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[291] student, whether it would not have been better, the moment a lodgment was gained at Chancellorsville, on Thursday, to have at once brought the three corps under Sedgwick up to that point and united the army. Their presence below Fredericksburg, while the turning operation was in execution, was correct; but after that purpose was accomplished, the three corps near Fredericksburg, and the four corps at Chancellorsville, presented the character of a divided army, separated from each other by twenty miles, a river to be twice passed, and the enemy between the two parts. And especially when Friday's developments had proved that Lee would not retreat but offer battle at Chancellorsville was such a junction desirable. Nor was this necessity lessened, but rather greatly heightened by the fact that Hooker's order to withdraw from the advanced position gained on Friday, by forfeiting possession of Banks' Ford (the tenure of which would have practically brought the two parts of his army together), definitively severed Sedgwick from the force at Chancellorsville, and made a junction possible only on one of two conditions: firstly, a detour by the north bank of the Rappahannock, making the passage at United States Ford—but this was one entire day's march; secondly, by a direct march of Sedgwick from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, with Lee interposing between him and Hooker.

Now when, on Saturday night, the disruption of the right wing had given a blow to all his hopes, and seriously imperilled his army, Hooker resolved to adopt the latter course, and with a view to relieve the pressure that was upon him, sent, late at night, orders to Sedgwick to put himself in motion immediately, occupy Fredericksburg, seize its heights, gain the plankroad from that place to Chancellorsville, and move out to join the main body, destroying any force he might meet, and reaching his assigned position by daylight the next morning. This was precisely one of those movements which, according as they are wrought out, may be either the height of wisdom or the height of folly. Its successful accomplishment certainly promised very brilliant results.

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