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The battlefields of Virginia.


Embracing the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia, from the first battle of Fredericksburg, to the death Lieutenant-General Jackson.


Jed. Hotchkiss,

Late Captain and Topographical Engineer, 2nd Corps, A. N. V.,
and William Allan,
Late Lieut.—Colonel and Chief of Ordnance, 2nd Corps, A. N. V.

Saturday, May 2nd.

Lee and Jackson passed the night under some pine trees on the left of the Plank Road, just where the Confederate line crossed it. The difficulty of attacking the Federal position in front had induced General Lee to order his cavalry to reconnoitre the right flank of the Union Army. During the night they reported favorably to an attack in that direction. At daybreak, General Jackson dispatched two of his staff to ascertain if a practicable route existed by which, with speed and secrecy, he might move 'round the flank of the hostile army. The needed information was soon obtained. Seated upon two cracker boxes, the debris of an issue of Federal rations the day before, the Confederate leaders held their consultation. With a map before him, General Jackson suggested an entire circuit of the right of the opposing army, and that the attack should be made in its rear. Lee inquired with what force he could do this. Jackson replied, “With my whole corps, present.” Lee then asked what would be left to him with which to resist an advance of the enemy towards Fredericksburg. “The divisions of Anderson and McLaws,” said Jackson. For a moment Lee reflected on the audacity of this plan in the face of Hooker's superior numbers. With less than forty-two thousand muskets, [4] he was in the presence of sixty thousand. To divide his army into two parts, and place the whole Federal army between them, was extremely hazardous. But it was impossible to attack the Federal position in front without terrible loss. The very boldness of the proposed movement, if executed with secrecy and dispatch, was an earnest of success. Jackson was directed to carry out the plan.

The orders for the march were immediately given. Rodes, in command of D. H. Hill's division, was placed in advance. A. P. Hill brought up the rear.

The foregoing was undoubtedly written by Hotchkiss, for subsequently he gave a similar account of what passed between Lee and Jackson, and claimed that he was present and heard what was said, as will be seen from the following extract from Henderson's ‘Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War,’ published in 1897:

“About daylight on May 2nd,” says Major Hotchkiss, ‘General Jackson awakened me, and requested that I would at once go down to Catherine Furnace, which is quite near, and where a Colonel Welford lived, and ascertain if there was any road by which he could secretly pass around Chancellorsville to the vicinity of the old Wilderness Tavern. I had a map, which our engineers had prepared from actual surveys, of the surrounding country, showing all the public roads, but with few details of the intermediate topography. Reaching Mr. Welford's, I aroused him from his bed, and soon learned that he himself had recently opened a road through the woods in that direction for the purpose of hauling cord wood and iron ore to the furnace. This I located on the map, and having asked Mr. Welford if he would act as a guide if it became necessary to march over that road, I returned to headquarters. When I reached there I found Generals Lee and Jackson in conference, each seated on a cracker box, from a pile which had been left there by the Federals the day before. In response to General Jackson's request for my report, I put another cracker box between the two generals, on which I spread the map, showed them the road I had ascertained, and indicated, so far as I knew it, the position of the Federal army. General Lee then said, [5] “General Jackson, what do you propose to do?” He replied, “Go around here,” moving his finger over the road which I had located upon the map. General Lee said, “What do you propose to make the movement with?” “With my whole corps,” was the answer.,General Lee then asked “What will you leave me?” “The divisions of Anderson and McLaws,” said Jackson. General Lee, after a moment's reflection, remarked; “Well, go on,” and then, pencil in hand, gave his last instructions. Jackson, with an eager smile upon his face, from time to time nodded assent, and when the Commander-in-Chief ended with the words, “General Stuart will cover your movements with his cavalry,” he rose and saluted, saying, “My troops will move at once, sir.” ’

Condensing the account of Allan and Hotchkiss, the principal facts stated are:

1. Lee and Jackson passed the night in close proximity to each other, whether with or without conference is not stated. The difficulty of attacking the Federal position in front had induced General Lee to order his cavalry to reconnoitre the right flank of the Union army, and during the night they reported favorably to an attack in that direction.

