By Robert Krick
The first 18 pages of The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and Other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia, by Robert K. Krick, are reprinted here with permission from the author and publisher, Louisiana State University Press, which retains all republication rights. Library copies of The Smoothbore Volley are available for check-out.
Nineteen men in two distinct groups rode forward from the coalescing Confederate lines west of Chancellorsville at about 9:00 P.M. on May 2, 1863. Only seven of the nineteen came back untouched, man or horse. Although one of those nearest the offending musket muzzles, Major General A. P. Hill escaped among the unscathed handful. Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, among those farthest from the flashpoint, was one of the five men killed or mortally wounded. The capricious paths of a few dozen one-ounce lead balls caroming off the dense shrubbery of Spotsylvania’s Wilderness that night had much to do with the course of the Civil War.
From every imaginable perspective, the afternoon of May 2 had been a stunning Confederate success of unprecedented magnitude. Lee and Jackson had crafted between them a dazzling tactical initiative that sent Stonewall covertly all the way across the front of a Federal army that outnumbered the southerners by more than two to one. The redoubtable corps commander managed the remarkable march without serious interruption, arrayed his first two divisions in a wide line, and descended upon the Federals like a thunderbolt. Those northerners who rallied bravely against the tide faced an inexorable outflanking by the outriders of Jackson’s line, who stretched far beyond the center of the attack in both directions. In this fashion, Jackson routed one Union corps, trapped another out of the line, and left the others shaky, uncertain, and vulnerable to be stampeded.
Southern soldiers enjoying the chance to steamroller their enemy observed their legendary leader throughout his victorious advance. Darkness and confusion would lead to disastrous results, causing some southerners to fire mistakenly at Jackson, but during the early evening, everyone knew where he was. The adjutant of a Georgia regiment in the attack’s front rank recalled that after the fighting had died down, the ground appeared “to tremble as if shaken by an earthquake, the cheering is so tremendous, caused by Gen. Jackson riding along the line.” Members of the 18th North Carolina of James H. Lane’s brigade, which within an hour would inadvertently fire on Jackson, saw their hero pass “about twilight.” The Tar Heels cheered him and were gratified when Stonewall “took off his hat in recognition of their salutation."
The divisions of Robert E. Rodes and Raleigh E. Colston had carried Jackson’s attack forward. Most of A. P. Hill’s division, last in the long column during the flanking march, had not maneuvered out of the column and into the line of battle. As darkness closed in on the victorious but exhausted Confederates, the need to advance fresh and better-organized troops to the front rank became obvious. Lane’s five regiments drew the assignment. A. P. Hill ordered Lane to push them forward and then spread them to the right and the left, perpendicular to the Orange Plank Road, in preparation for a novel night attack. The North Carolinians hesitated in the road, uncertain how to form line because “on each side the shrubbery was so dense as to render it impossible to march.”
Jackson’s plan to attack despite the steadily thickening darkness foundered first on a whimsical exchange of artillery fire. Southern guns in a small roadside clearing near a country schoolhouse and shop to the west of Lane’s regiments opened a ranging fire into the woods toward Chancellorsville. The dreadful idea to begin this firing probably originated with an artillery captain eager to make noise. Northern guns responded in far greater numbers, wreaking havoc on the unfortunate North Carolina infantrymen standing in the road in ranks, having arranged themselves as a conveniently enfiladed target. The shot and shell came “as thick as hail.” Major W. G. Morris of the 37th North Carolina swore that he had “never experi[e]nced such a shelling.” General Lane shouted to his men to lie down in the road; most had probably tumbled into the thickets before their general could summon the yell. A lieutenant in the 37th recalled that the troops “buried our faces as close to the ground as possible and I expect some of us rubbed the skin off our noses trying to get under it.”
A. P. Hill and Stonewall Jackson ignored the intense fire as they conversed with each other on horseback, so “deeply absorbed” that enemy shells burst “all around[,] . . . plowing up the ground” under their horses’ feet, “without either of them taking the slightest notice.” Major William H. Palmer, Hill’s bright and capable chief of staff, managed to locate General Lane in the scrubby underbrush, and the two men quickly agreed that the fire must be halted before the troops could make any further movement. Palmer rode back to the schoolhouse and shut down the Confederate artillery, and the enemy stopped firing as well soon after the provocation ended. The shelling had lasted about fifteen minutes.
