Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Dụ Pont now clearly sees that his plan of action cannot be carried out, and he signals to the rest of the fleet to dișregard his movements, which is a permission for each vessel to act as it. deems best. To get beyond Sumter is now clearly impossible, and nothing remains but to see whether the feet can stay long enough in the vortex of that horrible fire, to knock the fort to pieces. Tons of metal are falling, with the weight of descending rocks, upon those iron-clads; yet each gallant commander is determined to lay his vessel alongside the dark structure, and make a broadside engagement with it. The Keokuk is in advance, followed by the Catskill, Montauk and, further back, by the other vessels, till she is within rifle shot of the nearest batteries, when the conflict becomes awful. The gunners, stripped to their waists, work their ponderous guns with cool determination ; and shọt weighing four hundred and twenty pounds, strike, like heaven's own thunderbolts, the massive walls, sending the stones in fragments through the air.

the air. The din and uproar are so deafening that orders have to be shouted into the ear, while the thick smoke involves the shuddering sea and trembling land in impenetrable folds.

But scarcely thirty minutes had passed, when the Keokuk came limping out of the fire, and fast settling in the water. The Ironsides is pierced with red-hot shot—the Nahant gapes with thirty wounds—the turret of the Passaic is knocked to pieces so that it cannot revolve-the Nantucket can use but one gun-a rifled shot has pierced the Catskill, and five of the nine monitors must be reckoned out of the fight. All that thirty-two guns—the total numwer carried by the fleet—could do against three hundred, had now been done, and to keep up the contest with but fifteen or sixteen, would be downright madness. Besides, no land force was near to take possession of the fort, if silenced, and night was coming on. Du Pont therefore signaled the fleet to

INJUSTICE TO DU PONT.

183

retire, and the strange conflict ended. The Keokuk had hardly got out of the fire, when she went to the bottom. A council of war was called the next morning, and it was decided that it would be unwise to renew the attack.

The result awakened deep mortification, and many were determined not to acknowledge that the failure was inevitable. Though Du Pont did all that man could do, and though every subordinate officer bore himself like a hero, and fought his ship with unequaled gallantry, the public and the Navy Department were dissatisfied, and this noble Commander had to suffer for not doing impossibilities, was removed from his command, and Admiral Foote put in his place. The sickness, and finally, the death of the latter, prevented him from entering on his duties, and Du Pont, in the meanwhile, retained his position. Difficulties, however, arose between him and the Navy Department, and one of the best and most popular commanders in the navy was laid aside, and Dahlgren ultimately put in command of the ironclad fleet. History, however, will grant the former that justice which at the time he was denied, and place the blame where it belongs.

In the meantime, a good deal of interest was felt in the fate of General Foster, who, during this month, was for some time surrounded, at Washington, North Carolina, and cut off from supplies. General Peck, also, stationed at Suffolk, had some engagements with the enemy, who were evidently maneuvering to get possession of the place.

4

42

CHAPTER XIV.

APRIL-JUNE, 1863.

CHANCELLORSVILLE-EXCITEMENT OF THE COUNTRY AT HOOKER'S ADVANCE

HIS CONFIDENT ADDRESS TO HIS TROOPS-PLAN OF THE BATTLE-THE CAVALRY SENT OFF TO SEVER LEE'S COMMUNICATIONS-ATTACK BY STONEWALL" JACKSON ON HOWARD'S CORPS-ITS DEFEAT-DEATH OF JACKSON-SUBSEQUENT BATTLE-FREDERICKSBURG HEIGHTS CARRIED BY SEDGWICKATTACKED BY LEE, AND COMPELLED TO RE-CROSS THE RIVER-HOOKER WITHDRAWS HIS ARMY-DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE COUNTRY-FEINT ON THE REBEL CAPITAL FROM WEST POINT-KILPATRICK'S RIDE TO THE SUBURBS OF RICHMOND-SIEGE OF SUFFOLK-GALLANT DEFENSE OF PECK-LEE's

INVASION

OF MARYLAND-SURRENDER OF WINCHESTER-HOOKER

SUPER

SEDED BY MEADE-FEELING OF THE PEOPLE.