2. At daybreak on May 2nd, General Jackson dispatched two of his staff to ascertain whether there was a practicable route by which he might move with speed and secrecy around the flank of General Hooker's army. The needed information was soon obtained, and General Jackson, after his two staff officers had reported the result of their reconnoisance, suggested to General Lee an entire circuit of the right flank of the opposing army, and that the attack should be made in its rear. That after some hesitation General Lee accepted General Jackson's suggestion, and then, but not until then, orders for the march of the Second Corps were given.

Dr. Dabney says:

1. When Friday night arrived, Generals Lee and Jackson met at a spot where the road to the Catherine Furnace turned southeastward from the Plank Road * * *. General Stuart [6] now joined them, and reported the result of his reconnoisance upon the south and west of Hooker's position. * * *.

Generals Lee and Jackson now withdrew, and held an anxious consultation. That Hooker must be attacked, and that speedily, was clear to the judgment of both of them. * * *

2. He (General Lee) had already commanded his troops to commence a movement towards the left, and communicated his views to General Jackson, who warmly concurred in their wisdom. A report was about this time received from General Fitzhugh Lee, of Stuart's command, describing the position of the Federal army, and the roads which he held with his cavalry leading to its rear. General Jackson now proposed to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear. * * *.

In his last account, Hotchkiss claimed to have obtained information (on the morning of May 2nd) of a road which had been recently opened by Col. Welford, and that it was by this road that Jackson's corps made the detour around Hooker's right flank, but the ‘Route of Jackson's Corps,’ as indicated by Hotchkiss on the map published with his first account in 1867, was by the ‘Furnace’ and ‘Brock’ roads, which were old roads, and were clearly shown on the map of Spotsylvania county, prepared before the Battle of Chancellorsville, by Major A. H. Campbell, of the C. S. Engineer corps, (see Plate No. XCI, published with Vol. 25, of Rebellion Records).

It is apparent from Dr. Dabney's account that General Jackson was seeking for a shorter route than Campbell's map showed, as well as information as to the condition of the known roads, but if the route of the Second Corps on May 2nd is correctly laid down by Hotchkiss on his map, all efforts to find a suitable cut-off failed, for it followed the old roads shown on Campbell's map. Furthermore, it was from his chaplain, (the Rev. Mr. Lacy), that Jackson sought information about the roads, for Dr. Dabney says:

When his chaplain awoke in the morning, before the dawn of day, he perceived a little fire kindled under the trees, and General Jackson sitting by it upon a box, such as was used to contain biscuit for the soldiers. The General knew that his former pastoral labors had led him to this region, and he desired [7] to learn something from him about its by-roads. He therefore requested him to sit beside him on the box; and when the other declined to inconmmode him by doing so, made room for him, and repeated, “Come, sit down; I wish to talk to you.” * * *.

He wished to know whether he was acquainted with any way by which their flank might be turned, either on the right or left. He was informed, in reply, that after proceeding southward along the Furnace Road, for a space, a blind road would present itself, leading westward, and nearly parallel to the Orange Plank Road, which, in its turn, would conduct into a plainer route, that fell into the great road four miles above Chancellorsville. The General, quickly drawing from his pocket an outline map, prepared for him by one of his engineers, and a pencil, said, “Take this map, and mark it down for me.” When he saw it, he said, “That is too near; it goes within the line of the enemy's pickets. I wish to get around well to his rear, without being observed; do you know of no other road?” He replied that he had no perfect knowledge of any other, but presumed that the road which he had described as entering the Orange Plank Road, four miles above Chancellorsville, must intersect the Furnace Road somewhere in the interior, because their directions were convergent. “Then,” said Jackson, “where can you find this out certainly?” He was told that everything could doubtless be learned at the house of the proprietor of the furnace, a mile and a half distant, whose son, a patriotic and gallant man, would be an excellent guide. He then said, “Go with Mr. Hotchkiss (his topographical engineer) to the furnace, ascertain whether these roads meet, at what distance, and whether they are practicable for artillery; send Mr. Hotchkiss back with the information, and do you procure me a guide?”

