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Hooker's comments on Chancellorsville.

by Samuel P. Bates, his Literary Executor.

Lance used by the 6th Pennsylvania cavalry (rush's Lanoers).

In October, 1876, I accompanied General Hooker to the battle-fields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Antietam,--fields on which he had borne conspicuous parts. It was the only occasion on which he visited them after the battles. He had previously placed in my hands his official papers and memoranda for the preparation of a history of the Battle of Chancellorsville, at the same time requesting me to make this journey with him, that I might have the advantage of a thorough knowledge of the field, and of his interpretation of the manner in which the battle was fought. At this period he was partly paralyzed from the injury received in the Chancellorsville battle, and he could move only with great difficulty by the aid of his valet.

After our arrival at Fredericksburg, General Hooker was the recipient of many courteous attentions from the leading citizens, and at night he was serenaded, when a great crowd assembled in front of the hotel, to whose repeated cheers he made a brief response, in which he said that he had visited their city but once before, and although his reception now was not nearly so warm as on that former day, yet it was far more agreeable to him,--a conceit which greatly pleased his hearers.

Our drive over the Fredericksburg field, which we visited on the way, was on one of the most perfect of autumnal days, and at every turn fresh reminiscences of that battle were suggested. As we approached the flag-staff of the National Cemetery, on the hill adjoining Marye's Heights, where more than fifteen thousand of the Union dead of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania are buried, General Hooker said:

I never think of this ground but with a shudder. The whole scene is indelibly fixed in my mind, as it appeared on that fatal day. Here on this ground were ranged the enemy's cannon, and the heights farther to his left were thickly planted with pieces; all the infantry he could use was disposed behind earth-works and stone walls. How this could have been selected as the point, above all others, for attack, and followed up until four whole divisions had been sacrificed, I cannot comprehend. As I stand here to-day, the impossibility of carrying this ground by direct assault is no more apparent than it was when I made my observation preparatory to ordering Humphreys's division forward. But it is evident that General Burnside never forgave me for counseling him on that occasion as I did, for on January 23d he drew up an order, known as General Orders, No. 8, of his series, dishonorably dismissing me from the service, together with three other prominent general officers, at the [216] same time relieving five other officers from duty. I was grossly maligned by the press of that day, and it was generally believed by the people at the North that I had not faithfully supported General Burnside in this battle, and that I was aiming thereby to supplant him. If these brave men who are sleeping here beneath our feet could speak, they would bear testimony to my sincerity and fidelity to the cause we were battling for; and though I have suffered in silence, and my reputation has been grossly aspersed, I have rested in the firm belief that my conduct on that day would be justified by the American people.

These Orders, No. 8,1 were prepared on the 23d of January, 1863, and would have been immediately promulgated had not General Burnside been counseled first to lay them before President Lincoln, of whom he asked that they be approved, as drawn, or that his own resignation be accepted. The President refused to accept his resignation, but relieved him of the command of the Army of the Potomac; and so little effect had the order upon the mind of Mr. Lincoln that he decided to place Hooker, at whom the shaft was chiefly aimed, at the head of the army. And yet so strong a hold had this unjust opinion on the public mind that even the President was tinctured with it, and in his remarkable letter of January 26th to General Hooker, informing him of his appointment, he said:

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with [217] your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward, and give us victories.

The caution against rashness may have been suggested to the mind of Mr. Lincoln by the epithet of “Fighting Joe Hooker,” which the general never heard without expressing his deep regret that it was ever applied to him. “People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit,” he said; when in fact he was one of the most kindly and tender-hearted of men.

We were accompanied on our ride to the Chancellorsville field, some ten or twelve miles above Fredericksburg, by Major George E. Chancellor, a son of Melzi Chancellor, whose home at the time of the battle was at Dowdall's Tavern, where General Howard had his headquarters. On setting out, General Hooker suggested that we should take some lunch along with us, as, when he was there last there was very little to eat in all that region. Major Chancellor thought it unnecessary, and, in fact, we were feasted most sumptuously at his father's house.

