Page images

and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.

The two other grand division commanders were at this time relieved, General Franklin being assigned to duty elsewhere. General Sumner, granted leave of absence at his own request, retired in greatly impaired health to his home in Syracuse, New York, where a few weeks later he died.

Hooker, having matured a plan of campaign for the reorganized army, ordered General Stoneman, chief of cavalry, to move, on the 13th of April, against General Fitzhugh Lee's brigade near Culpeper Courthouse; to capture Gordonsville; and to cut the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railway near Saxton's Station, in the immediate rear of the enemy, destroying track, telegraph, and bridges from that point towards Richmond. Hooker intended a nearly simultaneous advance of his infantry and artillery forces — about one hundred thousand men — feinting in front, while his real purpose was to turn the Confederate left. Stoneman started off very deliberately, and when at the end of the third day he had one of his divisions across the Rappahannock, he was brought to a check by heavy rains. Lincoln, learning the particulars from Hooker, on the evening of the 15th telegraphed at once in response:

The rain and mud, of course, were to be calculated upon. General S. is not moving rapidly enough to make the expedition come to anything. He has now been out three days,

two of which were unusually fair weather, and all three without hindrance from the enemy, and yet he is not twenty-five miles from where he started. To reach his point he has still sixty to go, another river, the Rapidan, to cross, and will be hindered by the enemy. By arithmetic, how many days will it take him to do it? I do not know that any better can be done, but I greatly fear it is another failure already. Write me often. I am very anxious.

Stoneman's movement was suspended and his forces returned to their encampment. After remaining quiescent for two weeks, Hooker resumed the execution of his plan of campaign. The weather was propitious and the army in excellent condition. The former grand divisions having been dispensed with, its seven corps and their commanders were: First, Reynolds; Second, Couch; Third, Sickles; Fifth, Meade; Sixth, Sedgwick; Eleventh, Howard; Twelfth, Slocum. In the preliminary movements of cavalry, Averill occupied Gordonsville, and Stoneman advanced to strike the railway between Fredericksburg and Richmond, as before designed. Howard's corps, followed by Slocum's, moved up the left bank of the Rappahannock; crossed it at Kelley's Ford during the night of the 27th-28th; and, turning southward, crossing the Rapidan at Germania Ford, advanced in the direction of Fredericksburg. Meade following by way of Kelley's Ford, crossed the Rapidan at Ely's. Hooker announced in a dispatch on the 30th:

The operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him. The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.

Anderson, the Confederate General charged with guarding the fords, reported from Chancellorsville (to which place he had fallen back) on the 29th, and continued his retreat five miles farther towards Fredericksburg. As a menace to Lee while the flanking movements were in progress, Sedgwick, before Fredericksburg, had laid a pontoon bridge where Franklin crossed in December; Reynolds laid another a mile farther down, and both commanders made a feint of crossing. Couch, leaving Gibbon's division to guard the camp at Falmouth, moved up the river and crossed at the United States Ford, and Sickles followed later, crossing at Banks's Ford without resistance. After exchanging artillery shots with Jackson's batteries near Massaponax Creek, on the 30th, Reynolds withdrew, and joined the rest of the army across the river. Sedgwick remained in front of Fredericksburg.

Whatever the mystery about Hooker's subsequent conduct, his dispatch of Thursday makes it clear that his original purpose was to await, after crossing, the choice of Lee between retreating or giving battle on ground of Hooker's own choosing. Preparation for one of these alternatives had been made by the work laid out for Stoneman. It was now necessary to be ready for the other. With headquarters at Chancellorsville,— the name given to a cross-roads “tavern stand” eleven miles from Fredericksburg and five from United States Ford, - Hooker placed his six corps present in such position as to cover the fords on which his communications depended, and to repel assault in front and flank. His extreme right was held by Howard, with headquarters at Dowdall's tavern, two miles west of

Chancellorsville. On Howard's left was Slocum, then Sickles, on high ground a mile southwest of Chancellorsville, overlooking a large space of cleared land thereabout, with farm house and buildings — the rest of the country being mainly wooded. Reynolds was posted near United States Ford, and Couch between him and Meade, on the left of Hooker's line, which extended on Friday night (May ist) from near Banks's Ford, holding the river road, to Chancellorsville, and connecting with Sickles.

On receiving Anderson's first report, Lee hastened to support him with McLaws's division and part of Anderson's, that had been left at Fredericksburg. Jackson was ordered to follow with the divisions of A. P. Hill and Rodes. The two leading Generals were together on Friday, and at the close of the day the combined forces were well up towards Hooker's lines. Lee lost no time in deciding to give battle. Plans were laid and orders were given for the morrow. Longstreet was absent with one of his divisions on detached service at Suffolk, near the Carolina border, and Early, with one of Jackson's divisions, remained at Fredericksburg, confronting Sedgwick; yet Lee took the risk of dividing the forces present, sending Jackson with a large portion to make a detour of many miles around and beyond Hooker's lines, and to strike his extreme right. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon Jackson's main force was massing at Wilderness Church, and under forest cover the men were speedily aligned across the Germania road in flank and rear of Howard. It was near 6 o'clock when the assault began. The yelling myriads of Stonewall Jackson came rushing through the woods with such

suddenness and fury that the men in blue were swept away like leaves in a gale. The division of Devens, first struck, was completely broken up, and a third part of its men, with every one of its Generals and Colonels, either killed, wounded, or captured. The division of Schurz scattered before its position was reached by the first fugitives; and all, defying the efforts of Howard and his subordinates, flew on towards Chancellorsville. Steinwehr's division was steadier, but the retreat continued before hot pursuit. Part of Sickles's men were rallied behind a stone wall, and were so effectually aided by batteries commanding the open ground that Jackson was at length brought to a positive check.

Night had come, and in the midst of dark woods there were regiments of pursued and pursuers. Eager to complete the work so well begun, galloping about with his staff in and out among clumps of trees where horses could find way, Stonewall Jackson was fatally wounded by a mistaken fire of his own men. vived but eight days, never seeing battlefield again, except in the feverish reveries of his last hours.

Fighting was resumed early the next morning (Sunday), the severest part of the engagement centering around the position of Sickles, which had been strengthened during the night. Hooker was at length forced to fall back to strong intrenchments between Chancellorsville and the fords. On the same day Sedgwick captured Fredericksburg, and advanced towards Chancellorsville, from which place Lee promptly moved with reinforcements for Early. Sedgwick, unsustained by Hooker, was met and defeated near Salem Church, with heavy loss, and retreated across the Rappahannock at

He sur

« PreviousContinue »