As soon as the firestorm ceased, Lane moved his five North Carolina regiments into position as ordered. The 28th faced east on his far left, with the 18th just to its right. The right of the 18th anchored on the Orange Plank Road. The 37th continued the front south of the road, with the 7th on its—and the brigade’s—right. In accordance with the tactical dogma of the era, Lane provided a healthy screen of skirmishers well to the front in the form of the entire 33rd North Carolina. All of this infantry deployment transpired without the firing of a gun. Crude Federal works of earth and logs paralleled the brigade front, but Lane did not position his men behind that shelter; their mission was to attack, not defend. The 28th and 18th pushed a bit farther to the front on Lane’s instructions, poised for the advance that Jackson had ordered. Lane then went to his right to bring the 37th and 7th into the same alignment. Once this was accomplished, the attack could begin.
Three Confederate artillery pieces stood in the road near the middle of Lane’s infantry array, each from a horse artillery battery. This mobile arm had served as Jackson’s support from the outset of his attack. Four guns of the Lynchburg Beauregard Rifles, under Captain Marcellus N. Moorman, had stood in the road two miles to the west when Jackson launched his assault. Moorman was at the front at dark with one of those guns, which was commanded by Lieutenant Robert P. Burwell. The other two belonged to McGregor’s Battery and Breathed’s Battery (under Lieutenant Philip P. Johnston). Major Robert F. Beckham was the ranking horse-artillery officer present. Jackson’s artillery chief, Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield, directed the horse-artillery pieces to prepare to move to the rear to allow his more conventional batteries to take over.
The most important job in the unfolding Confederate line belonged to the men of the 33rd North Carolina, far out front on the skirmish line. The regiment entered action 480 strong, about 20 percent above the average number of troops in a Confederate regiment at the time. The men of the 33rd recognized that they held “the post of danger, but it was also the post of honor.” It became conventional, in the aftermath of the battle, to accuse Lane erroneously of causing Jackson’s impending mishap by not sending out skirmishers. Captain R. E. Wilbourn, whose account of riding alongside Jackson is the most important of the many sources on the event, set the tone: “This lamentable affair was caused by not having any skirmishers or pickets in front of our lines—a piece of negligence unexcusable.” In truth, Wilbourn and Jackson never quite reached the well-established, well-situated, and well-instructed line of skirmishers. The 33rd’s three field-grade officers spread out to control their unit—the colonel on the road and his two subordinates at the far flanks, all “within short range of the enemy’s skirmishers.” As the historian of the 7th, on the right of the mainline, declared: “Everyone knew they were [there].” The historian of the 37th noted accurately that the 33rd fanned out across “the entire front of the brigade.” Lane’s line could not have been drawn better.
The setting in which Lane built his line while Stonewall Jackson waited impatiently contrasted starkly with the violence of the afternoon. The front edge of the fluid battle zone was almost eerily calm. “The firing had ceased,” Wilbourn wrote, “and all was quiet,—the enemy having in the darkness...disappeared entirely from our sight.” In the stillness, Yankee voices shouting commands echoed faintly through the woods from several hundred yards away, making “a great hum of human voices generally.” An unsettling exception to the silence was “the mournful cry of the whippoorwill,” General Lane recalled, “ringing in my ears from every direction.” (The species still fills the Chancellorsville woods with its ominous calls today.) The sun had set at 6:49 P.M., but the moon would be full on May 3, so its brightness was near the peak. Even so, the dense undergrowth produced a darkness in which Lane could not read his watch.
Stonewall Jackson rode restlessly in the rear of the forming brigade, impressing upon every ranking officer he met the importance of exploiting the advantage they had won. Near the schoolhouse he encountered General Rodes, who spiritedly asserted, “My Division behaved splendidly this evening.” Jackson agreed and promised to say so in his official report. A bit closer to the front, Stonewall met A. P. Hill, to whom he spoke emphatically: “Press them, Gen. Hill; press them, and cut them off from the United States Ford.” Jackson then encountered General Lane, who was calling for Hill in the darkness. Stonewall made clear to the brigadier that he wanted the night attack to go forward: “Push right ahead, Lane, right ahead!” Lane knew better than to solicit further details from his old Virginia Military Institute professor, so he continued to make preparations for the attack. In these encounters, Jackson used a “peculiar wave of the hand” to emphasize his intentions. Wilbourn described this ardent gesticulation as “characteristic of his determination and energy,—throwing forward his body and extending his hand beyond his horse’s head, with as much force and earnestness as if he was trying to push forward the column with his hand.” The lunge beyond his horse’s head, a gesture enthusiastic enough to verge on the acrobatic, clearly conveyed to subordinate observers the general’s customary intensity.
