Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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was glad to order his men back to
their old camps — some of which they
had burned on quitting, in the confi-
dent expectation that they should
nevermore need them.

Gen. Bumside, having discovered,
as he believed, the officers who had
paralyzed his efforts by fomenting
discontent in his army, and by dis-
heartening communications to Wash-
ington, now prepared a general order
(' No. 8'), dismissing " them from
the service ; but, on the advice of a
trusted friend, decided to submit it
to the President before giving it pub-
licity or effect. He did so ; and the
President, after consultation with his
official advisers, decided, instead of
approving the order, to relieve Gen.
Bumside from command ; which was
accordingly done : the order stating
that Gen. B. was so relieved at his
own request — against which. Gen. B.
remonstrated as most unjust, pressing
his demand that his resignation should
be accepted instead; but he was
finally persuaded to withdraw it, and
agree to serve whererer his aid might
be required, allowing any order to
be published that might be deemed
essential to the public weal. Thus
ended " his command of the Army of
the Potomac.

During this Winter and the ensu-
ing Spring, a number of raids were
made by the Rebel cavalry: one**

"Jaa,20, 1863:

" M^j.-Gen. Hooker, with Brig..G€n8. W. T.
H. Brooks and John Newton, were designated
in this order for ignominious dismissal from the
service ; while Ms^.-Gens. W. B. Franklin and
W. F Smith, and Brig.-Gens. John Cochrane
and Edward Ferrero, with Lt-GoL J. H.

Taylor, were relieved from duty with this

•• Jan. 28. Gen. Sumner, at his own request,
and Gen. Franklin, with expressive silence, were
relieved by the same order. Gen. Sumner died
soon afterward, at Syracuse, N. T.

•• Doc. 25, 1862.

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numbers still were, it is questionable
that this army was a full match, on
equal ground, for its more homoge-
neous, better disciplined, more self-
assured, more determined antagonist.

Ocen. Hooker very properly de-
voted the two ensuing months to im-
proving the discipline, perfecting the
organization, and exalting the spirit
of his men ; with such success that
he had, before their close, an army
equal in numbers and efficiency to
any ever seen on this continent, ex-
cept that which Oen. McClellan com-
manded during the first three months
of 1861. Its infantry was nearly, if
not quite, 100,000 strong ; its artillery
not less than 10,000, every way well
appointed; while its cavalrjr, number-
ing 13,000, needed only a fair field
and a leader to prove itself the most
eflfective body of horsemen ever brig-
aded on American soil. Horses and
forage having both become scarce in
the South, there was not, and never
had been, any cavalry force connected
with any Rebel army that could
stand against it.

Being at length ready. Hooker
dispatched *• Stoneman, with most of
his cavalry," up the north side of the
river, with instructions to cross, at
discretion, above the Orange and
Alexandria ][lailroad, strike Fitz
Hugh Lee's cavalry brigade (com-
puted at 2,000) near Culpepper Court
House, capture Gordonsville, and
then pounce on the Fredericksburg
and Richmond Railroad near Sax-
ton's Junction, cutting telegraphs,
railroads, burning bridges, &c.,
thence toward Richmond, fighting at
every opportunity, and harassing by
every means the retreat of the Rebel
army, which, it was calculated, would

now be retiring on Richmond. The
spirit of Hooker's instructions is em-
bodied in these sentences :

"Let jonr watchword be fight, and let
all your orders hefyht^ fight^ fight ; bearing
in mind that time is as yaJaable to the G^*
era! as the Rebel carcasses.

" It devolyes upon yoo, General, to take
the inittative in the forward moyement of
this grand army ; and on you and your noble
command must depend, in a great measure,
the extent and brilliancy, of our success.
Bear in mind that celerity, audacity, and re*
solution, are every thing in war ; and espe-
cially is it the case wit£ the command you
haye, and the enterprise on which you are
about to embark."

These instructions seem to have
been at once terse and perspicuous,,
plainly indicating what was expected,,
and why it was required ; yet leaving
ample discretion to him who was to>
give them effect. Tet it is hard to-
repress a suspicion that irony lurks,
in such language, when addressed to<
an officer like Gteorge D. Stoneman.

