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    [Battle of Chancellorsville]. Clark Smith Autograph Letter Signed. 20 pages, 5" x 8", "Near United States Ford, V[irgini]a"; May 1-6, 1863. An extensive description of Smith's experiences at the Battle of Chancellorsville while camping with the 50th NY Engineers. There had been trepidation about crossing the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, and the planned movements had to be kept secret in order to evade the Confederates' notice. But Smith states that the bridges were "a perfect success" and that "This move has been the best planned move of the war". The Federals moved across the river in boats and on bridges, and Smith remarks that "I marched across leading the Band (playing 'I wish I was in Dixie') being the first man to march across the bridge."

    Although the Rebel army had fallen back, they had had time to entrench themselves while the Union army was crossing the Rappahannock. That night he wrote, "I should judge it was only a little skirmishing for the purpose of getting their hand in for tomorrow which I now anticipate will be the bloodiest battle of the whole war unless the Rebs fall back again. We hear they are entrenched in a very strong position and are ready for us tomorrow will tell."

    Smith's account later continues on May 5, and tells of the wounded coming in with tales of the battle. He writes, "They were nearly all of the '11th Corps' and brot sad news of the doings of their corps. They behaved very badly, did not stand a moment. One division (I have forgotten which) broken and ran in the greatest disorder without firing a gun. It was a perfect panic, of that corps, as great as was the panic of 'Bull Run'. The fight of Saturday was much more severe than we at the rear suffered. The whole might of the army were engaged. The skidaddle of the 11th corps causing great loss to the 12th and 5th."

    Sunday night, the order came through from General Hooker to burn the surrounding houses and buildings so that the Confederates would not be able to place their battery behind the protection of the buildings. Smith describes it as "a grand sight I 'tell you'...we stood there as long as we could and went back to camp." The following morning they awoke to a terrible cannonading from the Rebels: "Such a terrific cannonading as they gave us was beat all I ever experienced. I should judge there were 12 or 18 guns and they were fired in quick succession and all the damnable sounds you ever heard that beat all one continuous roar of the guns and the 'screeching' of the shells all about us many bursting in the air right over us, others striking in the ground & bursting & throwing up the earth. The fuses of the shells could be plainly seen and as they whizzed thru the air one after another and all mixed up in one perfect scene of terror among the men and horses and more especially the servants were running 'En deshibille' followed by officers some one way some another...with the first frienzy I was out of bed went to the door and I saw how the shells were whizzing about us. The next thing I did was to get into my clothes double quick and run to the Hosp and tell the men to get to a safe place as quick as they could but I found they were too quick for me for all that could walk were off before I got there. The others had to lie still and take it...After all was over, we struck tents and after noon moved over to our present camp 1 mile further down the river and out of Range."

    A downcast Smith concluded his letter on the 5th, saying, "I am sorry to say it but the facts are everything looks as tho we were 'completely whipped'. I think our forces will cross back during the night and the bridges be taken up. We shall probably loose some men at least I fear it. Our work will be dangerous and under a severe fire. My God what are we coming to...Damn the 11th Corps. They are a mass of cowardly dutch, are not worth a damn not half of that. The end is not yet."

    Condition: Light toning around the edges, with the usual mail folds present. Overall very good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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