Traditional reconstructions of Jackson’s ride in front of his forming lines depict his party as accompanied by A. P. Hill, with their staff members intermixed. Both generals did ride to the front, surrounded by aides and couriers. The two men and their accompanying cavalcades were quite widely separated, however, and out of touch with each other. The confusion probably originated in the incontrovertible fact that Captain James Keith Boswell, Stonewall’s topographic engineer, rode next to Hill. This came about at the last minute when Jackson detailed Boswell to help Hill understand the ground. The corps commander had asked Hill how well he knew the road toward the United States Ford (Bullock Road). Even though he was a native of nearby Culpeper, Hill had been away for years on army duty and admitted, “I am entirely unacquainted with the topography of this country.” Jackson “instantly replied: ‘Capt. Boswell, report to Gen. Hill.’” To his division commander, Stonewall added the admonition: “Allow nothing to stop you; press on to the United States ford.” Jackson then moved forward, leaving Boswell behind with Hill.
Hill’s gathering entourage, tagging well behind Jackson and his group, eventually numbered ten men. Hill rode on the Plank Road in the center of a three-man cluster, with Captain Boswell on his right and Major William H. Palmer on his left. Grouped slightly behind them were seven mounted men:
Captain Conway Robinson Howard, engineer officer
Lieutenant Murray Forbes Taylor, aide-de-camp
Captain Benjamin Watkins Leigh, aide-de-camp
James Fitzgerald Forbes, temporary volunteer aide
Sergeant George W. Tucker, chief courier
Private Richard J. Muse, courier
Private Eugene L. Saunders, courier
Hill’s party did not follow Jackson’s precise route, nor did it depart at once when Jackson disappeared into the shadowed woods astride his famous mount, Little Sorrel.
Jackson’s escort included almost precisely the same number of men as Hill’s. The general’s brother-in-law Joseph G. Morrison described the party as numbering “eight in all.” A lieutenant in the 18th North Carolina confirmed the count when he estimated that the Jackson and Hill groups between them totaled “perhaps 20 horsemen;" the two lists given here total nineteen. If Morrison meant eight riders in addition to Jackson, the estimate matches precisely the known participants—all but one of them identified by some other member of the party rather than merely in an autobiographical account:
Captain Richard Eggleston Wilbourn, signal corps
Captain William Fitzhugh Randolph, 39th Virginia Cavalry Battalion, which supplied couriers
Lieutenant Joseph G. Morrison, aide-de-camp
William E. Cunliffe, signal corps enlisted man
W. T. Wynn, signal corps enlisted man
Private David Joseph Kyle, 9th Virginia Cavalry
Private Joshua O. Johns, 39th Virginia Cavalry
Private Lloyd T. Smith, 39th Virginia Cavalry
Wilbourn rode at Jackson’s left side, with Cunliffe and Wynn immediately behind them. The couriers formed into “columns of two” to extend the cavalcade.
The most important member of Jackson’s party for historical purposes was the man with the least standing at the time—nineteen-year-old Private David Kyle of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. In his admirable Lee’s Lieutenants, Douglas Southall Freeman attributes special merit to Kyle’s account because the veteran had, Freeman learned from a friend, hunted in the area and bought cattle nearby during the l890s, making Kyle, after the fact, “entirely familiar with the terrain.” What Freeman did not know was that David Kyle literally was serving as a scout and guide in his own backyard. He had lived before the war on the Bullock farm that gave the adjacent road its name. But for the dense thickets hugging the ground, Kyle could have seen his own back porch from the route of Jackson’s cavalcade. In the smoke-streaked, flaming, chaotic Wilderness that night, David Kyle knew precisely where he was. No one else could have been certain of much. Kyle, furthermore, reinforced his understanding of events by walking over the ground again on May 4, 1863.
Private Kyle found himself guiding the legendary Stonewall Jackson around his home-cum-battlefield by a quirky circumstance. At about 3:00 P.M. Brigadier General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee, R. E. Lee’s son and former commander of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, sent Kyle to deliver a dispatch to Major General J. E. B. Stuart. Lee warned the courier that the main roads might be infested with Yankees, so Kyle detoured across country toward Parker’s Store, then carefully wound his way northward. He passed Jackson’s troops on the Brock Road, then struck out again on byways past Lacy’s Mill to Ely’s Ford. Kyle found Stuart near the gate to the Ely yard and delivered the dispatch. The general asked about Kyle’s leisurely pace, and the young cavalryman explained about the necessarily circuitous route. Stuart asked how well Kyle knew the country. Thomas Frazer Chancellor, another local boy, happened to be standing nearby and piped up, “He knows every hog-path.” With that reassurance, Stuart sent Kyle out at 6:30 P.M. with a message for Jackson enclosed in a large sealed envelope.
