Say Hotchkiss and Allan: “The resistance of the Federal army had been stubborn. Numbers, weight of artillery, and strength of position, had been in its favor. Against it told heavily the loss of morale due to the disaster of the previous day.”
The left centre.
While the bulk of the fighting had thus been done by the right centre, Anderson was steadily forcing his way towards Chancellorsville. He had Wright’s, Posey’s, and Perry’s brigades on the left of the plank road, and Mahone’s on the right, and was under orders to press on to the Chancellor clearing as soon as he could join his left to Jackson’s right. He speaks in his report as if he had little fighting to do to reach his destination. Nor does Geary, who was in his front, mention any heavy work until about nine A.M.; for Geary’s position was jeopardized by the enfilading fire of Stuart’s batteries on the Hazel-Grove hill, and by the advance of Stuart’s line of battle, which found his right flank in the air. He could scarcely be expected to make a stubborn contest under these conditions.
While thus hemmed in, Geary “obeyed an order to retire, and form my command at right angles with the former line of battle, the right resting at or near the Brick House,” (Chancellorsville). While in the execution of this order, Hooker seems to have changed his purpose, and in person ordered him back to his original stand, “to hold it at all hazards.”
In some manner, accounted for by the prevalent confusion, Greene’s and Kane’s brigades had, during this change of front, become separated from the command, and had retired to a line of defence north of the Chancellor House. But on regaining the old breastworks, Geary found two regiments of Greene’s brigade still holding them.
Now ensued a thorough-going struggle for the possession of these breastworks, and they were tenaciously hung to by Geary with his small force, until Wright had advanced far beyond his flank, and had reached the Chancellor clearing; when, on instructions from Slocum, he withdrew from the unequal strife, and subsequently took up a position on the left of the Eleventh Corps.
Anderson now moved his division forward, and occupied the edge of the clearing, where the Union forces were still making a last stand about headquarters.
McLaws, meanwhile, in Couch’s front, fought mainly his skirmishers and artillery. Hancock strengthened Miles’s outpost line, who “held it nobly against repeated assaults.”