The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 11

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe


BURNSIDE’S defeat, and his unfortunate efforts to cross the Rappahannock, exasperated the people of the North to the last degree, but only rendered them more than ever determined to push on the war with vigour till final triumph was assured. In order to make a diversion, and excite troubles in the interior of the Confederacy, which, for their suppression would necessitate the employment of troops detached from the army, President Lincoln, on January 1st, 1863, published a proclamation in which he declared all the slaves of the South free. But it did not produce the effect expected; the blacks did not stir.

As General Hooker had severely criticised his two predecessors, MacClellan and Burnside, the country expected him to prove his superiority over them, and justify the choice the President had just made. So the new Federal commander put himself to work and tried at first to restore the confidence of the army of the Potomac, so much disturbed. His first care was, by severe measures, to stop the desertions which for some time had been very frequent He reorganized his army, and particularly applied himself to combine the cavalry, which hitherto had been dispersed among the different divisions of the army, into a single corps; this would permit it to act with greater unity and vigour. From this time the Federal cavalry, being better mounted and better equipped, rendered the greatest services, while the Southern cavalry, exhausted by fatigues, and having no further facilities for remounting, owing to the impoverishment of the country, no longer contended with advantage against its enemy, possessing, as the latter did, all that was wanting to the Confederates. The Northern Government refused Hooker nothing; it was but for him to ask and have; thus, at the approach of spring, he was at the head of an army of 120,000 men (infantry and artillery), with a corps of 12,000 cavalry, perfectly equipped, and 400 guns. This fine army, divided into seven corps, inspired such confidence in its commander, that he looked upon the destruction of Lee’s army as certain.

On the 16th of March, General Averill for the Federals reconnoitred in force; with six regiments of cavalry and a battery of artillery he started in the direction of Gordonsville. A telegram from Lee warned Stuart to watch the fords of the upper Rappahannock. In spite of this, however, on the morning of the 17th Averill surprised the Confederate sentries, crossed briskly, and continuing his road, was suddenly arrested by Fitz-Lee’s cavalry brigade. A long and eager conflict lasted all the afternoon, nor did the Federals retire till they had themselves sustained, and inflicted on the Confederates, heavy loss. A period of repose followed this alarm. It was not till the middle of April that the roads appeared dry and hard enough for military operations.

The Southern army, not having at its disposal the millions of the North, and the inexhaustible resources of America and Europe, was far from presenting a flourishing aspect. Lee had been a compelled, at the urgent direction of the Richmond Government, to detach from his army 24,000 men under Longstreet, and send them to the south of the James River, which reduced the forces at his disposal on the Rappahannock to 47,000 men. Hooker, perfectly aware of the great numerical inferiority of his adversary (he himself had just three times as many soldiers as Lee), wished to attack before the reinforcements, urgently asked for by Lee, could arrive. During the month of April, the Federal cavalry often sought to penetrate through the Confederate lines, and get information about the forces of the enemy, and the positions they occupied, but at each ford Stuart’s cavalry was found ready to receive it.

Tired of this, Hooker conceived the plan of crossing the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford, twenty-seven miles above Fredericksburg, and marching thence on Chancellorsville, which he hoped to occupy before Lee could concentrate his forces. Thanks to this turning movement, he counted on taking Lee on the flank, and forcing him either to accept battle or retire on Richmond. In order to mask this operation, General Sedgwick was, at the head of 22,000 men, to cross the river below the town, and so deceive the Confederates, making them believe that Hooker intended to attack the heights of Fredericksburg. 10,000 cavalry were to precede the Federal army, and cut off all the railways which connected the Southern camp with Richmond. On the 27th of April, the Union army began to march. On the night of the 28th, the river was crossed at Kelly’s Ford, and the Confederate sentries dispersed. On the evening of the 29th, the Northern army crossed the Rapidan likewise.

General Sedgwick, on his part, crossed the Rappahannock on the 29th at daybreak, on three bridges, three miles below Fredericksburg. During the 29th and 30th, he made several demonstrations, as if he had the intention of assaulting the Confederate position.

Hooker’s plan was skilfully conceived and skilfully executed. Still there was room for criticism. The Northern chief divided his army in two, and sent all his cavalry to a distance, in the face of an adversary who was the man to profit by this blunder. The result proved it.

For Lee was not taken in by the ruse. Convinced that his right, thanks to its position, was sheltered from every attempt, he expected an attack on his left He had, therefore, placed for observation nearly 8000 of the troops under General Anderson, without reckoning Stuart’s cavalry, all along the river, enjoining on them the strictest vigilance. On the 29th, he learnt the crossing of the Rappahannock by the Federal army. On the 30th, Hooker was at Chancellorsville. General Anderson had at first retired before the enemy’s superior forces to Chancellorsville, and then to Tabernacle Church, where he found Wright’s brigade, which Lee had sent to him. Before coming to a final resolution, the Confederate commander wished to assure himself that Sedgwick’s movement was not serious, and leave Hooker’s plan time to develop itself.