BUT

UT the great interest centered in the Army of the

Potomac, which, it was expected, would move the moment the roads would permit. Still smarting with the sense of disgrace, in the slaughter and defeat at Fredericksburg, the country was impatient of delay; and when, at the latter end of the month, the news flew over the wires, that Hooker was crossing the Rappahannock, the most intense excitement prevailed. Those who had faith in his generalship felt that the remembrance of Fredericksburg was to be wiped out, and that McClelian's, Pope's and Burnside's failures to annihilate Lee's army and capture Richmond, were to be effaced by a victory that would astonish the world, and deal a death-blow to the rebellion. Those, on the other hand, who had no faith in him as a match for Lee, were almost equally excited, believing that a catastrophe would happen. This confidence on the one hand, and lear on the other, were deepened by the following address which General Hooker made to his army after he had safely crossed the Rappabannock: "It is with heartfelt satisfaction that the

ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.

! 186

operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must ingloriously fly, or come out from behind their defenses, and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.” To one class, this was the inspiration and confidence of genius—to the other, who remembered that to the question put to him by the War Investigating Committee, as to what the ill success of the Army of the Potomac was owing when in front of Richmond, he replied, “To the incompetency of its leader," his words seemed a rash boast, prophetic only of defeat.

The two great armies of the Union, West and East, were at the same time entering on movements of vital importance to the Union cause. Grant, as it has been seen, having thrown his army across the Mississippi, on the 1st of May attacked the enemy at Port Gibson, and commenced that series of extraordinary victories which brought him in the rear of Vicksburg, and insured its downfall. Hooker's

army having crossed the Rappahannock, on the 2nd—the next day after the battle of Port Gibson—he fought the battle of Chancellorsville, which he had believed would force the enemy a disastrous retreat to Richmond, and secure the conquest of that place. But the results of the two movements were widely different. The thunder of Grant's cannon, rolling up the Mississippi, proclaimed victory—the echoes of Hooker's, breaking across the Rappahannock, announced defeat and disgrace.

into

BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE.

The main plan of Hooker seems intelligible enough. He endeavored to confuse the enemy as to the intended point of crossing, and then suddenly throw his army over the river several miles above Fredericksburg, and fix himself in a position to compel Lee to attack him, or hastily retreat

186

POSITION OF THE ARMY:

towards Richmond in order to save his communications with the rebel Capital. To threaten the latter still - more, he stripped his army of its cavalry, and sent it, under Stoneman, to cut the railroads in rear of Lee. In the meantime, Sedgwick, with some twenty thousand men, was, at the proper time, to cross in front of Fredericksburg and

carry the intrenched heights, and then co-operate with Hooker, as he drove the enemy before him. A part of the programme was successfully carried out. Stoneman got in the rear of Lee, and swept triumphantly on towards Richmond, tearing up the railroad as he advanced. Hooker succeeded, also, in throwing his army safely over the Rappahannock, and took up the position he desired, and began to intrench himself. He now felt that the most difficult part of his work was accomplished, and said, exultingly, that Lee's army was the “legitimate property of the Army of the Potomac.”

On Saturday, May 2nd, his head-quarters wore at Chancellorsville, which consisted of a single house, standing at the intersection of the Gordonsville plank-road and Orange County turnpike. This was a central point to his magnificent army of more than a hundred thousand men, and was five miles from the ford which he had successfully crossed. A small field lies in front of the house, but beyond and on every side, stretches away a tangled wilderness. Two miles out; on the plank-road, lay Howard's Corps—the Eleventh, composed in part of German troops-holding the extreme right. To prevent a flank movement, it was made to front three ways. Sickles was next to him. Slocum was stationed near the house, and Meade beyond him, with the Fifth Corps. Beyond these, completing the line on the left, Couch, with the Second Corps, lay, to prevent a movement in this direction on the United States Ford.

Thus matters stood, on Saturday afternoon. Lee, perfectly aware of our position, sent “Stonewall” Jenson to execute :

« PreviousContinue »