In the following May was fought the battle of Chancellorsville
, the result of which caused the most universal gloom and depression.
We cannot here enter, at any length, into the history of that battle.
It will be sufficient to call to mind how the Army of the Potomac, reorganized and reinforced, in the best of spirits, and confident of victory, led by General Hooker
, who enjoyed its confidence to a very high degree, went forth to meet its old antagonist, the Army of Northern Virginia.
It was again doomed to disappointment, and after a short and unsuccessful campaign, it recrossed the Rappahannock
, disheartened — not demoralized — for it is the crowning glory of the Army of the Potomac that it never faltered under misfortunes which would have been fatal to the efficiency of most armies.
It has been well said: “Not the Army of the Potomac was beaten at Chancellorsville
, but its commander;” for the truth is, that the army, as a whole, did not fight in that battle, but the different corps were attacked by Lee
and beaten in detail.
The Eleventh Corps, badly posted, was surprised by superior numbers, and routed.
The Third Corps, which had been sent out to follow the enemy, who was supposed to be in retreat, was cut off from the rest of the army by the rout of the Eleventh Corps, and was compelled to sustain alone, and for several hours, the attack of Lee
's whole force, until it fell back, gallantly fighting, upon the rest of the army — the First, Second, Fifth, and Twelfth Corps, only parts of some of these corps being engaged.
then turned upon Sedgwick
, who was advancing from Fredericksburg
, and drove him across the Rappahannock
This was on the 5th of May, and the same night the whole army recrossed the river, the Fifth Corps, under General Meade
, covering the retreat.
In this battle Lee
had sixty thousand men, Longstreet
's Corps having been sent to operate south of the James river
had not less than ninety thousand men.
's successes at Fredericksburg
, necessarily dispiriting to our troops, had a contrary effect upon the Army of Northern Virginia, whose morale
was thereby raised to the highest pitch, and who became inspired with the belief that it could defeat the Army of the Potomac under any circumstances.
, of the British
service, who was with General Lee
, in writing of that battle, says: “The staff officers spoke of the coming battle as a certainty, and the universal feeling was one of profound contempt for an enemy whom they have beaten so constantly, and under so many disadvantages.”
himself was emboldened by these victories; and induced, as he says, by “important considerations,” doubtless under the conviction, too; that the Army