Upon our arrival at the broad, open, rolling fields opposite Banks's Ford, some three or four miles up the stream, General Hooker exclaimed, waving his hand significantly:

Here, on this open ground, I intended to fight my battle. But the trouble was to get my army on it, as the banks of the stream are, as you see, rugged and precipitous, and the few fords were strongly fortified and guarded by the enemy. By making a powerful demonstration in front of and below the town of Fredericksburg with a part of my army, I was able, unobserved, to withdraw the remainder, and, marching nearly thirty miles up the stream, to cross the Rappahannock and the Rapidan unopposed, and in four days time to arrive at Chancellorsville, within five miles of this coveted ground,3--and all this without General Lee having discovered that I had left my position in his front. So far, I regarded my movement as a [218] great success. On the morning of the fifth day my army was astir, and was put in motion on three lines through the tangled forest (the Wilderness) which covers the whole country around Chancellorsville, and in three hours time I would have been in position on these crests, and in possession of Banks's Ford, in short and easy communication with the other wing of my army. But at midnight General Lee had moved out with his whole army, and by sunrise was in firm possession of Banks's Ford, had thrown up this line of breastworks which you can still follow with the eye, and it was bristling with cannon from one end to the other. Before I had proceeded two miles the heads of my columns, while still upon the narrow roads in these interminable forests, where it was impossible to manoeuvre my forces, were met by Jackson with a full two-thirds of the entire Confederate army. I had no alternative but to turn back, as I had only a fragment of my command in hand, and take up the position about Chancellorsville which I had occupied during the night, as I was being rapidly outflanked upon my right, the enemy having open ground on which to operate.

And here again my reputation has been attacked because I did not undertake to accomplish an impossibility, but turned back at this point; and every history of the war that has been written has soundly berated me because I did not fight here in the forest with my hands tied behind me, and allow my army to be sacrificed. I have always believed that impartial history would vindicate my conduct in this emergency.

Soon after leaving the open ground opposite Banks's Ford we entered the dense forest, or “Wilderness,” which covers the entire Chancellorsville battle-ground,--“a dense forest,” says General Warren, “of not very large trees, but very difficult to get through; mainly of scrubby oak, what they call black-jack there, so that a man could hardly ride through it, and a man could not march through it very well with musket in hand, unless he trailed it.”

Every important position was observed and commented upon by the man who on those fierce battle-days had wielded, on this very ground, an army of a hundred thousand men. On approaching the pine-tree under which Generals Lee and Jackson had planned the mode of attack, General Hooker observed:

It was under that tree that the mischief was devised which came near ruining my army. My position at Chancellorsville was a good one for this monotonous country. I felt confident when I reached it that I had eighty chances in a hundred to win. To make sure that everything was firm and strong, very early on the 2d of May, the first day of the battle, I rode along the whole line, and personally examined every part, suggesting some changes and counseling extreme vigilance. Upon my return to Headquarters I was informed that a continuous column of the enemy had been marching past my front since early in the morning, as of a corps with all its impedimenta. This put an entirely new phase upon the problem, and filled me with apprehension for the safety of my right wing, which was posted to meet a front attack from the south, but was in no condition for a flank attack from the west; for this marching of the enemy's corps, to my mind, meant [219] a flank movement upon my right. I immediately dictated a dispatch4 to “Generals Slocum and Howard,” the latter commanding the Eleventh Corps, which stood upon the extreme right, saying that I had good reason to believe that the enemy was moving to our right, and that they must be ready to meet an attack from the west. This was at 9:30 in the morning. In the course of two hours I got a dispatch from General Howard, saying that he could see a column of the enemy moving westward, and that he was taking the precautions necessary “to resist an attack from the west.” 5 I had previously put Williams's division of the Twelfth Corps on an interior line looking westward, and had it fortified, so that if Howard should give way, this interior line would be for safety, as it afterward proved my salvation.