Kyle circled southwest, then southeast, to reach the intersection of the Orange Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike opposite Wilderness Church. Confused officers there told him he might find Jackson westward on the Plank Road. Within a half-mile, better-informed sources prompted the courier to retrace his steps. Kyle happened upon Rev. Melzi Chancellor, “a man whome I had known for some time and had confidence in.” Chancellor lived at the southeast corner of the intersection and had just returned from guiding Jackson himself, having left the general “on the right-hand side near Powells old field... the spot which I knew so well,” Kyle recalled; he might have said the same about his familiarity with the rest of the scene toward which he now headed.
Just as Kyle neared the field, he saw several horsemen ride into the road and turn toward the front. He hurried to catch up and asked the hindmost where Jackson was. “'There he is to the right in front,' the aide answered. Kyle spurred forward, saluted the general, and handed over the large envelope. Jackson pulled up Little Sorrel, turned the horse’s head to the right road edge, and read what Stuart had sent. As Kyle glanced around the familiar scenes of his youth, he noticed the nearby road to Hazel Grove and the schoolhouse farther to the front; he also saw an unfamiliar sight—piles of dead horses in and around the road, the debris from a recent charge by the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. When Jackson finished reading, he tersely asked Kyle, 'Do you know all of this country?' When the youngster answered positively, Jackson said simply, 'Keep along with me,' then rode eastward again."
Jackson went forward, impelled by a hunger for information, as his conversations with subordinates make clear. He was, a Stonewall Brigade veteran commented, “always a great hand to wander about. . . . He had to see for himself.” Hill followed fifty or more yards behind as a matter of military etiquette. He had been in the middle of the road, surrounded by mounted staff, when Jackson’s group headed out. “As soon as . . . Hill saw Jackson ride in front of his lines,” one of the former’s aides wrote, “he felt it his duty, as a subordinate, to join him, and accordingly he also rode forward.”
Both of the regular staff members accompanying Jackson thought, almost certainly erroneously, that their chief was looking for the advanced Confederate skirmish line. They also presumed, undoubtedly in error, that the skirmish line was missing or misaligned. Under a narrow construction, it might be asserted that David Kyle was responsible for the death of Stonewall Jackson because it was Kyle’s well-informed and skillful guidance that led the general on what would be a fatal route. Had the local boy not been present, Jackson almost surely would have reconnoitered carefully down the main road. Both Morrison and Wilbourn held this view. In fact, however, Kyle steered Jackson onto the (apparently) far more appropriate corridor of the Mountain Road and pointed him eastward on that dark tunnel through the brush.
Kyle rode quietly with the Jackson cavalcade beyond the schoolhouse he knew so well and around the curve in the road just east of that point. He noticed reserve infantry in ragged alignment, most of it facing away from the front. After a pause during which Jackson conversed with other officers (evidently the encounters with Lane and Hill), the group moved ahead to another forward infantry line. The men of this thin force responded to a query from Kyle by identifying themselves as members of the 55th Virginia and the 22nd Virginia Battalion, both of Brigadier General Henry Heth’s brigade. Jackson veered to the left of the main road and halted, the junctions of the Bullock and Mountain Roads with the Plank Road visible on either side. Kyle informed the general that one road went to the Bullock house (his home) and the other “ran sorter parallel with the plank road and came out on it about a half a mile below.” Probably suspicious of the strange guide’s credentials, Jackson curtly ordered Kyle to lead the way. The boy did so for about two hundred yards; at that point the general, satisfied at last, caught up and kept abreast of him.
There can be little doubt that Stonewall Jackson made his eastward ride on the Mountain Road and that he was shot near that corridor and not the main (Orange Plank) road. Whether he took the Mountain Road all the way from the main road, however, or instead went north on the southernmost leg of Bullock Road to reach the Mountain Road is less certain. Kyle’s own account may be interpreted either way, but it is more logical if taken to mean that Jackson took the Mountain Road entirely. Major Palmer’s version refers to the Hazel Grove road as being part of the intersection Jackson used, which means that the Mountain Road, being appreciably farther west, must have been his initial route.
The nineteenth-century historian Augustus C. Hamlin, though ardently polemical in northern outlook and primarily concerned with the Federal Eleventh Corps, devoted more careful attention to Jackson’s foray than any other early student. Hamlin noted cogently that the cannon fire from Fairview that had recently swept the main road made it an undesirable avenue for reconnaissance. The slightly more northerly road missed that beaten zone and also took Jackson a bit closer to the sensitive enemy sector that interested him. Hamlin sensibly accepted Kyle’s account as the best extant and also adduced testimony from two (unidentified) 18th North Carolina officers who “declared that Jackson did not pass by them but turned off to the left of their rear and passed out of view in the forest.” Most of the road complex remained distinctly visible (“although long out of use”) when Hamlin examined the scene in the 1890s. The Mountain Road maintained a parallel course, “sixty to eighty yards distant” from the Plank Road in the vicinity of Jackson’s wounding. Its westernmost leg had disappeared, however, and for that incorrect reason Hamlin concluded (perhaps correctly) that Jackson rode up the beginning of the Bullock Road to reach the Mountain Road.
