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[374] Hooker crossed1 the Potomac near Edwards's Ferry, and advanced to Frederick; himself visiting by the way Harper's Ferry. He found there — or rather, on Maryland Heights--Gen. French, with 11,000 men, whom he, very naturally, desired to add to his army in the momentous battle now impending. For his army, after being strengthened by 15,000 men spared him from the defenses of Washington, and 2,100 by Gen. Schenck from the Middle Department, was barely 100,000 strong; while Lee's, carefully counted by two Union men independently, as it marched through Hagerstown, numbered 91,000 infantry, with 280 guns, and 6,000 cavalry; while not less than 5,000 of its cavalry, under Stuart, crossed the Potomac below Edwards's Ferry, and so advanced into Pennsylvania without passing through Hagerstown. Considering that the Rebels had mustered the best as well as the largest army they ever sent into the contest, and that its triumph on a Northern field would almost certainly incite a Northern uprising in their favor, it was imperative that they should now be met by the heroic but luckless Army of the Potomac in such force as to place the issue beyond contingency. It was a high crime to withhold even a brigade, when a brigade more or less might decide the fate of a continent.

Hooker had already drawn from the garrison at Washington all that Halleck would spare — leaving but 11,000 effectives under Heintzelman; which was noe too much. But, having crossed the Potomac, he had very properly inquired by telegraph of Halleck, “Is there any reason why Maryland Heights should not be abandoned, after the public stores and property are removed?” and been answered:2

Maryland Heights have always been regarded as an important point to be held by us, and much expense and labor incurred in fortifying them. I can not approve of their abandonment, except in case of absolute necessity.

Surely, the translator of Jomini can find no parallel for such strategy in the whole military career of the great Napoleon. Hooker at once rejoined:

I have received your telegram in regard to Harper's Ferry. I find 10,000 men here, in condition to take the field. Here, they are of no earthly account. They can not defend a ford of the river; and, so far as Harper's Ferry is concerned, there is nothing of it. As for the fortifications, the work of the troops, they remain when the troops are withdrawn. No enemy will ever take possession of them for them. This is my opinion. All the public property could have been secured to-night, and the troops marched to where they could have been of some service. Now, they are but a bait for the Rebels, should they return. I beg that this may be presented to the Secretary of War, and his Excellency, the President,

Joseph Hooker, Major-General.

In regard to this grave matter of difference, Hooker was clearly in the right: not clearly so in sending this dispatch immediately afterward:

Sandy Hook, June 27, 1853.
Maj.-Gen. H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief:
My original instructions require me to cover Harper's Ferry and Washington. I have now imposed upon me, in addition, an enemy in my front of more than my numbers. I beg to be understood, respectfully but firmly, that I am unable to comply with this condition, with the means at my disposal, and earnestly request that I may at once be relieved from the position I occupy.

Joseph Hooker, Major-General.

Halleck had never regarded Hooker as the proper commander of this army; had prevented his selection as McClellan's immediate successor;

1 June 26.

2 June 27, 10 1/2 A. M.

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