JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, D. C., May 7, 1863. MAJOR-GEN. HOOKER.
My dear Sir,—The recent movement of your army is ended without effecting its object, except, perhaps, some important breakings of the enemy's communications. What next? If possible I would be very glad of another movement early enough to give us some benefit from the fact of the enemy's communication being broken; but neither for this reason or any other do I wish any thing done in desperation or rashness. An early movement would also help to supersede the bad moral effect of the recent one, which is said to be considerably injurious. Have you already in your mind a plan wholly or partially formed? If you have, prosecute it without interference from me. If you have not, please inform me, so that I, incompetent as I may be, can try and assist in the formation of some plan for the army.
Yours, as ever, A. LINCOLN.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., May 7, 1863.
His Excellency, President of the United States.
I have the honor to acknowledge your communication of this date, and in answer have to state that I do not deem it expedient to suspend operations on this line, from the reverse we have experienced in endeavoring to extricate the army from its present position. If in the first effort we failed, it was not for want of strength or conduct of the small number of troops actually engaged, but from a cause which could not be foreseen, and could not be provided against. After its occurrence the chances of success were so much lessened, that I felt another plan might be adopted in place of that we were engaged in, which would be more certain in its results. At all events, a failure would not involve a disaster, while in the other case it was certain to follow the absence of success. I may add that this consideration almost wholly determined me in ordering the army to return to its old camp. As to the best time for renewing our advance upon the enemy, I can only decide after an opportunity has been afforded to learn the feeling of the troops. They should not be discouraged or depressed, for it is no fault of theirs (if I may except one corps) that our last efforts were not crowned with glorious victory. I suppose details are not wanted of me at this time. I have decided in my own mind the plan to be adopted in our next effort, if it should be your wish to have one made. It has this to recommend it: it will be one in which the operations of all the corps, unless it be a part of the cavalry, will be within my personal supervision.
Very respectfully, etc., JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, May 7, 1863. MAJOR-GEN. HOOKER, Commanding Army of the Potomac.
General,—The reasons that prevented me from complying with your request with reference to your wounded no longer existing, I have the honor to inform you that you can extend to them such attentions as they may require. All persons whom it may be necessary to send within my lines for this purpose will remain until the wounded are finally disposed of. The burial of your dead has already been provided for.
I have directed that those of your wounded who desire it, shall be paroled and transferred within your lines, should you be willing to receive them; those in the vicinity of Chancellorsville at the United-States Mine Ford, and those on the battlefield of Salem Church at Banks's Ford or Fredericksburg. As your wounded generally occupy the few houses in the vicinity of the late battle-field, the transportation of this army cannot be employed in conveying them to the river until my own wounded have been removed to a place of shelter. As soon as this can be accomplished, I will cause such of your wounded as may desire to be paroled, to be delivered at the points above indicated, upon being advised of your willingness to receive them. In the mean time they shall have such care as is given to my own.
I have the honor to enclose a copy of my letter of yesterday in case the original may not have reached you.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. E. LEE, General.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., May 7, 1863, 8 P.M. GEN. R. E. LEE, Commanding Confederate Forces at Fredericksburg, Va.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your two communications of May 6 and 7 this moment. If agreeable to you, I would like to send medical supplies and attendance to my wounded, and, at such times as the state of the stream will permit, send ambulances for them via the fords designated in your communications, viz., United-States and Banks's Fords. I will, with your consent, send parties to those fords with supplies at an early hour to-morrow. The swollen state of the Rappahannock probably preventing the crossing of any vehicles with supplies, I shall have to depend upon you for transportation for them. I will receive the wounded at the points named as soon as it can be done. I will send an officer to Chancellorsville, with your consent, to arrange the details, which, judging from your letter, with the state of the river, cannot now be determined by correspondence. Upon an intimation from you as to any deficiency in your immediate necessities of medical supplies of your own, by reason of their use for my wounded or other causes, I shall with pleasure replace them. I would be obliged for approximate information concerning the number of wounded, that a sufficient amount of supplies may be forwarded. I would be under obligations for an early reply.
Very respectfully, etc., JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General Commanding. (Copy furnished medical director.)
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., May 9, 1863. GEN. R. E. LEE, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia.