Our cavalry, carefully screening;
its movements from the enemy^
marched two days westward, and had
thrown across one division, when a
rain raised the river so rapidly that
this vanguard was recalled, swim-
ming its horses ; and a succession of
April storms kept the streams so full
and impetuous, while the roads were^
rendereid so bad, that a fresh advance
was postponed to the 27th ; Gen*
Hooker giving the order for the
movement of his infantry and artil-^
lery next day.

The time was well chosen.. Long-
street, with three divisions, had been
detached from Lee's army, and was
operating against Gen. Peck below
the James; and it is not probable
that Lee had much, if any, over 60,000
men on the Kappahannock. True,
his position at Fredericksburg was

' April 13. *■ He says 13,000, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.
VOL. n.— 23

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yerj stroDg, afi we Iiad learned to our
-ooet; bnt it might be turned, as
Hooker proceeded to show.

His army was still encamped at
Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg.
The 11th (Howard's) and 12th (Slo-
cum's) corps moved up the river, but
carefully avoiding observation from
the hostile bank, so far as Kelly's
ford; crossing. there theBappahan-
nock that night and next morning —
the men wading up to their arm-
pits — and the Bapidan at G^rmania
Mills, next day, moving thence rap-
idly on Chanoellossvills. The 6di
(Meade's) corps followed; crossing
the Bapidan at Ely's ford, lower
dowii. Meantime, the 2d (Couch's)
corps approached, so nearly as it
might unobserved, to both the United
States and Banks's fords, ready to
cross when these should be flanked
by the advance of the 11th, 12th,
and 5th behind these fords to Chan-
cellorsville. Besistance had been ex-
pected here ; but none was encoim-
tered, as n(me worth mentioning had
been above; and Couch crossed his
corps'* at the United States ford on
pontoons, without the loss of a man.
Gen. Hooker, at Morrisville, superin-
tended the movement ; following him-
self to Chancellor8ville,where he estab-
lished his headquarters that night.

This important movement had
been skillfully masked by a feint of
crossing below Fredericksburg; the
6th (Sedgwick's) corps laying pon-
toons and actually crossing at Frank-
lin's, two or three miles below ; the
• 1st (Eeynolds's) at Pollock's Mill, still
lower ; the 8d (SicUes's) supporting
either or both. Sedgwick was in
chief command on this wing. The
bridges were ready by daylight of the

29th ; and, before daylight, Brooks's
division had crossed in boats and
driven off the Babel pickets ; while
Gen. Wadsworth in like manner led
the advance of Beynolds's division ;
when three pontoon bridges were
laid in front of Sedgwick, and every
thing made ready for crossing in
force. Now Sickles's (3d) corps was
ordered to move" silently, rapidly to
the United States ford, and thence
to Chanoellorsville, while part of the
pontoons were taken up and sent to
Banks's ford ; Beynolds, after mak*
ing as great a display as possible, and
exchanging some long- shots with the
Bebels in his front, following. May
2d; raising Hooker's force at and
near ChanceUorsville to 70,000 men.

Sedgwick, on the other side of the
Bebel army, had his own corps, 22,000
strong ; while Gen. Gibbon's division
of the 2d corps, 6,000 strong, which
had been left in its camp at FiJmouth
to guard our stores and guns from a
Bebel raid, was subject to his order ;
raising his force to nearly 30,000.

Thus far. Gen. Hooker's succees
had been signal and deserved. His
movements had been so skillfully
masked that Lee was completely de-
ceived ; and the passage of the Bap-
pahannock had been effected, both
above and below him, and all its
fords seized, without any loss what-
ever. Never did a General feel more
sanguine of achieving not merely a
great but a crushing victory. "I
have Lee's army in one hand and
Bichmond in the other," was his ex-
ulting remark to those around him as
he rode up to the single but capacious
brick house — at once mansion and
tavern — that then, with its appenda-
ges, constituted ChanceUorsville. But


■April 80.

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the order he issued thereupon evinces
an amazing misapprehension oi his
real position and its perils. It reads
as follows :

*^ Hbadquabtebs Abut of thb Potomac, 1
" Oamp kbab Falmotjth, Va., >
"AprilSO, 1868. ^
*' It is with heartfelt satisfaotioii that the
Oommandiog General announces to the ar-
my that the operations of the last three days
have determined that oitr enemy must either
inglorionsly fly or oome out from hehind his
defenses and give ns hattle on onr own
ground, where certain destruction awaits
him. The operations of the 5th, 11th, and
12th corps have heen a succession of splen-
did achievements.