On the evening of the 30th, he learnt that Sedgwick was positively sending a part of his forces to Hooker, and, therefore, that the chief effort of the enemy would be directed against his left. General Jackson consequently received an order to join Anderson immediately. Early’s division alone remained to keep Sedgwick in check, should the latter decide on taking the offensive. Starting at midnight, Jackson, the next day, the 1st of may, arrived, at nine o’clock, at Tabernacle Church, a mere isolated church in the heart of the district.

Hooker perceived everything succeeding according to his wish, and already exclaimed to those about him: “The army of the insurgents is ours; its destruction is certain!” Hitherto he had manœuvred well, and his numerical crushing superiority justified his hopes.

Chancellorsville, five miles beyond and to the west of Tabernacle Church, and ten miles to the south-west of Fredericksburg, is a large square house, built of brick, with various outbuildings. It is an inn, situated in a four-cross way. The country, somewhat flat, is everywhere covered by thick brushwood, dwarf pines, and stunted oaks. In many places the ground sinks,—it is marshy. The road from the north, which comes from Ely’s Ford and United States Ford, the two fords by which the Federal army had crossed, and which are but a few miles apart, leads to Chancellorsville through this dismal and uninhabited district, known under the name of the Wilderness. The Orange Court House road comes from the west, and here joins the road, which, towards the east, communicates with Fredericksburg. All this country, the roads, the dwellings sparsely scattered, the silence, the interminable brushwood, produce, in this horrible desert, a dreary effect. Everything is wild, sombre, desolate. For miles and miles there is nothing but an uninterrupted course of woods, of stunted oaks; here and there a road, where one meets nobody. It was madness to fight a battle there. The hostile armies were not visible to each other. As to cannon, it could not be manœuvred, the cavalry could not deploy, even foot-soldiers could hardly thread their way through the woods. That an army of 120,000 men should have chosen such a place to fight another of 40,000 in, still appears the height of absurdity.

It is, however, to be said in the Federal general’s favour, that the idea of allowing himself to be shut up in this horribly impracticable country, where all hope of manœuvring so great an army was forbidden him, did not proceed from him. It was Lee who made choice of the Wilderness about Chancellorsville as the field of battle. Hooker, indeed, tried not to be thus enclosed by woods. Driving before him the feeble Confederate columns which had opposed his passage, and pursuing them in the direction of Fredericksburg, he emerged into the plain, and hastened to form up his troops in order of battle on a spot very favourable to the development of a numerous army. His left—the wing nearest the river—commanded all the fords, even that of Banks, and was five miles in front of Chancellorsville, thus shortening, by one half, the road which Sedgwick would have to travel in order to rejoin him at Fredericksburg. His centre and right likewise were out of the woods in the open country.

Thus passed the 1st of May, 1863. Hooker had in front of him only Anderson’s 8000 men. Nothing, therefore, hindered him from massing his entire army in the advantageous positions formed by an elevation of ground, sufficiently high, at the point where he had arrived. Once master of this position, it would be easy for the Federal chief to emerge into the plain behind Fredericksburg. A pretty good road connected these heights of Banks Ford with the Rappahannock. It was of the last importance for the Federals to cover it, and maintain themselves there, for it was the most direct line of communication with their base.

Lee was persuaded that Hooker, without stopping at Chancellorsville, would get hold of this position, and not leave his army in the Wilderness, where it could not deploy, while, if he mastered this position, he commanded all the country round, and secured his communications with Sedgwick.

Jackson had received orders, on quitting his chief, as soon as he had joined Anderson to attack the enemy and drive him back. Notwithstanding Anderson’s obstinate defence, in seeking to defend these heights with the feeble forces at his disposal, Hooker, on the morning of the 1st of May, when Jackson appeared on the ground, had already got possession of them. The arrival of the latter saved everything. He marched four brigades to Anderson’s aid, and Hooker, who should have defended this line at any cost, beat a retreat, withdrawing to the side of Chancellorsville, and strongly intrenching himself in expectation of a Confederate attack. Jackson pressed on after the Federals, and did not give over the pursuit till the enemy had recoiled quite back to Chancellorsville. Not wishing to expose himself single-handed to the whole hostile army, he awaited the coming of Lee, who, the same evening, appeared on the ground with two divisions.