I sent Sickles to pierce this moving column of the enemy, and made preparations to flank the portion of Lee's army that was still upon my front, in the direction of Fredericksburg, and, sweeping down in reverse, to destroy it if possible. But a swamp intervened which had to be corduroyed, and a small stream had to be bridged, which consumed time; and though Sickles was successful in breaking in upon the enemy's column and making some captures, yet, before he was in position to make his decisive attack, Jackson, who had led his column by a long circuit, out of sight and hearing, through the dense forest, came in upon my right flank, and by one concentrated blow of his whole corps, some 25,000 men, had crushed and put to flight almost the entire corps of Howard; and it was with the utmost difficulty that I could lead up my reserves to the interior line of Williams, and bring Jackson's victorious forces to a halt. This failure of Howard to hold his ground cost us our position, and I was forced, in the presence of the enemy, to take up a new one. Upon investigation I found that Howard had failed properly to obey my instructions to prepare to meet the enemy from the west.

In this connection the following extracts from a letter to Hooker from Schurz (who subsequently gave General Hooker leave to print it) will be read with interest:

40 W. 32D St., New York, April 22d, 1876.
my dear General: Your letter of the 8th inst. was forwarded to me from St. Louis, and reached me here early this morning, and I hasten to reply. I regret very much that, my papers being boxed up, I have no access to a memorandum of the circumstances connected with the [220] battle of Chancellorsville, as they came under my observation, which memorandum I put on paper shortly after that event. So I have to depend upon my memory in answering your questions. According to my recollection, you are mistaken in your impression that General Howard put your dispatches and orders into his pocket without communicating them to his division commanders. About noon or a little after on the day of the attack on the Eleventh Corps I was at General Howard's headquarters, a house on the Chancellorsville road near the center of our position. General Howard, being very tired, wanted to rest a little, and asked me as next in rank to open dispatches that might arrive and to wake him in case they were of immediate importance. Shortly after a courier arrived with a dispatch from you calling General Howard's attention to the movement of the enemy toward our right flank, and instructing him to take precautionary measures against an attack from that quarter. I went into General Howard at once and read it to him, and, if I remember rightly, while we were speaking about it another courier, or one of your young staff-officers, arrived with a second dispatch of virtually the same purport. We went out and discussed the matter on the porch of the house. I am not sure whether General Steinwehr was present or not. . . .

I have seen it stated that my troops were already gone when General Devens's division in its hurried retreat reached my position. This is utterly untrue. Some of my regiments, which had remained in their old position, succeeded in wheeling round under the fire of the enemy; others were swept away, but those whose front I had changed during the afternoon in anticipation of the attack held their ground a considerable time after the debris of General Devens's division had swept through our line. I saw General Devens, wounded, carried by, and he had long been . . . in the rear when we were overpowered and fell back upon Colonel Buschbeck's position, where General Howard in the meantime had been trying to rally the routed troops. This also you will find in my report. My loss in killed and wounded was quite heavy: if I remember rightly, about twenty per cent.

I ought to add that he [General Howard] thought he could not carry out as well as he desired your instruction to hold a strong reserve in hand, for the reason that General Barlow's brigade of Steinwehr's division had been ordered to the support of Sickles. All the precaution that was taken against a flank attack, aside from what I did without orders, was the construction of a small rifle-pit across the Chancellorsville road in the rear of my division, near the house [Dowdall's Tavern] occupied by General Howard as headquarters. . . . Of course this hasty note is not written with any expectation on my part to see it printed as part of an historical narrative. It is simply to give you the information you wish for, and which it gives me pleasure to furnish.

Very truly yours,

P. S.--Whether General Howard received on that day any dispatches or instructions from you subsequent to those mentioned, I do not know.


When we arrived at the Chancellor House (which is all there is of Chancellorsville), where General Hooker had his headquarters, and where he received the hurt that came near proving mortal, General Hooker said, “I was standing on this step of the portico on the Sunday morning of the 3d of May, and [221] was giving direction to the battle, which was now raging with great fury, the cannon-balls reaching me from both the east and the west, when a solid shot struck the pillar near me, splitting it in two, and throwing one-half longitudinally against me, striking my whole right side, which soon turned livid. For a few moments I was senseless, and the report spread that I had been killed. But I soon revived, and, to correct the misapprehension, I insisted on being lifted upon my horse, and rode back toward the white house, which subsequently became the center of my new position. Just before reaching it, the pain from my hurt became so intense that I was likely to fall, when I was assisted to dismount, and was laid upon a blanket spread out upon the ground, and was given some brandy. This revived me, and I was assisted to remount. Scarcely was I off the blanket when a solid shot, fired by the enemy at Hazel Grove, struck in the very center of that blanket, where I had a moment before been lying, and tore up the earth in a savage way.” As he ended this recital General Hooker turned to Major Chancellor, who was standing by, and said, “Ah, Major! Your people were after me with a sharp stick on that day.”

