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Chapter 1: operations in Virginia.--battle of Chancellorsville.--siege of Suffolk.

  • Position of the Army of the Potomac
  • -- its condition, 17. -- the strength of the Army of the Potomac -- influence of the Peace Faction, 18. -- Army officers opposed to the policy of the Government concerning slavery -- reorganization of the Army -- condition of the Army, in April, 1868, 19. -- Corps badges -- condition of the Confederate Army, 20. -- discipline and equipment of the Confederate Army -- composition of the opposing forces, 21. -- cavalry battle at Kelly's Ford -- Moseby, the guerrilla chief, 22. -- Stoneman's raid -- movement for flanking the Confederates, 23. -- Hooker's exultant order -- the Nationals at Chancellorsville -- the movement masked by Sedgwick, 24. -- Lee prepares for battle -- he moves on Chancellorsville, 25. -- battle near Chancellorsville -- Lee foiled, 26. -- the opposing leaders in council -- Hooker on the defensive -- bold project of “Stonewall Jackson,” 27. -- flank movement by Jackson -- the Nationals deceived -- Jackson's attack on Hooker's right, 28. -- Hooker's right crumbles into fragments, 29. -- flight and pursuit of disordered troops, 30. -- attack on Hooker's left and center -- death of “Stonewall Jackson,” 31. -- Hooker's new line of battle, 32. -- the battle of Chancellorsville, 33. -- Lee takes Chancellorsville, 34. -- the Heights of Fredericksburg captured, 35. -- battle at Salem Church -- Sedgwick in peril, 36, 37. -- the National Army recrosses the Rappahannock, 38. -- another raid by Stoneman, 39, 40. -- National troops at Suffolk -- fortifications there, 41, 42. -- the siege of Suffolk by Longstreet, 43. -- Peck's defense of Suffolk -- Longstreet driven away -- services of the Army at Suffolk, 44.

While a portion of the National troops were achieving important. victories on the banks. of the Lower Mississippi,1 those composing the Army of the Potomac were winning an equally important victory,
July, 1863.
not far from the banks of the Susquehannah, We left that army in charge of General Joseph Hooker, after sad disasters at Fredericksburg, encamped near the Rappahannock;2 let us now observe its movements from that time until its triumphs in the conflict at Gettysburg, between the Susquehannah and the Potomac rivers.

During three months after General Hooker took command of the army, no active operations were undertaken by either party in the strife, excepting in some cavalry movements, which were few and comparatively feeble. This inaction was caused partly by the wretched condition of the Virginia roads, and partly because of the exhaustion of both armies after a most fatiguing and wasting campaign. The Army of the Potomac, lying at Falmouth, nearly opposite Fredericksburg, when Hooker took the command, was weak and demoralized. Despondency, arising from discouragement on account of recent disasters, and withering homesickness, almost universally prevailed, and desertions averaged two hundred a day. The relatives and friends of the soldiers, at home, were equally despondent, and these, anxious for the return of their loved ones, filled the express trains with packages [18] containing citizens' clothing, in which the latter might escape from the service. Great numbers fled in these disguises.

At the time we are considering (close of January, 1863), Hooker found the number of absentees to be two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two commissioned officers, and eighty-one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four

Fredericksburg in the Spring of 1863.3

non-commissioned officers and privates.4 These were scattered all over the country, and were everywhere met and influenced by the politicians opposed to the war. These politicians, and especially the faction known as the Peace Party, taking advantage of the public disappointment caused by the ill-success of the armies under McClellan and Buell in the summer and early autumn of 1862, had charged all failures to suppress the rebellion to the inefficiency of the Government, whose hands they had continually striven to weaken. They had succeeded in spreading general alarm and distrust among the people; and, during the despondency that prevailed after the failure of the campaign of the Army of the Potomac, ending in inaction after the Battle of Antietam,5 and of the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky, when Bragg and his, forces were allowed to escape to a stronghold near Nashville,6 elections were held in ten Free-labor States, and, in the absence of the votes of the soldiers (two-thirds of whom were friends of the administration), resulted in favor of the Opposition. In these ten States Mr. Lincoln's majority in 1860 was 208,066. In 1862, the Opposition not only overcame this, but secured a majority of 35,781.

The expectation of conscription to carry on the contest, increased taxation, high prices of fabrics and food, and a depreciated currency were made powerful instruments in turning the public mind to thoughts of peace by means of compromise; especially when, after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, the Peace Faction, assuming to speak for the entire Opposition, declared, with seeming plausibility, that “the war for the preservation [19] of the Union had been perverted to a war for the negro.” The political battle-cry of the Opposition, before the elections, was, “A more vigorous prosecution of the war!” Now the Peace Faction that gave complexion to the general policy of that Opposition, discouraged further attempts to save the Republic. In this they seem to have been encouraged by army officers, a large proportion of whom, in the Army of the Potomac, and especially of those of high rank, were, it is said, hostile to the policy of the Government in the conduct of the war:7 The Emancipation Proclamation had quickly developed, in full vigor, the pro-slavery element among these officers, many of whom openly declared that they never would have engaged in the war had they anticipated this action of the Government. While the army was now at rest, the influence of these military leaders was powerful in and out of camp,8 and, acting with the general despondency in the public feeling, had an ill effect, for a little while, upon the army.

Hooker's first care was to prevent desertions, secure the return of absentees, and to weed out the army of noxious materials. The express trains were examined by the provost-marshals, and all citizens' clothing was burned. Disloyal officers were dismissed so soon as they were discovered, and the evils of idleness were prevented by keeping the soldiers employed. Vigilance was everywhere wide awake, especially among the outlying pickets, whose rude huts of sticks, brush, and earth, at times white with snow, dotted the landscape for miles around the camp. Important changes were made in the organization of the army, and in the various staff departments; and the cavalry, hitherto scattered among the Grand Divisions,9 and without organization as a corps, were consolidated, and soon

Picket Hut.

placed in a state of greater efficiency than had ever before been known in the service. To improve them, they were sent out upon raids within the Confederate lines whenever the state of the roads would permit, and for several weeks the region between Bull's Run and the Rapid Anna was the theater of many daring exploits by the cavalry of both armies. Finally, at the middle of April, Hooker's ranks were well filled by the return of absentees, and at the close of that month, when he felt prepared for a campaign, his army was in fine spirits, thoroughly disciplined, and numbered one hundred and ten thousand

The Lacy HouseHooker's Headquarters.10

infantry and artillery, [20] with four hundred guns, and a well-equipped cavalry force thirteen thousand strong. The leader of this fine army, like his immediate predecessor, was a zealous patriot and active soldier, and gave the tone of his own emotions to those of his troops.11 “All were actuated by feelings of confidence and devotion to the cause,” he said, “and I felt that it was a living army, and one well worthy of the Republic.” 12

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