War of the Rebellion: Serial 039 Page 0362 N.VA., W.VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.

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No. 93. Report of Major General William H. French, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.


Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 16, 1863.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that my division marched from this encampment on April 28, at sunrise, in obedience to orders received from your headquarters. The First Brigade, under Colonel Carroll, with Ames' battery of light 12-pounders, took the advance, and occupied the position covering the United States Ford. The Second and Third Brigades encamped near Banks' Ford.

Having, in conjunction with the First Division, opened the road connecting these two fords, on the 29th the command moved toward the upper one, encamping near it.

On the 30th, the bridges having been laid across the Rappahannock, my division leading, crossed, and, continuing its march without opposition, arrived at the Chandler house, three-fourths of a mile this side of Chancellorsville, where it bivouacked.

At 8 a.m., May 1, I received ordered from corps headquarters to move with my division and Pettit's battery, of light rifled guns, to Todd's Tavern, 8 miles from Chancellorsville. I put Hays' brigade in the advance, together with the battery, and marched a mile in the direction of the point proposed, when the Twelfth Corps, coming up the Plank road, intersected my column, causing delay until it had passed, at which time I received orders to return to my original position. My division was held massed until about retreat, when I directed the First and Second Brigades to deploy on the skirts of a woods in a line parallel with the Plank road, then held by the Twelfth and Third Corps.

On the morning of the 3rd, my First Brigade was placed in a direction opposite to this position, to form the line of defense, connecting with the First Division, Second Corps, on the right, and Sykes' division, Fifth Corps, on the left, making rifle-pits and strengthening the front by felling trees. The enemy, who had been feeling our lines during the morning, made his principal attack on the right of our position, and, driving back the troops which held it, uncovered the masses in the rear and center, of which my division formed a part. Taking a portion of my staff, I made a rapid reconnaissance of the roads leading through the woods to the Plank road, preparatory to making an attack upon the enemy's flank in his pursuit. On my return to the division, I found that my Second Brigade (Hays') had been taken off by a staff officer from corps headquarters. I followed it to Chancellorsville, and afterward saw it taking up a position to support the division of Major-General Berry. The general commanding the Second Corps sending me word that the Second Brigade was not under his orders, I confined my attention to the First and Third.

Early on the morning of May 3rd, the enemy renewed his attack upon the lines still held by Third Corps, and, judging that an attempt would be made to force the right of our center, taking the discretionary power given me by the corps commander, I withdrew four regiments of Carroll's brigade from the rifle-pits, on the left, and formed them in line of battle on the plain, and facing the direction of the Plank road. The Third Brigade was formed on the right, to support the left of the batteries of the Fifth Corps. The enemy were now pressing heavily