The country being open, General Brooks' division was formed in a column of brigade fronts, with an extended line of skirmishers on the front and flank in advance, and the artillery on the road. This was, I think, a proper disposition, as it prepared us to fight the enemy as soon as we struck him, without waiting to form or losing time - of so much importance as in the present case.
General Newton's division came next in order, but it marched in flank along the road, which extended greatly the columns, made it liable to an enfilading fire, and put it out of support, in a measure, of the division in advance.
When we reached the summit along the road, about 1 mile from Salem Church, we met a few cavalry skirmishers, and two rifled guns opened with solid shot from a point near the church. The intervening space was quite open on both sides of the road. Half-way a small stream crossed it and ran into the Rappahannock. The heights at Salem Church are inconsiderable, but here the woods inclose the road, and a bend and ravine headed close up to it, running into the Rappahannock above Banks' Ford, and furnishing a short and strong line. These two pieces of artillery, by their fire, checked the advance a great deal, and it is probable that they exhausted all their ammunition before retiring. The enemy used no more artillery during the day.
General Brooks' division finally advanced, and steadily attacked the enemy, fighting bravely, and finally succeeded in driving the enemy from his position along the road. The next division not being close at hand to advance at once to General Brooks' support, the enemy succeeded in forcing his men back, not, however, till they had made a praiseworthy fight and used up most of their ammunition and suffered severe loss.
General Newton's division re-enforced and restored the line, but was unable to drive the enemy from this hill and wooded ravine, which sheltered him from our artillery. The day closed with the enemy holding his position.
As soon as General Sedgwick's advance had caused the retreat of the troops at Banks' Ford, General Benham had thrown a bridge across and communicated with him. By this route and the United States Mine Ford, I returned to headquarters, near Chancellorsville, which I reached at 11 p. m. I found, as the result of the battle at that point, that our line had fallen back from the Chancellorsville house about a mile. After reporting to the general, and getting his ideas, I telegraphed the following to General Sedgwick at midnight:
I find everything snug here. We contracted the line a little, and repulsed the last assault with ease. General Hooker wishes them to attack him to-morrow, if they will. He does not desire you to attack again in force unless he attacks him at the same time. He says you are too far away from him to direct. Look well to the safety of your corps, and keep up communication with General Benham, at Banks' Ford and Fredericksburg. You can go to either place, if you think best. To cross at Banks' Ford would bring you in supporting distance of the main body, and would be better than falling back to Fredericksburg.
This dispatch was written at a time when I was exceedingly exhausted. It did not reach General Sedgwick till late in the forenoon of the 4th, so I have been told, and was the only instruction he received. The enemy attacked him in strong force the next day, and, having resisted them till the evening, he withdrew across the river at Banks' Ford.
On the 4th, our main army near Chancellorsville remained in its lines, both forces being concealed from each other by the thick forest. This line is marked B on the map. On the night of the 4th, it was decided to withdraw the whole army to the north bank of the Rappahannock,