This was in the forenoon of the 1st of May, when there was no force in General Hooker's front, except the eight thousand men of Anderson at Tabernacle Church. Jackson had marched at midnight from the Massaponnax Hills, with a general order from Lee to "attack and repulse the enemy," but had not yet arrived. There was thus no serious obstacle in the path of the Federal commander, who had it in his power, it would seem, to mass his entire army on the commanding ground which his vanguard already occupied. Lee was aware of the importance of the position, and, had he not been delayed by the feint of General Sedgwick, would himself have seized upon it. As it was, General Hooker seemed to have won the prize in the race, and Lee would, apparently, be forced to assail him on his strong ground, or retire in the direction of Richmond.
The movements of the enemy had, however, been so rapid that Lee's dispositions seem to have been made before they were fully developed and accurately known to him. He had sent forward Jackson, and now proceeded to follow in person, leaving only a force of about six thousand men, under Early, to defend the crossing at Fredericksburg. The promptness of these movements of the Confederate commander is noticed by Northern writers. "Lee, with instant perception of the situation," says an able historian, "now seized the masses of his force, and, with the grasp of a Titan, swung them into position, as a giant might fling a mighty stone from a sling." [Footnote: Mr. Swinton, in "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac." Whether the force under Lee could be justly described as "mighty," however, the reader will form his own opinion.]
Such were the relative positions of the two armies on the 1st of May: General Hooker's forces well in advance of Chancellorsville, and rapidly forming line of battle on a ridge in open country; General Lee's, stretching along the whole distance, from Fredericksburg to Tabernacle Church, and certainly not in any condition to deliver or accept battle. The Federal commander seemed to have clearly outgeneralled his adversary, and, humanly speaking, the movements of the two armies, up to this time, seemed to point to a decisive Federal success.
General Hooker's own act reversed all this brilliant promise. At the very moment when his army was steadily concentrating on the favorable ground in advance of Chancellorsville, the Federal commander, for some reason which has never been divulged, sent a peremptory order that the entire force should fall back into the Wilderness. This order, reversing every thing, is said to have been received "with mingled amazement and incredulity" by his officers, two of whom sent him word that, from the great advantages of the position, it should be "held at all hazards." General Hooker's reply was, "Return at once." The army accordingly fell back to Chancellorsville.
This movement undoubtedly lost General Hooker all the advantages which up to that moment he had secured. What his motive for the order in question was, it is impossible for the present writer to understand, unless the approach of Lee powerfully affected his imagination, and he supposed the thicket around Chancellorsville to be the best ground to receive that assault which the bold advance of his opponent appeared to foretell. Whatever his motive, General Hooker withdrew his lines from the open country, fell back to the vicinity of Chancellorsville, and began to erect elaborate defences, behind which to receive Lee's attack.
In this backward movement he was followed and harassed by the forces of Jackson, the command of Anderson being in front. Jackson's maxim was to always press an enemy when he was retiring; and no sooner had the Federal forces begun to move, than he made a prompt attack. He continued to follow them up toward Chancellorsville until nightfall, when the fighting ceased, the Confederate advance having been pushed to Alrich's house, within about two miles of Chancellorsville. Here the outer line of the Federal works was found, and Jackson paused. He was unwilling at so late an hour to attempt an assault upon them with his small force, and, directing further movements to cease, awaited the arrival of the commander-in-chief.
Lee arrived, and a consultation was held. The question now was, the best manner, with a force of about thirty-five thousand, to drive the Federal army, of about one hundred thousand, beyond the Rappahannock.
On this night, of the 1st of May, the situation of affairs was strange indeed.
General Hooker had crossed the Rappahannock with a force of one hundred and twenty thousand infantry, and had, without obstruction, secured a position so strong, he declared, that Lee must either "ingloriously fly," or fight a battle in which "certain destruction awaited him." So absolutely convinced, indeed, was the Federal commander, of the result of the coming encounter, that he had jubilantly described the Southern army as "the legitimate property of the Army of the Potomac," which, in the event of the retreat of the Confederates, would "be after them." There seemed just grounds for this declaration, whatever question may have arisen of the good taste displayed by General Hooker in making it. The force opposed to him was in all about forty-seven thousand men, but, as cavalry take small part in pitched battles, Lee's fighting force was only about forty thousand. To drive back forty thousand with one hundred and twenty thousand would not apparently prove difficult, and it was no doubt this conviction which had occasioned the joyous exclamation of General Hooker.
But his own act, and the nerve of his adversary, had defeated every thing. Instead of retreating with his small force upon Richmond, Lee had advanced to accept or deliver battle. This bold movement, which General Hooker does not seem to have anticipated, paralyzed his energies. He had not only crossed the two rivers without loss, but had taken up a strong position, where he could manoeuvre his army perfectly, when, in consequence of Lee's approach with the evident intent of fighting, he had ceased to advance, hesitated, and ended by retiring. This is a fair summary of events up to the night of the 1st of May. General Hooker had advanced boldly; he was now falling back. He had foretold that his adversary would "ingloriously fly;" and that adversary was pressing him closely. The Army of the Potomac, he had declared, would soon be "after" the Army of Northern Virginia; but, from the appearance of things at the moment, the Army of Northern Virginia seemed "after" the Army of the Potomac. We use General Hooker's own phrases—they are expressive, if not dignified. They are indeed suited to the subject, which contains no little of the grotesque. That anticipations and expressions so confident should have been met with a "commentary of events" so damaging, was sufficient, had the occasion not been so tragic, to cause laughter in the gravest of human beings.
Lee's intent was now unmistakable. Instead of falling back from the Rappahannock to some line of defence nearer Richmond, where the force under Longstreet, at Suffolk, might have rejoined him, with other reenforcements, he had plainly resolved, with the forty or fifty thousand men of his command, to meet General Hooker in open battle, and leave the event to Providence. A design so bold would seem to indicate in Lee a quality which at that time he was not thought to possess—the willingness to risk decisive defeat by military movements depending for their success upon good fortune alone. Such seemed now the only deus ex machina that could extricate the Southern army from disaster; and a crushing defeat at that time would have had terrible results. There was no other force, save the small body under Longstreet and a few local troops, to protect Richmond. Had Lee been disabled and afterward pressed by General Hooker, it is impossible to see that any thing but the fall of the Confederate capital could have been the result.
From these speculations and comments we pass to the narrative of actual events. General Hooker had abandoned the strong position in advance of Chancellorsville, and retired to the fastnesses around that place, to receive the Southern attack. His further proceedings indicated that he anticipated an assault from Lee. The Federal troops had no sooner regained the thicket from which they had advanced in the morning, than they were ordered to erect elaborate works for the protection of infantry and artillery. This was promptly begun, and by the next morning heavy defences had sprung up as if by magic. Trees had been felled, and the trunks interwoven so as to present a formidable obstacle to the Southern attack. In front of these works the forest had been levelled, and the fallen trunks were left lying where they fell, forming thus an abatis sufficient to seriously delay an assaulting force, which would thus be, at every step of the necessarily slow advance, under fire. On the roads piercing the thicket in the direction of the Confederates, cannon were posted, to rake the approaches to the Federal position. Having thus made his preparations to receive Lee's attack, General Hooker awaited that attack, no doubt confident of his ability to repulse it.
His line resembled in some degree the two sides of an oblong square—the longer side extending east and west in front, that is to say, south of Chancellorsville, and the shorter side north and south nearly, east of the place. His right, in the direction of Wilderness Tavern, was comparatively undefended, as it was not expected that Lee would venture upon a movement against that remote point. This line, it would appear, was formed with a view to the possible necessity of falling back toward the Rappahannock. A commander determined to risk everything would, it seems, have fronted Lee boldly, with a line running north and south, east of Chancellorsville. General Hooker's main front was nearly east and west, whatever may have been his object in so establishing it.
On the night of the 1st of May, as we have said, Lee and Jackson held a consultation to determine the best method of attacking the Federal forces on the next day. All the information which they had been able to obtain of the Federal positions east and south of Chancellorsville, indicated that the defences in both these quarters were such as to render an assault injudicious. Jackson had found his advance obstructed by strong works near Alrich's house, on the road running eastward from the enemy's camps; and General Stuart and General Wright, who had moved to the left, and advanced upon the enemy's front near the point called "The Furnace," had discovered the existence of powerful defences in that quarter also. They had been met by a fierce and sudden artillery-fire from Federal epaulements; and here, as to the east of Chancellorsville, the enemy had evidently fortified their position.