The relatives and friends of several of the officers of this army who fell in the recent battles, have visited my headquarters with the view, if possible, of proceeding to the battle-fields to recover the bodies of those near to them. I therefore have the honor to ask whether any person will be permitted to visit the battle-fields for the purpose indicated, or whether any arrangement can be made for sending to the lines of this army the bodies of such of our fallen officers as may have friends here seeking for them.
Very respectfully, etc., JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, May 10, 1863.
MAJOR-GEN. JOSEPH HOOKER,
Commanding United-States Forces on the Rappahannock.
General,—In reply to your communication of the 9th inst., I have the honor to state that it will give me pleasure to afford every facility to relatives and friends of officers killed in the late battles, to recover their bodies; but I have no means of identifying them, or of ascertaining the fields on which they fell. If you will have me informed, I will cause search to be made.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. E. LEE, General.
In February and March, 1886, there was delivered at the Lowell Institute, in Boston, a series of lectures upon the late civil war, by the following gentlemen:—
Feb. 16. Introduction. Gen. Charles Devens of Boston. Feb. 19. Pope's Campaign. Col. Jed. Hotchkiss of Staunton, Va. Feb. 23. Antietam. Gen. George H. Gordon of Boston. Feb. 26. Chancellorsville. Col. Theodore A. Dodge, U. S. Army. March 2. Stonewall Jackson. Col. W. Allan of McDonough, Md. March 5. Gettysburg. Gen. Francis A. Walker of Boston. March 9. The Northern Volunteer. Col. T. L. Livermore of Boston. March 12. The Southern Volunteer. Major H. Kyd Douglas of Hagerstown, Md. March 16. Chattanooga. Gen. William F. Smith of Wilmington, Del. March 19. The Wilderness. John C. Ropes, Esq., of Boston. March 23. Franklin and Nashville. Col. Henry Stone of Boston. March 26. The Last Campaign. Col. Fred. C. Newhall of Philadelphia.
These lecturers were well equipped for their task. Earnest study of their respective subjects had been attested by numerous volumes published by them relating to the war. The desire to have the truth told was apparent in the presence of three Confederate officers among the number; and the special feature of the course seemed to be, that not only was the truth spoken in the most unvarnished manner, but that it was listened to with marked approval by overflowing audiences.
Perhaps the most invidious subject fell to my lot. What I said was merely a summary of the foregoing pages. But one point in my lecture aroused the ire of some of Gen. Hooker's partisans, and was made the subject of attacks so bitter that virulence degenerated into puerility. The occasion of this rodomontade was a meeting of Third-Corps veterans, and its outcome was a series of resolutions aimed at the person who had dared to reflect on Gen. Hooker's capacity, and to refer to the question of Gen. Hooker's habitual use of stimulants. The public mention of my name was as sedulously avoided as a reference to his satanic majesty is wont to be in the society of the superstitious; but the exuberance of the attack must have afforded unbounded satisfaction to its authors, as it very apparently did to the audience.
Following are the resolutions, which are of mild flavor compared to their accompanying seasoning of speeches:—
The veterans of the Third Army Corps assembled here to-day, soldiers who served under Gen. Joseph Hooker in his division, corps, and army, re-affirm their lifelong affection for their old commander, their admiration for his brilliant achievements as one of the prominent generals of our armies, and protest against the recent revival of unjust assaults made on his conduct at Chancellorsville. Whether, after one of the most noted tactical victories of modern times, having placed the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock River on the flank of Lee, he might have gained a still farther advanced position; whether the failure of the cavalry to fully accomplish what was expected of it; whether the disaster to the Eleventh Corps and the delay in the advance of the Sixth Corps,—are to be attributed to errors of judgment of Gen. Hooker or of the subordinate commanders, are points which will be discussed again and again with profit to the military student. But we, who witnessed his successful generalship at Williamsburg, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, and Antietam, have no language at our command strong enough to express our contempt for any one who, twenty years after the war, affirms that on any occasion in battle, with the lives of his men and the cause of his country in his keeping, Gen. Hooker was incapacitated for performing his whole duty as an officer by either the use of liquor or by the want of it.
