Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 37 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 37 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

every reason to believe that he would do so, and had
made every necessary preparation to meet it. When
that renewal was not made, he greatly desired to deliver
a counter stroke, but the Federal army was so covered by
the numerous batteries on the Stafford heights, which
could not be reached by flank movement, that prudence
forbade any attack on the Federal right. Jackson re-
ceived permission to attack the Federal left, and just at
the close of day of the 14th, he and Stuart opened
a fierce artillery fire on Franklin along the line of the
Richmond road, but Franklin's hundred field cannon and
the heavy guns on Stafford heights compelled an aban-
donment of the movement. Not satisfied with this,
Jackson desired to make an assault with the bayonet,
after nightfall ; thinking that the Federal batteries would
not open on such an attack when they could not discrim-
inate between friend and foe. Lee deemed this too haz-
ardous, as his army was too small for such an offensive
movement. He was not only receiving no reinforce-
ments, but was constantly being called on to send away
portions of his already small army to defend points in
different States.

On the 1 6th of December, after the retreat of Burnside
to the Stafford heights, General Lee wrote to President

I had supposed they were just preparing for battle, and was saving
our men for the conflict. Their hosts crowned the hill and plain
beyond the river, and their numbers to me are unknown. Still,
I felt a confidence that we could stand the shock and was anxious for
the blow that is to fall on some point, and was prepared to meet it
here. Yesterday evening I had my suspicions that they might re-
turn [to the Stafford heights] during the night, but could not believe
that they would relinquish their hopes after all their boasting and
preparation ; and when I say that the latter is equal to the former,
you will have some idea of the magnitude. This morning they were
all safe on the north side of the Rappahannock. They went as they
came — in the night. They sufEered heavily as far as their battle
went, but it did not go far enough to satisfy me.

In a letter to his wife, written on Christmas day, after
the battle, he said, after recounting the mercies of God's
providence to his people during the past year:

Our army was never in such good health and condition since I have
been attached to it. I believe they share with me my disappoint-
ment that the enemy did not renew the combat on the 13th. I was


holding back all that day and husbanding our strength and ammuni-
tion for the great struggle for which I thought I was preparing. Had
I divined what was to have been his only effort, he would have had
more of it. My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant

A Federal demonstration was made, opposite Port
Royal, on the morning of the i6th, as if an attempt would
be made to cross the Rappahannock at that point, far to
Lee's right, and there resume the attempt to move on
Richmond. This was promptly reported, and Stuart, fol-
lowed by Jackson, marched to meet it. It was soon
learned that this was only a feint, and so the Second corps
went into winter quarters, in Caroline county, in the for-
ests just back from the front of the wooded bluffs of the
Rappahannock, and Jackson established his headquarters
at Moss Neck, near Fredericksburg, while Longstreet's
corps occupied the left from the rear of Fredericksburg
up the Rappahannock to the vicinity of Banks' ford,
above Fredericksburg.

Later in December, Stuart made a cavalry reconnois-
sance around Burnside's right and rear, to within a few
miles of Washington and Fairfax and Occoquan. The
larger portion of Longstreet's corps was sent south of
the James, with its advance in the vicinity of Suffolk, to
winter where subsistence was plentiful. The Federal
army went into winter quarters along the line of the rail-
way from Fredericksburg to Aquia creek, with its base
of supplies at that Potomac landing, which was easily
accessible by ship and steamer. Thus these two great
armies, with their camp-fires in sight of each other, dis-
posed themselves in winter quarters in the extensive for-
ests behind the big plantations that bordered both banks
of the Rappahannock, and each addressed itself to the
work of preparation for another trial of arms during the
coming year; the one fairly rioting in the abundance
of its supplies of men and material, of all kinds, gathered
from nearly the whole world, which was at its command,
while the other could only strengthen its great poverty
of men and resources by husbanding the scantiest of fare
and of military stores, by strengthening its patriotic cour-
age and devotion, and by increasing its trust in Divine
Providence by constant religious observances and suppli-
cations and prayers from nearly every member of its army,
from its humblest private to the noble Christian soldier
that led and, by example, encouraged them.


