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CAPTURE OF COL. LUCE AND HIS MEN.
Col. Corning's horse—a magnificent animal-was shot from under him, as he was fearlessly charging up the hill with the Regiment. While passing through the woods below, Capt. Draime discovered a party of rebels a short way off, and taking a few of his men started after them. He returned after the redoubt was taken, bringing with him Col. Luce of the Eighteenth Mississippi, and one Captain, four Lieutenants and thirty-eight privates, belonging to the same regiment. Capt. Tyler narrowly escaped, having his clothing perforated eleven different times with bullets. It seemed almost a miracle that any of the officers or men could have passed through such a fiery ordeal unscathed.
A BLOODY BATTLE SUNDAY EVENING,
BATTLES OF SALEM HEIGHTS.
AFTER resting for a brief period on the summit of the Heights, the Corps pushed rapidly up the turnpike leading to Chancellorsville, no effort being made to take possession of the still higher ridge at the left, to which a portion of the enemy had retreated, and were now tossing an occasional shell at us. The country presented a beautiful appearance, with its green meadows and vast fields of cereals stretching out in every direction. Gen. Brooks' Division, which now took the advance, moved rapidly forward, but instead of meeting with Hooker's pickets, encountered a heavy force of the enemy, about four miles ahead, near Salem. They were concealed in a forest, into which our infantry were imprudently advanced before it was shelled. The rebels immediately rose from their masked position, and delivered a murderous fire. Gen. Brooks quickly formed his men in line, and soon became hotly engaged. While the conflict was at its height, a body of the enemy suddenly opened upon him from the left, and he changed front to meet them. The battle now became very sanguinary, the rebels rapidly thinning our ranks with their cross fire.
A FATAL BLUNDER.
Darkness came to our relief and the fighting ceased, not, however, before we had lost twelve hundred men. Seven hundred of this number belonged to Bartlett's Brigade—consisting of the Twenty-seventh New York, among other Regiments,—who fell in twenty minutes time. The woods afterwards took fire from our shells, and many of the wounded belonging to both parties perished in the flames.
The little army slept soundly that night after the arduous duties of the day. But there were many officers as well as men who lay down to rest with serious apprehensions of the morrow. No troops had been thrown forward to occupy the higher ridge at our left. What should prevent the enemy from circling round under cover of night to this crest, and descending get between us and the captured but now abandoned Heights in the rear?
The dawn of Monday proved how well grounded had been these fears. At eight o'clock a heavy rebel column was observed streaming down the mountain side, and pushing rapidly for Marye’s Heights. Not a picket had been thrown out to give warning of their approach, or a single gun to sweep the gully through which they had to pass. A scene of utmost confusion now ensued. The road leading from the city out to the army was crowded with straggling soldiers, going on to rejoin their Regiments, supply wagons, ammunition trains and ambulances filled with wounded from the previous evening's fight. The soldiers scattered through the fields in all directions. The teamsters and ambulance drivers dashed
THE ENEMY IN OUR REAR.
furiously into the city, or turned back to the army, thereby escaping. A few, losing presence of mind, cut their horses loose from the wagons, and, mounting them, rode away, in hot haste. Gen. Gibbon, in charge of the city, sent up one or two Regiments left with him as a patrol, to check the enemy. But it was useless for them to attempt doing so, and after firing three or four rounds, they fled out to the army. The rebels now pressed forward and re-occupied the Heights, delivering as they did so, one of their characteristic yells, so much resembling a wolf howl.
After resting for a moment they were deployed out to the right of the Heights, and forming an extended line, swept rapidly up after the Sixth Corps. A Union battery, planted on a bluff up the river, one mile from the city, immediately opened a hot fire on their backs, and so interfered with his plans that the commanding officer was content to draw in his forces and mass them around the Heights.
Fredericksburg, as well as Falmouth, was now perfectly defenceless, all the troops not with Sedgwick having been sent up to the support of Hooker, and a few siege guns planted on Stafford Heights, comprising almost our only artillery. The enemy, had they known it, could have passed down into the city with impunity, paroled our fifteen hundred wounded, and then, seizing our pontoon-boats, pushed over the river and captured Gen. Hooker's headquarters and the immense supplies at the Falmouth depot. FREDERICKSBURG AND FALMOUTH DEFENCELESS. 305
Why they did not at least descend to the city still remains a mystery. Perhaps they were intimidated by the show of resistance made by a few stragglers, whom some wounded officers collected about the streets and posted along the edge of the city. Capts. Root and Cole, and other officers in the hospital, sent their swords and equipments over the river, expecting to be made prisoners. As the day advanced, however, and the enemy did not come down, preparations were made for transferring the wounded to the opposite bank, and before night they were all taken over, together with the materiel of war, which had collected there.
The Sixth Corps was now placed in a most critical position by this coup-de-main of Gen. Lee, having the enemy in front, left and rear, and an unfordable river on the right. No wonder that Gen. Butterfield, Chief-of-Staff, when he rode down to the Falmouth side of the river and comprehended the situation, remarked to Gen. Fogliardi, the Swiss General who accompanied him, “Sedgwick has gone up.” That indomitable hero, however, had no idea of "going up,” but immediately set about rescuing his command from the dilemma in which Hooker and his Chief-of-Staff had placed it. Hooker and his Chiefof-Staff, we say, for it was in accordance with their orders that the Sixth Corps had been pushed on, regardless of the higher ridge at the left.
The diagram on the opposite page represents the positions of the different forces of both armies as they then were.