lar effort by one of General Sykes' aides was foiled in the same way. General Sykes bravely resolved to hold the position assigned him, which his command had so gallantly won from the enemy, and I set out with all possible speed to report the condition to the commanding general.
From information received since the advance began, the general decided to countermand it, and receive the enemy in the line occupied the night before. Unfortunately, this line had been taken up the day before by tired troops toward the close of the day and without much prospect of fighting a pitched battle upon it. It was a bands line, and had several commanding position in its front for the enemy to occupy. It was, perhaps, the best that could be designated for such a sudden change of programme in the face of an enemy. I carried to General Sykes the order to fall back, and he then withdrew his command in perfect order, bringing off his wounded, with the exception of a few who were cut off in the extreme right of his extended skirmish line. All the other columns withdrew to the vicinity of Chancellorsville without having engaged the enemy. The enemy advanced cautiously till he came upon our new lines, and made some feeble demonstrations, easily repulsed, and the day closed without any real trial of strength. During th evening the Third Corps joined us at Chancellorsville.
Two general plans of operations were now considered. One was to choose a position and intrench; the other, to choose our point of attack, and advance with our whole force of five corps upon it. The saving of our men and the advantages of resuming the offensive after a successful repulse favored the one; the increased elan of our men and the choice of our point of attack the other. I was in favor of advancing, and urged it with more zeal than convincing argument. I thought, with our position and numbers, to beat the enemy's right wing. This could be done by advancing in force on the two main roads toward Fredericksburg, each being in good supporting distance, at the same time throwing a heavy force on the enemy's right flank by the river road. If this attack found the enemy in extended line across our front, or in motion toward our right flank, it would have secured the defeat of his right wing, and consequently the retreat of the whole. The advantage of the initiative in a wooded country like this, obscuring all movements, was incalculable, and so far we had improved them. The general's original determination to await the attack had in it also the design to contract our line and throw back the right to a better position, our left being secure. On the assurance of the commander on the right that they were abundantly able to hold their position against any force the nature of the ground in their front would enable the enemy to bring against them, and because they thought to fall back would have some of the demoralizing influences of a retreat, it was decided to make no changes in the [right wing], but to strengthen it with breastwork and abatis.
The sound of the ax broke the stillness of the night along the lines of both armies. The position thus determined is marked with a dotted line (A) on the map, and was about--miles long.
On the morning of Saturday, May 2, the enemy, from the heights on our left, opened fire with his guns on our wagons in the open field near Chancellorsville, but without much effect. He also made his appearance on the Plank road, and our fire wounded a few men, who reported they had missed the road and that they were marching toward our right.
During the forenoon the enemy made several feints of attacks by a