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[554] to the country and to a most meritorius and honorable brother officer. I have heard in such way as to believe it of your recently saying, that both the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up as dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear the spirit you have aided to infuse into the army of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now, beware of rashness! beware of rashness! but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.

Yours, very truly,

The same day, in General Orders No. 1, Hooker assumed command, saying, among other things, “In equipment, intelligence and valor the enemy is our inferior. Let us never hesitate to give him battle wherever we can find him.” Considering his enemy was in full view and there was no difficulty in finding him, his not attacking for over three months was a slight hesitation. Was it owing to their being inferior in equipment, in intelligence and valor? An interval of quiet now intervened, which was devoted to placing both armies in the best possible condition. Officers and privates amused themselves as best they could in passing the winter away. In the second Federal corps, for instance, we are told by its commander that the “higher officers spend their time in reading newspapers or books, playing cards, or the politician, drinking whiskey, and grumbling. Of course” (he says) “this charge does not include all by a long way, for it (viz: the corps) contains some of the finest officers that ever drew sword, from Major-General down” ; and then signs it D. N. Couch,1 Major-General commanding. The monotony was occasionally relieved by cavalry reconnoissances, skirmishes and encounters.

One of these I shall mention briefly, because it was the hardest contested purely cavalry fight I participated in during the war, and because in it a young, rising and already celebrated artillerist closed a short but brilliant career.

In a dispatch to Halleck, Commander-in-Chief, dated March 16th,

1 Letter to Seth Williams.--Page 776, Military Record of Rebellion.

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