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[89] advance through the Wilderness, and even after lines of circumvallation were drawn at Petersburg, General Lee was constantly and consistently aggressive. No finer example of this trait is known to military history than that given at Chancellorsville, where, with the swiftness of a practiced fencer, General Lee passed from the attitude of the assailed to that of the assailant, ere his antagonist had time to realize the changed conditions. To find Lee in line of battle parallel to his lines of communication was the first surprise which disconcerted the Federal commander; but even then he never dreamed of the prescient boldness that was to amuse Sedgwick with Early's handful, hold his own front against Hooker's main force, with barely eleven thousand men, while Jackson, with two-thirds of the Confederate troops, was sent across the front and well to the right and rear of an army of ninety-two thousand muskets. ‘Bold to rashness,’ says an eminent British critic, ‘but redeemed from rashness by the knowledge of his adversary's infirmities of temperament, on which it was largely founded, and by the celerity and skill with which it was executed.’

The easy confidence with which Lee responded to a movement upon his flank of an overwhelming enemy, while at the same time another force nearly equal to his total strength was thundering in his rear, proved that from the very first he felt himself, despite the disparity in numbers, to be master of the situation. The only doubt he seems to have entertained after the first intelligence of Hooker's presence on the south side of the Rappahannock, was whether first to push Jackson against Sedgwick on the plains where Burnside met his crushing defeat. But his consideration of this plan was brief, though Jackson favored it, and instead he seized his right wing, as Swinton says, ‘In the grasp of a Titan,’ and hurled it in reverse, as an athlete might have slung a stone, over field and forest, upon the one vulnerable spot in the strong formation of his foe.

Wary he was, but not ‘cautious,’ as General Doubleday says, nor ‘shrinking from collision in the open field,’ as Humphreys intimates. I am inclined to think he was more combative by nature, as well as calculation, than any of the Union commanders with whom he measured swords, Grant being a possible exception. To the uninitiated his penetration of Pope's rear by Jackson's single corps, would appear to have verged upon perilous enterprise, but here again he knew the moral forces at work in his favor and made accurate estimate of the length of arm of the man he had to deal with.

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