At 4 p. m. I was directed to send a brigade to the support of General Sickles. I immediately took General Barlow's brigade by a short route to General Sickles' right, some 2 1/2 miles from the Plank road to the front.
At about 6 p. m. I was at my headquarters, at Dowdall's Tavern, when the attack commenced. I sent my chief of staff to the front when firing was heard. General Schurz, who was with me, left at once to take command of his line. It was not three minutes before I followed. When i reached General Schurz's command, I saw that the enemy had enveloped my right, and that the First Division was giving way. I first tried to charge the front of the deployed regiments. I next directed the artillery where to go; then formed a line by deploying some of the reserve regiments near the church. By this time the whole front on the north of the Plank road had given way. colonel Buschbeck's brigade was faced about, and, lying on the other side of the rifle-pit embankment, held on with praiseworthy firmness. A part of General Schimmelfennig's and a part of General Krzyzanowski's brigades moved gradually back to the north of the Plank road and kept up their fire. At the center and near the Plank road there was a being panic and great confusion. By the assistance of my staff and some other officers, one of whom was Colonel Dickinson, of General Hooker's staff, the rout was considerably checked, and all the artillery, except eight pieces, withdrawn. Some of the artillery was well served, and told effectively on the advancing enemy. Captain Dilger kept up a continuous fire until we reached General Berry's position.
Now as to the causes of this disaster to my corps:
1. Though constantly threatened and apprised of the moving of the enemy, yet the woods was so dense that he was able to mass a large force, whose exact whereabouts neither patrols, reconnaissances, nor scouts ascertained. He succeeded in forming a column opposite to and outflanking my right.
2. By the panic produced by the enemy's reserve fire, regiments and artillery were thrown suddenly upon those in position.
3. The absence of General Barlow's brigade, which I had previously located in reserve and en echelon with Colonel von Gilsa's, so as to cover his right flank. This was the only general reserve I had. My corps was very soon reorganized near Chancellorsville, and relieved General Meade's corps, on the left of the general line. Here it remained until Wednesday morning, when it resumed its position, as ordered, at the old camp.
The division and brigade commanders showed the greatest attention to duty and a hearty co-operation with me at all times.
By a reference to the tabular statement, it will be seen that a large proportion of the regimental commanders engaged were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Captain [Francis A.] Dessauer, of my staff, was killed while fearlessly at work rallying the men. The aggregate of killed, wounded, and missing is 2,508.*
I feel confident that this command will yet honor itself and the noble cause we sustain, and I ask for it another opportunity for demonstrating its true spirit.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. O. HOWARD,
Major General JOSEPH HOOKER.
*But see revised statement, p. 183.