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Chancellorsville — address of General Fitzhugh Lee before the Virginia division, A. N. V. Association, October 29th, 1879.

Mr. President, Comrades, and Ladies and Gentlemen:
The musical echoes of the horn of the Alpine Chief, winding from highest mountain top to lowermost valley, were as sacred in the ears of his followers as the mystic fire which burned in the temple of the Virgins of Vesta, and its blast drew every man from his wife, his sweetheart and his fireside. So, an invitation to speak to this Association of the historic Army of Northern Virginia, should sound upon the ear of the Confederate soldier as a mandate from a band of brothers, chained to him by the loving links of a mighty past, and whose future is indissolubly wrapped up with his in one common destiny — for all time, for sunshine and for storms; irresistibly drawing him from all other obligations, it brings him, however unworthy, before you to-night, to discharge the duty assigned him by your partiality.

At your bidding, fellow soldiers, I strike the strings of the harp of Auld Lang Syne, whose notes now are chords of peace, while picturing, with poor brush, the camp fires of war. The ruddy [546] glow will light up familiar scenes to you, because once again in imagination you will see the fiery hoof of battle plunged into the red earth of Virginia's soil. I approach it, as was said by the sage of Monticello, in his famous inaugural, “with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire, and I humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking.” Soldiers, your committee requested that I should present to your consideration, a field of conflict which brings before the military student as high a type of an offensive battle as ever adorned the pages of history. The military wisdom of those directing the tactical and strategical manoeuvres upon the Confederate side, was equaled only by the valor of the troops entrusted with the execution. Aye, the heart of the Southron of to-day will beat with lofty pride, his cheek will mantle with crimson consciousness, and the eyes of his children's children, yet unborn, will flash with inherited fire, as is seen the splendid laurel wreath which fame hangs upon the Confederate colors, fluttering so victoriously to the breeze in those early days of May, 1863, when the “stem of the willow shoots out a green feather, and butter cups burn in the grass.”

For giants were wrestling there, for victory upon the gory ground of Chancellorsville. To understand clearly the combination which resulted in this success to the Confederate arms, go over with me, as briefly as possible, the immediate preceding events.

When the sun of September 17th, 1862, with the mellow splendor of autumn, had gone down beneath the horizon, 35,000 Southern soldiers, living and dead, slept upon the field of Sharpsburg — some waiting for to-morrow's conflict, others resting where they wearied, and lying where they fell. They had successfully withstood the assaults of the Federal army, numbering in action, according to McClellan's report, 87,164. On the 19th the Army of Northern Virginia recrossed the Potomac, and for weeks its encampments whitened the charming region of the lower Valley. Nineteen days after the battle, Mr. Lincoln, President of the United States, ordered McClellan to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive them south. On the 10th October, four days after the date of that order, the dashing commander of the Confederate horse, J. E. B. Stuart, led his cavalry back into Maryland, and riding around both flanks and rear, made a complete circuit of McClellan's army, possibly to inquire why Lincon's orders were not obeyed. [547]

McClellan reported Stuart's march. Halleck, then Commander-in-Chief at Washington, replies to him: “The President has read your telegram, and directs me to suggest that if the enemy had more occupation south of the river, his cavalry would not be likely to make raids north of it.” On the 25th October, McClellan telegraphs that his “horses are broken down from fatigue and want of flesh.” Lincoln rejoins: “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything? Stuart's cavalry out marched ours, having certainly done more marked service in the Peninsula and every where since.” On the 3d of November, twenty days after he had bees ordered, McClellan finished crossing his army over the Potomac — not in General Lee's front, but in Loudoun county--carefully interposing the burly Blue Ridge between it and the Army of Northern Virginia, and securely holding the passes. Leaving Jackson in the lower Valley, General Lee quietly moved Longstreet and the cavalry up the Valley, and crossing them, at passes south of those held by McClellan, moved into Culpeper county, so that when the Federal commander reached Fauquier county the Rappahannock rolled once more peacefully between them. On the 7th of November, McClellan telegraphs: “I am now concentrating my troops in the direction of Warrenton.” An order prepared two days before relieved him from the command of his army. The storm of official displeasure which had been growing deeper and blacker, had burst at last above the head of the young Napoleon, and the fury of the gale was destined to sweep him, who was once the idol of the army and the people, from further participation in the struggle. To-day the tempest tossed winds are quiet beneath the rays of the sun of peace, and as its Governor, McClellan's command is the State of New Jersey. Burnside was his successor. He decided to make a rapid march of his whole force upon Fredericksburg, making that the base of his operations, with Richmond as the objective point. On the 17th of November his advance, Sumner's column, 33,000 strong, arrived in front of Fredericksburg. Had his pontoons arrived, Burnside says, “Sumner would have crossed at once over a bridge in front of a city filled with families of Rebel officers and sympathizers of the Rebel cause, and garrisoned by a small squadron of cavalry and a battery of artillery.” On the 15th, General Lee learned that transports and gunboats had arrived at Acquia creek. On the 18th Stuart, forcing his way across the Rappahannock at the Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, in the face of [548] cavalry and artillery, made a reconnoissance as far as Warrenton, reaching there just after the rear of the Federal column had left. His report satisfied General Lee that the whole Federal army had gone to Fredericksburg. He had previously been informed as to Sumner's march. McLaws' and Ransom's divisions, accompanied by Lane's battery of artillery and W. H. F. Lee's brigade of cavalry, were at once put in motion for that place, and the whole of Longstreet's corps followed on the 19th. On the 21st Sumner summoned the town to surrender under a threat of cannonading it the next day. To this General Lee replied that the “Confederate forces would not use the place for military purposes, but its occupation by the enemy would be resisted,” and directions were given for the removal of the women and children as rapidly as possible. The threatened bombardment did not take place; but in view of the imminence of a collision between the two armies, the inhabitants were advised to leave the city, and almost the entire population, without a murmur, abandoned their houses. “History presents no instance of a people exhibiting a purer and more unselfish patriotism or a higher spirit of fortitude or courage than was evinced by the citizens of Fredericksburg. They cheerfully incurred great hardships and privations, and surrendered their homes and property to destruction rather than yield them into the hands of the enemy of their country.”

While the poisoned cup was not passed around as at Capua before its inhabitants surrendered to Fulvius, they pledged their fortunes, their families and their household goods to the cause with the faith which characterized the Romans when they put up for sale the ground occupied by Hannibal's camps during his siege of the city, and it was bought at a price not at all below its value. The law passed at the instance of the Tribune Oppius forbade, in the dark days of Rome, any woman from wearing a gay colored dress, and that none should approach nearer than a mile of any city or town in a car drawn by horses, because the public need was so urgent that private expenses must be restrained by law so as to give more for defence. The women of Fredericksburg, equally as patriotic, obeyed “without a murmur,” and bore their proportion of the burdens of the hour, for the confirmation of which they have the recorded words of Robert E. Lee. On the 22d November, one day after the demand for the surrender of

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