*' By command of K^j.-G^n. Hooker.
"S, Williams, Ass't A^jL-Gen."

A General who has but eight days'
provisions at hand, and these in tiie
haversacks of his men, with a capri-
cious river between him and his d6-
pdts, and who has been obliged to
leave behind most of his heavier
guns, as well as his wagons, and is
enveloped in a labyrinth of woods
and thickets, traversed by narrow
roads, and every foot of it fiuniHar
to his enemy, while a terra incognita
even to his guides, has no warrant
for talking in that strain. Never
were a few ^intelligent contrabands,"
who had traversed those mazes by
night as well as by day, more im-
peratively needed ; yet he does not
seem to have even seasonably sought
their services ; hence, his general or-
der just recited, taken in connection
with his pending experience, was
destined to lend a mournful empha-
sis to the trite but sound old moni-
tion, " Never halloo till you are out
of the woods.**

The fords of the Bappahannock
next above Fredericksburg had been
watched by Gten. Anderson with
three brigades, some 8,000 strong ;
but Hooker's dispositions were so

sknifnll^ made that he did not anti-
cipate a crossing in force until it was'
too late to call on Lee for reenforce-
ments ; and he had no choice but to
fall back rapidly before our ad-
vancing columns to Chancellorsville,
where a fourth brigade joined him ;
but, being still too weak to make
head against an army, he obliqued
thence five miles toward Fredericks-
btirg, at the point where the two ,
roads from Chanoellorsville become

Here Lee soon appeared from
Fredericksburg, with the divisions of
McLaws and ti^e rest of Anderson's
own. Jackson, with those of A. P.
HiU and Khodes (late D. H. Hill's),
had been watching our demonstra-
tion under Sedgwick, below Freder-
icksburg; but, when Lee heard that
Hooker had crossed in force above,
he at once inferred that the move-
ment below was a feint, and called
Jackson away toward Chancellors-
ville, adding the division of Trimble
to his command and impelling him on
a movement against Hooker's extreme
right ; leaving only Early's division
and Barksdale's brigade in front of
Sedgwick on our remote left, and to
hold the heights overlooking Freder-
icksburg, which he judged no longer
likely to be assailed.

Lee had been outgeneraled in the
passage of the Bappahannock on his
left, while he was watching for Hook-
er on his right ; but he was not dis-
concerted. Leaving a very fmall
force in his works on the Fredericks-
burg heights, he pushed his main
body — at least 60,000 strong— down
the Oordonsville plank and lateral
roads to the point, half-way to Ohan-
cellorsville, where the old turnpike
intersects the plank road; and waa

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JbplanationB :

A. Podttont held hj Union troopi prerloos to the

K Positioni held by Bebel troops preTloot to the

0. Position tsken and held by Union troops, April 29.

D. Small force of Rebels routedL April 80.

E. Farthest advance made by Union forces, Msj 1.

r. Line which Union forcss retired to and intrenched,

G. Jsckson^s attsdc on the 11th corps. May %

H. Position which Union forces retired to and intrenched,

L Helffbts at Fredericksbnrf carried by €th eorpa,

J. Advanced position attained bv 6th corps.
K. Interior line intrenched previoos to retiring of Union

f<Mf«es across U. & fora, night of May 6th.
L. Bonte pnrsned by Jadcson^s forces.

here concentrated in time to watch
the development of Hooker's offen-
sive strategy.

A reconnoissance down the old
pike for three miles toward Freder-
icksburg having developed no hostile
force, Glen. Hooker ordered" an ad-
vance of Sykes's regulars (3d division,
5th corps) on that road, followed by
part of the 2d corps ; the Ist and 3d
divisions of the 5th corps moving on
a road farther north, in the direction
of Banks's ford ; the 11th, followed
by the 12th, being thrown out west-
^wardly from ChancellorsviUe, along
the two roads, which are here, for a
short distance, blended, but gradually
separate. An advance of two or
three miles toward Fredericksburg*
was meditated ; but Sykes had hardly

traversed a mile when he met the
enemy coming on, in greater force,
and a sharp conflict ensued, with
mutual loss; the Bebels extending
their line so as to outflank ours,
while Sykes vainly attempted to con-
nect with Slocum (12th corps) on his
right. Gen. Warren, who was su-
perintending Sykes's movement, re-
turned and reported progress to
Hooker, who ordered Sykes to fall
back, which Tie did ; bringing off all
but a few of his wounded, and very
cautiously followed by the enemy.
Thus the prestige of success, in the
first collision of the stru^le, was
tamely conceded to the enemy ; and
the day closed with the woods and
thickets in our front filled with Bebel
sharp-shooters, and the crests of the

' 3Ca7 1, 9 A. X.

