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HOOKER'S ADVANCE —STONEMAN'S ORDERS.
numbers still were, it is questionable that this army was a full match, on equal ground, for its more homogeneous, better disciplined, more selfassured, more determined antagonist.
Gen. Hooker very properly devoted the two ensuing months to improving the discipline, perfecting the organization, and exalting the spirit of his men; with such success that he had, before their close, an army equal in numbers and efficiency to any ever seen on this continent, except that which Gen. McClellan commanded during the first three months of 1861. Its infantry was nearly, if notquite, 100,000 strong ; its artillery not le?s than 10,000, every way well appointed; while its cavalry,numbering 13,000, needed only a fair field and a leader to prove itself the most effective body of horsemen ever brigaded on American soil. Horses and forage having both become scarce in the South, there was not, and never had been, any cavalry force connected with any Rebel army that could stand against it.
Being at length ready, Hooker dispatched" Stoneman, with most of his cavalry," up the north side of the river, with instructions to cross, at discretion, above the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, strike Fitz Hugh Lee's cavalry brigade (computed at 2,000) near Culpepper Court House, capture Gordonsville, and then pounce on the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad near Saxton's Junction, cutting telegraphs, railroads, burning bridges, &c, thence toward Richmond, lighting at every opportunity, and harassing by every means the retreat of the Rebel army, which, it was calculated, would
now be retiring on Richmond. The spirit of Hooker's instructions is embodied in these sentences:
"Let your watchword bo fight, and let all your orders be fight, fight, fight; bearing in mind that time is as valuable to the General as the Rebel carcasses.
"It devolves upon you, General, to take the initiative in the forward movement of this grand army ; and on you and your noble command must depend, in a great measure, the extent and brilliancy of our success. Bear in mind that celerity, audacity, and resolution, are every thing in war; and especially is it the case with the command yon have, and the enterprise on which you are about to embark."
These instructions seem to have been at once terse and perspicuous, plainly indicating what was expected, and why it was required; yet leaving ample discretion to him who was to give them effect. Yet it is hard to repress a suspicion that irony lurks in such language, when addressed to an officer like George D. Stoneman.
Our cavalry, carefully screening its movements from the enemy, marched two days westward, and had thrown across one division, when a rain raised the river so rapidly that this vanguard was recalled, swimming its horses; and a succession of April storms kept the streams so full and impetuous, while the roads were rendered so bad, that a fresh advance was postponed to the 27th; Gen. Hooker giving the order for the movement of his infantry and artillery next day.
The time was well chosen. Longstreet, with three divisions, had been detached from Lee's army, and was operating against Gen. Peck below the James; and it is not probable that Lee had much, if any, over 60,000 men on the Rappahannock. True, his position at Fredericksburg was very strong, as we had learned to our cost; but it might be turned, as Hooker proceeded to show.
"April 13. "He says 13,000, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. Vol. n.—23
His army was still encamped at Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg. The 11th (Howard's) and 12th (Slocum's) corps moved up the river, but carefully avoiding observation from the hostile bank, so far as Kelly's ford; crossing there the Rappahannock that night and next morning— the men wading up to their armpits—and the Rapidan at Germania Mills, next day, moving thence rapidly on Chancelloksville. The 5th (Meade's) corps followed; crossing the Rapidan at Ely's ford, lower down. Meantime, the 2d (Couch's) corps approached, so nearly as it might unobserved, to both the United States and Banks's fords, ready to cross when these should be flanked by the advance of the 11th, 12th, and oth behind these fords to Chancellorsville. Resistance had been expected here; but none was encountered, as none worth mentioning had been above; and Couch crossed his corps" at the United States ford on pontoons, without the loss of a man. Gen. Hooker, at Morrisville, superintended the movement; following himself to Chancellorsville, where he established his headquarters that night.
This important movement had been skillfully masked by a feint of crossing below Fredericksburg; the 6th (Sedgwick's) corps laying pontoons and actually crossing at Franklin's, two or three miles below; the 1st (Reynolds's) at Pollock's Mill, still lower; the 3d (Sickles's) supporting either or both. Sedgwick was in chief command on this wing. The bridges were ready by daylight of the
29th; and, before daylight, Brooks's division had crossed in boats and driven off the Rebel pickets; while Gen. "Wadsworth in like manner led the advance of Reynolds's division; when three pontoon bridges were laid in front of Sedgwick, and every thing made ready for crossing in force. Now Sickles's (3d) corps was ordered to move" silently, rapidly to the United States ford, and thence to Chancellorsville, while part of the pontoons were taken up and sent to Banks's ford; Reynolds, after making as great a display as possible, and exchanging some long shots with the Rebels in his front, following, May 2d; raising Hooker's force at and near Chancellorsville to 70,000 men.