We protest against oft-repeated statements that "Fighting Joe Hooker," while one of the bravest and ablest division commanders in the army, was possibly equal to handling a corps, but proved a failure as an independent commander. Assigned to the Army of the Potomac in January, 1863, after the disaster at Fredericksburg and the failure of oft-repeated campaigns, our army demoralized by defeat, desertions, and dissensions, Gen. Hooker re-organized his forces, stopped desertions, brought back to their colors thousands of absentees, and in three months revived confidence, re-established discipline, and enabled his army to take the field unsurpassed in loyalty, courage, and efficiency, as was shown at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. We say Chancellorsville because, although not a victory for us, the campaign inflicted on the enemy losses at least equal to our own; and we say also Gettysburg because that victory was won by the army Hooker had re-organized, and led with such matchless skill from Falmouth to the eve of the battle.
Whatever ambition he may have had to command armies, it did not prevent his cheerfully serving his country under junior officers, giving them faithful support, and his record shows no instance of his removal from command by his superiors.
Here in his native State, amid the homes of so many of his old brigade, the survivors of the Third Army Corps, all witnesses of his genius, valor, and devotion to duty, indorse his record as a soldier, as a gentleman, and as a patriot, and sincerely believe that history will assign to Major-Gen. Joseph Hooker a place among the greatest commanders of the late civil war.
The italics are mine. "One of the most noted tactical victories of modern times," applied to Chancellorsville, is refreshing. Equally so is the exultant claim that "we inflicted on the enemy losses at least equal to our own." The infliction of loss on the enemy has always been understood by military men to be an incident rather than the object of war.
The following reply in "The Boston Herald" of April 11, 1886, explains itself:—
TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD.
In the call for the meeting of the Third Corps Gettysburg Re-union Association, held at Music Hall on Fast Day, was the following clause:—
"Loyalty to the memory of our beloved commander, Major-Gen. Joseph Hooker, makes it a duty, on this occasion, to protest against unjust and uncalled-for criticisms on his military record as commander of the Army of the Potomac."
It having been intimated to me by some old brother officers of the Third Corps, that my late Lowell lecture on Chancellorsville was the occasion of this proposed protest, I wrote to the chairman of the committee which called the meeting, asking for an opportunity to reply to this protest, within such bounds as even-handedness and the purposes of the meeting would allow. The committee answered that it could not see the propriety of turning the occasion into a public debate, and referred me to the press. I do not object to their decision, made, no doubt, upon what appeared to them sufficient grounds; but as the occasion was turned into a public debate—one-sided, to be sure—I ask you for space, to reply in your valued columns.
As an old Third-Corps man, I attended the meeting at Music Hall. The treasurer did not object to selling me a ticket to the dinner. I expected to hear some new facts about Hooker and Chancellorsville. I expected to hear some new deductions from old facts. I do not consider myself beyond making an occasional lapse even in a carefully prepared piece of work, and am always open to correction. But, to my surprise (with the exception of a conjecture that Lee's object in his march into Pennsylvania was to wreck the anthracite-coal industry), there was not one single fact or statement laid before the meeting, or the company at dinner, which has not already been, in its minutest details, canvassed and argued at a length covering hundreds of pages in the volumes on Chancellorsville, by Hotchkiss and Allen, Swinton, Bates, the Comte de Paris, Doubleday, and myself, not to speak of numberless and valuable brochures by others. The bulk of the time devoted to talking on this occasion was used in denunciation of the wretch—in other words, myself—who alleged that Joseph Hooker was drunk at Chancellorsville, or at any other time. This denunciation began with a devout curse in the chaplain's prayer, culminated in a set of fierce resolutions, and ended with the last after-dinner speech.
One thing particularly struck me. There was no one, of all who spoke, who began to say as many things in favor of Joseph Hooker as I for years have done; and not in fleeting words, but printed chapters. There was plenty of eulogy, in nine-tenths of which I joined with all my heart. But it was of the soldiers'-talk order,—cheering and honest and loyal, appealing to the sentiments rather than the intelligence. What I have said of Hooker has been solid praise of his soldierly worth, shown to be borne out by the facts. Barring, in all I say, the five fighting days at Chancellorsville, I have yet to find the man who has publicly, and in print, eulogized Hooker as I have done; and no one among the veterans gathered together Fast Day applauded with more sincerity than I, all the tributes to his memory. For though, as some one remarked, it is true that I "fought mit Sigel," and decamped from Chancellorsville with the Eleventh Corps; it is also true that I passed through the fiery ordeal of the Seven Days, and fought my way across the railroad-cutting at Manassas, side by side with Joseph Hooker, under the gallant leadership of that other hero Philip Kearney. It was very evident that but few of the speakers, as well as auditors, had themselves heard or read what I actually said. The result of "coaching" for the occasion by some wire-puller was painfully apparent. Let us see what was said. I give the entire paragraph from my Lowell lecture:—
"It has been surmised that Hooker, during this campaign, was incapacitated by a habit of which, at times, he had been the victim. There is, rather, evidence that he was prostrated by too much abstemiousness, when a reasonable use of stimulants might have kept his nervous system at its normal tension. It was certainly not the use of alcohol, during this time, which lay at the root of his indecision."