The Federal general at Chancellorsville had ranged his army nearly parallel with the road from Orange Court House, which goes east and vest. His centre was at Chancellorsville, at the point where the road coming from Fredericksburg, and going to United States Ford, on the Rappahannock, intersects the Orange Court House Road. Around Chancellorsville there was a small plain without timber, about three hundred yards broad, then right and left the brushwood of the Wilderness recommenced. The Federal left was posted a little behind, towards the river, and the right, also in the Wilderness, extended towards Orange County, two-and-a-half miles west of Chancellorsville. The river covered the left wing, but the right was without support. To fortify it, Hooker constructed strong earth intrenchments, rendered still more inaccessible by parapets and trunks of trees, heaped up over the whole length of the line. His centre was very strong; the right was the feeble point General Howard commanded there. The corps of Generals Slocum and Sickles were in the centre, and the left obeyed General Meade. Hooker’s army reckoned nearly 100,000 fighting men, and 200 pieces of artillery. It was at the head of such an army that he concentrated himself to receive the attack of 40,000 Confederates. He had counted that Lee would retreat on Richmond. The boldness of the Southern chief in accepting battle seemed to have paralysed Hooker.

The Federal position had been reconnoitred by Jackson before Lee’s arrival. There could be no doubt in the mind of the latter as to what he should do. The thing was with 35,000 men to thrust 100,00 back to the other side of the Rappahannock. On pain of being crushed, if the two Federal armies, that of Hooker in front and Sedgwick behind, united, it must be done, and done immediately. Lee had at Chancellorsville only 40,000 men, and a the heights of Fredericksburg were defended by only 6000 under General Early, while Hooker disposed of more than 90,000 combatants, and General Sedgwick had before Fredericksburg from 28,000 to 30,000. If the latter drove Early from his positions, he could, at his leisure, fall on Lee’s rear, while Hooker attacked him in front.

Now note the plan proposed by Jackson and agreed to by Lee. The two divisions of MacLaws and Anderson, under the general-in-chief, were to amuse Hooker by feints, and make him believe the Confederates were thinking of attacking him in front. Meanwhile, Jackson, turning the Federal right wing, was to march on the centre, taking the hostile line in the rear, and so cut off Hooker’s line of retreat on United States Ford. The plan was bold and brilliant, worthy at once of the general who conceived and of him who approved it.

On the morning of the 2nd of May, Lee, who had kept only 13,000 men with him, began to disturb his adversary, sometimes attacking General Crouch’s corps on the left, sometimes Slocum in the centre, and gradually extending his attacks from left to right, completely deceiving Hooker, who remained convinced that Lee was going to do exactly what he desired—attack the formidable army in front. Perfectly calm in this supreme moment, Lee waited for the noise of Jackson’s cannon to announce the success of his turning movement.

The same day, early, General Jackson began his march with his 22,000 veterans. At a certain distance from Chancellorsville, leaving the road, he took the direction of the Foundry, lying nearly two miles to the south-west. Here he left the 23rd regiment of Georgia as scouts, to watch the road from Chancellorsville, and continued his march. He could not manage it secretly enough to keep it from an enemy holding such elevated positions. General Sickles, advancing with two divisions to reconnoitre, captured the regiment left for purposes of observation. But, having seen the rest of the column defile in what they thought to be the direction of Richmond, the Federals remained persuaded that the enemy was retiring on the capital. An attack on Jackson’s train was repulsed. The troops continued to defile into the woods, through a thousand obstacles which delayed their march, so uneven and woody was the country, while the narrow foot-paths were ill-adapted for the passage of artillery. At length, arrived at a certain point, General Fitz-Lee pointed out to Jackson a hillock, whence there was a view embracing the whole of the Federal position. Having reconnoitred the hostile lines, Jackson conducted his columns in such a manner as to find himself on the rear of the Federal intrenchments. At four o’clock, p.m., the movement had succeeded, and he made all his preparations for an immediate attack. His intention was to envelope the Federal right wing, drive it back on the centre at Chancellorsville, and establish himself on the road from United States Ford. To realise this plan, it was necessary to plunge again into the thickest of the Wilderness brushwood, where it was impossible to form in column. But this prospect had in it nothing formidable for soldiers like his.

When the foremost Confederate companies, under General Rodes, issued from the woods and charged the Federal encampments, the consternation of the Unionist troops just left them time to flee. They were occupied in preparing their supper. Colston’s Confederate brigade followed Rodes’s, and, with it, took the Federal intrenchments. At this moment Jackson’s artillery opened fire: division after division took flight, till it came to this, that all the 11th Unionist corps was in complete disorder. Jackson was himself at the head of his troops. He seemed, carried away with excitement. Leaning forward on his horse, he pointed with his finger to the Federal lines, as if to urge on his men, exclaiming every moment, “Forward! forward!” When the fever of the combat did not master him, he lifted his arm straight towards heaven, with that gesture become so familiar to his soldiers, as if he were praying the God of battles to give him victory.