Smarting under his failure to move on Richmond by
way of Fredericksburg, Burnside was tempted, by a spell
of mild weather, to try a movement toward Richmond
around Lee's left, which he began by marching up the
north bank of the Rappahannock, in January, 1863. But
a storm set in, just after his movement began, which soon
rendered the roads impassable and forced him to retire
to his camps. He found the Confederates ready to dispute
his crossing the Rappahannock at every point that he
reached, and making fun of his attempts by erecting great
signboards within their lines, visible to the Federal
army, inscribed, "This way to Richmond." This move-
ment is known in history as ' ' Bumside's Mud Campaign. ' '



DURING the winter of 1862-63 and early spring of
1863, Stuart, by frequent raids across the Rappa-
hannock, kept the Federal cavalry busy, protect-
ing Bumside's right and rear, while in the Valley
and in the Appalachian region, Imboden and Jones
broke the Federal communications with the west by the
Baltimore & Ohio railroad.

In one of his humorous moods, on the 3d of March,
Lee wrote to his wife :

We are tip to our eyes in mud now, and have but little comfort.
Mr. Hooker looms up very large over the river. He has two bal-
loons up in the day and one at night. I hope he is gratified at what
he sees. Your cousin, Fitz Lee, beat up his quarters the other day
with about 400 of his cavalry, and advanced within four miles of
Falmouth, carrying oft 150 prisoners, with their horses, arms, etc.
The day after he recrossed the Rappahannock they sent all their
cavalry after him . . . but the bird had flown. ... I hope these
young Lees will always be too smart for the enemy.

After the battle of Fredericksburg, Stuart's cavalry
corps held the line of the Rappahannock up td the Blue
ridge, with a considerable body in Culpeper, near the
line of the Orange & Alexandria railroad, having its base
•of supplies at Gordonsville. Several times during the
winter and early spring the Federal cavalry attacked the
Confederates, who invariably drove them back. In an
engagement, March 17th, at Kellysville, the first real bat-
tle between the horsemen of the opposing armies, the
"brave and beloved Pelham, commanding Stuart's horse
artillery, was killed.

While tented in his winter quarters back of Fredericks-
burg, Lee was considering a plan of campaign for the
coming spring, having frequent consultations with Jack-
son and Stuart ; and Jackson, in the Corbin lodge at Moss
Neck, although busy all the time strengthening his
corps and putting it in a high state of efficiency by drill
and inspection, and by using every possible efiEort to



have it clothed and fed, was also thinking about his
favorite design for a campaign into Pennsylvania, to
break up the mining operations in the anthracite coal-
field, and so seriously cripple the enemy by cutting off
fuel supplies for his manufacturing establishments, his
railways, and his numerous steamships. Almost at the
beginning of 1863 he directed the writer, his topograph-
ical engineer, to prepare a detailed map of the country
between the Potomac and the Susquehanna ; a map that
was subsequently used in the Gettysburg campaign, but
not by Stonewall Jackson.

Generals of lesser rank formulated plans of campaign,
and so, doubtless, did every thoughtful and enterprising
private in the ranks of the veteran army of Northern
Virginia. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, of Ewell's division,
made an offer to General Lee to bridge the Rappahan-
nock and surprise the Federal army in its camps. To
this Lee naade reply, in his always courteous way:

I am much obliged to you for your suggestions presented in your
letters of February and March. I know the pleasure experienced in
shaping campaigns and battles, according to our wishes, and have
enjoyed the ease with which obstacles to their accomplishment, in
effigy, can be overcome. The movements you suggest in both let-
ters have been at various times studied, and canvassed with those
who would be engaged in their execution, but no practicable solution
of the difficulties to be overcome has yet been reasonably reached.
The weather, roads, streams, provisions, transportation, etc., are all
powerful elements in the calculation, as you know. What the
future may do for us, I will still hope, but the present time is unpro-
pitious, in my judgment The idea of securing the provisions,
wagons and guns of the enemy is truly tempting, and the desire has
haunted me since December. Personally, I would run any kind of
risk for their attainment, but I cannot jeopardize this army.