Sedgwick, on the other side of the Rebel army, had his own corps, 22,000 strong; while Gen. Gibbon's division of the 2d corps, 6,000 strong, which had been left in its camp at Falmouth to guard our stores and guns from a Rebel raid, was subject to his order; raising his force to nearly 30,000.
Thus far, Gen. Hooker's success had been signal and deserved. His movements had been so skillfully masked that Lee was completely deceived; and the passage of the Rappahannock had been effected, both above and below him, and all its fords seized, without any loss whatever. Never did a General feel more sanguine of achieving not merely a great but a crushing victory. "I have Lee's army in one hand and Richmond in the other," was his exulting remark to those around him as he rode up to the single but capacious brick house—at once mansion and tavern—that then, with its appendages, constituted Chancellorsville. But
LEE CONCENTRATES I
K HOOKER'S FRONT.
the order he issued thereupon evinces an amazing misapprehension of his real position and its perils. It reads as follows:
"Headquarters Army Of The Potomac, J "Camp Near Falmouth, Va., > "April 30, 1863. ) "It is with heartfelt satisfaction that the Commanding General announces to the army that the operations of the last three clays have determined that our enemy must either inglorionsly fly or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him. The operations of the 5th, 11th, and 12th corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.
"Bv command of Mai.-Gen. Hooker. "S. Williams, Ass't Adjt.-Gen."
A General who has but eight days' provisions at hand, and these in the haversacks of his men, with a capricious river between him and his depots, and who has been obliged to leave behind moit of his heavier guns, as well as his wagons, and is enveloped in a labyrinth of woods and thickets, traversed by narrow roads, and every foot of it familiar to his enemy, while a terra incognita even to his guides, has no warrant for talking in that strain. Never were a few "intelligent contrabands," who had traversed those mazes by night as well as by day, more imperatively needed; yet he does not seem to have even seasonably sought their services; hence, his general order just recited, taken in connection with his pending experience, was destined to lend a mournful emphasis to the trite but 6ound old monition, " Never halloo till you are out of the woods."
The fords of the Happahannock next above Fredericksburg had been watched by Gen. Anderson with three brigades, some 8,000 strong; but Hooker's dispositions were so
skillfully made that he did not anticipate a crossing in force until it was too late to call on Lee for reenforcements; and he had no choice but to fall back rapidly before our advancing columns to Chancellorsville, where a fourth brigade joined him; but, being still too weak to make head against an army, he obliqued thence five miles toward Fredericksburg, at the point where the two roads from Chancellorsville become one.
Here Lee soon appeared from Fredericksburg, with the divisions of McLaws and the rest of Anderson's own. Jackson, with those of A. P. Hill and Khodes (late D. H. Hill's), had been watching our demonstration under Sedgwick, below Fredericksburg; but, when Lee heard that Hooker had crossed in force above, he at once inferred that the movement below was a feint, and called Jackson away toward Chancellorsville, adding the division of Trimble to his command and impelling him on a movement against Hooker's extreme right; leaving only Early's division and Barksdale's brigade in front of Sedgwick on our remote left, and to hold the heights overlooking Fredericksburg, which he judged no longer likely to be assailed.
Lee had been outgeneraled in the passage of the Happahannock on his left, while he was watching for Hooker on his right; but he was not disconcerted. Leaving a very Bmall force in his works on the Fredericksburg heights, he pushed his main body—at least 50,000 strong—down the Gordonsville plank and lateral roads to the point, half-way to Chancellorsville, where the old turnpike intersects the plank road; and was
here concentrated in time to watch the development of Hooker's offensive strategy.
A reconnoissance down the old pike for three miles toward Fredericksburg having developed no hostile force, Gen. Hooker ordered" an advance of Sykes's regulars (3d division, 5th corps) on that road, followed by part of the 2d corps; the 1st and 3d divisions of the 5th corps moving on a road farther north, in the direction of Banks's ford; the 11th, followed by the 12th, being thrown out westwardlv from Chancellorsville, along the two roads, which are here, for a short distance, blended, but gradually separate. An advance of two or three miles toward Fredericksburg was meditated; but Sykes had hardly
traversed a mile when he met the enemy coming on, in greater force, and a sharp conflict ensued, with mutual loss; the Rebels extending their line so as to outflank ours, while Sykes vainly attempted to connect with Slocum (12th corps) on his right. Gen. "Warren, who was superintending Sykes's movement, returned and reported progress to Hooker, who ordered Sykes to fall back, which he did; bringing off all but a few of his wounded, and very cautiously followed by the enemy. Thus the prestige of success, in the first collision of the struggle, was tamely conceded to the enemy; and the day closed with the woods and thickets in our front filled with Rebel sharp-shooters, and the crests of the