It was six o’clock when the first rifle-shot sounded. At eight o’clock, Jackson had driven the 11th corps upon the 12th, which formed the centre. He was within 550 yards of Hooker’s head-quarters. The night intervening, during the darkness the Southern line became embarrassed in the felled trees, with which the Northern chief had furnished his works of defence about Chancellorsville. A halt was therefore necessary for the establishment of order. A. P. Hill’s division took the place of the soldiers of Rodes and Colston. At that moment the Federal batteries, ranged in the bare space around Chancellorsville, opened their fire.

All around the Federal head-quarters there was the most terrible and insane confusion possible. Men, beasts, cannons, waggons, ambulances, soon formed an infatuated mass, rushing with the violence of a hurricane towards the Rappahannock. In vain the officers tried by threats, prayers, blows, to stop the torrent of fugitives. All was of no avail. It seemed that the career of Hooker’s army was ended, when the forced halt of which we have just spoken changed the aspect of affairs. If that had not taken place Jackson would have passed the night at Chancellorsville, and his life, so precious to his country, would not have been sacrificed.

Hooker profited by that moment of respite. Firing all the guns he had at hand, twenty-two in all, he directed volley after volley into the woods occupied by the Confederates. Meanwhile, he hastily reformed his troops to resist new attacks. Putting himself at the head of his old division, he posted it at the extremity of the little plain around Chancellorsville, to face the enemy. Reinforcements of artillery arrived, and presently he was able to put in line fifty pieces, which rained down on the woods a shower of iron.

It was ten o’clock. The moon illuminated the woods with a feeble light, which grew pale before the glare of the cannonade. In spite of the advanced hour, Jackson wished to recommence the attack, and get possession of the road leading to the fords. While his troops were preparing to make a fresh assault, the general himself, trusting to no one the task of reconnoitring the Federal position, went on in advance, leaving orders with his soldiers not to fire unless they saw cavalry approaching from the side of the enemy. He was accompanied by two of his staff-officers, several aides-de-camp, and their orderlies. Unfortunately, although the enemy was only 150 or 200 yards off, no sentries had been placed there, and Jackson found himself outside the Confederate line, with nothing between him and the Federals. But for this criminal negligence there would have been no occasion to deplore the fatal consequences of that reconnoitring.

Having finished his inspection, Jackson told one of his aides-de- camp to return to the camp and order General A. P. Hill to advance. Going quietly back towards his lines, without any warning whatever from his troops, whom he had recommended to give an eye to hostile cavalry, he received the fire of a brigade of his own soldiers. Struck twice, in the left arm and right hand, he saw all his escort fall around him except two persons. A heartrending scene followed. The two survivors assisted the general to dismount. He was so feeble from the loss of blood that they were obliged to lay him under a tree. A messenger had been sent in search of a surgeon and ambulance, but before they could arrive General Hill joined the sad group. He learnt the sad calamity which had just befallen the army, and received orders to assume the command. Hill hastened to his post A few minutes after, it was said the enemy was approaching, and was only a hundred yards from the place where the wounded general was lying. An effort was, therefore, made to get within the Confederate lines. Supported by two of his officers, who had joined him, he had slowly returned on foot, under a terrible artillery fire, which had just opened from the Federal batteries. On his way he was met by several of his own soldiers, who were marching to the encounter. His aides-de-camp did all they could to hinder the men from recognizing him, but this group of officers necessarily attracted attention, and several times the soldiers asked who was wounded. Each time the answer was, “A Confederate officer;” but presently, when a ray of moonlight illumined the general, who was walking bareheaded, one of his veterans recognised him, and exclaimed with anguish, “Good God! it is General Jackson!”

A moment after, General Pender approached to inform him he feared he could not maintain his stand; Jackson’s eye lighted up suddenly: “You must maintain it, general,” said he quickly; “you must keep your position, sir!” This was his last order!

The poor wounded general had hardly been able to drag himself twenty paces; his feebleness soon became so great, that they laid him on a hand-barrow. The little group had just recommenced its march when a volley of grape-shot reached them, wounding one of the bearers. They were obliged to stop. For some minutes the fire was terrible, and they all lay on their faces on the ground. The cannonade ceasing somewhat, they hastened to carry the general into a place of safety, where he could receive for the first time the care so necessary in his state.

This shower of grape-shot, to which Jackson had been exposed, caused great ravages in the Confederate ranks, wounding, among others, General A. P. Hill, who was thus obliged to resign his command. General Stuart replaced him. The rest of the night passed quiet enough, the two armies preparing to renew the conflict on the morrow.

During the night, the Federal first corps, under General Reynolds, arrived from Fredericksburg to reinforce Hooker. The latter, seeing the danger of his being turned, sent Sedgwick orders to carry the heights of Fredericksburg without losing an instant, and bear down on Chancellorsville by the direct road, combatting everything that opposed his passage. He was to be at Chancellorsville next day,—Sunday the 3rd of May.