Jackson and his eight companions continued east on the Mountain Road until nearly to the 33rd North Carolina skirmish line. There is no indication that the skirmishers saw Jackson or that his party saw them, but it seems likely that each was aware of the other’s presence. From their advanced vantage point, the southerners listened intently to the sounds of enemy preparations. Ringing axes told of Federal pioneers frantically throwing obstacles in the way of a Confederate advance. Commands echoed distinctly through the woods. After questioning eyewitnesses and cross-checking accounts, Jackson’s aide James Power Smith later concluded that Jackson actually “passed the swampy depression and began the ascent of the hill toward Chancellorsville'; an advance that far, however, is hardly credible. Kyle, who was present at the time and far more accurate than Smith, thought the enemy was two to three hundred yards distant; he could hear them best from the vicinity of the Fairview clearing south of the main road. “It seemed that the officers were trying to form their men in line,” Kyle recalled. In retrospect, the courier estimated that the quiet pause at the apogee of the advance lasted “from two to four minutes.” Then Jackson reined Little Sorrel around and started to retrace his steps.
Meanwhile, the tactical situation west of the general, and especially southwest beyond the Plank Road, had shifted dangerously. Immediately after Jackson left him, General James H. Lane hurried toward the right of his brigade to prepare it for the mandated advance. The chaos and uncertainty he encountered deflected him from that purpose. A swarm of Federals had by accident curled up between the outer skirmish line, manned by the 33rd North Carolina, and the 7th North Carolina, the regiment farthest to the right in Lane’s main line. Most of the disoriented northerners belonged to the 128th Pennsylvania. That unit’s lieutenant colonel, Levi H. Smith, tried to unsnarl the confusion by waving a white handkerchief and asking troops in each direction whose cause they favored. The 7th North Carolina promptly corralled Smith, who naively claimed the immunity of a white flag—as though front-line reconnaissances could be executed without risk. “The simpleton imagined Gen. Lane would allow him to return,” one Tar Heel chortled. Lieutenant James W. Emack of the 7th, with help from four subordinates, raked in at least two hundred of Smith’s regiment as prisoners. Carolinians gleefully harvesting trophy swords and muskets by the armful filled the woods on Lane’s right. General Lane was himself near the right of his brigade, so he knew nothing at all of what happened to Jackson; but he was not directly involved in the 7th’s encounter with the Yankees.
The confusion incumbent on the capture of so many enemy soldiers in unexpected proximity contributed to the events that followed. At this critical juncture, a Federal officer rode toward the far right of the 33rd’s skirmishers, behind whom the Pennsylvanians’ capture had just unfolded. The Federal probably was Brigadier General Joseph F. Knipe, until recently colonel of the 46th Pennsylvania. Knipe had approached his old regiment, rejected its intelligence about rebels nearby in front, “raved . . . in language more forcible than polite,’’ and then dashed forward alone. “He did not go far, or stay long when he got there,” the 46th’s historian gloated, noting that Knipe lost his hat in his undignified scramble to escape.
During his brief foray, Knipe, or a fellow officer in the vicinity, called out loudly for “General Williams,” referring to Aipheus S. Williams of the Federal Twelfth Corps. Captain Joseph H. Saunders, whose Company A of the 33rd North Carolina held down the far right of the skirmish line, meanwhile had gone with Lieutenant Colonel Robert V. Cowan toward the Plank Road to check for further orders. Nineteen-year-old Sergeant Thomas A. Cowan was therefore left in charge opposite the inquisitive Yankee. Young Cowan challenged the Federal, who responded that he and his party were “friends.” “To which side?” “To the Union.” Cowan stepped back to his company and ordered it to fire toward the sounds. Men across an arc of hundreds of yards distinctly heard a single shot ring out, quickly picked up by the rest of Company A and then the remaining skirmishers in the area. The musketry became sharper and rolled northward in ever-heavier volume from both the picket line and the startled Confederates in the main line (who, of course, were firing toward the rear of their own skirmishers!). The colonel of the 7th described the sequence and the portentous single shot: “The enemy manifested impatience, and a shot was fired towards our right which caused the Seventh to fire a Volley.”
