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Hooker & Couch

After the crushing defeat at Chancellorsville by a greatly outnumbered enemy, the Army of the Potomac was once again in a state of confusion. Upon return to their winter camps at Falmouth and Stafford, and with no plans for another campaign, furloughs were again granted to some of the men, but all furloughs were suddenly cancelled the first week of June, when it became clear that Bobby Lee was up to something.

Major General Darius CouchMaj. Gen. Darius Couch (pronounced Coach), commanded the II Corps at Chancellorsville. He thought the initial strategy brilliant and well-executed, but on the first day of the battle, May 1, things started to unravel. The XII Corps was dug in on high open ground a mile and a half east of Chancellorsville. It was good ground for artillery and Couch and the other generals in that area believed any advance of Lee’s forces from Fredericksburg could be dealt with. However, Hooker soon ordered the position abandoned and all troops withdrawn to Chancellorsville. It wasn’t long before Confederate artillery was placed atop that ridge and the entire constricted Union line around Chancellorsville was within range.

In a report filed after the battle, Couch wrote that as early as 9:30 a.m. the morning of May 2, the western movement of Confederate troops had been reported to Hooker, and the weakness of the western flank position of the XI Corps was discussed. But nothing was done about it. Instead, Hooker boasted to Couch that “Lee is in full retreat toward Gordonsville.” The ensuing rout of the XI Corps has been well documented.

At about 10:00 a.m. the morning of Sunday, May 3, Couch found Hooker lying on a cot in a tent, recovering from his close encounter with an enemy shell. “Couch,” Hooker said, “I turn the command of the army over to you. You will withdraw it and place it in the position designated on this map.”

Couch’s evaluation of Hooker’s handling of the army at Chancellorsville was blunt: “As to the charge that the battle was lost because the general was intoxicated, I have always stated that he probably abstained from the use of ardent spirits when it would have been far better for him to have continued in his usual habit in that respect.”

Maj. Gen. Darius Couch suffered two minor wounds at Chancellorsville and went to Washington to recover. On May 22, Couch met with President Lincoln. Couch told Lincoln that he would never serve under Thomas Hooker again. Lincoln offered command of the army to Couch, but Couch declined, citing his own poor health. Couch recommended Maj. Gen. George Meade for the position, and Couch accepted command of the Pennsylvania militia in the southern part of that state near Gettysburg.

With the departure of Gen. Couch, the valiant II Corps, of which the Fourteenth Connecticut was a part, was given a new commander: Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock.


Captain Fiske: Dead or Alive

When we last visited Captain Samuel Fiske (Co. G, 14th Connecticut), he had just been captured by Rebel soldiers the morning of May 3rd at Chancellorsville. Along with many other Union officers, he was forced to march under guard about ten miles to Spotsylvania Courthouse, then on to railroad depot at Guinea Station for transport to Richmond.

The Springfield, MA Republican newspaper reported in its May 16th issue that Capt. Fiske “better known to readers of The Republican as the genial correspondent Dunn Browne, was shot from his horse in the Sunday battle at Chancellorsville, and his body has not been recovered.” The paper’s obituary was a glowing tribute to Fiske. Just imagine the deep sorrow his wife, Lizzie, must have experienced when she read of her husband’s death.

Fiske was held at the famous Libby Prison in Richmond. It would be a short period of confinement, only about two weeks. Upon his arrival at Libby Prison, Fiske and the others were searched carefully and robbed of anything of the slightest value: sugar, canteens, blankets, even paper for writing letters, so that Fiske had to send out and buy more paper.

Fiske observed his captors and the activities around the prison closely. He wrote several letters to The Republican, which were published after his parole on May 22, in which he plainly expressed his belief that the rebellion could not last much longer. “Their artillery horses are poor, starved frames of beasts, tied onto their carriages and caissons with odds and ends of rope and strips of rawhide…. The men are ill-dressed, ill-equipped and ill-provided, a set of ragamuffins that a man is ashamed to be seen among, even when he is a prisoner, and can’t help it.” And after noting how little commerce was actually taking place in the enemy’s capital, Fiske wrote, “One cannot be within their lines for ever so short a time, even in such circumstances as ours, without an irresistible feeling that the secession bubble is on the point of bursting.” That victory had not yet been achieved was only the result of “our blunders,” because as Fiske put it, “our enemies are almost exhausted.”

In its next weekly issue on May 23rd, The Republican proclaimed that Captain Fiske was “alive and well, not a hair of his head harmed. Good for Dunn Browne!” Of course, Lizzie was greatly relieved to have her husband back from the dead, but imagine how odd and sobering it must have been for Fiske to read his own obituary in the paper.


First Time On This Site

Hello, and welcome. This site will deal exclusively with the colorful history of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry in the American Civil War. The men of the Fourteenth served from August, 1862 until after the war ended, all of that time in the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac.\r\n\r\nI became interested in the Fourteenth Connecticut while I was doing research for my historical novel, An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier.

The men of this regiment were tested in every battle from Antietam to Appomattox, so there was much historical content to draw from.\r\n\r\nThrough a series of weekly posts, you will learn much of the history of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Content will be drawn from a number of sources, including History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry by Charles D. Page (1906). A complete list of bibliographical resources that I used in writing the novel may be found on my website:

Your comments are welcome, of course, but please, always be respectful, and use appropriate langauge. I reserve the right not to post any offensive comments.

So, please enjoy this site. I hope you find it informative, educational, and insightful.

Your Host,

Karl A. Bacon