[from our own Correspondent.]
Army of Northern Virginia, Jan. 4th, 1864.
The series of battiest fought between Fredericksburg
, on the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th of May, 1863, will, I am persuaded, be viewed by the junpartial historian in an after day as the most decisive to the Southern
cause of any fought during the war for Southern Independence.
Up to that time battles had been contested with but comparative slight loss on either side.
In these engagements, however, the Federal
army had not a man less than thirty thousand
placed hors de combat,
whilst our own casualties footed up figures approximating to ten thousand, But this was not all — the Federal General
had placed everything upon the hazard of a die; he had sworn to fight and to defeat the rebel hosts; he had planned for successful campaign, but allowed nothing for a mismarriage of his plan, or want of success in the battle.
Hence it was that when Halleck
first-learned of Hooker
's defeat, so overwhelmed was he with disappointment that he dispatched orders to destroy the stores at Aquia Creek
; subsequently' however, countermanding these orders in time to prevent the destruction contemplated.
Here, as at the first Fredericksburg
fight, it was found to follow up the enemy and cross the river into afford, for many reasons, but chiefly for a want of pontoons and a lack of force.
I think there can now be no impropriety in my saying that our effective fighting force in these battles was, when compared with the Federal
army, as the ratic of three
--a force though quite adequate for defence, could yet scarcely be relied upon to pursue the enemy into an entrenched position such as they held and could fall back to on the Stafford heights
came with eight days rations, and with a plan of battle lacking but one essential to complete success.
practiced by him in throwing across a small force below Fredericksburg
, while with the main body of his army he marched above and passed first the Rappahannock
and then the Rapidan
, was most successful.
And it was not until Hooker-had crossed both rivers and was well fortified at Chancellorsville
, directly in our rear, and in complete avoidance of the numerous fortifications we had erected during the winter with which to guard the front, that his plans became fully understood.--Then came the "tug of war. " We had either to fall back without fighting, or to drive the enemy from his entrenched position in that "tangled wilderness," as Gen. Lee
very aptly spoke of it in an official order.
So far Rooker
had done well enough; but now came his mistake, and doubtless he bitterly repented of it. That mistake consisted in nothing less than relieving his cavalry from their appropriate place and work on the flanks of his army, and sending them on the "wild-goose chase" known as "Stoneman
's raid." If Hooker
's flanks had been properly guarded with cavalry, it would have been impossible for Jackson
to have been so successful in his flank movement.
Their cavalry must have discovered and defeated it. As it was, we took the enemy by complete surprise.
To sum up, then, I think Hooker
outgeneraled Gen. Lee
in the choice of a position, but failed to realize success for three obvious reasons--first, because of the absence of his cavalry; secondly, because Jackson
out- generaled him in the flank movement, and in nothing more than in the great rapidity with which it was executed; and thirdly, because of the failure of Sedgwick
to unite with Hooker
had crossed at Fredericksburg
on Friday, and carried the heights on Saturday, I believe the results might have been very different.
But whilst our success was very great, still the failure to capture Sedgwick
at Banks's ford on Monday evening, May 4th, was as inexcusable as I believe the surrender into our hands of the whole of Hooker
's force at Chancellorsville
would have been inevitable but for the wound Gen. Jackson
received on Saturday evening. It is strange that Hooker
, having planned so well, should have allowed his grand schemes to fall by such blunders as detaching his cavalry and the want of cooperation by Sedgwick
Besides the prisoners captured at Chancellorsville
, we obtained not less than thirty thousand small arms, and some artillery, whilst the field was literally covered with blankets and overcoats, too few of which, unfortunately for our now suffering soldiers, were saved by the Government
, but were appropriated by the battle-field plunderers.
It is a little singular that Jackson
, the first General
of the Stonewall brigade, and Paxton
, its then commander, should have fallen on this field.
Shortly after the battle of Chancellorsville
Longerr who had been absent near Suffolk
, returned to this army.
The inquiry on all hands was in regard to the successor of Jackson
About the 20th of May the President
commissioned both Maj.-Gens. R. S. Ewell
and A. P. Hill
as Lieutenant Generals
in the Army of Northern Virginia.
To each of these Generals
a corps was assigned, consisting of three divisions, Gen. Longstreet
, for this purpose, parting with one of his divisions, (Anderson
's,) and A. P. Hill
's old division being reduced by two brigades, was assigned to Maj.
-Gen W. D. Pender
The two brigades thus taken from A. P. Hill
's division were united with and another North Carolina brigade, and assigned to Maj.-Gen.
, who, with Maj.- Gen. Pender
, were promoted from the rank of Brigadier-Generals
. Gen. A. P. Hill
was assigned to the command of this corps, whilst Gen. Ewell
's old corps, consisting of Early
's division, Early
having been made a Major-General
in February, and receiving command of Ewell
's bid division, Rodes
's division, (D. H. Hill
's old division) and Trimble
's division, to which Gen Ed. Johnson
, then just promoted to a Major-Generalship, was assigned.
It will be observed that five of the six Major-Generals
now in the infantry department of this army, and the two corps Generals
, received their promotion during the year just ended.
The army thus reorganized began to prepare in earnest for a forward movement, as was generally believed, into the enemy's country.
's corps took up the line of march from its camps near Fredericksburg
on the morning of Thursday, June 4th, moving in the direction of Culpeper C. H. On the same evening Longstreet
's corps moved in the same direction.
On Friday, June 5th, the enemy crossed a force below Fredericksburg
near the Bernard house
, as if they intended to move ones more upon our lines stretching from Hamilton
's crossing up to Fredericksburg
were halted at or near Locust Grove, in Orange county
, to await the issue of the move.--Hooker
having made this diversion in our front, set himself to work like a beaver in removing his stores and in retiring his troops from the Stafford heights
The enemy kept their force on the south side of the Rappahannock
from Friday evening, June 5th, until Saturday night, June 13th, when they recrossed to the Stafford side and took up their pontoons.
On Sunday night the last of Hooker
's forces left the Stafford heights
, going in the direction of Bull Run
On the 17th of June, A. P. Hill
's corps left the front at Fredericksburg
and moved in the wake of the other two corps towards Culpeper C. H. The onward move was now fairly begun.
In a subsequent letter I will speak of the Pennsylvania
I will close by mentioning, that the enemy left the hills of Stafford
literally strewn with blankets and overcoats, which, as at Chancellorsville
, were appropriated by the citizens, and never enured to the Government
or the soldiers. X.