General Slocum having been put in command of three [two] corps. At sunrise we crossed the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge, and took the road for Germanna Ford, on the Rapidan, the First Division of the Twelfth Corps leading. Ruger's brigade was pushed forward as an advance guard, with skirmishers well to the front, and two regiments moving by the right of companies well to the front on either side of the road. In this way we pushed the inconsiderable opposition rapidly to the Rapidan, and, by a sudden deployment of two regiments to the right and left of the front, so enveloped the line of retreat that nearly the whole force of the enemy (bridge-builders and guard) surrendered after a feeble resistance; about 125 prisoners were taken.
The First Division began at once with marked spirit and cheerfulness to ford the river, which was deep, rocky, and rapid, and, wading to the arm-pits, passed rapidly to the south side of the Rapidan, and were established in a strong position in bivouac through the woods across the peninsula formed by a sharp curve of the steam. Bridge-builders were detached on reaching the river, and in an hour or so a practical bridge for infantry was constructed, over which the Second Division and Eleventh Corps passed dry-shod.
On the following morning we advanced toward Chancellorsville, Geary's division taking the advance, and moving with very little opposition. Near Old Wilderness Tavern the enemy's cavalry, with a section of artillery, made some demonstration on our right, which was easily brushed away by a regiment of infantry sent in turn from each division, while the command and trains were passing, to hold the road that intersects from the south at this point.
The corps reached Chancellorsville at 3 p. m., and took position at once; the left (Geary's division), resting a small distance in advance of the Chancellor house, and extending west through the woods, was continued on by the First Division in a circular line to a point on the Old Wilderness Plank road, about 1 1/2 miles west. Barricades or breastworks of logs and rifle-pits were at once made and trees felled at proper points as abatis. An advanced line of barricades and small intrenchments were made by General Ruger to cover the open space half a il or so in our front, where the enemy had manifested a disposition to annoy us, and from which on subsequent days he inflicted great damage on our lines.
On the following morning, May 1, I resumed command of the First Division, and was ordered by the major-general commanding the corps to proceed down the Plank road toward Fredericksburg, sweeping the woods and fields on the left, and connecting with Geary's division on the right of the road. I formed Knipe's and Ruger's brigades, with two regiments, each deployed in line of battle, and the Second Brigade (Ross') following in the center in double column, as a reserve.
Notwithstanding the density of the underbrush and evergreen thickets, the division moved rapidly to the front, driving before them the pickets of the enemy. During the most of our advance we were under artillery fire, which, however, inflicted no injury. I had crossed some open fields, perhaps 2 miles in advance of Chancellorsville, to a point where the first sight was obtained of the enemy's intrenchments and rifle-pits, and had halted Knipe's brigade to establish my line and put the reserve brigade in position. My skirmishers were sharply engaged with those of the enemy, and the troops seemed never so eager to engage, when an order was received to return to my original position, which was done in good order and without loss. Two or 3 men were killed and 7 or 8 wounded among my skirmishers in the advance.