Stonewall Jackson had not ridden far on his return trip toward the lines of the 18th North Carolina when Sergeant Cowan’s encounter triggered fire hundreds of yards away to the southwest. The deadly volleys scything through the Wilderness brush had nothing to do with Jackson, having been initiated far away in an unrelated episode. Despite the conventional wisdom about Jackson’s wounding, no Confederate initially opened fire directly on the general’s party by mistake. Cowan and his men were shooting at a real threat in a reasonable manner. The other Carolinians who volleyed into the darkness far to Cowan’s north were firing at absolutely nothing at first. Then, when Jackson and Hill and their escorts stumbled noisily into the confused tableau, the Confederate line continued its fire toward the frightening specter of what seemed like approaching enemy troop.
Captain Wilbourn’s memory of those frantic moments sifted through the complexities and focused on the simple facts. He recalled that the general had ridden eastward and that fire had suddenly burst from the Confederate line. Wilbourn remembered that Jackson turned toward the rear to avoid the fire that started far off near the 7th North Carolina. According to Wilbourn’s account, Stonewall swerved north away from the initial firing at about the same time that he spun back toward the east. Two other contemporary witnesses not far from the scene echoed this simplistic construction of events.
As the only man on the reconnaissance who knew where he was, David Kyle was able to track Jackson’s movements with considerable precision. When the general had his fill of listening to Federal noise and started back whence he had come, Kyle rode directly behind him. Within about seventy-five yards, however, four or five mounted men filtered into the gap between Kyle and Jackson, and the youngster “sorter reigned my horse in a little” and kept pace about ten yards behind. As the party came opposite the Van Wert house, Stonewall turned Little Sorrel’s head to the left and started to leave the Mountain Road, changing his direction from west to south. “Just as his horse[’]s front feet had cleared the edge of the road whilste his hind feet was still on the edge of the bank,” Kyle wrote, the widely heard single shot rang out far to the south. “In an instant it was taken up, and nearer there were five or six shots . . . and then suddenly a large volley, as if from a Regiment.” 
Richard W. Freeman, “Stonewall Jackson’s Death,” (Atlanta) Sunny South, December 19, 1896; Van Valentine Richardson, “The Death of Stonewall Jackson,” Fayetteville (N C.) Observer, February 20, 1884.
Freeman was a sergeant in the 44th Georgia. Captain Richardson commanded Company C of the 18th North Carolina.
W. G. Morris (major and later lieutenant colonel of the 37th North Carolina) to James H. Lane, January 3, 1895, folder 113, and James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , James H. Lane Papers, AU; OR 25(1):916 (all references are to series 1).
Of Hill’s six brigades, only those of Henry Heth and Dorsey Pender initially formed into line. The road was a highway of early 1850s vintage, the Orange Plank Road, on the same right-of-way here as the century-old Orange Turnpike.
W. G. Morris to James H. Lane, January 3, 1895, and James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; Octavius A. Wiggins speech on Chancellorsville 1895, box 75, folder 1, Military Collection, NCDAH.
James H. Lane, “The Death of Stonewall Jackson,” Fayetteville (N C.) Observer, January 23,1884; William Fitzhugh Randolph, With Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville (N.p., n.d.), 7-8; Mary Anna Jackson, Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson by His Widow, Mary Anna Jackson (Louisville, Ky. : Prentice, 1895), 545-46; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU.
Randolph was a captain in the 39th Virginia Cavalry Battalion and played a role in the deadly drama about to unfold. His turn-of-the-century pamphlet is full of anomalies and even outright errors, but some of the color warrants its use.
Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-65, 5 vols. (Raleigh: E. M. Uzzell, 1901), 1:376, 2:659; OR 25(1):916, 920.
William H. Palmer, “Another Account of It,” Confederate Veteran 13 (May 1905): 232-33; John J. Shoemaker, Shoemaker’s Battery, Stuart Horse Artillery, Pelham’s Battalion, Afterwards Commanded by Col. R. P. Chew, Army of Northern Virginia (Memphis, Tenn.: S. C. Toof, 1908), 34; Marcellus N, Moorman, “Narrative of Events and Observations Connected with the Wounding of General T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson,” in SHSP, 30:111-13.
Shoemaker called the officer commanding the piece “Lt. Birl,” which after some deciphering in official records was identified as “Burwell” rendered with a Virginian accent. Moorman’s intermittently useful account is marred by his egocentric view, which assumes that all three pieces belonged to his battery and ignores the presence of his superior, Major Beckham. Moorman’s pretensions are thoroughly debunked in a letter that also provides much other positive detail about the occasion, R. F. Beckham to R. P. Chew, October 28, 1908, copy in the author’s possession.