Under these circumstances, it was necessary to discover, if possible, some more favorable opening for an attack. There remained but one other—General Hooker's right, west of Chancellorsville; but to divide the army, as would be necessary in order to attack in that quarter, seemed an undertaking too hazardous to be thought of. To execute such a plan of assault with any thing like a hope of success, General Lee would be compelled to detach considerably more than half of his entire force. This would leave in General Hooker's front a body of troops too inconsiderable to make any resistance if he advanced his lines, and thus the movement promised to result in the certain destruction of one portion of the army, to be followed by a triumphant march of the Federal forces upon Richmond. In the council of war between Lee and Jackson, on the night of the 1st of May, these considerations were duly weighed, and the whole situation discussed. In the end, the hazardous movement against General Hooker's right, beyond Chancellorsville, was determined upon. This was first suggested, it is said, by Jackson—others have attributed the suggestion to Lee. The point is not material. The plan was adopted, and Lee determined to detach a column of about twenty-one thousand men, under Jackson, to make the attack on the next day. His plan was to await the arrival of Jackson at the point selected for attack, meanwhile engaging the enemy's attention by demonstrations in their front. When Jackson's guns gave the signal that he was engaged, the force in front of the enemy was to advance and participate in the assault; and thus, struck in front and flank at once. General Hooker, it was hoped, would be defeated and driven back across the Rappahannock.
There was another possible result, the defeat of Lee and Jackson by General Hooker. But the desperate character of the situation rendered it necessary to disregard this risk.
By midnight this plan had been determined upon, and at dawn Jackson began to move.
JACKSON'S ATTACK AND FALL.
On the morning of the 2d of May, General Lee was early in the saddle, and rode to the front, where he remained in personal command of the force facing the enemy's main line of battle throughout the day.
This force consisted of the divisions of Anderson and McLaws, and amounted to thirteen thousand men. That left at Fredericksburg, as we have said, under General Early, numbered six thousand men; and the twenty-one thousand which Jackson had taken with him, to strike at the enemy's right, made up the full body of troops under Lee, that is to say, a little over forty thousand, artillerymen included. The cavalry, numbering four or five thousand, were, like the absent Federal cavalry, not actually engaged.
In accordance with the plan agreed upon between Lee and Jackson, the force left in the enemy's front proceeded to engage their attention, and desultory fighting continued throughout the day. General Lee meanwhile awaited the sound of Jackson's guns west of Chancellorsville, and must have experienced great anxiety at this trying moment, although, with his accustomed self-control, he displayed little or none. We shall now leave this comparatively interesting portion of the field, and invite the attention of the reader to the movements of General Jackson, who was about to strike his last great blow, and lose his own life in the moment of victory.
Jackson set out at early dawn, having under him three divisions, commanded by Rhodes and Trimble, in all about twenty-one thousand men, and directed his march over the Old Mine road toward "The Furnace," about a mile or so from and in front of the enemy's main line. Stuart moved with his cavalry on the flank of the column, with the view of masking it from observation; and it reached and passed "The Furnace," where a regiment with artillery was left to guard the road leading thence to Chancellorsville, and repel any attack which might be made upon the rear of the column. Just as the rear-guard passed on, the anticipated attack took place, and the regiment thus left, the Twenty-third Georgia, was suddenly surrounded and the whole force captured. The Confederate artillery, however, opened promptly upon the assailing force, drove it back toward Chancellorsville, and Jackson proceeded on his march without further interruption. He had thus been seen, but it seems that the whole movement was regarded by General Hooker as a retreat of the Confederates southward, a bend in the road at this point toward the south leading to that supposition.
"We know the enemy is flying," General Hooker wrote, on the afternoon of this day, to General Sedgwick, "trying to save his trains; two of Sickles's divisions are among them."
Soon after leaving "The Furnace," however, Jackson, following the same wood-road, turned westward, and, marching rapidly between the walls of thicket, struck into the Brock road, which runs in a direction nearly northwest toward Germanna and Ely's Fords. This would enable him to reach, without discovery, the Orange Plank-road, or Old Turnpike, west of Chancellorsville, as the woods through which the narrow highway ran completely barred him from observation. Unless Federal spies were lurking in the covert, or their scouting-parties of cavalry came in sight of the column, it would move as secure from discovery as though it were a hundred miles distant from the enemy; and against the latter danger of cavalry-scouts, Stuart's presence with his horsemen provided. The movement was thus made without alarming the enemy, and the head of Jackson's column reached the Orange Plank-road, near which point General Fitz Lee invited Jackson to ride up to a slight elevation, from which the defences of the enemy were visible. Jackson did so, and a glance showed him that he was not yet sufficiently upon the enemy's flank. He accordingly turned to an aide and said, pointing to the Orange Plank-road: "Tell my column to cross that road."
The column did so, continuing to advance toward the Rapidan until it reached the Old Turnpike running from the "Old Wilderness Tavern" toward Chancellorsville. At this point, Jackson found himself full on the right flank of General Hooker, and, halting his troops, proceeded promptly to form line of battle for the attack. It was now past four in the afternoon, and the declining sun warned the Confederates to lose no time. The character of the ground was, however, such as to dismay any but the most resolute, and it seemed impossible to execute the intended movement with any thing like rapidity in such a jungle. On both sides of the Old Turnpike rose a wall of thicket, through which it was impossible to move a regular line of battle. All the rules of war must be reversed in face of this obstacle, and the assault on General Hooker's works seemed destined to be made in column of infantry companies, and with the artillery moving in column of pieces.
Despite these serious obstacles, Jackson hastened to form such order of battle as was possible, and with Rodes's division in front, followed by Colston (Trimble) and Hill, advanced steadily down the Old Turnpike, toward Chancellorsville. He had determined, not only to strike the enemy's right flank, but to execute, if possible, a still more important movement. This was, to extend his lines steadily to the left, swing round his left wing, and so interpose himself between General Hooker and the Rapidan. This design of unsurpassed boldness continued to burn in Jackson's brain until he fell, and almost his last words were an allusion to it.
The Federal line of works, which the Confederates thus advanced to assault, extended across the Old Turnpike near the house of Melzi Chancellor, and behind was a second line, which was covered by the Federal artillery in the earthworks near Chancellorsville. The Eleventh Corps, under General Howard, was that destined to receive Jackson's assault. This was made at a few minutes past five in the evening, and proved decisive. The Federal troops were surprised at their suppers, and were wholly unprepared. They had scarcely time to run to their muskets, which were stacked near at hand, when Rodes burst upon them, stormed their works, over which the troops marched almost unresisted, and in a few minutes the entire corps holding the Federal right was in hopeless disorder. Rodes pressed on, followed by the division in his rear, and the affair became rather a hunt than a battle. The Confederates pursued with yells, killing or capturing all with whom they could come up; the Federal artillery rushed off at a gallop, striking against tree-trunks and overturning, and the army of General Hooker seemed about to be hopelessly routed. This is the account given by Northern writers, who represent the effect of Jackson's sudden attack as indescribable. It had a serious effect, as will be subsequently shown, on the morale both of General Hooker and his army. While opposing the heavy demonstrations of General Lee's forces on their left and in front, this storm had burst upon them from a quarter in which no one expected it; they were thus caught between two fires, and, ignorant as they were of the small number of the Confederates, must have regarded the army as seriously imperilled.
[Footnote 1: "Their arms were stacked, and the men were away from them and scattered about for the purpose of cooking their suppers."—General Hooker.]
Jackson continued to pursue the enemy on the road to Chancellorsville, intent now upon making his blow decisive by swinging round his left and cutting off the Federal army from the Rappahannock. It was impossible, however, to execute so important a movement until his troops were well in hand, and the two divisions which had made the attack had become mixed up in a very confused manner. They were accordingly directed to halt, and General A.P. Hill, whose division had not been engaged, was sent for and ordered to advance to the front, thus affording the disordered divisions an opportunity to reform their broken lines.
Soon after dispatching this order, Jackson rode out in front of his line, on the Chancellorsville road, in order to reconnoitre in person, and ascertain, if possible, the position and movements of the enemy, then within a few hundred yards of him. It was now between nine and ten o'clock at night. The fighting had temporarily ceased, and the moon, half-seen through misty clouds, lit up the dreary thickets, in which no sound was heard but the incessant and melancholy cries of the whippoorwills. Jackson had ridden forward about a hundred yards in advance of his line, on the turnpike, accompanied by a few officers, and had checked his horse to listen for any sound coming from the direction of Chancellorsville, when suddenly a volley was fired by his own infantry on the right of the road, apparently directed at him and his companions, under the impression that they were a Federal reconnoitring-party. Several of the party fell from their horses, and, wheeling to the left, Jackson galloped into the wood to escape a renewal of the fire. The result was melancholy. He passed directly in front of his men, who had been warned to guard against an attack of cavalry. In their excited state, so near the enemy, and surrounded by darkness, Jackson was supposed to be a Federal cavalryman. The men accordingly fired upon him, at not more than twenty paces, and wounded him in three places—twice in the left arm, and once in the right hand. At the instant when he was struck he was holding his bridle with his left hand, and had his right hand raised, either to protect his face from boughs, or in the strange gesture habitual to him in battle. As the bullets passed through his arm he dropped the bridle of his horse from his left hand, but seized it again with the bleeding fingers of his right hand, when the animal, wheeling suddenly, darted toward Chancellorsville. In doing so he passed beneath the limb of a pine-tree, which struck the wounded man in the face, tore off his cap, and threw him back on his horse, nearly dismounting him. He succeeded, however, in retaining his seat, and regained the road, where he was received in the arms of Captain Wilbourn, one of his staff-officers, and laid at the foot of a tree.