The desired information was speedily obtained; and it was discovered that the two roads crossed each other at the distance of a few miles; so that, by a circuit of fifteen miles, a point would be reached near Wilderness Run, several miles above the farthest outposts of Hooker. The intersecting road, by which the Orange Plank Road was to be regained, was known as the Brock Road.

This account, which was no doubt given to Dr. Dabney by [8] the Rev. B. T. Lacy, shows that General Jackson contemplated taking the route by the Furnace Road to where it crossed the Brock Road, and thence by the Brock Road across the Plank Road to the old turnpike near the Wilderness tavern, and Hotchkiss' map shows that this was the route followed by him. Hotchkiss' claim to have discovered a hitherto unknown route, by which the movement was effected is, therefore, unwarranted.

The statement that marching orders were not given to the Second Corps until after a meeting between Lee and Jackson Saturday morning, May 2nd, is not consistent with the facts, which appear in the official records, as will be seen from the following extracts from the ‘War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,’ Series I, Vol. XXV:


From the Report of Brig. General David B. Birney, U. S. A.

About 8 o'clock I reported to Major-General Sickles that a continuous column of infantry, trains and ambulances was passing my front towards the right.

From the Report of Brigadier General George Doles, C. S. A.

About 6 A. M., May 2nd, moved up dirt road about half a mile; filed offi to the left on the Furnace Road, arriving at Germanna Road about 3:30 P. M.

Front the Report of Brig. General S. D. Ramseur, C. S. A.

Saturday, May 2nd, we were relieved about sunrise, and shortly thereafter marched by a series of circuitous routes, and with surpassing strategy to a position in the rear of the enemy.

From the Report of Col. J. M. Hall, 5th Alabama Regt.

At sunrise, May 2nd, we resumed our march; were formed in line of battle in rear of Chancellorsville about 2:30 P. M. * * *.

From the Report of Capt. M. F. Bonham, 3rd Alabama Regt.

May 2nd, moved at sunrise up the Plank Road, and after a circuitous march of nine hours, in which many men fainted and fell by the roadside, formed in line of battle on the Plank Road, in the enemy's rear.

note.—Sunrise was about 6 A. M. [9]

John Esten Cooke says in his ‘Military Biography of Stonewall Jackson’: ‘The column commenced to move at daybreak,’ and Dr. Dabney states that General Jackson reached the furnace at the lead of his column, ‘a little after sunrise.’

These extracts from the Official Reports, and statements of General Jackson's biographers, suffice to show that the movements of the Second Corps, on May 2nd, began much earlier than the statement of Allan and Hotchkiss would indicate, and, if so, before their reported interview between Lee and Jackson could have occurred. There must, therefore, have been an understanding between Lee and Jackson that Hooker's right flank was to be turned by Jackson, and marching orders must have been given the night before for an early start on the morning of Saturday, May 2nd.

Hotchkiss representation that there was time for him after daylight to go to the furnace, arouse Col. Welford, get information about the roads, return to General Jackson and make his report, and then for Generals Lee and Jackson to confer, and reach a conclusion before marching orders were issued to the Second Corps, is at variance with substantiated facts, even without what follows:

What General Lee has said.

In a letter to Mrs. Jackson, dated January 25th, 1866, General Lee said, in commenting on the manuscript of Dr. Dabney's ‘Life and Campaigns of Lieut-General T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson,’ which had been submitted to him for examination before publication:

I am misrepresented at the Battle of Chancellorsville in proposing an attack in front, the first evening of our arrival. On the contrary, I decided against it, and stated to General Jackson, we must attack on our left as soon as practicable; and the necessary movement of the troops began immediately. In consequence of a report received about that time, from General Fitz. Lee, describing the position of the Federal army, and the roads which he held with his cavalry leading to its rear, General Jackson, after some inquiry concerning the roads leading to the furnace, undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear, which he accomplished with equal skill and [10] boldness; the rest of the army being moved to the left flank to connect with him as he advanced.