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lidgeB occnpied bj his batteries,
whence he opened on onr left, upon
onr wagons in the cleared space
around the Chancellorsville house,
next morning.**

The 3d (Sickles^s) corps, having
arrived \>j a hard march from below
Fredericksburg, had been mainljr
posted in reserve near our center,
while Hooker, about daybreak, rode
along his right, which he apprehended
was too far extended, or not strongly
posted, and which he found no wise
prepared by earthworks and batteries
for a flank attack; but he was as-
sured by Slocum and Howard that
they were equal to any emergency.

Thus our army stood still, when, at
8 A. K., Bimey, commanding Sickles's
1st division, which had been thrown
well forward toward our right, be-
tween the 12th and the 11th corps,
reported a continuous movement of
Rebel forces along his front toward
our right; whereupon, Sickles, at his
own suggestion, was ordered by Hook-
er to pusb forward Bimey's division,
followed by another, to look into the

Bimey, at 10 a. m., directed Clark's
rifled battery to open on the Confed-
erate wayfarers, which he did with
great efiect, throwing their column
into disorder, and compelling it to
abandon the road. The movement
being evidently continued, however,
on some road a little farther off*.
Sickles, at 1 p. m., directed Bimey
to charge the passing column ; and
he did so ; bridging with rails a petty
creek in his front, passing over his di-
vision and two batteries, and striking
the rear of the Eebel column with
such force that he captured and
brought off 500 prisoners.

Sunset found him thus far ad-
vanced, holding the road over which
the Bebels were originally marching ;
his division formed in square, with
his artillery in the center; Barlow's
brigade of the 5th corps, which had
advanced to support his right, being
up with him; but Whipple's divi-
sion of the 3d and one of the 12th
corps, which were to have covered
his left, being invisibly distant.

Soon, panic-stricken ftigitives from
the 11th, now almost directly in Bir-
ney's rear, brought tidings of a great
disaster. The Bebel movement to
our right, along our front — ^which had
been either culpably disregarded by
Howard, or interpreted as a retreat
of the Bebel army on Eichmond —
had culminated, a little before 6 p. m.,
in a grand burst of Stonewall Jack-
son, with 25,000 men, on the exposed
flank of that corps. Emerging sud-
denly from the thick woods which,
enveloped that flank, and charging
it from three sides, as it were, the
Bebels caught some of our men pre-
paring their suppers, with arms
stacked, and gave them no time to
recover. In a moment, the 1st divis-
ion, Gten. Devens, was overwhelmed ;
its commander being among the
the wounded, and one-third of his
force, including every General and
Colonel, either disabled or captured.
Driven back in wild rout down the
Chancellorsville road upon the posi-
tion of Gen. Schurz, it was found
that his division had abeady retreat-
ed — ^perhaps fled is the apter word —
and an attempt made to rally and
form here proved abortive ; the 17th
.Connecticut, which bore a resolute
part in the effort, had its Lt-OoL
killed and its Colonel severely wound-

' Satordaj, Maj 2.

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ed. Back upon Steinwehr's division
lolled the rabble rout, in spite of
Howard's frantic exertions ; and, al-
though a semblance of organization
and consistency was here maintained,
the great maj(M*itjr of the corps
poured down to ChuicellorsTiUe and
beyond, spreading the infection of
their panic, and threatening to stam-
pede the entire army.

Sickles had been preparing to
strike a still heavier blow than that
of Bimey, and had, to that end,
obtained from. Hooker Pleasanton's
cavalry, perhaps 1,000 strong, with
permission to call on Howard and
Slocum for aid ; whai he was thun-
derstruck by tidings that Howard's
corps was demolished. As he had
heard no firing of consequence, he
refused at first to credit the story;
but he was soon constrained to be-
lieve it. Not only was the 11th corps
gone, but the triumphant Bebels were
in his rear, betw6€(p him and head-
quarters; so that when, recalling
Bimey from his advanced position,
he sent to Hooker for his 3d division,
he was informed that it could not be
sent — ^Hooker having been obliged to
use it to arrest the progress of the
enemy, and prevent their driving
him from ChanceUorsviDe.