If that is an accusation that Hooker was then drunk, if it does not rather lean toward an exculpation from the charge of drunkenness, then I can neither write nor read the English language. As is well known, the question of Hooker's sudden and unaccountable loss of power, during the fighting half of this campaign, coupled with the question of drunkenness, has been bandied to and fro for years. The mention alone of Chancellorsville has been enough, ever since that day, to provoke a query on this very subject, among civilians and soldiers alike. In a lecture on the subject, I deemed it judicious to lay this ghost as well as might be. Had I believed that Hooker was intoxicated at Chancellorsville, I should not have been deterred by the fear of opposition from saying so. Hooker's over-anxious friends have now turned into a public scandal what was generally understood as an exoneration, by intentionally distorting what was said into an implication that Hooker was so besotted as to be incapable of command. What I have written of his marching the army to this field and to the field of Gettysburg is a full answer to such unnecessary perversion. Let these would-be friends of Hooker remember that this calumny is of their own making, not mine. I am as sorry for it, as they ought to be. If the contempt expressed in the resolutions they passed had been silent, instead of boisterous, Hooker's memory would have suffered far less damage.
Gens. Sickles and Butterfield are doubtless good witnesses, though they sedulously refrained from any testimony on the subject, contenting themselves with declamation. But they are not the only good witnesses. After the loss of a leg at Gettysburg, I was ordered to duty in the War Department, where I served in charge of one or other bureau for seven years. I have heard this Hooker question discussed in all its bearings, in the office of the Secretary of War or Adjutant-General, by nearly every leading officer of the army, hundreds of whom had known Hooker from West Point up. I have had abundant opportunity of forming an opinion, and I have expressed it. Let him who garbles its meaning, bear the blame.
This action by many veterans of the Third Corps—even though procured by design from their thoughtless and open soldier's nature—is, however, much more sweeping and important. To the world at large it is a general condemnation of every thing which can be said in criticism of Hooker. It will reach far and wide, and in this light I desire to say what I do. The resolutions passed at the meeting explicitly protest against the statement that Hooker proved a failure as an independent commander. This needs notice at greater length than the question of sobriety or drunkenness. Few have studied the details of the campaign of Chancellorsville as carefully as I; but one other author has spread the facts so fully before the reading public. No part of my recent criticism before the Lowell Institute was new. It was embodied at much greater length four years ago, in my "History of Chancellorsville;" the reception of which volume by press, public, and soldiers, has been its own best excuse. Gen. Hooker, though making no report, has put on record his explanation of this campaign. Before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, he stated his views as follows: "I may say here, the battle of Chancellorsville has been associated with the battle of Fredericksburg, and has been called a disaster. My whole loss in the battle of Chancellorsville was a little over seventeen thousand.... In my opinion, there is nothing to regret in regard to Chancellorsville, except to accomplish all I moved to accomplish. The troops lost no honor, except one corps, and we lost no more men than the enemy; but expectation was high, the army in splendid condition, and greater results were expected from it. When I returned from Chancellorsville, I felt that I had fought no battle; in fact, I had more men than I could use, and I fought no general battle, for the reason that I could not get my men in position to do so."
To speak thus of a passage of arms lasting a week and costing seventeen thousand men is, to say the least, abnormal.
In trying to shift the onus of failure from his own shoulders he said: "Some of our corps commanders, and also officers of other rank, appear to be unwilling to go into a fight.... So far as my experience extends, there are in all armies officers more valiant after the fight than while it is pending, and when a truthful history of the Rebellion shall be written, it will be found that the Army of the Potomac is not an exception."