Here we have from General Lee himself positive statements with which to test the accuracy of what has been said or written by others:

1. On the evening of his and Jackson's arrival in front of Hooker's position at Chancellorsville, which was Friday, May 1st, he decided against an attack in front, and stated to General Jackson that the attack must be on ‘our left,’ (which was General Hooker's right), “that it must be made as soon as practicable.” and that the necessary movement of the troops ‘began immediately.’

2. That about the same time (on the evening of Friday, May 1st) a report was received from General Fitz. Lee, ‘describing the position of the Federal army, and the roads which he held with his cavalry leading to its rear,’ and ‘General Jackson, after some inquiry concerning the roads leading to the furnace, undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear.’

From this it seems clear that General Lee told General Jackson on the night of Friday, May 1st, when and how General Hooker's army was to be attacked, and that General Jackson, after some inquiry concerning the roads leading to the Furnace undertook “to carry out the plan of attack indicated to him by General Lee,” and commenced the movement of his troops into position at once.

General Jackson's inquiry about the roads leading to the Furnace was obviously to enable him to determine the line of march of each of his divisions, from where they halted Friday night to the Furnace, from which point he led his troops in person, as stated by Dr. Dabney.

General Lee gave to General Jackson all the credit of having undertaken and successfully carried out the movement around Hooker. He was writing to Mrs. Jackson, and if he could have truthfully accorded to her dead husband all the credit claimed for General Jackson by Dr. Dabney, he would certainly have done so in specific terms; but he did not say [11] that General Jackson proposed the movement he undertook to execute.

In General Lee's official report of the Battle of Chancellorsville, he says:

It was evident that a direct attack upon the enemy would be attended with great difficulty and loss, in view of the strength of his position and his superiority of numbers. It was, therefore, resolved to endeavor to turn his right flank and gain his rear, leaving a force in front to hold him in check and conceal the movement. The execution of this movement was entrusted to Lieutenant-General Jackson, with his three divisions. The commands of Generals McLaws and Anderson, with the exception of Wilcox's Brigade, which during the night had been ordered back to Banks' Ford, remained in front of the enemy.

Early on the morning of the 2nd, General Jackson marched by the Furnace and Brock roads, his movement being effectually covered by Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, under General Stuart in person. * * * .

The movement by which the enemy's position was turned and the fortune of the day decided was conducted by the lamented Lieutenant-General Jackson. * * *.

The personal recollections of such members of General Lee's staff as have been recorded, were, for reasons already stated, written many years after the occurrences to which they bear witness, and it would be strange indeed if they were in perfect accord, but they all agree with Dr. Dabney, that it was at a conference between Lee and Jackson Friday night, that the attack on Hooker's rear was decided upon, the material point of difference between Dr. Dabney and Lee's staff officers being as to whether Lee or Jackson originated the rear attack on Hooker.

Col. W. H. Taylor, of Lee's staff, in his ‘Four Years with General Lee,’ published in 1878, says in his account of the Battle of Chancellorsville:

Encouraged by the counsel and confidence of General Jackson, he (General Lee) determined still further to divide his army; and while he, with the divisions of Anderson and [12] McLaws, less than fourteen thousand men, should hold the enemy in his front, he would hurl Jackson upon his flank and rear, and crush and crumble him as between the upper and nether millstone. The very boldness of the movement contributed much to insure its success.