As soon as possible, Jackson informed Lee of the misfortune that had happened. The bearer of this sad news arrived at headquarters at four o’clock, a.m., and found the commander-in-chief lying on a litter of straw, under some fir-trees, covered by an oil-cloth, as a protection from the dew. Around him were lying the officers of his staff, wrapped in their cloaks. On learning the evil tidings, Lee exclaimed with emotion: “God be praised! the misfortune is reparable. He lives still!” Then he added: “Any victory is a dear one which deprives us of the services of Jackson, even for a short time.”

The aide-de-camp observed to General Lee, that Jackson’s intention had been, on the preceding night, or, at latest, this morning, to become master of the United States Ford Road, on Hooker’s rear, and so cut off the retreat of the Federal army. Lee, rising hastily, said the pursuit should begin. He dressed, took his simple breakfast of ham and biscuit, and prepared for the fight. He wrote in pencil the following letter to Jackson,—a letter which filled the wounded hero with joy and pride:


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.

He added also a word to General Stuart, giving him orders to take the command, and press briskly upon the enemy. Stuart had decided not to risk a night attack, inasmuch as the ground was unknown to him, and he had but few troops in hand. But he arranged matters to begin the fight again on the morrow. The corps was posted in three lines: Hill’s division in the front rank, then Colston’s, and lastly that of Rodes. The report of Jackson’s wound had spread among his soldiers, but in place of cowing them, as was expected, the news only added to their ardour and thirst for vengeance. At sunrise Stuart commenced the attack, the infantry marching on the hostile works with cries of: “Remember Jackson!” Seizing an elevated spot, and posting there 30 guns, Stuart rained down on the Federal centre a shower of grape-shot, which thus suffered severely. To stop the Confederate advance, the enemy briskly attacked Stuart’s left, and the contest went on with alternations of success and defeat.

Meanwhile, Lee closed on Hooker’s right and centre. Presently Anderson’s division, by driving back the enemy’s centre, was able to assist Stuart. As soon as Lee saw his army reunited, he gave orders to carry the Federal works around Chancellorsville by assault. All the Confederate line advanced, and, after a hand-to-hand conflict, mastered the hostile intrenchments. Hooker’s soldiers re-formed, and recaptured what they had lost. Three times the works were taken and retaken. At length, on the fourth attempt, supported by the fire of all their artillery, the Southern troops swept everything before them, took the Federal lines, and drove their adversaries towards the river. At ten o’clock, a.m., the Confederate flag floated triumphantly over Chancellorsville.

The spectacle now was horrible to behold. The shells had set fire to the woods, filled with wounded, and devouring flames roared with a terrible noise all around those unfortunates, incapable of saving themselves. Many perished a frightful death. The Chancellorsville house was burning, and all around there was nothing but fire and smoke. The cries of the combatants, the noise of the firing, the discharges of cannon, and the sinister cracking of the flames, afforded an appearance of wild and terrible grandeur to a scene seldom witnessed, even on a field of battle.

Hooker seemed to have foreseen his defeat, for during the night of the second he had constructed a line of intrenchments behind his first line. These new works covered the crossing at United States Ford. They formed the third side of a triangle, whose other two sides were the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, which there united. The Federal right was supported on the latter river, the left on the Rappahannock. Heavily armed, these lines were to serve as a refuge for the Federal army.

Notwithstanding the strength of this new position, Lee determined to carry it by assault, and force Hooker into the river. He disposed his troops accordingly, his centre being at Chancellorsville, and towards nightfall, he was on the point of signalling the attack, when news was brought him that Sedgwick, after defeating Early, was coming from Fredericksburg to take him on the flank.

Sedgwick, about midnight, had received orders from Hooker to march to his aid. At three o’clock, a.m., on Sunday, he occupied Fredericksburg, easily driving before him some small Confederate detachments. The first assault on Early’s lines, before daybreak, did not succeed. He had 22,000 men against Early’s 6000, and recommenced the attack at eight o’clock, when, although several times repulsed, thanks to his superior numbers, he managed to crush his foe. At noon, the Northern general pierced the Confederate centre, and remained master of all the positions which Lee had occupied since the battle on the 13th of December, 1862. Early being driven southwards, the Chancellorsville road was open to Sedgwick. Generals Barksdale and Wilcox, Early’s two lieutenants, being separated from their chief, retired by the Chancellorsville road, and did all they could to delay Sedgwick’s march.

Such was the news which surprised Lee when preparing to attack Hooker’s new positions on Sunday afternoon. At the moment of victory his peril was greater than it had ever been. But Lee was not a man to be beaten. Without hesitation, he resolved to leave a part of his small army to hold Hooker in check, and, with the rest, face Sedgwick, whom he promised himself to hurl back beyond the Rappanannock. The latter crushed, he then proposed to turn back upon Hooker, and make him share the fate of his subordinate. There was no time to lose, for if Sedgwick succeeded in taking Salem Heights, and he was very near them, he would command Lee’s positions.

