Numbers 363. Report of Lieutenant Colonel John A. Fite, Seventh Tennessee Infantry.
AT THE FRONT, May 5, 1863.
Under instructions from brigade headquarters, I submit the following report of the action of the Seventh Tennessee Regiment in the engagement at [Chancellorsville]:
On Sunday, May 3, the regiment moved from bivouac at 1 a. m., and was placed in position on the left of the center of the brigade, which was on the extreme right of our line and to the right of the Plank road. On account of the dense wood and underbrush, it did not get into position until about daylight. The men were very much fatigued, having marched nearly all of that night and the day previous. As soon as the line was established, skirmishers were thrown forward, and ordered to advance 300 or 400 yards, and ascertain the position of the enemy. Immediately thereafter, an advance was ordered along the whole line, and it was ascertained that the enemy were in position about 400 yards in our front, occupying a strong position and supported by artillery. They were partially fortified upon the crest of a hill, which was carried, with a shout. The enemy retired in great confusion to their second line of defenses, leaving many killed and wounded on the field and three pieces of artillery and a considerable number of prisoners. The pursuit was continued to within about 75 yards of their fortifications. When it was ascertained that, in consequence of the rapid movement of the line and the dense timber and rough ground, the connection of the brigade with the general line of battle on the left was broken, we were ordered to fall back to the enemy's first position, from which we advanced again in a very short time under a very heavy fire, but, being unsupported, we were ordered to retire a second time, and remained at the crest of the hill which was carried in the morning, in support of the Purcell Battery, for about an hour, during which time a column advanced and attacked the enemy on his left flank, and, with the aid of the battery, he was driven from his fortified position immediately in our front, and retired to his third line of defense. We then moved again to the front, about 200 yards beyond the enemy's second line of defense, when the column was wheeled to the right, fronting the enemy's third position. We then moved forward through a dense wood, and charged the enemy, driving him from his breastworks.
His third line was in the form of two sides of a triangle. Soon after, he advanced in strong force upon our left flank, enfilading the left of our line to about the center of my regiment, when the command was passed down the line to move by the right flank, when all of those who were under the enemy's enfilading fire retired by the right flank behind the crest of the hill, leaving a part of my regiment and those on its right still in the trenches. After a brisk fire of about ten minutes, the enemy retired again behind the hill. Soon after, Brigadier-General [A. R.] Wright came to our position, and asked what was the position of the enemy, and it being pointed out to him, he replied that they were retreating, and that he would press them, and desired that we should support him. He immediately moved a part of his command forward, and while they were getting into position it was announced that the enemy had displayed a white flag. General Wright thereupon rode down toward their position, and soon after a large number of prisoners marched from that direction past us to the rear. The firing on that line having ceased, we retired by the right flank to the base of the hill.