The fire had suddenly ceased, and all was again still. Only Captain Wilbourn and a courier were with Jackson, but a shadowy figure on horseback was seen in the edge of the wood near, silent and motionless. When Captain Wilbourn called to this person, and directed him to ride back and see what troops had thus fired upon them, the silent figure disappeared, and did not return. Who this could have been was long a mystery, but it appears, from a recent statement of General Revere, of the Federal army, that it was himself. He had advanced to the front to reconnoitre, had come on the group at the foot of the tree, and, receiving the order above mentioned, had thought it prudent not to reveal his real character. He accordingly rode into the wood, and regained his own lines.
A few words will terminate our account of this melancholy event in the history of the war—the fall of Jackson. He was supported to the rear by his officers, and during this painful progress gave his last order. General Pender recognized him, and stated that he feared he could not hold his position. Jackson's eye flashed, and he replied with animation, "You must hold your ground, General Pender! You must hold your ground, sir!"
He was now so weak as to be unable to walk, even leaning on the shoulders of his officers. He was accordingly placed on a litter, and borne toward the rear. Before the litter had gone far a furious artillery-fire swept the road from the direction of Chancellorsville, and the bearers lowered it to the earth and lay down beside it. The fire relaxing, they again moved, but one of the bearers stumbled over a root and let the litter fall. Jackson groaned, and as the moonlight fell upon his face it was seen to be so pale that he appeared to be about to die. When asked if he was much hurt, he opened his eyes, however, and said, "No, my friend, don't trouble yourself about me."
He was then borne to the rear, placed in an ambulance, and carried to the hospital at the Old Wilderness Tavern, where he remained until he was taken to Guinea's station, where he died.
Such was the fate of Lee's great lieutenant—the man whom he spoke of as his "right arm"—whose death struck a chill to the hearts of the Southern people from which they never recovered.
THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE.
General Lee was not informed of the misfortune which had befallen his great lieutenant until toward daybreak on the next morning.
This fact was doubtless attributable to the difficult character of the country; the interposition of the Federal army between the two Confederate wings, which rendered a long detour necessary in reaching Lee; and the general confusion and dismay attending Jackson's fall. It would be difficult, indeed, to form an exaggerated estimate of the condition of Jackson's corps at this time. The troops had been thrown into what seemed inextricable disorder, in consequence of the darkness and the headlong advance of the Second (Calston's) Division upon the heels of Rhodes, which had resulted in a complete intermingling of the two commands; and, to make matters worse, General A.P. Hill, the second in command, had been wounded and disabled, nearly at the same moment with Jackson, by the artillery-fire of the enemy. This transferred the command, of military right, to the brave and skilful General Rhodes, the ranking officer after Hill; but Rhodes was only a brigadier-general, and had, for that reason, never come into personal contact with the whole corps, who knew little of him, and was not aware of Jackson's plans, and distrusted, under these circumstances, his ability to conduct to a successful issue so vitally important an operation as that intrusted to this great wing of the Southern army. Stuart, who had gone with his cavalry toward Ely's Ford to make a demonstration on the Federal rear, was therefore sent for, and rode as rapidly as possible to the scene of action, and the command was formally relinquished to him by General Rhodes. Jackson sent Stuart word from Wilderness Tavern to "act upon his own judgment, and do what he thought best, as he had implicit confidence in him;" but, in consequence of the darkness and confusion, it was impossible for Stuart to promptly reform the lines, and thus all things remained entangled and confused.
It was essential, however, to inform General Lee of the state of affairs, and Jackson's chief-of-staff, Colonel Pendleton, requested Captain Wilbourn, who had witnessed all the details of the painful scene in the wood, to go to General Lee and acquaint him with what had taken place, and receive his orders. From a MS. statement of this meritorious officer, we take these brief details of the interview:
Lee was found lying asleep in a little clump of pines near his front, covered with an oil-cloth to protect him from the dews of the night, and surrounded by the officers of his staff, also asleep. It was not yet daybreak, and the darkness prevented the messenger from distinguishing the commander-in-chief from the rest. He accordingly called for Major Taylor, Lee's adjutant-general, and that officer promptly awoke when he was informed of what had taken place. As the conversation continued, the sound awoke General Lee, who asked, "Who is there?" Major Taylor informed him, and, rising upon his elbow, Lee pointed to his blankets, and said: "Sit down here by me, captain, and tell me all about the fight last evening."
He listened without comment during the recital, but, when it was finished, said with great feeling: "Ah! captain, any victory is dearly bought which deprives us of the services of General Jackson, even for a short time."
From this reply it was evident that he did not regard the wounds received by Jackson as of a serious character—as was natural, from the fact that they were only flesh-wounds in the arm and hand—and believed that the only result would be a temporary absence of his lieutenant from command. As Captain Wilbourn continued to speak of the incident, Lee added with greater emotion than at first: "Ah! don't talk about it; thank God it is no worse!"
He then remained silent, but seeing Captain Wilbourn rise, as if to go, he requested him to remain, as he wished to "talk with him some more," and proceeded to ask a number of questions in reference to the position of the troops, who was in command, etc. When informed that Rhodes was in temporary command, but that Stuart had been sent for, he exclaimed: "Rhodes is a gallant, courageous, and energetic officer;" and asked where Jackson and Stuart could be found, calling for paper and pencil to write to them. Captain Wilbourn added that, from what he had heard Jackson say, he thought he intended to get possession, if possible, of the road to United States Ford in the Federal rear, and so cut them off from the river that night, or early in the morning. At these words, Lee rose quickly and said with animation, "These people must be pressed to-day."
It would seem that at this moment a messenger—probably Captain Hotchkiss, Jackson's skilful engineer—arrived from Wilderness Tavern, bringing a note from the wounded general. Lee read it with much feeling, and dictated the following reply:
GENERAL: I have just received your note informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen, for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead.
I congratulate you upon the victory, which is due to your skill and energy. R.E. LEE, General.
This was dispatched with a second note to Stuart, directing him to assume command, and press the enemy at dawn. Lee then mounted his horse, and, just as the day began to break, formed line of battle opposite the enemy's front, his line extending on the right to the plank-road running from Chancellorsville in the direction of Fredericksburg. This force, under the personal command of Lee, amounted, as we have said, originally to about thirteen thousand men; and, as their loss had not been very severe in the demonstrations made against the enemy on the preceding days, they were in good condition. The obvious course now was to place the troops in a position which would enable them, in the event of Stuart's success in driving the Federal right, to unite the left of Lee's line with the right of Stuart, and so press the Federal army back on Chancellorsville and the river. We shall now return to the left wing of the army, which, in spite of the absence of the commanding general, was the column of attack, which was looked to for the most important results.
In response to the summons of the preceding night, Stuart had come back from the direction of Ely's Ford, at a swift gallop, burning with ardor at the thought of leading Jackson's great corps into battle. The military ambition of this distinguished commander of Lee's horse was great, and he had often chafed at the jests directed at the cavalry arm, and at himself as "only a cavalry-officer." He had now presented to him an opportunity of showing that he was a trained soldier, competent by his nerve and military ability to lead any arm of the service, and greeted the occasion with delight. The men of Jackson had been accustomed to see that commander pass slowly along their lines on a horse as sedate-looking as himself, a slow-moving figure, with little of the "poetry of war" in his appearance. They now found themselves commanded by a youthful and daring cavalier on a spirited animal, with floating plume, silken sash, and a sabre which gleamed in the moonlight, as its owner galloped to and fro cheering the men and marshalling them for the coming assault As he led the lines afterward with joyous vivacity, his sabre drawn, his plume floating proudly, one of the men compared him to Henry of Navarre at the battle of Ivry. But Stuart's spirit of wild gayety destroyed the romantic dignity of the scene. He led the men of Jackson against General Hooker's breastworks bristling with cannon, singing "Old Joe Hooker, will you come out of the Wilderness!"
This sketch will convey a correct idea of the officer who had now grasped the baton falling from the hand of the great marshal of Lee. It was probable that the advance of the infantry under such a commander would partake of the rush and rapidity of a cavalry-charge; and the sequel justified this view.