The Official Records show that the Federal army under
Bumside was thoroughly demoralized after the disasters
of Fredericksburg and the failure of the "Mud Cam-
paign." Not only were desertions numerous, but an
alarming degree of insubordination was prevalent
throughout the army. To remedy this condition of
things, Bumside was displaced, and on the 26th of Jan-
uary, 1863, Maj.-Gen. Joseph Hooker, the second in the
command, was given charge of the army of the Potomac.
He speedily restored it to a condition of efficiency and
brought its strength up to nearly 134,000 soldiers, when,
toward the last of April, he made ready to cross the Rap-
pahannock and attack Lee's 63,000 veterans. Jackson


held the front of Lee's right, from Hamilton's crossing
down to Port Royal, with the 33,000 well-tried men of
the Second corps. Of the two divisions of Longstreet
that remained with Lee, McLaws held the front, from
Jackson's left to opposite Banks' ford, with 8,000 men;
Anderson's 8,000 extended McLaws' left well toward
Chancellorsville (to Mott's run), while Stuart's 2,700 cav-
alrjnnen watched the fords of the Rappahannock up to
the Orange & Alexandria railroad crossing.

Hooker had opposed Burnside's plan of campaign
against Lee, and he now essayed to make trial of his -own.
He proposed to make a great show of having adopted
Burnside's plan, by sending Sedgwick across the Rappa-
hannock, at and below Fredericksburg, with three army
corps, thus hoping to detain Lee in front of that deso-
lated city while he, with four other army corps, marched
rapidly up the north bank of the Rappahannock, con-
cealed by its well-nigh continuous forests, crossed that
river at Kelly's ford and the Rapidan at the Germanna
and Ely fords, and thence, marching on roads leading
from Orange through Spottsylvania to Fredericksburg,
should fall upon Lee's flank and rear and thus force him
away from his tried lines of defense toward Richmond,
when Hooker's reunited army would, with overwhelming
numbers, follow in pursuit.

On the 13th of April, a fortnight in advance of his
infantry movement. Hooker sent Gen. George Stoneman,
with ro,ooo of his cavalry corps, to cross the Rappahan-
nock at Kelly's ford, in Culpeper, brush aside Stuart's
cavalry, destroy his base of supplies, break the Virginia
Central railroad at Gordonsville, then turn southeastward
toward Hanover Junction, and, breaking Lee's railway
connection with Richmond, there form an intrenched
camp and be ready to fall upon Lee's flank as Hooker
drove him in retreat toward Richmond. As Stoneman
began his march, a heavy rain set in and so flooded the
Rappahannock that he had not only to contend with
Stuart at every ford he attempted, but also to wait upon
its northern bank for the waters to subside ; and it was
not until the 27th that the three Federal corps, led by
Slocum, followed after the cavalry. They crossed Kel-
ly's ford of the Rappahannock in the afternoon of the
28th, and late on the 29th reached Germanna and Ely
fords of the Rapidan. Lee had divined the purpose of


this movement, for on the 23d he wrote to Jackson that
he considered the Federal preparations opposite Port
Royal as only a feint that it was not necessary to move
troops to meet, as he was satisfied that Hooker's purpose
was to attempt a passage elsewhere, and closed by writ-
ing: "I will notify Generals McLaws and Anderson to be
on the alert, for I think if a real attempt is made to cross
the river, it will be above Fredericksburg. ' '

During the night of the 28th, Sedgwick threw his pon-
toons across the Rappahannock, nearly in front of Ham-
ilton's crossing, and on the morning of the 29th the Fed-
eral lines of battle again appeared on the broad river
plain below Fredericksburg. That same morning Stuart
informed Lee that the Federal flanking advance had
crossed at Kelly's ford, and later in the day that two
columns of Federal infantry were moving toward the
Germanna and Ely fords of the Rapidan. This informa-
tion confirmed Lee as to Hooker's intentions, and he at
once ordered Anderson westward to support the oppo-
sition which he directed Stuart to make to the Federal
movement toward Chancellorsville. At midnight Hook-
er's advance forced back from Chancellorsville the bri-
gades of Mahone and Posey, of Anderson's division, and
occupied that plantation. Anderson withdrew and formed
his lines in the intrenchments that had been thrown up in
front of Tabernacle church, across the three roads that
there converged, from the westward, into the turnpike
road leading to Fredericksburg.

On the night of this same 29th of April, Stuart sent
Gen. W. H. F. Lee, with two regiments of cavalry, to
intercept Stoneman's movement against Gordons ville,
while in person he led Fitz Lee's brigade across the his-
toric Raccoon ford of the Rapidan, and placed his cavalry
in position to protect Lee's left. This brought him into
conflict with the Federal cavalry advance on the morning
of the 30th, near Todd's tavern, not far from Anderson's
left at Tabernacle church.

