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Two divisions alone remain. These are the divisions of Hancock and Geary. The former division is no longer intact, General Caldwell having at a sudden call marched with three regiments to the United States ford road; General Meagher, with the Irish brigade, having been detached ever since the crossing of the river. The troops with Hancock, comprising eleven regiments, are now formed in two lines of battle, back to back, one fronting west toward Gordonsville, to protect Geary's right; the other, only a few hundred yards away, fronting east toward Fredericksburg, still in the position so long occupied and so gallantly defended. Geary's line faces southward, crossing the plank road. Couch and Hancock have but fourteen guns at command, of which only nine are in condition to be very effective. These are directed to fire up the turnpike; the remaining five—of Lepine's Fifth Maine Battery—are placed in the peach orchard behind the Chancellor House.
The gallant bearing of these troops for the moment checks the progress of the enemy's infantry, who, fearfully punished in the great action of the morning, believe that they have a new battle to fight; but the fire of the Confederate artillery now becomes infernal. Lieutenant Donohue, in command of Thomas's battery, is mortally wounded. Lepine's battery in the peach orchard is almost instantly cut in pieces; every officer is either killed or wounded, whereupon Couch requests Lieutenant Kirby, of the First United States Artillery, to take command. Hardly has Kirby reached his new post when his horse is killed, and a few minutes later this most heroic and promising young officer falls mortally wounded.* And now a heavy infantry column falls upon the front which Geary has maintained with so much spirit across the plank road. Stubbornly the men of the Twelfth Corps resist; but at last this part of the line, too, falls out, and Geary's command passes, in no disorderly column, down the road to the Bullock Clearing, where the new position is being taken up. It is still of importance to gain time; to hold the enemy at bay as long as possible, that the roads leading to the rear may be cleared of troops and the broken brigades may be re-formed. This necessity presses strongly upon General Couch, and nobly does he set himself to discharge the duty. His example is superb. His horse is killed, he is himself twice hit. Nobly is he seconded by the chief of his First Division, Hancock, whose horse is killed and who is only able to secure a remount on an animal hardly large enough to allow the general's feet to clear the ground.
The Chancellor plain has become a very hell; shot scream over it from every direction but the north and the northeast; the house itself is in flames, and the wounded are removed from it under a torrent of bursting shells; yet Hancock's division, alone where seven divisions had been, still stands in two lines of battle, back to back, facing east and facing west, while the artillery, itself torn almost to pieces, holds the enemy at bay toward the south. At last the word comes that the First Division may retire. The long skirmish line quickly withdraws, although, by the blunder of a staff officer, eight companies file out of their trenches in the wrong direction and fall into the enemy's hands; the guns of Lepine's battery, which has lost all its officers, all its cannoneers, and all its horses, are drawn off by hand; and the heroic rear guard falls slowly back to the new line at the Bullock clearing.
* Kirby died on the 28th of May. On the 23d President Lincoln sent him a general's commission in recognition of his brilliant abilities, undaunted courage, and faithful service.
The course of our narrative does not require us to deal at length with the further operations and incidents of the Chancellorsville campaign. During the remainder of the 3d of May and throughout the 4th Hooker kept his army inactive in their intrenchments, although urged to resume the offensive with the fresh corps of Meade and Reynolds and the soundest divisions remaining in the other corps, and contented himself with strengthening his new position. Thus Lee was enabled to withdraw from his front a sufficient number of troops to bring to a stand the gallant corps of Sedgwick, which had captured Fredericksburg and had moved as far as Salem Church into Lee's rear; and then, Hooker still remaining inactive, to detach other brigades to drive Sedgwick across the river at Banks's ford. On the night of the 5th of May Hooker withdrew his baffled army across the Rappahannock, and the troops returned to their former camps after the loss of seventeen thousand men.
One of the results of the Chancellorsville campaign was a change in the command of the Second Corps. General Couch had felt outraged in every nerve and fiber of his being by the conduct of General Hooker from the 1st to the 5th of May: the retreat from the admirable offensive position reached by Sykes and Slocum on the 1st; the inaction of the 2d, giving opportunity for the overthrow and rout of Howard's corps; the defective dispositions of Sunday morning; the refusal to support the hardpressed divisions at the front; the failure to throw Meade and Reynolds upon the Confederate left; the defensive attitude of the 4th, which allowed the isolated corps of Sedgwick to be overwhelmed without support or relief. It is a matter of regret that General Couch did not for a little while longer possess his soul in patience. A few weeks more would have seen the army commanded by an officer in whom he had the utmost confidence, and under whom, though his junior,* he would have delighted to march at the head of his own gallant corps. One can not help thinking that Gettysburg would have been a greater victory had Couch there led the Second Corps, as at Fredericksburg and at ChancelIorsville, while Hancock, as in that event he would have done, commanded the Fifth Corps. The great lack of the Union army at Gettysburg was to be that of capable corps commanders*—a lack most painfully felt after the fall of Reynolds on the first day. Sedgwick, Slocum, and Hancock were easily of the first rank; but some of the others, though all excellent division commanders, left much to be desired. In such a situation the addition of one more first-class corps commander would have been a source of great strength. But this was not to be. General Couch had wrought himself into an almost morbid feeling that he could never again lead his troops under Hooker, to what he regarded as purposeless slaughter. In this spirit, with pain inexpressible, he asked to be relieved from further service with the Army of the Potomac, and on the 1oth of June left the Second Corps forever. A few days later, in recognition of his distinguished services, he was assigned to the new Department of the Susque
* To President Lincoln's suggestion that he should succeed Hooker in the command, Couch returned a sincere and decided negative. Neither his health, always delicate, nor his retiring disposition qualified him for such a post of responsibility. .