Sickles was in a critical position ;
but he had now his two divisions in
hand, with his artillery — ^which had
not been used in Bimey's advance —
massed in a cleared field ; where Pleas-
anton, coming in from the fix>nt with
a part of his force, met the rushing
. flood of fdgitives from the right, and
was told that a charge of cavalry was
required to stop the enemy's advance.
(He had at most 500 men, wherewith
to arrest a charge of 35,000, led by
Stonewall Jackson.) Turning to Maj.

£eenan, 8th Pennsylvania, he said,
^^ You must charge into those woods
with your regiment, and hold the
Bebels until I can get some of these
guns into position. You must do it,
at whatever cost." " I will," was the
calm, smiling response of the patriot,
who well understood that theoi^er was
his death-warrant. Ten minutes later,
he was dead, and a good part of his
raiment lay bleeding around him ;
but thdr charge had stayed the Bebel
rush, and ^labled Pleasanton to get
his own battery of horse artillery into
position, his guns double-shotted with
canister, and trained on the ground,
200 yards distant, over which the
enemy must come on. And now,
clearing the field of fugitives, pick-
ing up what guns and ammunition
he could from the wreck of the 11th
corps, and adding these to Sickles's,
he had them all properly posted and
double-shotted, and was ready for his
expected visitors.

He had not long to wait. The
woods in his front were by this time
frdl of them ; darkness was falling ;
and some of the enemy resorted to
the unworthy stratagem (quite too
common on either side) of displaying
a false flag, and pretending to be
friends. One of our gunners ex-
claimed, ^^ Qeneral, that is our flag I"
whereupon he sent forward an aid to
ascertain. ^^ Come on, we are friends I"
was called out; and, in another
moment, the woods blazed with mus-
ketry, and the Eebels charged out of
them, rushing upon our guns; which
that instant opened, and swept whole
ranks of them away. Three charges
were thus made — one of them to
within fifty yards of the guns — ^but
each was repelled with great slaugh-
ter; though Pleasanton had no in-

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ftntry support worth naming for his
batteries; and his few remaining
troopers, being green recroits, were
not adapted to such an emergency ;
yet these ibr a time were all the snp-

In front of these batteries, fell Stone-
wall Jackson, mortaUj wounded — hj
the fire of hk own men, they say ; **
but it was dark, in dense woods,
and men w^re falling all around
bim from our canister and grape;
80 that it is not impossible that he
was among them. Prisoners taken
by Pleasanton soon afterward told
him that Jackson was mortally
wounded, and mentioned oth^ high
officers as, like him, stricken down by
oxur fire ; adding that their forces were
** badly cut up,'^ and, ^^ as to the
men, tiiey were disorganized." Still,
it seems probable that Jackson fell
by a fire from his own infantry, deliv-
ered in accordance with his orders.

Eos loss was the greatest yet sus>
tained by either party in the fall of a
single man; though Sidney Jdm8t<m
had probably military talents of a
higher order. But Jackson's pow^
over his men was unequaled; and it
was justified by the soundness of his
judgment as well as the intrepidity
of his character. Contrary to the
vulgar notion, hk attacks were all
well considered, and based on a cai^
frQ calculation of forces; and he
showed as high qualities in reusing
to squander his men toward the close
of the fray at Antietam, and again at
Fredericksburg, as he did in his most
brilliant charges. Accident seemed
to favor him at times, especially in
his later Yalley campaign ; but tii^
acddent is apt to favor a commander
who is never asleep when there is
anything to be gained or hoped from
being awake, and who, if required,
can march his men fi>rty miles per

■• " The Life of Stonewall Jackson, by a Tir-
ginian,'* gives the following aooountof his &11:

** Gen. Jackson ordered Qtia. Hill to adranoe
"With his division, reserving his fire unless eaoairy
approached from the direction of the enemy; and
then, with that burning and intense enthusiasm
for conflict which laj under his calm exterior,
hastened forward to the line of skirmishers who
"were hotlj engaged in front Such was his
ardor, at this critical moment^ and his anxiety to
penetrate the movements of the enemj, doubly
screened as they were by the dense forest and
gathering darkness, that he rode ahead of his

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 50 of 113)