Meade's corps of the Federal army, the Fifth, reached
Chancellorsville during the night of the 29th, and by
sunset of the 30th, Hooker had there concentrated 50,000
men, while 18,000 more, under Sickles, were near at
hand. Sedgwick, with his 40,000 or more, was still
threatening Lee's right, below Fredericksburg; at the
same time some 13,000 Federal cavalry were threatening
his railway communications.


Exulting in the success of his strategic movement
which had placed him, without loss, on Lee's flank.
Hooker issued to his command, on the 30th, a general
order, in which he said, among other boastful things:
' ' Our enemy must ingloriously fly or come from behind
liis defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where
certain destruction awaits him." Lee quietly, but
quickly, accepted the challenge, thus thrown out, and at
midnight of the same day ordered Jackson's corps, which
he had some days before concentrated in the vicinity of
his battle line of the 13th of December, to march from
Hamilton's crossing by the old Mine road toward Taber-
nacle church. By 8 of the morning of Friday, May
1st, a portion of Jackson's corps joined Anderson, and
Lee was ready to meet any advances Hooker might make
toward Fredericksburg.

Lee left Early in command at Fredericksburg, with his
own division, Barksdale's brigade of McLaws' division,
and the reserve artillery under Pendleton, to watch the
movements of Sedgwick. This disposition of forces
placed Lee's army directly between the two widely-sep-
arated wings of Hooker's army, while the cavalry of the
latter was still further detached, seeking to destroy Lee's
lines of communication. These conditions compelled
Lee to face his army in both directions, which he reso-
lutely did, and prepared for the conflict, contrary to
Hooker's expectations. Early, with 30 guns and 8,500
infantrymen, stretched his thin line along the whole
length of Lee's defenses of the previous December, and
with characteristic alertness awaited Sedgwick's move-

The mass of Lee's army, some 41,000 men, under Jack-
son, Anderson and McLaws, were moved to within four
miles of Chancellorsville, and these, just before noon of
May ist, advanced and drove back Hooker's skirmishers,
who were in the act of opening the way to Fredericks-
burg. Lee himself spent the forenoon of the day with
Early, watching, from his old battlefield position, the
Federal demonstrations on Stafford heights and on the
Rappahannock plain, and counseling Early to hold fast
his position and not be deceived by Sedgwick's demon-
strations ; advice that he well knew would be implicitly
followed by the courageous old fighter to whom he gave it.

When Jackson reached the vicinity of Tabernacle


church, he found Anderson busily engaged, with pick
and shovel, strengthening his position. He, in command
as the ranking officer present, immediately ordered the
discontinuance of such operations, and that an immediate
advance should be made to meet the one he shrewdly
supposed Hooker was already making. McLaws was
sent forward along the old turnpike, and Anderson along
the plank road, while Jackson supported the more
exposed left of the movement. The two roads thus
taken converged at Chancellorsville. As Jackson had
divined. Hooker, having started at ii a. m., was at the
same time marching a column along each of these roads
toward Fredericksburg; consequently these opposing
forces met about midway between Tabernacle church
and Chancellorsville, and the issue of battle was joined in
the fields along the roads and in the dense intervening
forest. Alexander quickly placed one battery from his
battalion in front, on the plank road, and sent one
accompanying the skirmishers. Lee came up at about
this time, and he and Jackson, riding side by side, fol-
lowed in the line on the left. With wild cheers for these
two trusted and beloved commanders, the Confederates
rushed forward and drove back the oncoming Federals.
Sykes' division of Meade's corps, advancing on the turn-
pike, was flanked by Jackson and repulsed in front by
McLaws ; while Anderson turned back to Chancellorsville
Slocum's Twelfth corps, with loss, and Hooker's initial
action-movement sought protection behind Sickles' line
of 18,000 men that held the front of the fields at Chan-
cellorsville. Lee's skirmishers followed until they found
themselves confronted by formidable intrenchments of
logs, protected by abatis, in the forest in front.

