The resistance which this division can make is as nothing against the weighty assault of a line moving by battalions in mass. Many of the regiments do their duty well. Some barely fire a shot. This is frankly acknowledged in many of the reports. What can be expected of new troops, taken by surprise, and attacked in front, flank, and rear, at once? Devens is wounded, but remains in the saddle, nor turns over the command to McLean until he has reached the Buschbeck line. He has lost one-quarter of his four thousand men, and nearly all his superior officers, in a brief ten minutes.
Schurz’s division is roused by the heavy firing on the right, in which even inexperienced ears detect something more than a mere repetition of the picket-fight of three hours gone. Its commanding officers are at once alert. Regimental field and staff are in the saddle, and the men behind the stacks, leaving canteens, haversacks, cups with the steaming evening coffee, and rations at the fires. Arms are taken. Regiments are confusedly marched and counter-marched into the most available positions, to meet an emergency which some one should have anticipated and provided for. The absence of Barlow is now fatal.
On comes Jackson, pursuing the wreck of the First division. Some of Schurz’s regiments break before Devens has passed to the rear. Others stand firm until the victorious Confederates are upon them with their yell of triumph, then steadily fall back, turning and firing at intervals; but nowhere a line which can for more than a brief space retard such an onset.
Down the road towards Chancellorsville, through the woods, up every side road and forest path, pours a stream of fugitives. Ambulances and oxen, pack-mules and ammunition-wagons, officers’ spare horses mounted by runaway negro servants, every species of the impedimenta of camp-life, commissary sergeants on all-too-slow mules, teamsters on still-harnessed team-horses, quartermasters whose duties are not at the front, riderless steeds, clerks with armfuls of official papers, non-combatants of all kinds, mixed with frighted soldiers whom no sense of honor can arrest, strive to find shelter from the murderous fire.
No organization is left in the Eleventh Corps but one brigade of Steinwehr’s division. Buschbeck has been speedily formed by a change of front, before Devens and Schurz have left the field, in the line of intrenchments built across the road at Dowdall’s at the edge of the clearing. No sooner in place than a scattering fire by the men is opened upon friends and foes alike. Dilger’s battery trains some of its guns down the road. The reserve artillery is already in position at the north of this line, and uses spherical case with rapidity. Howard and his staff are in the thickest of the fray, endeavoring to stem the tide. As well oppose resistance to an avalanche.
Buschbeck’s line stubbornly holds on. An occasional squad, still clinging to the colors of its regiment, joins itself to him, ashamed of falling thus disgracefully to the rear. Officers make frantic exertions to rally their men; useless effort. In little less than half an hour this last stand has been swept away, and the Eleventh Corps is in confused retreat down the pike towards headquarters, or in whatever direction affords an outlet from the remorseless hail.