This slur is cast upon men like Reynolds, Meade, Couch, Sedgwick, Slocum, Howard, Hancock, Humphreys, Sykes, Warren, Birney, Whipple, Wright, Griffin, and many others equally gallant. To call it ungenerous, is a mild phrase. It certainly does open the door to unsparing criticism. Hooker also concisely stated his military rule of action: "Throughout the Rebellion I have acted on the principle that if I had as large a force as the enemy, I had no apprehensions of the result of an encounter." And in his initial orders to Stoneman, in opening the campaign, came the true ring of the always gallant corps commander, "Let your watchword be 'Fight!' and let all your orders be, 'Fight, fight, fight!'"
I might here say that the only attempt, on Fast Day, to exculpate Hooker for the disaster of Chancellorsville was not of an order which can be answered. When one speaker asks, "If Gen. Hooker tells us that it was wise to withdraw across the river, is not that enough for you and me, my comrades?" I can only say that history is not so easily satisfied. To another speaker, who states that when Hooker had planted himself in Lee's flank by crossing the river, Lee ought, by all the rules of war, to have retreated, but when he didn't he upset all Hooker's calculations; that when Jackson made his "extra hazardous" march around Hooker's flank, he ought, by all rules of war, to have been destroyed, but when he was not he upset all Hooker's calculations, and that therefore Hooker was forced to retreat,—it is quite beyond my ability to reply. When Gen. Sickles throws the blame upon Howard for the defeat of the Eleventh Corps, by reading the 9.30 A.M. order, without saying one word about Hooker's actions, change of plans, and despatches from that hour till the attack at 6 P.M., he makes any thinking man question seriously the sincerity of what he calls history. When Gen. Butterfield indulges in innuendoes against Gen. Meade, whose chief of staff he was, and insults his memory in the effort to exculpate the Third Corps from a charge no one has ever made, or thought of making, against it, the fair-minded can only wonder why he goes out of his way to call any one to task for criticising Hooker. Not one word was spoken on Fast Day which does not find its full and entire answer in the already published works on Chancellorsville. It was all a mere re-hash, and poorly cooked at that. To rely on the four reasons given by the Committee on the Conduct of the War as a purgation of Hooker from responsibility for our defeat at Chancellorsville, simply deserves no notice. It is all of a piece with the discussion of the Third-Corps fight at Gettysburg on July 2. No one ever doubted that the Third Corps fought, as they always did, like heroes that day. What has been alleged is merely that Sickles did not occupy and protect Little Round Top, as he would have done if he had had the military coup d'oeil.
Now, I desire to compare with Hooker's recorded words, and the utterances of Fast Day, the actual performance, and see what "loyalty to Hooker," as voted in Music Hall, means. Chancellorsville bristles with points of criticism, and there are some few points of possible disagreement. Of the latter the principal ones upon which Hooker's formal apologists rely, are the destruction of the Eleventh Corps through Howard's alleged carelessness, and the failure of Sedgwick to perform the herculean task assigned to him in coming to Hooker's support. Allowing, for the moment, that Howard and Sedgwick were entirely at fault, and eliminating these two questions entirely from the issue, let us see what Hooker himself did, bearing in mind that he has officially acknowledged that he knew, substantially, the number of Lee's army, and bearing also in mind that the following are facts which can be disputed only by denying the truth and accuracy of all the reports, Federal and Confederate, taken as a body; and these happen to dovetail into each other in one so consistent whole, that they leave to the careful student none but entirely insignificant items open to doubt.
From Saturday at 8 A.M. till Sunday noon, some twenty-eight hours, Hooker with seventy-five thousand, and, after the arrival of the First Corps, nearly ninety thousand men, lay between the separated wings of Lee's army of twenty-four thousand and seventeen thousand men respectively, being all the while cognizant of the facts. Had ever a general a better chance to whip his enemy in detail? And yet we were badly beaten in this fight. Now, if loyalty to Hooker requires us to believe that his conduct of this campaign was even respectable, it follows that the Army of the Potomac, respectably led, could be defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia, two to one. Will the soldiers of the ever-faithful army accept this as an explanation of our defeat?
Again: from Sunday noon till Monday at 9 A.M., twenty-one hours, Hooker, with over eighty thousand men, was held in the White House lines by a force of twenty-seven thousand. If loyalty to Hooker requires us to believe that this was even respectable generalship, it follows that the Army of the Potomac, well led, could be defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia, three to one. Shall we accept this as an explanation of our defeat?