At early dawn the Southern lines began to move. Either in consequence of orders from Lee, or following his own conception, Stuart reversed the movement of Jackson, who had aimed to swing round his left and cut off the enemy. He seemed to have determined to extend his right, with the view of uniting with the left of Anderson's division under Lee, and enclosing the enemy in the angle near Chancellorsville. Lee had moved at the same moment on their front, advancing steadily over all obstacles, and a Northern writer, who witnessed the combined attack, speaks of it in enthusiastic terms: "From the large brick house which gives the name to this vicinity," says the writer, speaking of Chancellorsville, "the enemy could be seen, sweeping slowly but confidently, determinedly and surely, through the clearings which extended in front. Nothing could excite more admiration for the qualities of the veteran soldiers than the manner in which the enemy swept out, as they moved steadily onward, the forces which were opposed to them. We say it reluctantly, and for the first time, that the enemy have shown the finest qualities, and we acknowledge on this occasion their superiority in the open field to our own men. They delivered their fire with precision, and were apparently inflexible and immovable under the storm of bullets and shell which they were constantly receiving. Coming to a piece of timber, which was occupied by a division of our own men, half the number were detailed to clear the woods. It seemed certain that here they would be repulsed, but they marched right through the wood, driving our own soldiers out, who delivered their fire and fell back, halted again, fired, and fell back as before, seeming to concede to the enemy, as a matter of course, the superiority which they evidently felt themselves. Our own men fought well. There was no lack of courage, but an evident feeling that they were destined to be beaten, and the only thing for them to do was to fire and retreat."
This description of the steady advance of the Southern line applies rather to the first portion of the attack, which compelled the front line of the Federal army to retire to the stronger ground in rear. When this was reached, and the troops of Lee saw before them the last citadel, the steady advance became a rush. The divisions of Anderson and McLaws, on the right, made a determined charge upon the great force under Generals Hancock, Slocum, and others, in that quarter, and Stuart closed in on the Federal right, steadily extending his line to join on to Anderson.
The spectacle here was superb. As the troops rushed on, Stuart shouted, "Charge! and remember Jackson!" and this watchword seemed to drive the line forward. With Stuart leading them, and singing, in his joyous voice, "Old Joe Hooker, will you come out of the Wilderness!"—for courage, poetry, and seeming frivolity, were strangely mingled in this great soldier—the troops went headlong at the Federal works, and in a few moments the real struggle of the battle of Chancellorsville had begun.
From this instant, when the lines, respectively commanded in person by Lee and by Stuart, closed in with the enemy, there was little manoeuvring of any description. It was an open attempt of Lee, by hard fighting, to crush in the enemy's front, and force them back upon the river. In this arduous struggle it is due to Stuart to say that his generalship largely decided the event, and the high commendation which he afterward received from General Lee justifies the statement. As his lines went to the attack, his quick military eye discerned an elevated point on his right, from which it appeared an artillery-fire woulden filade the Federal line. About thirty pieces of cannon were at once hastened to this point, and a destructive fire opened on the lines of General Slocum, which threw his troops into great confusion. So serious was this fire that General Slocum sent word to General Hooker that his front was being swept away by it, to which the sullen response was, "I cannot make soldiers or ammunition!"
General Hooker was indeed, it seems, at this moment in no mood to take a hopeful view of affairs. The heavy assault of Jackson appears to have as much demoralized the Federal commander as his troops. During the night he had erected a semicircular line of works, in the form of a redan, in his rear toward the river, behind which new works he no doubt contemplated falling back. He now awaited the result of the Southern attack, leaning against a pillar of the porch at the Chancellorsville House, when a cannon-ball struck the pillar, throwing it down, and so stunning the general as to prevent him from retaining the command, which was delegated to General Couch.
The fate of the day had now been decided. The right wing of the Southern army, under Lee, had gradually extended its left to meet the extension of Stuart's right; and this junction of the two wings having been effected, Lee took personal command of all, and advanced his whole front in a decisive assault. Before this the Federal front gave way, and the disordered troops were huddled back—now only a confused and disorganized mass—upon Chancellorsville. The Southern troops pursued with yells, leaping over the earthworks, and driving all before them. A scene of singular horror ensued. The Chancellorsville House, which had been set on fire by shell, was seen to spout flame from every window, and the adjoining woods had, in like manner, caught fire, and were heard roaring over the dead and wounded of both sides alike. The thicket had become the scene of the cruellest of all agonies for the unfortunates unable to extricate themselves. The whole spectacle in the vicinity of the Chancellorsville House, now in Lee's possession, was frightful. Fire, smoke, blood, confused yells, and dying groans, mingled to form the dark picture.
Lee had ridden to the front of his line, following up the enemy, and as he passed before the troops they greeted him with one prolonged, unbroken cheer, in which those wounded and lying upon the ground united. In that cheer spoke the fierce joy of men whom the hard combat had turned into blood-hounds, arousing all the ferocious instincts of the human soul. Lee sat on his horse, motionless, near the Chancellorsville House, his face and figure lit up by the glare of the burning woods, and gave his first attention, even at this exciting moment, to the unfortunates of both sides, wounded, and in danger of being burned to death. While issuing his orders on this subject, a note was brought to him from Jackson, congratulating him upon his victory. After reading it, with evidences of much emotion, he turned to the officer who had brought it and said: "Say to General Jackson that the victory is his, and that the congratulation is due to him."
The Federal army had fallen back in disorder, by this time, toward their second line. It was about ten o'clock in the morning, and Chancellorsville was in Lee's possession.
FLANK MOVEMENT OF GENERAL SEDGWICK.
Lee hastened to bring the Southern troops into order again, and succeeded in promptly reforming his line of battle, his front extending, unbroken, along the Old Turnpike, facing the river.
His design was to press General Hooker, and reap those rich rewards of victory to which the hard fighting of the men had entitled them. Of the demoralized condition of the Federal forces there can be no doubt, and the obvious course now was to follow up their retreat and endeavor to drive them in disorder beyond the Rappahannock.
The order to advance upon the enemy was about to be given, when a messenger from Fredericksburg arrived at full gallop, and communicated intelligence which arrested the order just as it was on Lee's lips.
A considerable force of the enemy was advancing up the turnpike from Fredericksburg, to fall upon his right flank, and upon his rear in case he moved beyond Chancellorsville. The column was that of General Sedgwick. This officer, it will be remembered, had been detached to make a heavy demonstration at Fredericksburg, and was still at that point, with his troops drawn up on the southern bank, three miles below the city, on Saturday night, while Jackson was fighting. On that morning General Hooker had sent for Reynolds's corps, but, even in the absence of this force, General Sedgwick retained under him about twenty-two thousand men; and this column was now ordered to storm the heights at Fredericksburg, march up the turnpike, and attack Lee in flank.
General Sedgwick received the order at eleven o'clock on Saturday night, about the time when Jackson was carried wounded to the rear. He immediately made his preparations to obey, and at daylight moved up from below the city to storm the ridge at Marye's, and march straight upon Chancellorsville. In the first assaults he failed, suffering considerable loss from the fire of the Southern troops under General Barksdale, commanding the line at that point; but, subsequently forming an assaulting column for a straight rush at the hill, he went forward with impetuosity; drove the Southern advanced line from behind the "stone wall," which Generals Sumner and Hooker had failed in reaching, and, about eleven in the morning, stormed Marye's Hill, and killed, captured, or dispersed, the entire Southern force there. The Confederates fought hand to hand over their guns with the enemy for the possession of the crest, but their numbers were inadequate; the entire surviving force fell back over the Telegraph road southward, and General Sedgwick promptly advanced up the turnpike leading from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, to assail General Lee.
It was the intelligence of this threatening movement which now reached Lee, and induced him to defer further attack at the moment upon General Hooker. He determined promptly to send a force against General Sedgwick, and this resolution seems to have been based upon sound military judgment. There was little to be feared now from General Hooker, large as the force still was under that officer. He was paralyzed for the time, and would not probably venture upon any attempt to regain possession of Chancellorsville. With General Sedgwick it was different. His column was comparatively fresh, was flushed with victory, and numbered, even after his loss of one thousand, more than twenty thousand men. Compared with the entire Federal army, this force was merely a detachment, it was true, but it was a detachment numbering as many men, probably, as the effective of Lee's entire army at Chancellorsville. He had carried into that fight about thirty-four thousand men. His losses had been heavy, and the commands were much shaken. To have advanced under these circumstances upon General Hooker, without regard to General Sedgwick's twenty thousand troops, inspired by recent victory, would have resulted probably in disaster.
These comments may detract from that praise of audacity accorded to Lee in making this movement. It seems rather to have been the dictate of common-sense; to have advanced upon General Hooker would have been the audacity.
It was thus necessary to defer the final blow at the main Federal army in his front, and General Lee promptly detached a force of about five brigades to meet General Sedgwick, which, with Early's command, now in rear of the Federal column, would, it was supposed, suffice.