Leaving Jackson’s corps, therefore, under Stuart’s orders, to watch Hooker, in the afternoon of the same Sunday, Lee marched to meet this new enemy, with MacLaws’s division, and one brigade of Anderson’s division. His march was so rapid that, at four o’clock, p.m., he had already reached Salem. He was just in time. Wilcox was defending Salem Chapel heroically, the building being on the culminating point of the height; but his soldiers, all that remained to him of his own and Barksdale’s brigades, 2000 men against 20,000, could not long continue so unequal a struggle. MacLaws’s division formed to march to his succour, when Sedgwick made a vigorous assault with his two divisions, and got possession of the summit. He could now sweep, with the fire of his batteries, the Confederate lines. But this success was of short duration: Lee, in his turn, formed his army in order of battle, and precipitating his whole force on the enemy, recaptured the heights, and drove the Federals into the woods. Night finished the combat. Sedgwick was suddenly arrested. This battle cost him 4925 men. Next day, May 4th, Lee, having been joined by the rest of Anderson’s division, directed this general to turn Sedgwick’s left wing, and cut him off from the river. Sedgwick was still at the head of 21,000 men, while Lee disposed of only 14,000, all Jackson’s corps having remained in front of Hooker.

Anderson’s turning movement was accomplished with difficulty, and the Federal resistance lasted till night, although they yielded all along the line. Unfortunately for the Confederates, night was already falling on the two armies when the Federals gave way. Their retreat was on the point of being intercepted: profiting by the darkness, Sedgwick retired during the night, and crossed the Rappahannock by a bridge which he had had the precaution to throw over it the previous evening; the Confederates pressed him close, and Lee’s artillery opened its fire on him at the moment when the hindmost of his soldiers were crossing the river.

Hastily confiding the keeping of Fredericksburg to Early’s division, Lee set out again at five o’clock, a.m., to give a decided blow to Hooker. He rapidly travelled the sixteen miles, and arrived, in the afternoon, at Chancellorsville, with the divisions of Anderson and MacLaws. He soon arranged his forces so as to assault the Federal lines next morning.

But Sedgwick’s defeat had demoralized Hooker; he had prepared his bridges, and during the night, between the 5th and 6th, he sent his artillery, trains, and army across the Rappahannock. On the 6th, at dawn, the Confederate scouts preceding Lee’s army, which was advancing in order of battle on the enemy’s positions, discovered that they were abandoned. The Southern troops hastened their march through the Federal lines, but were soon under the fire of the batteries which Hooker had erected on the opposite bank, whence, from an elevated spot, he commanded the bank occupied by the Confederates. Lee was triumphant along the whole line.

The Confederates had, therefore, put to flight two armies, and the campaign ended gloriously. But their losses were serious. Out of an army of less than 50,000 men, the dead, wounded, and disappeared amounted to 10,281. Those of the enemy were still greater: they had lost 17,197 men, of whom 5000 were prisoners. The Federal wounded had most of them fallen into the hands of the Confederates, who had thus gained 14 cannon, 19,500 arms of different kinds, 17 standards, and a quantity of ammunition.

This campaign, brilliantly conceived and admirably directed, had cost the life of General Jackson, who died on the 10th of May. This was to pay very dearly for victory.

This is the order of the day in which the general-in-chief announced this loss to the army:

Head-quarters, Army of Northern Virginia,
May 11th, 1863.


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 a 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 everything in the defence of our beloved country.

R. E. LEE, General.

In another order of the day he thanked his soldiers for their brilliant conduct, and specially recommended them to assemble among themselves on the following Sabbath, to give the God of battles the glory due to His holy name.

The column of cavalry which Hooker had detached at the beginning of these later military operations, to cut off Lee’s communications with Richmond, did some damage to the railway, destroyed several houses, pillaged several farms; but here its exploits ended. The news of Hooker’s defeat caused it to return in all haste, hotly pursued and harassed by the Southern cavalry. General Lee, however, profited by the confusion which this raid had raised, to call Government’s attention to the relative feebleness of the Confederate cavalry, decimated by fatigue. He urgently requested that horses should be brought from Texas to remount his men while communications with that district were still open.

What especially strikes us in this short and glorious campaign at Chancellorsville is, Lee’s extreme boldness, as well as Hooker’s extraordinary blunders.

