Private Fleming and the 304th
New York on May 3, 1863
Teased out of the welter of emotions dominating Private Fleming's mind, the experiences of the 304th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment in The Red Badge of Courage correspond precisely to the experiences such a regiment would have endured if the fictional Henderson's brigade had been under General William H. French's command on the morning of Sunday, May 3, 1863.1 Conceive of the Army of the Potomac around the Chancellorsville crossroads at six A.M. on May 3 as if it were splayed out upon a giant compass face. Due north on the face before us, just below the letter "N," is Chandler's farmhouse, which Hooker is about to designate as the southernmost and central point of a great shallow chevron-shaped defensive deployment into which he decides to retire his army. The lines of this deployment extend far off the compass face toward the northwest and the northeast; Hooker regroups his divisions into or behind this position, holding there, but intent above all else on preserving for his army the option of a staged withdrawal back across the Rappahannock via the United States Ford. Insofar as this morning's action is involved: the Old Orange Plank Road (it could also be called the Turnpike, or "Pike," since the two roads join as
1. In addition to the Official Records as listed throughout, this account is shaped by Luvaas and
Nelson, War College Guide, 256–70, in particular.