This body moved speedily down the turnpike to check the enemy, and encountered the head of his column about half-way, near Salem Church. General Wilcox, who had been sent by Lee to watch Banks's Ford, had already moved to bar the Federal advance. When the brigades sent by Lee joined him, the whole force formed line of battle: a brisk action ensued, continuing from about four in the afternoon until nightfall, when the fighting ceased, and General Sedgwick made no further attempt to advance on that day.
These events took place, as we have said, on Sunday afternoon, the day of the Federal defeat at Chancellorsville. On Monday morning (May 4th), the theatre of action on the southern bank of the Rappahannock presented a very remarkable complication. General Early had been driven from the ridge at Fredericksburg; but no sooner had General Sedgwick marched toward Chancellorsville, than Early returned and seized upon Marye's Heights again. He was thus in General Sedgwick's rear, and ready to prevent him from recrossing the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Sedgwick meanwhile was moving to assail Lee's flank and rear, and Lee was ready to attack General Hooker in front. Such was the singular entanglement of the Northern and Southern forces on Monday morning after the battle of Chancellorsville. What the result was to be the hours of that day were now to decide.
Lee resolved first, if possible, to crush General Sedgwick, when it was his design to return and make a decisive assault upon General Hooker. In accordance with this plan, he on Monday morning went in personal command of three brigades of Anderson's division, reached the vicinity of Salem Church, and proceeded to form line of battle with the whole force there. Owing to unforeseen delays, the attack was not begun until late in the afternoon, when the whole line advanced upon General Sedgwick, Lee's aim being to cut him off from the river. In this he failed, the stubborn resistance of the Federal forces enabling them to hold their ground until night. At that time, however, they seemed to waver and lose heart, whether from receiving intelligence of General Hooker's mishap, or from other causes, is not known. They were now pressed by the Southern troops, and finally gave way. General Sedgwick retreated rapidly but in good order to Banks's Ford, where a pontoon had been fortunately laid, and this enabled him to cross his men. The passage was effected under cover of darkness, the Southern cannon firing upon the retreating column; and, with this, ended the movement of General Sedgwick.
On Tuesday morning Lee returned with his men toward Chancellorsville, and during the whole day was busily engaged in preparation for a decisive attack upon General Hooker on the next morning.
When, however, the Southern sharp-shooters felt their way, at daylight, toward the Federal position, it was found that the works were entirely deserted.
General Hooker had recrossed the river, spreading pine-boughs on the pontoon bridge to muffle the sound of his artillery-wheels.
So the great advance ended.
LEE'S GENERALSHIP AND PERSONAL DEMEANOR DURING THE CAMPAIGN.
The movements of the two armies in the Chancellorsville campaign, as it is generally styled, have been so fully described in the foregoing pages, that little comment upon them is here necessary. The main feature which attracts attention, in surveying the whole series of operations, is the boldness, amounting to apparent recklessness, of Lee; and, first, the excellent generalship, and then the extraordinary tissue of military errors, of General Hooker.
Up to the 1st of May, when he emerged from the Chancellorsville thicket, every thing had succeeded with the Federal commander, and deserved to succeed. He had successfully brought over his great force, which he himself described as the "finest army on the planet," and occupied strong ground east of Chancellorsville, on the road to Fredericksburg. General Sedgwick was absent at the latter place with a strong detachment of the army, but the main body covered Banks's Ford, but twelve miles from the city, and by the afternoon of this day the whole army might have been concentrated. Then the fate of Lee would seem to have been decided. He had not only a very small army, but that army was scattered, and liable to be cut off in detail. General Sedgwick menaced his right at Fredericksburg—General Hooker was in front of his left near Chancellorsville—and to crush one of these wings before the other could come to its assistance seemed a work of no very great difficulty. General Hooker appears, however, to have distrusted his ability to effect this result, and, finding that General Lee was advancing with his main body to attack him, retired, from his strong position in the open country, to the dense thicket around Chancellorsville. That this was a grave military error there can be no doubt, as, by this retrograde movement, General Hooker not only discouraged his troops, who had been elated by his confident and inspiring general orders, but lost the great advantage of the open country, where his large force could be successfully manoeuvred.
Lee took instant advantage of this fault in his adversary, and boldly pressed the force retiring into the Wilderness, where, on the night of the 1st of May, General Hooker was shut up with his army. This unforeseen result presented the adversaries now in an entirely new light. The Federal army, which had been promised by its commander a speedy march upon Richmond in pursuit of Lee, had, instead of advancing, made a backward movement; and Lee, who it had been supposed would retreat, was now following and offering them battle.
The daring resolution of Lee, to divide his army and attack the Federal right, followed. It would seem unjust to General Hooker greatly to blame him for the success of that blow, which could not have been reasonably anticipated. In determining upon this, one of the most extraordinary movements of the war, General Lee proceeded in defiance of military rules, and was only justified in his course by the desperate character of the situation of affairs. It was impossible to make any impression upon General Hooker's front or left, owing to the elaborate defences in both quarters; it was, therefore, necessary either to retire, or attack in a different direction. As a retreat, however, upon Richmond would have surrendered to the enemy a large and fertile tract of country, it was desirable, if possible, to avoid that alternative; and the attack on the Federal right followed. The results of this were truly extraordinary. The force routed and driven back in disorder by General Jackson was but a single corps, and that corps, it is said, not a legitimate part of the old Army of the Potomac; but the disorder seems to have communicated itself to the whole army, and to have especially discouraged General Hooker. In describing the scene in question, we refrained from dwelling upon the full extent of the confusion into which the Federal forces were thrown: some sentences, taken from Northern accounts, may lead to a better understanding of the result. After Jackson's assault, a Northern historian says: "The open plain around Chancellorsville presented such a spectacle as a simoom sweeping over the desert might make. Through the dusk of nightfall a rushing whirlwind of men and artillery and wagons swept down the road, past headquarters, and on toward the fords of the Rappahannock; and it was in vain that the staff opposed their persons and drawn sabres to the panic-stricken fugitives." Another writer, an eye-witness, says the spectacle presented was that of "solid columns of infantry retreating at double-quick; a dense mass of beings flying; hundreds of cavalry-horses, left riderless at the first discharge from the rebels, dashing frantically about in all directions; scores of batteries flying from the field; battery-wagons, ambulances, horses, men, cannon, caissons, all jumbled and tumbled together in one inextricable mass—the stampede universal, the disgrace general."
After all, however, it was but one corps of the Federal army which had been thus thrown into disorder, and General Hooker had no valid grounds for distrusting his ability to defeat Lee in a more decisive action. There are many reasons for coming to the conclusion that he did from that moment distrust his powers. He had courageously hastened to the assailed point, ordering the men to "throw themselves into the breach," and receive Jackson's troops "on the bayonet;" but, after this display of soldierly resolution, General Hooker appears to have lost some of that nerve which should never desert a soldier, and on the same night sent engineers to trace out a new line of defences in his rear, to which, it seems, he already contemplated the probability of being forced to retire. Why he came to take this depressed view of the situation of affairs, it is difficult to say. One of General Sedgwick's corps reached him on this night, and his force at Chancellorsville still amounted to between ninety and one hundred thousand men, about thrice that of Lee. No decisive trial of strength had yet taken place between the two armies; and yet the larger force was constructing defences in rear to protect them from the smaller—a circumstance not tending, it would seem, to greatly encourage the troops whose commander was thus providing for a safe retreat.
The subsequent order to General Sedgwick to march up from Fredericksburg and assail Lee's right was judicious, and really saved the army from a great disaster. Lee was about to follow up the discouraged forces of General Hooker as they fell back toward the river; and, as the Southern army was flushed with victory, the surrender of the great body might have ensued. This possible result was prevented by the flank movement of General Sedgwick, and some gratitude for assistance so important from his able lieutenant would have seemed natural and graceful in General Hooker. This view of the subject does not seem, however, to have been taken by the Federal commander. He subsequently charged the defeat of Chancellorsville upon General Sedgwick, who he declared had "failed in a prompt compliance with his orders." The facts do not bear out this charge, as the reader has seen. General Sedgwick received the order toward midnight on Saturday, and, at eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, had passed over that stubborn "stone wall" which, in the battle of the preceding December, General Hooker's column had not even been able to reach; had stormed Marye's Hill, which General Hooker had described, in vindication of his own failure to carry the position, as "masonry," "a fortification," and "a mountain of rock;" and had marched thereafter so promptly as to force Lee, in his own defence, to arrest the second advance upon the Federal main body, and divert a considerable force to meet the attack on his flank.
[Footnote 1: General Hooker in Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Part I., page 130. This great collection is a valuable repository of historic details, and contains the explanation of many interesting questions.]