A short distance from the Chancellor House, in the direction of Dowdall's Tavern, our carriage was halted, and, dismounting, Major Chancellor led us a few paces out of the road, along a faint cart-path, when he said, “This is the place where Stonewall Jackson received the wounds that proved mortal.” “I have always been struck,” observed General Hooker, “with the last words of General Jackson, evincing how completely he was absorbed in the progress of the battle. In his delirium he was still upon the field, and he cried out, ‘Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action — pass the infantry to the front rapidly — tell Major Hawks--’ when he stopped with the sentence unfinished. After a little his brow relaxed, as if from relief, and he said, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees,’--and these were his last words.”

Arriving at Dowdall's Tavern, General Hooker pointed out the excellent position here afforded for Howard's corps to have made a stout defense. “Buschbeck's brigade of that corps,” said he, “did wonders here, and held the whole impetuous onset of the enemy in check for an hour or more, which gave me opportunity to bring my reserves into position. The loss of this ground brought me into so cramped a condition that I was. obliged to take up a new position, which I successfully accomplished. I now ordered Sedgwick, who commanded the Sixth Corps, the largest in my army, some 22,000 men, [222]

Retreat of the Union army across the Rappahannock at United States Ford. From a War-time sketch.

which had been left to demonstrate in front of Fredericksburg, to cross the river and move rapidly up to my left. The effect of so heavy a body of fresh troops coming in upon the enemy's flank I calculated would be decisive. But Sedgwick was dilatory in moving,7 which gave the enemy time to concentrate and stop him before he had moved over half the distance, and I consequently got no help from him.”

I ventured to ask why he did not attack when he found that the enemy had weakened his forces in the immediate front and sent them away to meet Sedgwick. “That,” said he, “would seem to have been the reasonable thing to do. But we were in this impenetrable thicket. All the roads and openings leading through it the enemy immediately fortified strongly, and planted thickly his artillery commanding all the avenues, so that with reduced numbers he could easily hold his lines, shutting me in, and it became utterly impossible to manoeuvre my forces. My army was not beaten. Only a part of it had been engaged. The First Corps, commanded by Reynolds, whom I regarded as the ablest officer under me, was fresh and ready and eager to be brought into action, as was my whole army. But I had been fully convinced of the futility of attacking fortified positions, and I was determined not to sacrifice my men needlessly, though it should be at the expense of my reputation as a fighting officer. We had already had enough grievous experience in that line. I made frequent demonstrations to induce the enemy to attack me, but he would not accept my challenge. Accordingly, when the eight days rations with which my army started out were exhausted, I retired across the river. Before doing so I sent orders to General Sedgwick to hold his position near [223] Banks's Ford, on the south side of the stream, and I would bringmy whole army to his support; but the order failed to reach him until he had already recrossed the river.8 Could I have had my army on the open grounds at that point where I could have manoeuvred it properly, I felt assured that I could have gained a decisive victory. But this, my last chance, was frustrated.”9

Foraging in the Wilderness.


Feeling the enemy, from a War-time Sketoh.

1 Following is the text of the orders: “Headquarters, army of the Potomac, January 23d, 1863. General orders, no. 8. (1.) General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigadier-general, U. S. Army, having been guilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking in disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, confidence, consideration, and patriotism are due from every soldier in the field. This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States. (2.) Brigadier-General W. T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States, (3.) Brigadier-General John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brigadier-General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the United States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States. (4.) It being evident that the following-named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U. S. Army: Major-General W. B. Franklin, commanding Left Grand Division; Major-General W. F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brigadier-General Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brigadier-General Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps; Brigadier-General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Taylor, Assistant Adjutant-General, Right Grand Division. By command of Major-General A. E. Burnside. Lewis Richmond, Assistant Adjutant-General.” 1

2 In the Official Records the above order is accompanied by the following note of explanation: “This order was not approved by the President, and was, therefore, never issued. It appeared in the public prints, is referred to in the correspondence between Halleck and Franklin, and in Burnside's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.” editors.

