Wednesday, April 30, 2008

General James Lane's Account of Jackson's Wounding at Chancellorsville

In his post-war book about Jeb Stuart, Henry McClellan includes a portion from a letter written by James Lane recounting the night Stonewall Jackson was wounded. The letter is dated May 14, 1885.

"I was not in line, but was ordered to move along the road by the right flank, immediately in rear of the artillery commanded by my friend, Stapleton Crutchfield. When this artillery halted in the road near the last line of breastworks from which the enemy had been driven, I was immediately behind it, and was kept standing in the road a short time. Here, about dark, I was ordered by General A.P. Hill in person to form my brigade, as described in my official report, for a night attack. As General Hill rode off, I called my command to attention; and just then our artillery opened fire down the plank road in the direction of Chancellorsville. This drew a most terrific fire from the enemy's artillery in our front, and I at once ordered my men to lie down, as they were enfiladed, and I thought it would be madness to attempt to move them under such circumstances, in the dark, and through such a woods.

Not long afterwards I heard Colonel Palmer, of General Hill's staff, inquiring for me, as it was too dark for him to recognize me, though we were not far apart. I called him; and he informed me that General Hill wished to know why I did not form my command as I had been ordered. I requested him to tell General Hill, if he wished me to do so successfully, he would have to order our artillery to cease firing, as I thought the enemy's fire was in reply to ours. The message was delivered, and Hill at once ordered Braxton, through Palmer, to cease firing; and as I expected, the enemy also ceased.

When I threw forward my first regiment as skirmishers, I ordered them to go well to the front, as we were to make a night attack; and to be very careful not to fire into any of Rodes' men, whom we would releived. When the colonel commanding this regiment reported to me after the deployment, he informed me that there were none of Rodes' men in my front.

As soon as I had formed my whole command as ordered, I rode back from the right to the plank road, to know of General Hill if I must advance at once or await orders. On reaching the road I met General Jackson, who, strange to say, recognized me first and remarked: 'Lane, for whom are you looking?' (I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute under the old hero.) I told him, and for what purpose; and then remarked that General Hill was acting under his orders, and I did not know where to find him, it would save time were he to tell me what to do. He replied: 'Push right ahead, Lane!' accompanying his order with a pushing gesture of his right hand in the direction of Chancellor's house, and then rode forward.

I at once rode to the right to put my line in motion; when the colonel on that flank advised me not to move, as his men had heard the talking and movement of troops on their flank. Lieutenant Emack and four men were sent out to reconnoitre, and they soon returned with the 128th Pennsylvania regiment commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Smith. Emack, on encountering them, put on a bold front and advised them to throw down their arms,as they were cut off by Jackson's corp. I was present when the lieutenant marched them in from the right, between my line of skirmishers and the main line, and they were without arms. Soon after they were halted in front of my right regiment, some one rode up from the front to the right of my skirmish line, and called for General Williams. Instead of capturing this individual, some of my skirmishers fired upon him, and he escaped unhurt, as far as we know. This seemed to cause a fire along the skirmish line, and the enemy's artillery again opened a terrific fire.

It was then that General Jackson was wounded, as I have always thought, by the 18th regiment, of my brigade. This regiment undoubtedly fired into Hill and his staff; and they were not to blame, as I had told them that the enemy only were in their front, and that they must keep a sharp lookout. They were formed in low, dense, scrubby obaks, on the left of the road, and knew nothing of these generals having gone to the front. When the skirmish and artillery fire caused them and their staffs to turn back, there was a loud clattering of horses' hoofs, and some one cried out, 'Yankee cavalry!'

From that unknown person's riding up, and calling for the Yankee General Williams, it is evident that they had a line in our front, possibly at the edge of the woods, Chancellorsville side, where they had their breastworks the next morning. My skirmish line was in the woods on the crest of the hill, and my main line on the right of the works last captured by Rodes. My line on the left was further advanced. General Pender rode into the woods inquiring for me just as I had ordered my right forward, and advised me not to advance, as Generals Jackson and Hill had both been wounded, and it was thought by my command. I did not advance; and was subsquently ordered by General Heth to withdraw that part of my brigade on the left of the road and prolong my line on the right."