “the rebels were pressing hard behind us.” He “had to stay with the regiment” after leaving Karl in “a little house where a hospital was set up.” Predicting Karl had survived the wound but was now a prisoner, Bregler tried to assuage his parents' fears by claiming the “rebels treat their prisoners well.” Bregler mentioned nothing about the wounding of Stonewall Jackson, the most-remembered event about Chancellorsville in popular memory. Only a few German American soldiers noted anything about the wounding and subsequent death of the famous Confederate chieftain.