Again: from Monday at 9 A.M. till Tuesday at 4 P.M., thirty-one hours, against the advice of all his corps commanders except Sickles and Couch (the latter agreeing to retreat only because he felt that the army would be defeated under Hooker whatever they might do), Hooker, with eighty thousand men, was held in the White House lines by a force of nineteen thousand, while the rest turned upon and demolished Sedgwick. If loyalty to Hooker requires us to believe that this was even respectable generalship, it follows that the Army of the Potomac, well led, could be defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia, four to one. Shall we accept this as an explanation of our defeat?
If there is in the world's military history a parallel to this extraordinary generalship, for which any one who has even pretended to study the art of war is able to find an excuse, I have failed to find such an instance in the course of many years' reading, and shall be happy to have it pointed out to me. Hooker's wound cannot be alleged in extenuation. If he was disabled, his duty was to turn the command over to Couch, the next in rank. If he did not do this, he was responsible for what followed. And he retained the command himself, only using Couch as his mouthpiece.
I have always maintained, that, man for man, the Army of the Potomac was at any time the equal of the Army of Northern Virginia, and that, man for man, the old Third Corps has proved itself good for Jackson's in its palmiest days. When, therefore, the Army of the Potomac was, as here, defeated or bottled up by one-half, one-third, or one-quarter its force of the enemy, my loyalty to that army demands that I seek a reason other than Hooker's alleged lack of heart of his subordinate officers. And this reason is only to be found in Hooker's inability to handle so many men. All the resolutions in the world, passed under a furore of misstatement and misconception, even by such a noble body of men as Third-Corps veterans, will not re-habilitate Joseph Hooker's military character during these five days, nor make him other than a morally and intellectually impotent man from May 1 to May 5, 1863. Loyalty to Hooker, so-called, is disloyalty to the grand old army, disloyalty to the seventeen thousand men who fell, disloyalty to every comrade who fought at Chancellorsville. I begrudge no man the desire to blanket facts and smother truth in order to turn a galling defeat into a respectable campaign; I begrudge no man his acceptance of Hooker's theory that Chancellorsville was not a disaster; I begrudge no one his faith in Hooker as a successful battle-field commander of the Army of the Potomac. But let it be well understood that this faith of necessity implies the fact that the Army of the Potomac was unable or unwilling to fight one-quarter its number of Lee's troops. I prefer my faith in the stanch, patient army, in its noble rank and file, in its gallant officers, from company to corps; and I refuse to accept Hooker's insult to his subordinates as any explanation for allowing the Army of the Potomac to "be here defeated without ever being fought."
The Army of the Potomac was better than its commanders from first to last. It was, beyond speaking, superior to its commander during the fighting days at Chancellorsville. As a corps commander, Joseph Hooker will always be a type and household word. In logistics, even as commander of the Army of the Potomac, he deserves high praise. But when it comes to fighting the army at Chancellorsville, let whoso will keep his loyalty to Hooker, without protest from me. I claim for myself and the bulk of my comrades the right, equally without protest, sneers, or resolutions, to express my loyalty to the rank and file, my loyalty to the officers, and my loyalty to the army as a whole. And I claim, moreover, the right, without protest, sneers, or resolutions, to show that on this field it was the general commanding, and not the army, whose lapses caused defeat. Not that I object to these Fast-Day resolutions. I believe that I can still struggle onward in life, even under the contempt of their authors. But partisanship in matters of history is a boomerang which always flies back to whack its thrower. And Fast Day's performance was baldly partisan.
I am satisfied to abide the verdict of all soldiers, of all citizens, who ever studied the facts of this campaign. What ever the action of any meeting of old soldiers may be under partial knowledge of facts, under the influence of heated or sectional discussion, or under the whipping-in of a member of Hooker's staff, I do not believe that with the issue squarely put before them, and the facts plainly stated, any but a very inconsiderable fraction, and that not the most intelligent one, of the men of the Army of the Potomac, will give their suffrage to what has been suddenly discovered to be loyalty due to Gen. Joseph Hooker, as against loyalty to the Army of the Potomac.
