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at Fredericksburg. What had those gallant companies not done, what had they not endured, under four successive commanders of the Potomac Army —McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade? What form of service had they not seen, what shape of danger could be strange to them, what exigency could arise to find them unprepared? What artifice could deceive, what celerity of movement surprise, what audacity of attack daunt them? Yet, trained and accomplished soldiers as they were, it was no array of grizzled veterans on which the lieutenant general looked as he rode down the lines that day. One half had not reached their twentyfifth birthday—thousands were never to see it.
THE WILDERNESS. FIRST DAY.
It was on the night of the 3d of May that the Second Corps left its winter camps. The lieutenant general's plan was to cross the Rapidan by its lower fords, and then, turning to the right, find and strike the enemy. No manoeuvring for advantage of ground was to be undertaken; no effort made to draw Lee into compromising positions. The prime object was a battle, a battle on the first day possible—a battle on whatever field. In order to this, Warren's Fifth Corps was, in the early morning of the 4th, to cross at Germanna Ford and push out to Old Wilderness Tavern. Sedgwick, with the Sixth Corps, was to follow and encamp near the river, facing to the right. Hancock's corps, which had already crossed at Ely's Ford farther down, was to move around the rear of Warren and come up on the left at Chancellorsville. This programme was easily carried out; the enemy offered no opposition; the distances to be covered were not great; all the troops came into their positions early on the 4th. The Second Corps, which had by far the heaviest march, reached Chancellorsville with its head of column between nine and ten o'clock, and was all closed up at that point by one. The Fifth Corps was in position by two. Grant's army was, therefore, early on the 4th of May, south of the Rapidan, extending from Germanna Ford, through Old Wilderness Tavern, to Chancellorsville, fronting west. Meanwhile Burnside was advancing along the railroad to re-enforce the Army of the Potomac from which the Ninth Corps had long been separated. These troops would in their advance serve to protect Grant's communications with Washington against any counter movement by Lee.
Why was it, we may ask, that the Army of the Potomac had been halted so early in the day? The whole of the terrible fighting of the two succeeding days was to be done within territory over which the troops might have been carried during the remaining hours of the 4th. General Humphreys, the chief of staff, says: "The troops might have easily continued their march five miles farther—the Second Corps to Todd's Tavern, the head of the Fifth Corps to Parker's Store, the head of the Sixth Corps to Wilderness Tavern." It may be said: "If the army was to fight the enemy, what did it matter whether it fought them five miles farther to the west or to the east?" I answer—it made a vast difference. The immediate region of the Wilderness was known to our army and its leaders as one of the most difficult and perplexing in which soldiers were ever called to operate—a region through portions of which troops could not be forced without completely breaking up their formation, over all of which there were few opportunities for the use of artillery. It was a region in which the power of discipline almost disappeared, in which the personal influence of commanders was at a minimum, in which tactics were literally impossible. The region beyond was bad enough, like most of Virginia; this, viewed as a battle-ground, was simply infernal.
Nor was it in any sense true that the difficulties and perplexities would be equally felt by both armies. In the first place, Lee was on the defensive; and the woods and swamps of the region were to him better than field works in retarding the movements of his adversary. In the second place, the Confederate army was made up of men who in a high degree possessed woodcraft—the faculty, both inherited and cultivated, of making one's way rapidly and confidently through jungles and thickets, keeping the direction of the sun, finding fords in swamps and streams. In the third place, General Lee had at hand those who knew that district "well as their home; at any moment he might call to his bridle rein the very man who owned the land which he was traversing, who could tell not only how every road ran, but whither every woodpath led, at what points the creek was fordable, where lay the highest ground for miles around. In the fourth place, the artillery of the Army of the Potomac was largely superior, both in number of pieces and in effectiveness of fire, to that of the Southern army, however gallantly served; yet in the Wilderness most of the guns of the Potomac army might as well have been spiked. Of Hancock's vast battery, only six guns fired so much as a shot in the two days' action. In the fifth place, not only were the Northern regiments, as a rule, better drilled, but they were, by the genius of their people, far more mechanical in their actions; they depended, in a higher degree than did their antagonists, upon the nature of the ground. The Southerner was, both by instinct and training, more of an out-of-doors animal, more independent, selfgoverning, self-reliant. He would come up on the line in good time and ready for fight, but it was by his own way. He did not need "the touch of the elbow," the dressing by-the-right, or the file-closer behind him. In the sixth place, the Northern army had been accustomed to depend very much more upon the personal attention and devotion of its high officers than had the Southern army. Take Gettysburg for an example. On the 3d of July Gibbon, commanding the Second Corps, was wounded on the very "front line, falling among the soldiers of the Nineteenth Maine; Hancock, commanding the left center, fell even a little in advance of the line. On the opposite side Pickett did not cross the Emmitts