網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

the turning movement was now complete, Sickles's corps was called up to Chancellorsville. Thus far Hooker's operations had been well conceived and promptly and energetically executed. But the morning of the 1st of May witnessed the beginnings of the collapse, of which, indeed, the delays of the previous afternoon had given some intimation to the leading officers at Chancellorsville. Instead of moving straight on down the river, against whatever opposition, until he uncovered Banks's ford—which alone would have greatly shortened the route by which the corps below could communicate with him, or re-enforce him at need upon ground much better suited for the development of his army—precious hours were thrown away, while yet the order to march was not given. At last Slocum was sent down the plank road with the Twelfth Corps; Sykes's division of the Fifth, followed by Hancock's division, took the Fredericksburg pike; while Humphreys moved on the river road. Everything betokened hot work. But scarcely had Sykes and Slocum encountered the enemy, about two miles out, when the fatal order came to retire to Chancellorsville. That order had been issued against the earnest remonstrances of General Gouverneur K.Warren, chief topographical officer on Hooker's staff; and it was received by the several corps commanders concerned —Meade, Couch, and Slocum—with mingled amazement and indignation. So completely did the great movement all at once collapse, so ignobly was the splendid promise of three days broken! The turning column, which had started out, with high hopes elate and in expectation of a decisive battle, suddenly found itself_ on the defensive, and was set to work digging intrenchments around Chancellorsville. Painful and odious as the order was, it had to be obeyed. Hancock, who had been behind Sykes, formed line of battle to cover that officer's withdrawal. Couch, ever at the front when any part of his command was likely to be engaged, was with Hancock's division in person. Although the enemy, detecting the movement, at once assumed the aggressive, yet so prompt was Hancock's action and so gallant the bearing of his troops that it was not until he was near the Chancellorsville clearing that the Confederates were able to interfere seriously with him. Here he was beset by forces which had followed up Slocum's shorter line of retreat on the plank road, and had thus been brought upon his right flank. For a few minutes affairs were critical; but the steadiness of the skirmish line, the energetic action of the supporting regiments, and the handsome assistance rendered by Sykes's regulars, won the time necessary to bring the division into its assigned place in Hooker's new defensive line. Here the troops passed the night, disturbed somewhat by a severe shelling from the eaemy's batteries, now established on the high ground which, by the insane order to retreat, had been surrendered to them. Various explanations have been given of Hooker's actions on the afternoon of the 1st of May. The writer has always believed that they were due partly to lack of that firm moral stamina which is so often found to accompany a spirit of arrogance and boastfulness, but chiefly to a nervous collapse occasioned by the excitement and fatigue of the four preceding days. Drunkenness, once alleged, certainly was not any part of the cause.

The morning of the 2d of May found General Hooker's army in the position he had chosen, and with which he still declared himself entirely satisfied. In an order, dated 4.20 p. M. of the 1st, he had said: "The Major-General commanding trusts that a suspension in the attack to-day will embolden the enemy to attack him." In little more than twenty-four hours he was to learn what emboldening Lee and Jackson to attack him might imply. Sickles's corps was now all up; Howard's was on the extreme right at Dowdall's Tavern; Hancock's division and the Fifth Corps formed the left, stretching across the Fredericksburg pike and the river roads; the Third and Twelfth held the center. In this attitude, behind breastworks, the army waited and wondered. By noon it was forty-eight hours since the turning column reached Chancellorsville; yet here the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps still were, though re-enforced by their comrades of the Second and Third, the whole advantage of surprise thrown away, the enemy given every opportunity either to strengthen their own positions or to seek some weak spot in the Union line on which to deliver an attack. This last was what Lee and Jackson were actually preparing; for, while our troops continued to wait and wonder, Lee's chief lieutenant had, since early morning, been on the march with a powerful column of twenty-six thousand men, to reach, by a long detour, a position opposite Hooker's right, where he might deliver an unexpected and crushing blow. In order to occupy Hooker's attention, the Confederate skirmishers, strongly supported, were pushed forward against our left, making the liveliest demonstrations. The heaviest firing was on the front of Hancock, along the Fredericksburg pike, his skirmishers being assailed with great spirit. Probably at this hour no serious purpose of an attack from that side was entertained; but, whether to make the demonstration so vigorous as to draw Hooker's attention entirely off from what might be going on in Howard's quarter, or to push Hancock's line back nearer to the Chancellor House, with a view to taking the utmost advantage of the coming crash at Dowdall's Tavern, the enemy certainly made most unusual efforts. Yet all the while Hancock's intrenched skirmish line, under the command of Colonel Miles, remained as steady as a rock.

But while the skirmishing was exceptionally severe, the troops never for a moment imagined that this was a battle. They knew too well the signs and portents of those great encounters in which men fall by thousands, and hostile divisions grind against each other like mighty ships in collision. That something was going to happen before night everybody felt, but when or how it would come few conjectured. And, yet, had headquarters been as vigilant and attentive as such great interests demanded, there were indications enough of Jackson's daring flank march. Hooker was, however, fully possessed by the idea that Lee was going to run away—actually was running away—and at one time Sickles's corps was pushed out from the Union center as if in pursuit. Unfortunately, Jackson's rear had just passed, and his movement thus escaped the disclosure which a collision at that point would have occasioned. Indeed, Sickles's reports only confirmed Hooker in his notion that the Confederates were retreating on Gordonsville, ingloriously flying, as he had prophesied in his general order.

But Hooker's illusions were terribly dispelled when, between five and six o'clock, Jackson, having completely flanked our army, broke out from the cover of the forest upon the small corps of Howard, which was swung out "in air" upon the Union right, badly posted, with an utterly inadequate force of skirmishers advanced, and without so much as a

« 上一頁繼續 »