Clark, Walter, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, 1:376, 2:559, 659; R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Charles William Dabney Papers, SHC; OR 25(1):922.
Lane wrote that his skirmishers were deployed “at least 400 yds” to the front, James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, June 19, 1895, Augustus C. Hamlin Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. (collection cited hereafter as ACH Papers/Harvard).
R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; OR 25(1):1010; Lane, “Death of Stonewall Jackson”; Randolph, With Stonewall Jackson, 7; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; James Power Smith, “Stonewall Jackson’s Last Battle,” in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, 4 vols. (New York: Century, 1887-88), 3:209; “Who Fired the Bullet That Killed Gen. Stonewall Jackson?,” Rockbridge County News, January 12, 1951 (quoting 1901 Memphis paper); Richardson’s Virginia & North Carolina Almanac (Richmond: J. W. Randolph, ).
David J. Kyle, “Jackson’s Guide When Shot,” Confederate Veteran 4 (September 1896): 308-9; R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; Palmer, “Another Account,” 232; Murray Forbes Taylor, “Stonewall Jackson’s Death,” Confederate Veteran 12 (October 1904): 493; William H. Palmer to A. C. Hamlin, April 19, 1895, ACH Papers/Harvard; Jackson, Memoirs, 547; Lane, “Death of Stonewall Jackson”; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; “Stonewall Jackson!,” Richmond Dispatch, October 26, 1875.
The latter source includes accounts by several officers, including one of many by Dr. H. H. McGuire. The most important is a detailed narrative by an anonymous staffer under A. P. Hill. The M. F. Taylor account also appeared in substantially the same form in the Fredericksburg Journal, October 22, 1904. The original typescript of Taylor’s account, in the author’s possession, includes some material excluded from the published versions.
Palmer, “Another Account,” 232; Taylor, “Stonewall Jackson’s Death,” 493; anonymous Hill staff member, in “Stonewall Jackson!,” Richmond Dispatch, October 26, 1875.
In R. E. Wilboum to Jubal A. Early, March 3, 1873, vol. 6, Jubal A. Early Papers, LC, Wilbourn also specified a gap of “fifty or sixty yds.” between Hill and Jackson.
R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; Palmer, “Another Account,” 232; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; Robert K. Krick, 9th Virginia Cavalry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1988), 72; Richard O’Sullivan, 55th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1989), 142, 149; Jackson, Memoirs, 427.
A sketch drawn by William H. Palmer (in ACH Papers/Harvard), uncovered since the first publication of this essay, conforms to the listing of Hill’s party precisely but adds a courier named Kirkpatrick, who was killed.
J. G. Morrison to Jubal A. Early, February 20, 1879, vol. 10, Early Papers, LC; Alfred H. H. Tolar, “Stonewall Jackson,” Wilmington (NC.) Daily Review, December 15, 1883; R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; Randolph, With Stonewall Jackson, 8; R. E. Wilboum to Jubal A. Early, February 12, 1873, in Jubal A. Early, Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early, C. S.A.: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1912), 214.
The only person claiming to have been in the cavalcade not identified by someone else was Lloyd T. Smith, a seventeen-year-old member of the 39th Virginia Cavalry Battalion. Smith’s claim is in Philip A. Bruce, ed., History of Virginia, 6 vols. (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1924), 5:286. Smith’s story seems to be valid. He made no extravagant claims of positioning at center stage, and his unit unquestionably supplied the couriers. An important anonymous account in Land We Love 1 (July 1866): 179-82 has previously been attributed to Joe Morrison because internal evidence suggests his authorship and the journal was edited by his brother-in-law D. H. Hill. Morrison in his letter to Early, February 20, 1879, Vol 10, Early Papers, LC, however, states: “I have never written anything connected with [Jackson’s wounding] for the press or contributed my testimony to the establishment of truth.” This declaration by Morrison, thirteen years after the Land We Love article appeared, seems to abolish earlier assumptions. Morrison remains a possible author of the 1866 article, however, if his 1879 pronouncement is viewed as having a central caveat about “for the press.” The article wrongly identifies Boswell as with the group but mentions Wilbourn, Morrison, and “five or six couriers,” further validating the eight-man register of participants listed in the text.
Krick, 9th Virginia Cavalry, 84, 123; Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942—44), 2:563n; U.S. Eighth Census, 1860, Schedule 1, “Free Inhabitants, Spotsylvania County, Virginia,” p. 72, M653, NA.