General Fitzhugh Lee, in his address at the Ninth Annual Re-union of the Virginia Division of the Army of Northern Virginia Association, in 1879, says:

The problem presented to General Lee's mind on Friday night, May 1st, was to decide how best to attack Hooker's army on the morning of May 2nd. Time was an important element; for near Fredericksburg, in his rear, was Sedgwick, largely outnumbering the Confederate force in front under Early. During the afternoon General Lee wished to attack from his right, and cut Hooker off from the United States Ford, severing his communications with Sedgwick, and rode down himself and examined the line all the way to the river, but found no place where he could do so. Returning at night, he found Jackson, and asked if he knew of any place to attack. Jackson said, “No.” Lee said, “Then we must get around on the Federal right.” Jackson said he had been enquiring about roads by the furnace. Stuart came up then, and said he would go down to the furnace, and see what he could learn about roads. He soon returned with Rev. B. T. Lacy, who said, “A circuit could be made around by Wilderness Tavern;” and a young man living in the county, and then in the cavalry, was sent for to act as guide.

Ah! what an earnest talk Lee and Jackson had on the night of May the 1st. At sunset they took their seats on a log on the right, or north side, of the Plank Road, and a little distance in the woods. Colonel Marshall, the well-known aidede-camp of General Lee, was the only other person present, having been ordered to come to the spot for the purpose of writing a letter to Mr. Davis, dictated by General Lee. Marshall sat on the end of a fallen tree, within three feet of the two generals, and heard every word that passed between them, and this is what he tells me Lee and Jackson talked about on that eventful night: [13]

Jackson spoke to General Lee about what he had seen and heard during the advance, and commented upon the promptness with which the enemy had appeared to abandon his movements toward Fredericksburg when opposed, and the ease with which he had been driven back to Chancellorsville, and concluded by expressing the opinion very decidedly, and repeating it more than once, that the enemy would recross the Rappahannock before morning. He said, in substance, ‘By to-morrow morning there will not be any of them on this side of the river.’

General Lee expressed the hope that General Jackson's expectations might be realized, but said ‘he did not look for such a result; that he did not believe the enemy would abandon his attempt so easily,’ and expressed his conviction that the main body of General Hooker's army was in his front, and that the real move was to be made from this direction, and not from Fredericksburg. On this point there was a great difference of opinion among our higher officers, and General Lee was the only one who seemed to have the absolute conviction that the real movement of the Federal army was the one he was then meeting. In this belief he never wavered from the first. After telling General Jackson that he hoped his opinion might be proved correct, General Lee added, ‘But, General, we must get ready to attack the enemy if we should find him here to-morrow, and you must make all arrangements to move around his right flank.’ General Lee then took up the map and pointed out to Jackson the general direction of his route by the Furnace and Brock roads. Some conversation took place as to the importance of endeavoring to conceal the movement from the enemy, and as to the existence of roads further to the enemy's right, by which General Jackson might pass so as not to be exposed to observation or attack. The general line of Jackson's route was pointed out, and the necessity of celerity and secrecy was enjoined upon him. The conversation was a lengthy one, and at the conclusion of it, General Lee said to Jackson, ‘that before he moved in the morning, if he should have any doubt as to whether the enemy was still in position, he could send a couple of guns to a spot close by, open fire on the enemy's position, which would speedily settle the question.’ From the spot referred to, two of our guns had to be withdrawn that afternoon, as the infantry were suffering from the fire they were drawing [14] from the enemy. General Jackson then withdrew, and General Lee dictated to Colonel Marshall a long letter to President Davis, giving him fully the situation. In it he regretted he could not have the assistance of Pickett's and Hood's divisions, but expressed his confidence in the good judgment that had withdrawn and kept them from him, and closed with the hope that, notwithstanding all our dangers and disadvantages, Providence would bless the efforts which he was sure his brave army would make to deserve success.

I give all this detail to show the errors writers upon Chancellorsville have fallen into, in reference to the Origin of Gen-Jackson's famous flank movement.

