marching toward Banks Ford, which was at this time undefended, although some intrenchments had been erected there.
The possession of Banks Ford by Hooker
would shorten the distance between Chancellorsville
and his left wing under Sedgwick
, by several miles.
The advancing forces first came into collision on the Pike
Sharp fighting followed, Semmes
's brigade coming up on the left of Mahone
and bearing the brunt of it against Sykes
's orders had been, however, only to advance to the first ridge beyond the forest, and he maintained his position there, though menaced by the extension of the Confederate
lines beyond his flank, until orders were received from Hooker
to withdraw to the original position within the forest.
Similar orders were also sent to Slocum
on the Plank
road, and to Griffin
who had advanced, nearly five miles down the River
road, entirely unopposed, and who were within sight of Banks Ford when the orders for the countermarch reached them.
's corps had not become seriously engaged, but its skirmishers had been driven in and its right flank threatened by Wright
This advanced upon the line of an unfinished railroad, which, starting from Fredericksburg
, ran through the Wilderness
generally a mile or two south of the Plank
Up to the moment of the withdrawal of his troops, Hooker
's campaign had been well planned and well managed, and its culmination was now at hand in the open field—as he had desired.
He could scarcely hope for more propitious circumstances, and, by all the rules of the game, a victory was now within his grasp.
His lieutenants received the order to fall back with surprise and regret.
The advance, upon both the Plank
road and the Pike
, had cleared the forest and reached fairly good positions.
An officer was sent to Hooker
to explain and request permission to remain, but he returned in a half-hour, with the orders repeated.
has been severely blamed for these orders, subverting all the carefully prepared plans only published to the army that morning.
It is interesting to learn the cause.
Reports from the balloons and signal officers had informed him of the march