3 The demonstrations began on April 21st, and were made at intervals at Kelly's Ford, Rappahannock Bridge, and Port Royal. The movement of Sedgwick below the town was disclosed to Lee on the 29th, when the pontoons were laid and the crossing took place at the point where Franklin's Left Grand Division crossed in December, 1862. Hooker's flanking column, consisting of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth corps and two divisions of the Second Corps, crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford on the 28th and 29th by pontoon-bridges, and passed the Rapidan by fording and by means of pontoons, arriving at Chancellorsville on the 30th. The Third Corps, after taking part in the demonstrations before Fredericksburg, crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford and reached Chancellorsville on May 1st, and was followed by the First Corps on the 2d.--editors.


headquarters, army of the Potomac, Chancellorsville, Va., May 2d, 1863, 9:30 A. M. Circular.
Major-Generals Slocum and Howard:
I am directed by the Major-General commanding to say that the disposition you have made of your corps has been with a view to a front attack by the enemy. If he should throw himself upon your flank, he wishes you to examine the ground and determine upon the position you will take in that event, in order that you may be prepared for him in whatever direction he advances. He suggests that you have heavy reserves well in hand to meet this contingency. The right of your line does not appear to be strong enough. No artificial defenses worth naming have been thrown up, and there appears to be a scarcity of troops at that point, and not, in the general's opinion, as favorably posted as might be. We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe, in order to obtain timely information of their approach.

J. H. Van Alen, Brigadier-General and Aide-de-camp.

[This is the dispatch which General Howard states he did not receive at the time. See p. 196. In the Official Records the word circular does not appear, and the address is “Major-Generals Howard and Slocum.”--editors.]


headquarters, 11th Corps, May 2d, 10 minutes to 11 o'k [10:50 A. M.]
Maj.-Genl. Hooker, Comd'g Army. General:
From Gen. Devens's headquarters we can observe a column of infantry moving westward on a road parallel with this on a ridge about 1 1/2 to 2 miles south of this. I am taking measures to resist an attack from the west.

Respectfully, O. O. Howard, Maj.-Gen.

6 The following are extracts from the official report of General Schurz, who shows, besides, that his division made strenuous efforts to stem the assaults of Jackson's men:

“ In the course of the forenoon I was informed that large columns of the enemy could be seen from General Devens's headquarters, moving from east to west. . . . I observed them plainly as they moved on. I rode back to your [General Howard's] headquarters, and on the way ordered Captain Dilger to look for good artillery positions on the field fronting west, as the troops would in all probability have to execute a change of front. The matter was largely discussed at your headquarters, and I entertained and expressed in our informal conversations the opinion that we should form upon the open ground we then occupied, with our front at right angles with the Plank road, lining the church grove and the border of the woods east of the open plain with infantry, placing strong échelons behind both wings, and distributing the artillery along the front on ground most favorable for its action, especially on the eminence on the right and left of Dowdall's Tavern. . . . In the absence of orders, but becoming more and more convinced that the enemy's attack would come from the west and fall upon our right and rear, I took it upon my own responsibility to detach two regiments from the second line of my Second Brigade and to place them in a good position on the right and left of Ely's Ford road, west of Hawkins's farm, so as to check the enemy if he should attack our extreme right and penetrate through the woods at that point. This was subsequently approved by you. . . . With these exceptions, no change was made in the position occupied by the corps. The losses suffered by my division in the action of May 2d were very severe in proportion to my whole effective force. I had 15 officers killed, 23 wounded, and 15 missing, and 102 men killed, 365 wounded, and 441 missing,--total, 953. [note: This was the loss reported by General Schurz, but a recently revised table of the War Department shows 9 officers and 120 men killed, 32 officers and 461 men wounded, and 8 officers and 290 men captured or missing,--a total of 920.--editors.] . . . My whole loss amounted to about 23 per cent. . . . In closing this report I beg leave to make one additional remark. The Eleventh Corps, and, by error or malice, especially the Third Division, has been held up to the whole country as a band of cowards. My division has been made responsible for the defeat of the Eleventh Corps, and the Eleventh Corps for the failure of the campaign. Preposterous as this is, yet we have been overwhelmed by the army and the press with abuse and insult beyond measure. We have borne as much as human nature can endure. I am far from saying that on May 2d everybody did his duty to the best of his power.