The 1860 census showed Kyle as a native of Maryland, age sixteen (December 17, 1843 - February 1, 1900). His sister, Catharine Kyle Bullock, age eighteen, and Oscar Bullock, age thirty-five, had two children. David had been living with his sister and family since 1857. For two years before that he resided with the Dowdall family on what would become the Chancellorsville battlefield. Family information from William Arthur Robertson, Jr., to R. K. Krick, November 1, 1997. Kyle’s account of his review of the terrain two days later is from an important letter that he wrote to the historian Augustus C. Hamlin, November 8, 1894, ACH Papers/Harvard.
The preceding account is based entirely on Kyle’s own recollection of the afternoon and evening. Kyle’s invaluable narrative in Confederate Veteran (“Jackson’s Guide”) includes some of these details but not as many as the ten-page penciled original, which runs fully one-third longer than the edited (and somewhat revised) published version. A typescript is at the FSNMP library. The published version will be cited whenever possible because it is more readily available to students, and the account at FSNMP will be cited only when it offers elaboration or (less often) variant language or details. In at least two places, the editorial pen at Confederate Veteran obscured as it attempted to smooth.
James C. Bosserman, “Bullets Didn’t Kill ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 12, 1930; anonymous Hill staff member, in “Stonewall Jackson!,” Richmond Dispatch October 26, 1875; Taylor, “Stonewall Jackson’s Death,” 493; R. E. Wilbourn to Jubal A. Early, March 3, 1873, vol. 6, Early Papers, LC.
R. E. Wilbourn to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; Land We Love 1 (July 1866): 181; J. G. Morrison to R. L. Dabney, October 29, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC.
Kyle, “Jackson’s Guide,” 308; Kyle manuscript account, FSNMP.
Palmer, “Another Account,” 232.
A. C. Hamlin, in Jackson, Memoirs, 549-51; Augustus Choate Hamlin, The Battle of Chancellorsville: The Attack of Stonewall Jackson and His Army upon the Right Flank of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on Saturday Afternoon, May 2, 1863 (Bangor, Maine: Author, 1896), 108.
Jedediah Hotchkiss, Virginia, vol. 3 of Confederate Military History, ed. Clement A. Evans, 12 vols. (Atlanta: Confederate Publishing Company, 1899), 386; Smith, “Stonewall Jackson’s Last Battle,” 211; Kyle, “Jackson’s Guide,” 308; Kyle manuscript account, FSNMP; A. C. Hamlin, in Jackson, Memoirs, 551-52.
Moorman, “Narrative of Events,” 113; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; James H. Lane, “How Stonewall Jackson Met His Death,” in SHSP, 8:494 (also published in Our Living and Our Dead 3 [July 1875]: 33—36); Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, 1:377, 2:559; James S. Harris, Historical Sketches of the Seventh Regiment North Carolina Troops (Mooresville, N.C.: Mooresville Printing Company,), 28-29; OR 25(l):184, 916; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, November 17, 1892, ACH Papers/Harvard.
Alexander W. Selfridge, “Who Shot Stonewall Jackson?” in Camp-Fire Sketches and Battle Field Echoes, comp. W. C. King and W. P. Berry (Springfield, Mass.: W. C. King, 1889), 377-79.
Joseph H. Saunders, “Stonewall Jackson-His Wounds, &cc.,” Fayetteville (N C.) Observer, February 6, 1884; A. C. Hamlin, in Jackson, Memoirs, 548; James H. Lane to A. C. Hamlin, , Lane Papers, AU; J. S. Harris to A. C. Hamlin, December 8, 1894, ACH Papers/Harvard.
J. G. Morrison to Jubal A. Early, February 20, 1879, vol. 10, Early Papers, LC, never heretofore published or used, confirms the evidence that the opening rounds came from the skirmish line, not the main line: “My recollection is that it was in advance of where our line was supposed to [have] been.”
R. E. Wilboum to R. L. Dabney, December 12, 1863, Dabney Papers, SHC; R. E. Wilbourn to Jubal A. Early, February 12, 1873, in Early, Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative, 214; Jedediah Hotchkiss to his wife, May 19, 1863, Hotchkiss Papers, LC (microfilm roll 4, frames 515—16); Land We Love 1 (July 1866): 181.
Neither Wilbourn nor whoever wrote the Land We Love article ever did figure out that the 33rd North Carolina was picketing to their front. Hotchkiss implies the same misconception.
Kyle manuscript account, FSNMP; Kyle, “Jackson’s Guide,” 308.
Abbreviations: AU = Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama; FSNMP = Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg, Virginia; LC = Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; NCDAH = North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; OR = U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 127 vols., index, and atlas (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901); SHSP = Southern Historical Society Papers, 52 vols. (Richmond, 1876-1959)