And as settling the question as to who originated this movement, I give the following extract from a letter written by General Lee to Rev. Dr. A. T. Bledsoe, in reply to one from Dr. Bledsoe, in which he asked the direct question as to whether Jackson's move originated with himself or was suggested by General Lee:

Lexington, Va., October 28th, 1867.
Dr. A. T. Bledsoe,
Office Southern Review, Baltimore, Md.
My dear Sir:—In reply to your inquiry, I must acknowledge that I have not read the article on Chancellorsville in the last number of the Southern Review, nor have I read any of the books published on either side since the termination of hostilities. I have as yet felt no desire to revive my recollections of those events, and have been satisfied with the knowledge I possessed of what transpired. I have, however, learned from others that the various authors of the Life of Jackson award him the credit of the success gained by the Army of Northern Virginia, where he was present, and describe the movement of his corps, or command, as independent of the general plan of operations, and undertaken at his own suggestion and upon his own responsibility. I have the greatest reluctance to do anything that might be considered as detracting from his well deserved fame, for I believe that no one was more convinced of his worth, or appreciated him more highly than myself; yet your knowledge of military affairs, if you have none of the events themselves, will teach you that this could not have been so. Every movement of an army must be well considered and [15] properly ordered, and every one who knows General Jackson must know that he was too good a soldier to violate this fundamental military principle. In the operations around Chancellorsville, I overtook General Jackson, who had been placed in command of the advance, as the skirmishers of the approaching armies met, advanced with the troops to the Federal line of defenses, and was on the field until their whole army recrossed the Rappahannock. There is no question as to who was responsible for the operations of the Confederates, or to whom any failure would have been charged.

What I have said is for your own information. With my best wishes for the success of the Southern Review, and for your own welfare, in both of which I take a lively interest,

I am, with great respect, your friend and servant,

General A. L. Long, of General Lee's staff, in his ‘Memoirs of Robert E. Lee,’ published in 1886, says:

It was obvious that the Federal position was too formidable to be attacked in front with any hope of success; therefore, Lee proceeded to devise a plan by which the position of Hooker might be turned and a point of attack gained from which no danger was apprehended by the Federal commander.

General Lee was informed that the Rev. Mr. Lacy, a chaplain in Jackson's corps, was familiar with the country about Chancellorsville. Mr. Lacy informed the General that he had been pastor of a church near Chancellorsville, and was well acquainted with all the roads in that neighborhood, and that troops could be conducted to a designated point beyond Chancellorsville by a road sufficiently remote from the Federal position to prevent discovery. With this information Lee determined to turn the Federal position and assail it from a point where an attack was unexpected. The execution of a movement so much in accordance with his genius and inclination, was assigned to General Jackson, Captain Carter acting as guide.

The above statement is made from personal knowledge of the writer, gained on the ground at the time; still, since some of Jackson's biographers have allowed their partiality for him to so far outstrip their knowledge of facts as to claim for him [16] the origin of the movement, I will introduce, in corroboration of my statement, the following letter, from General Lee, published in the address of General Fitzhugh Lee, before the Southern Historical Society.

Here follows General Lee's letter to Dr. A. T Bledsoe, as already given above.

The last interview between Lee and Jackson, during which this important movement was decided upon, was an occasion of great historical interest, in regard to which the writer is fortunately able to add some information from his own knowledge of the circumstances, and that of other members of General Lee's staff. He has been favored by Major T. M. R. Talcott with certain important details of this event, conveyed in a private letter, from which the following extract is made:

My recollections of the night before the Battle of Chancellorsville are briefly as follows:

About sunset General Jackson sent word to General Lee (by me) that his advance was checked, and that the enemy was in force at Chancellorsville. This brought General Lee to the front, and General Jackson met him in the southeast angle of the Chancellorsville and Catherine Forge roads.

General Lee asked General Jackson whether he had ascertained the position and strength of the enemy on our left, to which General Jackson replied by stating the result of an attack made by Stuart's cavalry near Catherine Forge about dusk. The position of the enemy immediately in front was then discussed, and Captain Boswell and myself were sent to make a moonlight reconnoisance, the result of which was reported about 10 P. M., and was not favorable to an attack in front.