After the repulse of General Sedgwick, and his retreat across the Rappahannock, General Hooker seems to have been completely discouraged, and hastened to put the river between himself and Lee. His losses in the battles of Saturday and Sunday had amounted to seventeen thousand one hundred and ninety-seven killed and wounded and missing, fourteen pieces of artillery, and twenty thousand stand of arms. The Confederate loss was ten thousand two hundred and eighty-one. Contrary to the ordinary course of things the assailing force had lost a less number of men than that assailed.
The foregoing reflections, which necessarily involve a criticism of General Hooker, arise naturally from a review of the events of the campaign, and seem justified by the circumstances. There can be no inducement for the present writer to underrate the military ability of the Federal commander, as that want of ability rather detracts from than adds to the merit of General Lee in defeating him. It may be said, indeed, that without these errors and shortcomings of General Hooker, Lee, humanly speaking, must have been either defeated or forced to retire upon Richmond.
After giving full weight, however, to all the advantages derived from the extraordinary Federal oversights and mistakes, General Lee's merit in this campaign was greater, perhaps, than in any other during his entire career. Had he left behind him no other record than this, it alone would have been sufficient to have conferred upon him the first glories of arms, and handed his name down to posterity as that of one of the greatest soldiers of history. It is difficult to discover a single error committed by him, in the whole series of movements, from the moment when General Sedgwick crossed at Fredericksburg, to the time of General Hooker's retreat beyond the Rappahannock. It may appear that there was unnecessary delay in permitting Tuesday to pass without a final advance upon General Hooker, in his second line of intrenchments; but, no doubt, many circumstances induced Lee to defer this attack—the fatigue of his troops, consequent upon the fighting of the four preceding days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; the necessity of reforming his battalions for the final blow; and the anticipation that General Hooker, who still had at his command a force of more than one hundred thousand men, would not so promptly relinquish his campaign, and retire.
With the exception of this error, if it be such, Lee had made no single false step in the whole of his movements. The campaign was round, perfect, and complete—such as a student of the art of war might pore over, and analyze as an instance of the greatest principles of military science "clothed in act." The most striking features of Lee's movements were their rapidity and audacity. It had been the fashion with some persons to speak of Lee as slow and cautious in his operations, and this criticism had not been completely silenced even in the winter of 1862, when his failure to crush General Burnside afforded his detractors another opportunity of repeating the old charge. After the Chancellorsville campaign these fault-finders were silenced—no one could be found to listen to them. The whole Southern movement completely contradicted their theory. At the first intelligence of the advance of General Hooker's main body across the upper Rappahannock, Lee rode rapidly in that direction, and ordered his troops at the fords of the river to fall back to Chancellorsville. He then returned, and, finding that General Sedgwick had crossed at Fredericksburg, held a prompt consultation with Jackson, when it was decided at once to concentrate the main body of the army in front of General Hooker's column. At the word, Jackson moved; Lee followed. On the 1st of May, the enemy were pressed back upon Chancellorsville; on the 2d, his right was crushed, and his army thrown into confusion; on the 3d, he was driven from Chancellorsville, and, but for the flank movement of General Sedgwick, which Lee was not in sufficient force to prevent, General Hooker would, upon that same day, Sunday, have in all probability suffered a decisive defeat.
In the course of four days Lee had thus advanced, and checked, and then attacked and repulsed with heavy slaughter, an army thrice as large as his own. On the last day of April he had been nearly enveloped by a host of about one hundred and twenty thousand men. On the 3d day of May their main body was in disorderly retreat; and at daylight on the morning of the 6th there was not a Federal soldier, with the exception of the prisoners taken, on the southern bank of the Rappahannock.
During all these critical scenes, when the fate of the Confederate capital, and possibly of the Southern cause, hung suspended in the balance, General Lee preserved, as thousands of persons can testify, the most admirable serenity and composure, without that jubilant confidence displayed by General Hooker in his address to the troops, and the exclamations to his officers. Lee was equally free from gloom or any species of depression. His spirits seemed to rise under the pressure upon him, and at times he was almost gay. When one of General Jackson's aides hastened into his tent near Fredericksburg, and with great animation informed him that the enemy were crossing the river, in heavy force in his front, he seemed to be amused by that circumstance, and said, smiling: "Well, I heard firing, and I was beginning to think it was time some of you lazy young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about. Say to General Jackson that he knows just as well what to do with the enemy as I do."
The commander-in-chief who could find time at such a moment to indulge in badinage, must have possessed excellent nerve; and this composure, mingled with a certain buoyant hopefulness, as of one sure of the event, remained with Lee throughout the whole great wrestle with General Hooker. He retained to the end his simple and quiet manner, divested of every thing like excitement. In the consultation with Jackson, on the night of the 1st of May, when the crisis was so critical, his demeanor indicated no anxiety; and when, as we have said, the news came of Jackson's wound, he said simply, "Sit down here, by me, captain, and tell me all about the fight last evening"—adding, "Ah! captain, any victory is dearly bought which deprives us of the services of General Jackson even for a short time. Don't talk about it—thank God, it is no worse!" The turns of expression here are those of a person who permits nothing to disturb his serenity, and indulges his gentler and tenderer feelings even in the hot atmosphere of a great conflict. The picture presented is surely an interesting and beautiful one. The human being who uttered the good-natured criticism at the expense of the "lazy young fellows," and who greeted the news of Jackson's misfortune with a sigh as tender as that of a woman, was the soldier who had "seized the masses of his force with the grasp of a Titan, and swung them into position as a giant might fling a mighty stone." To General Hooker's threat to crush him, he had responded by crushing General Hooker; nearly surrounded by the huge cordon of the Federal army, he had cut the cordon and emerged in safety. General Hooker with his one hundred thousand men had retreated to the north bank of the Rappahannock, and, on the south bank, Lee with his thirty thousand remained erect, threatening, and triumphant.
We have not presented in these pages the orders of Lee, on various occasions, as these papers are for the most part of an "official" character, and not of great interest to the general reader. We shall, however, occasionally present these documents, and here lay before the reader the orders of both General Hooker and General Lee, after the battle of Chancellorsville, giving precedence to the former. The order of the Federal commander was as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, May 6,1863.
The major-general commanding tenders to this army his congratulations on its achievements of the last seven days. If it has not accomplished all that was expected, the reasons are well known to the army. It is sufficient to say, they were of a character not to be foreseen or prevented by human sagacity or resources.
In withdrawing from the south bank of the Rappahannock, before delivering a general battle to our adversaries, the army has given renewed evidence in its confidence in itself, and its fidelity to the principles it represents.
By fighting at a disadvantage, we would have been recreant to our trust, to ourselves, to our cause, and to our country. Profoundly loyal, and conscious of its strength, the Army of the Potomac will give or decline battle whenever its interests or honor may command it.
By the celerity and secrecy of our movements, our advance and passage of the river were undisputed, and on our withdrawal not a rebel dared to follow us. The events of the last week may well cause the heart of every officer and soldier of the army to swell with pride.
We have added new laurels to our former renown. We have made long marches, crossed rivers, surprised the enemy in his intrenchments, and, whenever we have fought, we have inflicted heavier blows than those we have received.
We have taken from the enemy five thousand prisoners, and fifteen colors, captured seven pieces of artillery, and placed hors de combat eighteen thousand of our foe's chosen troops.
We have destroyed his depots filled with vast amounts of stores, damaged his communications, captured prisoners within the fortifications of his capital, and filled his country with fear and consternation.
We have no other regret than that caused by the loss of our brave companions, and in this we are consoled by the conviction that they have fallen in the holiest cause ever submitted to the arbitration of battle.
By command of Major-General HOOKER:
S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General
General Lee's order was as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
With heart-felt gratification, the general commanding expresses to the army his sense of the heroic conduct displayed by officers and men during the arduous operations in which they have just been engaged.
Under trying vicissitudes of heat and storm you attacked the enemy, strongly intrenched in the depths of a tangled wilderness, and again on the hills of Fredericksburg, fifteen miles distant, and by the valor that has triumphed on so many fields forced him once more to seek safety beyond the Rappahannock. While this glorious victory entitles you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called upon to return our grateful thanks to the only Giver of victory, for the signal deliverances He has wrought.
It is therefore earnestly recommended that the troops unite on Sunday next in ascribing unto the Lord of hosts the glory due unto His name.
Let us not forget, in our rejoicing, the brave soldiers who have fallen in defence of their country; and, while we mourn their loss, let us resolve to emulate their noble example.
The army and the country alike lament the absence for a time of one to whose bravery, energy, and skill, they are so much indebted for success.
The following letter from the President of the Confederate States is communicated to the army, as an expression of his appreciation of their success:
"I have received your dispatch, and reverently unite with you in giving praise to God for the success with which He has crowned our arms. In the name of the people I offer my cordial thanks, and the troops under your command, for this addition to the unprecedented series of great victories which our army has achieved. The universal rejoicing produced by this happy result will be mingled with a general regret for the good and the brave who are numbered among the killed and the wounded."
R.E. LEE, General.