On May 1st, when the latter issued from the Chancellorsville woods, every plan of hi shad succeeded, and every plan ought to succeed, for his measures were admirably taken. He had brought his army, 100,000 strong, and posted it in an excellent position east of Chancellorsville, on the Fredericksburg road. General Sedgwick remained in the latter town, it is true, but the principal army covered the crossing at Banks’s Ford, which was only twelve miles from Fredericksburg; it would have been easy, in the afternoon of that same day, to have quite concentrated the whole army. According to all appearance Lee was lost. Further, his forces, altogether inferior, were dispersed, and exposed to be attacked in detail. Sedgwick menaced his right at Fredericksburg; Hooker at Chancellorsville was preparing to fall on his left. Nothing, therefore, appeared easier than to crush one of its wings before the other could come to its succour. But Hooker seems to have doubted himself, and when Lee took the offensive, marching against him with the bulk of his forces, he retired from the strong positions which he occupied in the open country, to take refuge in the woods surrounding Chancellorsville.

No doubt this was a serious error. This retrograde movement of the Federal general not only discouraged his soldiers, hitherto confident in the certainty of a victory promised them in the triumphant orders of the day issued by their chief, but also took from him all the advantages an open country gave, where his numerous army could manœuvre and deploy with facility.

Lee immediately profited by the blunder of his adversary, and vigorously driving the Federals before him into the Wilderness, he, on May 1st, in the evening, shut Hooker and his army up there. This unexpected result changed the aspect of affairs; the Federal army, which should have closely pursued Lee to Richmond, had just retrograded, and the latter, who was supposed to be in full retreat, pursued Hooker instead, and offered him battle.

It was at this moment that Lee took a step of unheard of boldness. Dividing his little army into two, he threw himself on the Federal right. It would be unfair to make General Hooker responsible for the success of a movement he could not foresee, for in coming to this decision, contrary to all military rules, Lee’s only justification was the truly critical state of affairs for the South. In the impossibility of undertaking anything against Hooker’s left or centre, so strongly were they intrenched, it was absolutely necessary either to beat a retreat or make an assault elsewhere. A Confederate retreat would have given up to the enemy a large extent of fertile country, and the moral effect would have been most disastrous. Hence the compulsion to attack the Federal right. The success of this manœuvre was extraordinary, and its results overwhelming. The Northern army was only saved from complete rout by Sedgwick’s attack on the Confederate flank, which obliged Lee, at the moment when he was about to pursue Hooker’s demoralized troops, and throw them into the river, to return against this new adversary. But on learning that his lieutenant was also repulsed, the Federal commander appeared to lose courage completely, and without a moment’s delay put the river between himself and the Confederates.

While confessing that Hooker’s blunders contributed much to Lee’s success, the impartial historian will also confess that never in all his career did the Southern chief give greater proofs of his ability. He cannot be reproached with a single strategic fault, from the moment when Sedgwick crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg to that in which Hooker recrossed the same river. Perhaps it will be objected that he lost time, on the 5th of May, in not attacking the Federals in their second line of intrenchments; but this forced inaction of his is explained in different ways; the fatigue of his soldiers, exhausted by four days of fighting, and several consecutive days’ marching; the necessity of reforming his lines before the final effort; and the very natural conviction that Hooker, having still more than 100,000 men under his orders, would not so easily give up his enterprise, but would defend him self with energy—all amply suffice to explain this delay. One cannot but be convinced that there was much to make a commander who had but 35,000 men, all told, hesitate, and who felt that his army was the principal hope of the South.

This rapid campaign is unique in itself from beginning to end. it is a model to be studied by those who are interested in the art of war. Lee’s movements throughout were remarkable for rapidity and audacity. On April 29th, Hooker crosses the Rappahannock. Lee at once advances towards the menaced point, orders the feeble detachments posted on this side to retire, and concentrates them at Chancellorsville. Learning that Sedgwick had likewise crossed at Fredericksburg, the Confederate chief, after a hasty conference with Jackson, resolves to conduct the bulk of his forces against Hooker. On May 1st, the enemy is driven back on Chancellorsville; on the 2nd, his right is crushed and his army thrown into disorder; on the 3rd, he is driven from Chancellorsville, and but for Sedgwick’s advance, which Lee, from his want of men could not hinder, Hooker, that same day, would have experienced an overwhelming defeat. Thus, in the space of four days, Lee had rapidly taken the offensive, had first stopped, then attacked, and finally repulsed with immense loss, an army three times his own. On the last day of April, a hostile mass of 120,000 men held him surrounded; on the 3rd of May, the chief corps of the enemy was retreating in the greatest disorder, and on the morning of the 6th, not a Federal soldier, prisoners excepted, was to be found south of the Rappahannock.

