restricted access The Memoirs of Henry Heth, Part II
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THE MEMOIRS OF HENRY HETH, PART II Edited by James L. Morrison, Jr. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The first installment of the Civil War memoirs of Confederate General Henry Heth appeared in the March, 1962, issue of Civil War History. This second part concludes the recollections that have already aroused considerable interest among schohrs of the Great Conflict.] General [Joseph] Hooker, with an army of 120,000 strong, lay on the opposite side of the Rappahanock. Hooker commenced to move the latter part of April, and crossed the Rapidan at the fords above Fredericksburg .1 General [Robert E.] Lee met Hooker's advance May 1, 1863, and drove it back to Chancellorsville. On reconnoitering Hooker's position , General Lee found it too strong to attack in front. He ordered [T. J.] Jackson, with the three divisions, to move around Hooker's front and attack his right flank.2 Jackson's movement was reported to some officers of the [Federal] XI Corps, but it appears no preparation was made to receive his attack. The XI Army Corps was encamped in woods and an open field, around Mel2y Chancellor's house. Jackson formed his attacking force in three fines: first, [Robert E.] Rodes's division; second [Raleigh E.] Colston's division; and third, A. P. Hill's division forming the rear line.3 The first line, Rodes's, was [with]in 500 yards of the field occupied by a portion of the XI Corps. Jackson passed through the woods like a tornado and fell upon the XI Corps, which was totally unprepared for resistance.4 Many of the Federals had not time to take their guns from the stacks. James L. Morrison, Jr., Major, U.S. Army, is currently on the staff of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 1 The Federal V, XI, and XII Corps began the march to Kelly's Ford on Apr. 27. The II Corps moved off toward Banks's Ford on the same day. The actual crossings began on Apr. 28. John Bigelow, The Campaign of Chancellorsville CNew Haven, 1910), pp. 173-174,183. 2 Jackson began his march at 11 a.m. on May 1. Rodes led the advance, while Colston brought up the rear with Isaac Trimble's division. Douglas S. Freeman, Lee's Lieutenants (New York, 1942-1944), II, 531-535. 3 Heth is referring to Jackson's deployment which began at 3 p.m. on May 2. Ibid., 555-557. He also refers to Rodes throughout his memoirs as "Rhodes." 4 Rodes attacked at 5:15 p.m. Ibid., 558. 300 Rodes alone swept them back pell meli. When my brigade reached the cleared field, not a Federal soldier was to be seen. I passed over a line of muskets stacked; this fine of muskets was, I think, 200 yards in length. I saw fifty or more camp fires burning, with camp ketdes filled with meat being cooked, and thirty or forty beeves in the various stages of being butchered. A man has recendy published an account of the battle of Chancellorsville in defense of the XI Corps, which, in my opinion, does the XI Corps, or the rank and file of this corps, signal injustice. The blame for this disaster should be laid upon the officers who received information of Jackson's approach and failed to report the same to their superiors. The men of the XI Corps were in no wise to blame; unarmed men cannot contend against armed men. Hill's division did not fire a shot in this attack.5 It passed on and occupied a fine of abandoned breastworks in the woods, I think about half a mile, more or less, from the Chancellorsville Tavern. The left of the division rested behind these works, which terminated on the plank road. In order to understand how the battle of the 3rd of May was won, it wül be necessary to refer to an incident which occuned on the morning of the 2nd of May. After General Jackson's infantry had passed the furnace ,6 his artillery and ammunition wagons when passing the same point were attacked. Word was sent to Jackson, and he ordered A. P...