The third in a four-part miniseries.
The following is the text from Elizabeth “Beth” Parnicza’s 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville tour covering the action of May 3rd, 1863, in the area between Hazel Grove and Fairview.
Ramseur led the assault personally, recounted by First Lieutenant William C. Brewer, 2nd North Carolina: “I never shall forget the scene when Genl Ramseur took a position in front of his brigade composed of the 2nd, 4th, 14th, and 30th Regiments N.C. troops drew his Sword waived it ower his head, and and cried out, men will you follow me every man arrose at the sound of his voice…then the command forward, charge. The only Charge on the enemy they ever made without the yell, silent as specters. Every man in the brigade knew we were being sacrificed. a look of grim determination to their duty was on every face.”
They knew they were being sacrificed, they went forward “silent as specters” with “a look of grim determination to their duty.” This isn’t a glorious charge, except in hindsight. It is a bitter, determined clash.
Brewer continued: “We arrived at the top of the Ridge about forty yards from the trenches…they poured a galling fire in to us from the Infantry and grape and canister from the Battery…the noise and carnage of battle was deafning…I looked up and down the line saw nothing but dead [and] wounded I looke[d] back from whence we came and saw a thin line like skirmis[h]ers vanishing over the hill, a Shock and I k[n]ew no more.”
Surrounded by dead and wounded, Brewer becomes a casualty himself—survives his wound and lives to write this memoir.
Ramseur takes enfilading fire, and is supported by the Stonewall Brigade, but can’t hold onto its advance position and falls back.
Major General Jeb Stuart arrives on the scene. The assault is cheered on by Stuart, who calls out to them, waving his hat over his head: “Three cheers for Ramseur’s Brigade! Men, you have done your duty.”
That word again: “Duty.” What does duty mean?
Here, it means both glory and loss.
As men reform, Ramseur comes upon the 2nd NC and asks, “Is that all that’s left?”
“This is all, sir.”
Ramseur bursts into tears. He says, “Men, I love you.”
What more can he say as he feels the weight of leading these men into the fight, many to their deaths?
The 2nd North Carolina lost 214 killed and wounded out of 340; the brigade lost 623 of 1,400 engaged.
John A. Strikeleather, 4th North Carolina, later wrote: “North Carolina poured out more of her precious blood, on that sanguinary field than she did on any other field during the contest. …tears over their unmarked graves, is a more fitting tribute to their precious memories than any other we can bring.”
Elizabeth “Beth” Parnicza is a West Virginia University graduate and is currently a historian with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Beth, is the supervisor of the Chancellorsville unit.