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[316] disapproving the project, and couched in that quaint imagery which Mr. Lincoln was wont to employ in the expression of his thoughts on the gravest subjects. ‘If Lee,’ said he, ‘should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it, he would fight you in intrenchments,1 and have you at disadvantage; and so, man for man, worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In a word, I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or to kick the other.’2

The other reply was from General Halleck, and it expressed, in solemn military jargon, the same-opinion so pungently conveyed by the President;3 but suggested an operation against the ‘flank of the moving column’—a suggestion that is nothing better than a mask, for General Halleck must have known such an operation to be perfectly impracticable, if Hooker was to have any observance of his express instructions to cover Washington.4


Iii. Hooker's retrograde movement.

Thus prevented from taking the only step that would have given him the initiative, Hooker was fain to fall back on the interior line towards Washington, taking positions defensive

1 Nothing easier than to turn the Fredericksburg defences by Banks' or United States ford.

2 Dispatch from President Lincoln to General Hooker, June 5.

3 Dispatch from General Halleck to General Hooker: Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 154.

4 Any possible movement by Hooker, in execution of this suggestion, would have uncovered his right, and given General Lee precisely the opening for such a dash on Washington which the report of that general shows he was warily watching.

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