The recent course of lectures at the Lowell Institute was intended to be a purely military one. There was no intention of bringing politics or sectional pride into the discussion, and it was thought that the lectures could to-day be delivered without rousing a breath of ancient animosity. If there was any campaign during our civil war which was especially, in a military sense, a glorious one for the rebels, and an ignominious one for us, it was Chancellorsville. It is indeed a pity that the skill of the one side and the errors of the other cannot be once again pointed out, that the true and only possible explanation of Hooker's one hundred and thirty thousand men being defeated by Lee's sixty thousand cannot be once again stated, without eliciting from a body of veterans of the old Third Corps a set of condemnatory resolutions. There has been some very heated criticism of the recent lectures, and not a little fault-finding with the lecturers. I presume that none of the gentlemen who participated in the course would feel like denying the inference, so often suggested, that the censors might have done much better than they were able to do. Such censors generally can. These dozen lecturers have all been earnest students of our civil war, as is abundantly testified by the twenty odd volumes on the subject published by them since the reports of operations became available; and they keenly feel that modesty which is always bred of study. Such as they had, they were glad to give the public; nor do they in any wise shrink from generous disagreement or courteous criticism. I submit, however, that some of the carping which has been indulged in is scarcely apt to lead to the correction of errors, or the elucidation of truth. It is passing strange, that, at this late day, one may not criticise the military operations without arousing the evil spirit of the war. Can we not aim at truth, rather than self-gratulation, which will live no longer than we do? Criticism has always been indulged in, always will be. If a Frederick may be dissected by a Lloyd, if a Napoleon may be sat on in judgment by a Lanfrey, may not the merest tyro in the art of war he pardoned for reviewing Hooker? The gallant soldier who helped make history rarely writes history. The same spirit which sent him to the front in 1861 generally keeps him busy to-day with the material interests of the country. Despite the certainly novel fling of Fast Day at one who went into service as a mere boy, it remains a fact that rank, without the devoted study of years and a single eye to truth, will not enable any one to write history. It was proven beyond a peradventure on Fast Day, that the command of a corps, let alone a division, will not of itself breed a historian. Partisanship never will.
Truth will get written some day. I myself prefer to write as an American, forgetting North and South, and to pass down to those who will write better than any of us, as one who tried to speak the truth, whomsoever it struck. It is not I who criticise, who condemn Joseph Hooker: it is the maxims of every master, of every authority on the art of war. Not one of Hooker's apologists can turn to the history of a master's achievements, or to a volume of any accepted authority, without finding his pet commander condemned, in every action, and on every page, for the faults of the fighting days at Chancellorsville.
It was assumed on Fast Day that one should criticise only what he saw. I have never understood that Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" is any the less good because he did not live in the first few centuries of the Christian era, or that Jomini could write any less well of Frederick than of Napoleon. Service certainly helps a man in his researches or work, but it only helps. The best critic may be one who never served. I think I was the first officer to whom the Secretary of War permitted free use of the rebel archives for study. I have had good opportunities. How I have used them, I leave to others to say. It is easy to capture a meeting of honest-hearted veterans by such lamentable prestidigitation as was exhibited on Fast Day, and to pass any resolutions desired, by appealing to their enthusiasm. I prefer to be judged by the sober after-thought of men who are neither partisans, nor ready to warp facts or make partial statements to sustain their theories.
THEODORE A. DODGE. BOSTON, April 10, 1886.
Transcriber's Appendix: Transcription notes:
The first edition of this book was published in 1881. The author's appendix was added in the second edition, in 1886, which is the source for this etext.
The following modifications were applied while transcribing the printed book to e-text:
chapter 4 - table on p 19, fixed typo ("McGown", should be "McGowan")
chapter 12 - p 71, para 1, fixed typo ("inititate")
chapter 18 - p 111, para 1, fixed typo ("Pleasanton")
chapter 27 - p 180, para 1, fixed "the the"
Limitations imposed by converting to plain ASCII: - The words "manoeuvre", "manoeuvres" and "manoeuvring" are printed in the book using the "oe" ligature. The term "coup d'oeil" was also printed with the "oe" ligature, "minutiae" was printed using the "ae" ligature, and several other French terms (such as "elan" and "echelon") were printed with accented vowels. However, this does not seem enough to merit an 8-bit text. - Italics were printed for various non-English words and phrases, and occasionally for emphasis. For the most part, these were simply converted to plain text. However, I did use underscores to denote two italicized phrases in the author's appendix, where the use of italics was more significant.
I did not modify: - The phrases "on each side the road", "on both sides the road" - The first paragraph of chapter 22 contains the phrase "angle of refusal or Archer and McGowan" I believe "or" is incorrect and should be probably "for" or "of", but I don't know which. "or" is printed in both the 1881 and 1886 editions, so I left it as is.