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[381]

Silently and swiftly the old foot cavalry of the Stonewall corps traversed the secret by-paths of the wilderness, and late in the afternoon of the 3d of May he stealthily approached the unsuspecting Federals.

With a rush and a roar the Stonewall corps broke cover, and with one crash of musketry, then with the bayonet, swept the works.

Howard's Eleventh corps was just partaking of its evening meal when the storm swept upon it. Hooker's left wing was thrown into utter rout and rushed in confusion upon the centre. Night alone saved it from destruction.

But details are too volumnious. The world knows of Hooker's terrible punishment and defeat. How Lee, with one-third of Hooker's forces, crushed the Federal army and threw it beyond the Rappahannock.

Just one year later, on a balmy day in early May, 1864, Grant broke camp at Culpeper with the finest army ever organized upon the Western Continent. Without hinderance he placed 141,160 soldiers on the south bank of the Rapidan, and threw himself across Lee's road to Richmond.

It must have been apparent to the eye of the most ordinary soldier in Grant's army that his commander had blundered.

He saw at a glance how impossible to manoeuvre 141,000 men in the dense jungles and scrubs of the wilderness. Therefore it is not to be wondered that the genius of the great Confederate chieftain mastered the situation.

He broke cover with 52,626 ragged but veteran troops, and not waiting to be attacked, moved at once upon Grant's battle line and for three days fiercely assailed his overwhelming antagonist.

Finding it impossible to make any impression upon Lee's line, the night of the third day's fight the Federal commander silently moved his army by the left flank, trusting with the morning sun to envelope the right and rear of Lee's depleted army.

The genius of Lee seemed to have been inspired, for by some means he divined his adversary's plans and moved parallel to him, and as Grant changed from flank to front and moved forward, the battered but defiant Army of Northern Virginia was before him.

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