While this is transacting, Couch orders Hancock to move up to the United-States Ford road, which he imagines to be threatened by the enemy; but the order is countermanded when scarcely begun. There is assuredly a sufficiency of troops there.
But Hancock is soon obliged to face about to ward off the advance of the enemy, now irregularly showing his line of battle upon the Chancellorsville clearing, while Sickles and Williams slowly and sullenly retire from before him.
The enemy is gradually forcing his way towards headquarters. Hancock’s artillery helps keep him in check for a limited period; but the batteries of Stuart, Anderson, and McLaws, all directing a converging fire on the Chancellor House, make it, under the discouraging circumstances, difficult for him to maintain any footing.
When Couch had temporarily assumed command, Hancock, before Geary was forced from his intrenchments by Anderson, disposed the Second Corps, with its eighteen pieces of artillery, in two lines, facing respectively east and west, about one mile apart. But Geary’s relinquishment of the rifle-pits allowed the flanks of both the lines to be exposed, and prevented these dispositions from answering their purpose. Hancock clung to his ground, however, until the enemy had reached within a few hundred yards. Then the order for all troops to be withdrawn within the new lines was promulgated, and the removal of the wounded from the Chancellor House was speedily completed,—the shelling by the enemy having set it on fire some time before.
Hancock’s artillery at the Chancellor House certainly suffered severely; for, during this brief engagement, Leppien’s battery lost all its horses, officers, and cannoneers, and the guns had to be removed by an infantry detail, by hand.
The Confederate army now occupied itself in refitting its shattered ranks upon the plain. Its organization had been torn to shreds, during the stubborn conflict of the morning, in the tangled woods and marshy ravines of the Wilderness; but this had its full compensation in the possession of the prize for which it had contended. A new line of battle was formed on the plank road west of Chancellorsville, and on the turnpike east. Rodes leaned his right on the Chancellor House, and Pender swung round to conform to the Federal position. Anderson and McLaws lay east of Colston, who held the old pike, but were soon after replaced by Heth, with part of A. P. Hill’s corps.
In the woods, where Berry had made his gallant stand opposite the fierce assaults of Jackson, and where lay by thousands the mingled dead and wounded foes, there broke out about noon a fire in the dry and inflammable underbrush. The Confederates detailed a large force, and labored bravely to extinguish the flames, equally exhibiting their humanity to suffering friend and foe; but the fire was hard to control, and many wounded perished in the flames.