lengthwise through the ranks of my regiments deployed in line on the road. While this was going on, several men of the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania, which formed my extreme right, were shot from behind, the enemy having already penetrated into the woods immediately in the rear of our original position. It was evident that under such circumstances it was an utter impossibility to establish a front at that point. The whole line deployed on the old turnpike, facing south, was rolled up and swept away in a moment. if the regiments had remained as they were at first formed, in column on the open field, it would have been easy to give them a correct front by a simple wheeling, and the turmoil on the road would not have disturbed them. As it was, the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania and the Sixty-first Ohio Regiments, which I had counted among the best I had, and which had never been guilty of any discreditable conduct, could do nothing but endeavor to rally behind the second line.
This second line, as above described, had changed front, and was formed behind a rise of ground between the church grove and the woods, from which the enemy was expected, but every evolution was attended with the greatest difficulty, as the scattered men of the First Division were continually breaking through our ranks.
In my extreme right, where the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin and the Fifty-eighth New York stood, things wore a similar aspect. A short time after the attack had commenced, a large number of men of the First Brigade, First Division, came running back through the woods, the enemy following closely on their heels. Captain [Frederick] Braun, commanding the Fifty-eighth New York, fell from his horse, mortally wounded, immediately after having deployed his regiment. The enemy was, however, received at that point with great firmness. The Fifty-eighth New York, a very small regiment, exposed to a flanking fire from the left, where the enemy broke through, and severely pressed in front, was pushed back after a struggle of several minutes. The Twenty sixth Wisconsin, flanked on both sides and exposed to a terrible fire in front, maintained the unequal contest for a considerable time. This young regiment, alone and unsupported, firmly held the ground where I had placed it for about twenty minutes; nor did it fall back until I ordered it to do so.
There is hardly an officer in the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin who has not at least received a bullet through his clothes. Had it not been for the praiseworthy firmness of these men the enemy would have obtained possession of the woods opposite without resistance, taken the north and south rifle-pit from the rear, and appeared on the Plank road between Dowdall's Tavern and Chancellorsville before the artillery could have been withdrawn. The order to fall back to the border of the woods behind was given to Colonel Krzyzanowski in consequence of the following circumstances:
The tide of fugitives had hardly subsided a little on our left, when the enemy's columns, preceded by a thick cloud of skirmishers, presented themselves on and to the right and left of the old turnpike. My regiments had hardly had time to change their position and to wheel into the new front, under what difficulties I have above stated. They had just formed behind the little rise of ground in front of the church grove when the enemy's columns issued from the woods.
The enemy's front of attack, as we saw it, extended considerably beyond our extreme right. His regiments were formed apparently in column by division, the skirmishers throwing themselves into the intervals whenever their advance was checked. The enemy was formed at