PERSONAL RELATIONS OF LEE AND JACKSON.
The most important incident of the great battle of Chancellorsville was the fall of Jackson. The services of this illustrious soldier had now become almost indispensable to General Lee, who spoke of him as his "right arm;" and the commander-in-chief had so long been accustomed to lean upon the strong shoulder of his lieutenant, that now, when this support was withdrawn, he seems to have felt the loss of it profoundly.
In the war, indeed, there had arisen no soldier who so powerfully drew the public eye as Jackson. In the opinion of many persons, he was a greater and abler commander than Lee himself; and, although such an opinion will not be found to stand after a full review of the characters and careers of the two leaders, there was sufficient ground for it to induce many fair and intelligent persons to adopt it. Jackson had been almost uniformly successful. He had conducted to a triumphant issue the arduous campaign of the Valley, where he was opposed in nearly every battle by a force much larger than his own; and these victories, in a quarter so important, and at a moment so critical, had come, borne on the wind of the mountain, to electrify and inspire the hearts of the people of Richmond and the entire Confederacy. Jackson's rapid march and assault on General McClellan's right on the Chickahominy had followed; he then advanced northward, defeated the vanguard of the enemy at Cedar Mountain, led the great column of Lee against the rear of General Pope, destroyed Manassas, held his ground until Lee arrived, and bore an important part in the battle which ensued. Thence he had passed to Maryland, fallen upon Harper's Ferry and captured it, returned to fight with Lee at Sharpsburg, and in that battle had borne the brunt of the enemy's main assault with an unbroken front. That the result was a drawn battle, and not a Southern defeat, was due to Lee's generalship and Jackson's fighting. The retrograde movement to the lowland followed, and Jackson was left in the Valley to embarrass McClellan's advance. In this he perfectly succeeded, and then suddenly reappeared at Fredericksburg, where he received and repulsed one of the two great assaults of the enemy. The battle of Chancellorsville followed, and Lee's statement of the part borne in this hard combat by Jackson has been given. The result was due, he said, not to his own generalship, but to the skill and energy of his lieutenant, whose congratulations he refused to receive, declaring that the victory was Jackson's.
Here had at last ended the long series of nearly unbroken victories. Jackson had become the alter ego of Lee, and it is not difficult to understand the sense of loss felt by the commander-in-chief. In addition to this natural sentiment, was deep regret at the death of one personally dear to him, and to whom he was himself an object of almost reverent love. The personal relations of Lee and Jackson had, from first to last, remained the same—not the slightest cloud had ever arisen to disturb the perfect union in each of admiration and affection for the other. It had never occurred to these two great soldiers to ask what their relative position was in the public eye—which was most spoken of and commended or admired. Human nature is weak at best, and the fame of Jackson, mounting to its dazzling zenith, might have disturbed a less magnanimous soul than Lee's. There is not, however, the slightest reason to believe that Lee ever gave the subject a thought. Entirely free from that vulgar species of ambition which looks with cold eyes upon the success of others, as offensive to its own amour-propre Lee never seems to have instituted any comparison between himself and Jackson—greeted praise of his famous lieutenant with sincere pleasure—and was the first upon every occasion, not only to express the fullest sense of Jackson's assistance, and the warmest admiration of his genius as a soldier, but to attribute to him, as after the battle of Chancellorsville, all the merit of every description.
It is not possible to contemplate this august affection and admiration of the two soldiers for each other, without regarding it as a greater glory to them than all their successes in arms. Lee's opinion of Jackson, and personal sentiment toward him, have been set forth in the above sentences. The sentiment of Jackson for Lee was as strong or stronger. He regarded him with mingled love and admiration. To excite such feelings in a man like Jackson, it was necessary that Lee should be not only a soldier of the first order of genius, but also a good and pious man. It was in these lights that Jackson regarded his commander, and from first to last his confidence in and admiration for him never wavered. He had defended Lee from the criticism of unskilled or ignorant persons, from the time when he assumed command of the army, in the summer of 1862. At that time some one spoke of Lee, in Jackson's presence, as "slow." The criticism aroused the indignation of the silent soldier, and he exclaimed: "General Lee is not 'slow.' No one knows the weight upon his heart—his great responsibilities. He is commander-in-chief, and he knows that, if an army is lost, it cannot be replaced. No! there may be some persons whose good opinion of me may make them attach some weight to my views, and, if you ever hear that said of General Lee, I beg you will contradict it in my name. I have known General Lee for five-and-twenty years. He is cautious. He ought to be. But he is not 'slow.' Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man whom I would follow blindfold!"
The abrupt and energetic expressions of Jackson on this occasion indicate his profound sense of the injustice done Lee by these criticisms; and it would be difficult to imagine a stronger statement than that here made by him. It will be conceded that he himself was competent to estimate soldiership, and in Jackson's eyes Lee was "a phenomenon—the only man whom he would follow blindfold." The subsequent career of Lee seems to have strengthened and intensified this extreme admiration. What Lee advised or did was always in Jackson's eyes the very best that could be suggested or performed. He yielded his own opinions, upon every occasion, with perfect readiness and cheerfulness to those of Lee, as to the master-mind; loved him, revered him, looked up to him, and never seems to have found fault with him but upon one occasion—when he received Lee's note of congratulation after Chancellorsville. He then said: "General Lee is very kind; but he should give the glory to God."
This affection and admiration were fully returned by General Lee, who consulted Jackson upon every occasion, and confided in him as his personal friend. There was seldom any question between them of superior and subordinate—never, except when the exigency required that the decision should be made by Lee as commander-in-chief. Jackson's supreme genius, indeed, made this course natural, and no further praise is due Lee in this particular, save that of modesty and good sense; but these qualities are commendable and not universal. He committed the greatest undertakings to Jackson with the utmost confidence, certain that he would do all that could be done; and some words of his quoted above express this entire confidence. "Say to General Jackson," he replied to the young staff-officer at Fredericksburg, "that he knows just as well what to do with the enemy as I do."
Lee's personal affection was strikingly displayed after the battle of Chancellorsville, when Jackson lay painfully, but no one supposed mortally, wounded, first at Wilderness Tavern, and then at Ginney's. Prevented from visiting the wounded man, by the responsibilities of command, now all the greater from Jackson's absence, and not regarding his hurt as serious, as indeed it did not appear to be until toward the last, Lee sent him continual messages containing good wishes and inquiries after his health. The tone of these messages is very familiar and affectionate, and leaves no doubt of the character of the relations between the two men.
"Give him my affectionate regards," he said to one officer, "and tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right."
When the wound of the great soldier took a bad turn, and it began to be whispered about that the hurt might prove fatal, Lee was strongly moved, and said with deep feeling: "Surely General Jackson must recover! God will not take him from us, now that we need him so much. Surely he will be spared to us, in answer to the many prayers which are offered for him!"
He paused after uttering these words, laboring evidently under very deep and painful emotion. After remaining silent for some moments, he added: "When you return I trust you will find him better. When a suitable occasion offers, give him my love, and tell him that I wrestled in prayer for him last night, as I never prayed, I believe, for myself."
The tone of these messages is, as we have said, that of familiar affection, as from one valued friend to another. The expression, "Give him my love," is a Virginianism, which is used only when two persons are closely and firmly bound by long association and friendship. Such had been the case with Lee and Jackson, and in the annals of the war there is no other instance of a friendship so close, affectionate, and unalloyed.
Jackson died on the 10th of May, and the unexpected intelligence shocked Lee profoundly. He mourned the death of the illustrious soldier with a sorrow too deep almost to find relief in tears; and issued a general order to the troops, which was in the following words:
With deep grief the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieutenant-General T.J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th inst., at quarter-past three P.M. The daring, skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an All-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But, while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God, as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do every thing in defence of our beloved country. R.E. LEE, General.
It is probable that the composition of this order cost General Lee one of the severest pangs he ever experienced.
CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO THE INVASION OF PENNSYLVANIA.
The defeat of General Hooker at Chancellorsville was the turning-point of the war, and for the first time there was apparently a possibility of inducing the Federal Government to relinquish its opposition to the establishment of a separate authority in the South. The idea of the formation of a Southern Confederacy, distinct from the old Union, had, up to this time, been repudiated by the authorities at Washington as a thing utterly out of the question; but the defeat of the Federal arms in the two great battles of the Rappahannock had caused the most determined opponents of separation to doubt whether the South could be coerced to return to the Union; and, what was equally or more important, the proclamations of President Lincoln, declaring the slaves of the South free, and placing the United States virtually under martial law, aroused a violent clamor from the great Democratic party of the North, who loudly asserted that all constitutional liberty was disappearing.