In the midst of these critical scenes, when the stake played for was not only the Confederate capital, but also the very cause of the South, Lee remained unalterably calm Without descending to the clamorous and jeering brags of Hooker, as testified in the orders of the day, and in conversations held with his officers by this latter, Lee, by a kind of instinctive reaction, had become almost merry. When one of Jackson’s aides-de-camp came in great haste to Fredericksburg to tell him that the enemy was passing the river with imposing forces, the Confederate commander said with a sly smile: “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 most important incident of the battle of Chancellorsville, was the mortal wound which Stonewall Jackson there received. This illustrious lieutenant of Lee had become his right hand, and Lee felt his loss cruelly. Since the opening of hostilities, no name had won so much upon public favour as that of Jackson. In the short space of two years the brilliant manner in which he executed the missions with which he was charged, and the continual triumphs which he gained, rendered his name, previously utterly unknown, famous. He came out of an early struggle, difficult and unequal, in the Valley of Virginia, a conqueror, although he had to do with forces very superior to his own. These victories, at a time so critical, and on a frontier so important, contributed not a little to electrify the inhabitants of Richmond, and, indeed, of all the Confederacy. He then took a very important part in the Seven Days’ Battle against MacClellan, in 1862, on the Chickahominy. Sent towards the North, he defeated Pope’s van at Cedar Mountain, commanded Lee’s left wing in the turning movement against Pope’s flank, destroyed Manassas, maintained himself till the arrival of his chief, and largely contributed to the victory which followed. Hence he crossed into Maryland, marched on Harper’s Ferry, and mastered it; he was by Lee’s side in the battle of Sharpsburg, and there kept his ground without stumbling before the rude assaults of the enemy. If this contest remained indecisive, instead of being a defeat for the South, the merit is chiefly due to Lee as general and Jackson as soldier. When the Confederates retired, Jackson remained in the Valley to embarrass MacClellan. In this, he perfectly succeeded, then suddenly re-appeared at Fredericksburg, where he received and repulsed one of the two great Federal attacks. In the following spring was fought the sanguinary battle of Chancellorsville, the last battle of the heroic Jackson. With this glorious conflict finished the career of him who had become Lee’s alter ego.

It is not difficult to estimate what the general-in-chief felt on losing a man who was at once the soldier on whom he most relied, and the friend he most dearly cherished. The connection between Lee and Jackson had, from the first, been most cordial. Never had a shadow arisen to disturb the reciprocal feelings of affection and admiration which they had for one another. Never had they asked of each what place they occupied in the public esteem, which of the two had the greatest share in the respect and love of their fellow-citizens. On the contrary, it was impossible to please Lee better than by setting forth the splendour of Jackson’s services. He was, under all circumstances, the first to acknowledge publicly how much was owing to his illustrious lieutenant, to express in high terms all the admiration which he felt for his military talents, and to attribute to him, as, in fact, he wrote after the battle of Chancellorsville, all the merit of the victory.

The spectacle of two soldiers loving and admiring each other, without any mental reservation, without a shadow ruffling their self-respect, is a beautiful one. As for Jackson, his love for his chief was more profound; it contained as much of veneration as of admiration. To give birth to such feelings in such a man, Lee must not only have been a military genius of the highest rank, but also a man endued with great moral qualities and great piety. Jackson’s opinion never varied, and his confidence and attachment remained unshaken to the end. He invariably defended his chief against criticism. Some one, one day, reproached Lee with being slow. Jackson, who was present, habitually very silent, this time could not restrain himself: “General Lee,” exclaimed he, “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 blindfolded!”

Such an encomium, from such a man, speaks for itself. Time only increased these sentiments with Jackson. He submitted his whole will to his chief. The least word of Lee was sacred to his lieutenant; all he did could not be otherwise than right. Only once was he of a different opinion, when, after his wound and victory at Chancellorsville, he received from Lee that little word of congratulation: “General Lee,” said he, “is very kind; but he should give the glory to God!”

Lee returned this affection fully; he consulted Jackson always, and regarded him as his bosom friend. Rarely was there a question between them as to the relations of superior to subordinate, except when, in his quality of commander-in-chief, Lee had to come to a decision. In details, he depended entirely on Jackson, certain that he would always act for the best.

Lee’s affection showed itself in a striking manner after Chancellorsville. Jackson, seriously wounded, was at an inn in the Wilderness. Lee, retained on the battle-field by the critical state of the situation, rendered still more so by Jackson’s absence, could not steal away for a moment to press the invalid’s hand. Not looking upon the wound as dangerous, and, indeed, it did not become so till the last moment, he unceasingly sent for news of him, and forwarded these words of friendship: “Give him my affectionate regards,” said he to one of his aides-de-camp: “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, shortly after, the symptoms grew worse, and it began to be whispered that the end would be fatal, Lee was deeply moved, and exclaimed: “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 became silent for a moment, an evident prey to violent and sorrowful emotion. Then, addressing an officer whom he was sending to the wounded general, he said: “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 grief which lee felt at Jackson’s death was too profound for tears. god alone knows what that order of the day cost him, in which he imparted the tidings of this loss to the army!

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