Hooker had concentrated his army in a most formid-
able position, which he had carefully and skillfully forti-
fied, but he was surprised and mortified that his first
movement had been unsuccessful. Informed, by his
advance, as to Hooker's position and the disposition of
his forces, Lee withdrew his army for a short distance,
as the day closed, and his men slept in lines of battle
covering the roads leading from Chancellorsville. In
person he went into bivouac with Jackson, where the
road to Catherine furnace turns southward from the
plank road. During the night Talcott and Boswell, of
Lee's engineers, reconnoitered the Federal front and


pronounced a direct attack impracticable. Lee then said
to Jackson, "We must attack from our left;" and Jack-
son was directed to prepare for such a movement. These
two leaders and their staffs then sought sleep, as best
they could, in a cold night of the early springtime,
wrapped in their overcoats, under the sheltering pines
and oaks. Stuart, in the meantime, had informed Lee of
the disposition of all of Hooker's forces on the field of
action, especially of those of his right wing^ which
extended far out along the plank road to beyond its
intersection with the Ely's ford road, held by the Federal

By early dawn of the next morning, Jackson sent his
topographical engineer, Capt. Jed. Hotchkiss, to Cather-
ine furnace to ascertain whether there was a shorter road
around Hooker's front and right to his rear, than the
one by way of Todd's tavern. Informed, at an early
hour, of the shortest way, Jackson, after a short confer-
ence with Lee, in which he secured permission to take his
whole corps with him in his flank movement, promptly
marched, first southward, then south westward, to the Brock
road, thence northwestward, by that road, to the plank
road, thus traversing nearly the entire front of Hooker's
position, and turning his right. He then formed his
command in three lines of battle, with Rodes (D. H.
Hill's division) in front, supported by Colston (Trimble's
division), and he in turn by part of A. P. Hill's division.
When the Orange road was reached, Paxton's "Stone-
wall brigade," of Trimble's division, was advanced on
that road so that it constituted an extension of Rodes'
right when the forward movement took place.

General Lee, in his report, describes the origin of Jack-
son's flank movement in these words:

I decided against it [an attack upon Hooker's central works]
and stated to General Jackson, we must attack on our left as soon as
practicable, and the necessary movement of the troops began imme-
diately. In consequence of a report received about that time from
Gen. Fitz Lee, describing the position of the Federal army and the
roads which he held with his cavalry leading to its rear. General
Jackson, after some inquiry concerning the roads leading to the
furnace, undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear,
which he accomplished with equal skill and boldness ; the rest of the
army being moved to the left flank to connect with him as he

The audacity of Jackson's flank movement, by which
Lee entirely detached from himself the larger part of his


army, was only equaled by the audacity of Lee himself
in his willingness to confront and attempt to hold in place
the great mass of Hooker's army with the two divisions
of Anderson and McLaws. The dense forest that cov-
ered Hooker's eastward front prevented his seeing the
small force that Lee held opposed to him; while the
fierce demonstrations that Lee made, all along this front,
with infantry and artillery, keeping up an almost contin-
uous fire, deceived Hooker as to his numbers, and made
him hesitate to advance from his intrenchments -and
ascertain what was really opposed to him. Taking coun-
sel of his fears, he allowed Lee to hold him all day in
check, while Jackson was eagerly and swiftly marching
around his right flank.

The morning sun of the 2d of May was barely visible
when Jackson began his march with Rodes, commanding
D. H. Hill's old division in front, followed by Colston
and A. P. Hill; 26,000 war and camp hardened veterans
led by Jackson in person, with four regiments of cavalry,
under Stuart and Fitz Lee, protecting his flanks. Sickles,
from his elevated position in Hooker's south front,
discovered Jackson's column moving southward, by way
of Catherine furnace, and opened on it with his long
range artillery. This caused Jackson to diverge to his
left, after throwing out a brigade to protect his flank.
Sickles advanced on this and captured a Georgia regi-
ment, which induced the Federal oiBcers to believe that
Lee was in retreat toward Richmond. Sickles then
organized a strong movement in pursuit of Jackson,
sending three divisions after him ; but Lee turned Ander-
son 's guns upon Sickles and checked his movement.
Sickles then called for reinforcements, and late in the
afternoon he sent a brigade to the furnace ; but it was
then too late, for Jackson's column of march was already
far beyond his reach, and so far he had successfully con-
cealed the object and direction of his movement. The

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 37 of 153)