But one thing I will say, because I know it: these men are no cowards. . . . I have seen, with my own eyes, troops who now affect to look down upon the Eleventh Corps with sovereign contempt behave much worse under circumstances far less trying . . . .

” editors.

7 See statements in Sedgwick at Fredericksburg and Salem Heights, p. 224.--editors.

8 The Official Records (Vol. XXV., Part II., p. 418) show that Sedgwick recrossed the Rappahannock in obedience to an order from General Hooker, dated May 5th, 1 A. M., and received by Sedgwick at 2 A. M. At 1:20 A. M. Hooker sent the following order to Sedgwick (Ibid., p. 419): “Yours received, saying you should hold position [as ordered]. Order to withdraw countermanded.” This countermand was received by Sedgwick at 3:20 A. M., but meanwhile almost his entire command had recrossed under the order of 1 A. M.--editors.

9 The subjoined letter has been kindly furnished to us for publication by Lieutenant Worth G. Ross, son of the late Colonel Samuel Ross, to whom it is addressed. It is believed that it had not been printed before its appearance in “The century” for April, 1888.--editors.

Lookout Valley, Tenn., February 28th, 1864.
my dear Colonel: For some reason your letter was a long time in reaching me. When the Eleventh Corps gave way on Saturday, Berry's division and Hays's brigade were dispatched to seize and hold the ground occupied by the left of that corps. Berry double-quicked his men to the point, but was too late. The enemy were already in possession. When this was reported to me I directed my engineers to establish a new line, which was pointed out to them on the map, and at the same time stated to them that we would probably have to move on it as soon as the enemy opened on us in the morning, as his batteries would sweep the plain in front of the Chancellorsville House, and, besides, enfilade the line held by the Second and Twelfth corps nearly its entire length. Soon after these instructions were given to the engineers, peremptory orders were sent to General Sedgwick to advance over the Plank road from Fredericksburg and attack the enemy in front of the Second and Twelfth corps at daylight. My single object in holding on to the position as long as I did was to hear Sedgwick's guns, which I momentarily expected, of course. General Warren had been sent to guide him. The orders reached him between 10 and 11 o'clock, [he] had but eight miles to march, a bright moonlight night, with only a small force to oppose. Probably had he marched as directed, not a gun would have been fired. With Lee in my front and Jackson on my flank I was unwilling to attempt to force my way through Lee, especially as the roads through the forests would only enable me to present my columns with narrow fronts, which the enemy could cut down as fast as they were exposed. I knew that I could do this, and I gave the enemy credit for being able to do as much as I could, but no more. Had Sedgwick come up on Lee's rear, the latter would have found himself between two armies, and would doubtless have followed Jackson's flank movement, which I desired, as that would throw the enemy off the short r oad to Richmond and our troops on it. I do not know that you ever heard that I had one and a half millions of rations afloat in the Potomac to throw up the Pamunkey River in view of this contingency.

I recrossed the Rappahannock, expecting to return at or near Franklin's Crossing, where I had elbow-room [see p. 74], and at least an even chance for being victorious, and so stated to the President at the time. No general battle was fought at Chancellorsville, for I was unwilling to give battle with such great odds against me. I rejoice that what was not gained was not lost.

We lost no honors at Chancellorsville. With all of our misfortunes the enemy's loss exceeded our own by one-third. Of this I have abundant evidence in the official returns of the enemy's casualties, as they have from time to time been published. [But see p. 238.] If I did not cross the river again it will appear that it was for reasons over which I had no control. The rains had nothing to do with our returning from Chancellorsville, for it had been determined on in my mind long before the rain commenced falling. I do not like to be quoted as authority on this subject until after the official report is published, and for the flattering terms in which you speak of me--not ever. I hope that you and yours are well. My kindest regards to Mrs. Ross and my best wishes for yourself.

Your friend,

Joseph Hooker. Colonel Samuel Ross, Commanding Brigade, Twelfth Corps.

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