“The country being open, Gen. Brooks’s division was formed in a column of brigade-fronts, with an extended line of skirmishers in the front and flank in advance, and the artillery on the road.” (Warren.) The New Jersey brigade marched on the right, and Bartlett’s brigade on the left, of the road. This disposition was adopted that the enemy might be attacked as soon as met, without waiting for deployment, and to avoid the usual manoeuvres necessary to open an action from close column, or from an extended order of march.
Gen. Newton followed, marching by the flank along the road. This “greatly extended the column, made it liable to an enfilading fire, and put it out of support, in a measure, of the division in advance.” (Warren.) Howe brought up the rear.
Meanwhile Wilcox, having arrested Sedgwick at Guest’s, as long as his slender force enabled him to do, moved across country to the River road near Taylor’s. But Sedgwick’s cautious advance gave him the opportunity of sending back what cavalry he had, some fifty men, to skirmish along the plank road, while he himself moved his infantry and artillery by cross-roads to the toll-house, one-half mile east of Salem Church. Here he took up an admirable position, and made a handsome resistance to Sedgwick, until, ascertaining that McLaws had reached the crest at that place, he withdrew to the position assigned him in the line of battle now formed by that officer.
When Early perceived that Sedgwick was marching his corps up the plank road, instead, as he expected, of attacking him, and endeavoring to reach the depots at Hamilton’s, he concentrated at Cox’s all his forces, now including Hays, who had rejoined him by a circuit, and sent word to McLaws, whom he ascertained to be advancing to meet Sedgwick, that he would on the morrow attack Marye’s heights with his right, and extend his left over to join the main line.
It was about noon before Lee became aware that Sedgwick had captured his stronghold at Fredericksburg, and was where he could sever his communications, or fall upon his rear at Chancellorsville. Both Lee and Early (the former taking his cue from his lieutenant) state that at first Sedgwick advanced down the Telegraph road, with an assumed purpose to destroy the line in Lee’s rear, but that he was checked by Early. The nature, however, of Sedgwick’s orders precluded his doing this, and there is no mention of such a purpose among any of the reports. And it was not long before Lee heard that Sedgwick was marching out towards the battle-ground in the Wilderness, with only Wilcox in his front.