This combination of non-success in military affairs and usurpation by the Government emboldened the advocates of peace to speak out plainly, and utter their protest against the continuance of the struggle, which they declared had only resulted in the prostration of all the liberties of the country. Journals and periodicals, violently denunciatory of the course pursued by the Government, all at once made their appearance in New York and elsewhere. A peace convention was called to meet in Philadelphia. Mr. Vallandigham, nominee of the Democratic party for Governor of Ohio, eloquently denounced the whole policy of endeavoring to subjugate the sovereign States of the South; and Judge Curtis, of Boston, formerly Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, published a pamphlet in which the Federal President was stigmatized as a usurper and tyrant. "I do not see," wrote Judge Curtis, "that it depends upon the Executive decree whether a servile war shall be invoked to help twenty millions of the white race to assert the rightful authority of the Constitution and laws of their country over those who refuse to obey them. But I do see that this proclamation" (emancipating the Southern slaves) "asserts the power of the Executive to make such a decree! I do not perceive how it is that my neighbors and myself, residing remote from armies and their operations, and where all the laws of the land may be enforced by constitutional means, should be subjected to the possibility of arrest and imprisonment and trial before a military commission, and punishment at its discretion, for offences unknown to the law—a possibility to be converted into a fact at the mere will of the President, or of some subordinate officer, clothed by him with this power. But I do perceive that this Executive power is asserted.... It must be obvious to the meanest capacity that, if the President of the United States has an implied constitutional right, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, in time of war, to disregard any one positive prohibition of the Constitution, or to exercise any one power not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, because in his judgment he may thereby 'best subdue the enemy,' he has the same right, for the same reason, to disregard each and every provision of the Constitution, and to exercise all power needful in his opinion to enable him 'best to subdue the enemy.' ... The time has certainly come when the people of the United States must understand and must apply those great rules of civil liberty which have been arrived at by the self-devoted efforts of thought and action of their ancestors during seven hundred years of struggle against arbitrary power."
So far had reached the thunder of Lee's guns at Chancellorsville. Their roar seemed to have awakened throughout the entire North the great party hitherto lulled to slumber by the plea of "military necessity," or paralyzed by the very extent of the Executive usurpation which they saw, but had not had heart to oppose. On all sides the advocates of peace on the basis of separation were heard raising their importunate voices; and in the North the hearts of the people began to thrill with the anticipation of a speedy termination of the bloody and exhausting struggle. The occasion was embraced by Mr. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States, to propose negotiations. This able gentleman wrote from Georgia on the 12th of June to President Davis, offering to go to Washington and sound the authorities there on the subject of peace. He believed that the moment was propitious, and wished to act before further military movements were undertaken—especially before any further projects of invasion by Lee—which would tend, he thought, to silence the peace party at the North, and again arouse the war spirit. The letter of Mr. Stephens was written on the 12th of June, and President Davis responded by telegraph a few days afterward, requesting Mr. Stephens to come to Richmond. He reached that city on the 22d or 23d of June, but by that time Lee's vanguard was entering Maryland, and Gettysburg speedily followed, which terminated all hopes of peace.
The plan of moving the Southern army northward, with the view of invading the Federal territory, seems to have been the result of many circumstances. The country was elated with the two great victories of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and the people were clamorous for active operations against an enemy who seemed powerless to stand the pressure of Southern steel. The army, which had been largely augmented by the return of absentees to its ranks, new levies, and the recall of Longstreet's two divisions from Suffolk, shared the general enthusiasm; and thus a very heavy pressure was brought to bear upon the authorities and on General Lee, in favor of a forward movement, which, it was supposed, would terminate in a signal victory and a treaty of peace.
Lee yielded to this view of things rather than urged it. He was not opposed to an offensive policy, and seems, indeed, to have shared the opinion of Jackson that "the Scipio Africanus policy" was the best for the South. His theory from the beginning of the war had been, that the true policy of the South was to keep the enemy as far as possible from the interior, fighting on the frontier or on Federal soil, if possible. That of the South would there thus be protected from the ravages of the enemy, and the further advantage would accrue, that the Confederate capital, Richmond, would at all times be safe from danger. This was an important consideration, as events subsequently showed. As long as the enemy were held at arm's-length, north of the Rappahannock, Richmond, with her net-work of railroads connecting with every part of the South, was safe, and the Government, undisturbed in their capital, remained a power in the eyes of the world. But, with an enemy enveloping the city, and threatening her lines of communication, the tenure of the place by the Government was uncertain. When General Grant finally thus enveloped the city, and laid hold upon the railroads, Lee's army was defeated, and the Government became fugitive, which alone would have struck a mortal blow to its prestige and authority.
It was to arrive at these results, which his sagacity discerned, that Lee always advocated such movements as would throw back the enemy, and drive him, if possible, from the soil of Virginia. Another important consideration was the question of supplies. These were at all times deficient in the Confederate armies, and it was obviously the best policy to protect as much territory, from which supplies might be drawn, as possible. More than ever before, these supplies were now needed; and when General Lee sent, in May or June, a requisition for rations to Richmond, the commissary-general is said to have endorsed upon the paper, "If General Lee wishes rations, let him seek them in Pennsylvania."
The considerations here stated were the main inducements for that great movement northward which followed the battle of Chancellorsville. The army and country were enthusiastic; the Government rather followed than led; and, throughout the month of May, Lee was busily engaged in organizing and equipping his forces for the decisive advance. Experience had now dictated many alterations and improvements in the army. It was divided into three corps d'armee, each consisting of three divisions, and commanded by an officer with the rank of lieutenant-general. Longstreet remained at the head of his former corps, Ewell succeeded Jackson in command of "Jackson's old corps," and A.P. Hill was assigned to a third corps made up of portions of the two others. The infantry was thus rearranged in a manner to increase greatly its efficiency, and the artillery arm was entirely reorganized. The old system of assigning one or more batteries or battalions to each division or corps was done away with, and the artillery of the army was made a distinct command, and placed under General W.N. Pendleton, a brave and energetic officer, who was thenceforward Lee's "chief of artillery." The last arm, the cavalry, was also increased in efficiency; and, on the last day of May, General Lee had the satisfaction of finding himself in command of a well-equipped and admirably-officered army of sixty-eight thousand three hundred and fifty-two bayonets, and nearly ten thousand cavalry and artillery—in all, about eighty thousand men. Never before had the Southern army had present for duty, as fighting men, so large a number, except just before the battles on the Chickahominy. There was, however, this great difference between the army then and at this time: in those first months of 1862, it was made up largely of raw troops who had never heard the discharge of a musket in their lives: while now, in May, 1863 the bulk of the army consisted of Lee's veterans, men who had followed him through the fire of Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and could be counted on to effect any thing not absolutely beyond human power. General Longstreet, conversing after the war with a gentleman of the North, declared as much. The army at that time, he said, was in a condition to undertake any thing.
LEE'S PLANS AND OBJECTS.
The great game of chess was now about to commence, and, taking an illustration from that game, General Lee is reported to have said that he believed he would "swap queens," that is, advance and attempt to capture the city of Washington, leaving General Hooker at liberty, if he chose so to do, to seize in turn upon Richmond. What the result of so singular a manoeuvre would have been, it is impossible to say; it would certainly have proved one of the strangest incidents of a war fruitful in varied and shifting events.
Such a plan of operations, however, if ever seriously contemplated by Lee, was speedily abandoned. He nowhere makes mention of any such design in his published reports, and he probably spoke of it only in jest. His real aim in the great movement now about to commence, is stated with brevity and reserve—then absolutely necessary—but also with sufficient clearness, in his official report. The position of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg was, he says, such as to render an attack upon him injudicious. It was, therefore, desirable to manoeuvre him out of it—force him to return toward Maryland—and thus free the country of his forces. A further result was expected from this movement. The lower Shenandoah Valley was occupied by the enemy under General Milroy, who, with his headquarters at Winchester, harassed the whole region, which he ruled with a rod of iron. With the withdrawal of the Federal army under General Hooker, and before the advance of the Confederates, General Milroy would also disappear, and the fertile fields of the Valley be relieved. The whole force of the enemy would thus, says Lee, "be compelled to leave Virginia, and possibly to draw to its support troops designed to operate against other parts of the country." He adds: "In this way it was supposed that the enemy's plan of campaign for the summer would be broken up, and part of the season of active operations be consumed in the formation of new combinations and the preparations that they would require. In addition to these advantages, it was hoped that other valuable results might be attained by military success," that is to say, by a battle which Lee intended to fight when circumstances were favorable. That he expected to fight, not merely to manoeuvre the enemy from Virginia, is apparent from another sentence of the report. "It was thought," he says, "that the corresponding movements on the part of the enemy, to which those contemplated by us would probably give rise, might offer a fair opportunity to strike a blow at the army therein, commanded by General Hooker" the word "therein" referring to the region "north of the Potomac." In the phrase, "other valuable results which might be attained by military success," the reference is plainly to the termination of the contest by a treaty of peace, based upon the independence of the South.