At this time Generals Lee and Jackson were together, and Lee, who had a map before him, asked Jackson, “How can we get at these people?” To which Jackson replied, in effect, “You know best. Show me what to do, and we will try to do it.” General Lee looked thoughtfully at the map; then indicated on it, and explained the movement he desired General Jackson to make, and closed by saying, “General Stuart will cover your movement with his cavalry.” General Jackson listened attentively, and his face lighted up with a smile while General Lee [17] was speaking. Then rising and touching his cap, he said, “My troops will move at four o'clock.”

Having, in the manner here described, settled upon the plan of operations for the ensuing day, the two generals, accompanied by their staff officers, repaired to a neighboring pine thicket, where an open space, well sheltered by overhanging boughs, afforded the party a good bivouac. The day having been a fatiguing one, they lost little time in preparing for the night's repose. Each selected his ground for a bed, spread his saddle blanket, substituted his saddle for a pillow and his overcoat for covering, and was soon in a happy state of oblivion.

Colonel Marshall is not entirely accurate in the account he furnished General Fitzhugh Lee in 1879, of the conference between Lee and Jackson, for he leaves no room for what passed between them in my presence. It is evident that what occurred in the presence of each of us was at different times during a conference which lasted several hours. To my certain knowledge Lee and Jackson met on the Plank Road, at or near the road to the Catherine Furnace, while it was yet daylight, for they had to move aside out of range of the enemy's sharpshooters, one of whom had climbed a big pine tree, and could be seen to fire occasional shots at some Confederate artillery which had just come up and halted on the Plank Road.

Generals Lee and Jackson were together in conference when Captain J. K. Boswell, Chief Engineer of the Second corps, and myself started on our reconnoisance, which must have required one, and perhaps, two hours, and also when we reported to them the result of it. At what hour we started I do not recollect, but it was more than an hour after sunset, for I well remember that as we pursued our way through the woods towards the Federal lines, we passed the body of a young Confederate, lying with upturned face in the cold moonlight. Twenty-four hours later my companion of that night was lying dead in the Wilderness, where Jackson fell wounded, and whenever the gallant Boswell has since been mentioned, I recall the appearance of the dead boy on the picket line in front of Chancellorsville, on whom we looked together. So vivid is my recollection of this, my only close association with Captain Boswell, [18] that I cannot be mistaken either as to the fact of our reconnoisance, or our report to Generals Lee and Jackson after our return, which was probably about 10 P. M.

In my letter to General Long, I may have been mistaken in saying that it was at this late hour that General Lee asked General Jackson, ‘How can we get at these people?’ For in light of what Colonel Marshall has said, it seems probable that this question was put by General Lee, and replied to by General Jackson at an earlier hour, soon after their conference began, and before, instead of after, the reconnoisance in Hooker's front was made. What Colonel Marshall says passed between Lee and Jackson must have occurred while Captain Boswell and myself were out on our reconnoisance, in which case what we heard on our return was to some extent a repetition of what had been previously discussed in the presence of Colonel Marshall, as to what could be done in case an attack on Hooker's front, which would save valuable time, was impracticable.

If it had been already known positively that an attack in Hooker's front was out of the question, the reconnoisance would not have been ordered; and although General Lee and General Jackson were considering what else might be done whilst waiting for our report, it stands to reason that the very hazardous movement around Hooker's right was not finally decided upon until the last hope of a successful attack in front was abandoned, on the information obtained by Captain Boswell and myself as to the strength of the enemy's position and defenses in front of Chancellorsville.

Colonel Marshall seems also to be mistaken in saying that General Lee dictated a letter to President Davis on the night of May 1st, for General Lee wrote to Mr. Davis on May 2nd, in part, as follows:

I have no expectations that any reinforcements from Longstreet or North Carolina will join me in time to aid in the contest at this point, but they may be in time for a subsequent occasion.

We succeeded in driving the enemy from in front of our position at Tabernacle Church, on all the roads back to Chancellorsville, where he concentrated in a position remarkably favorable [19] for him. We were unable last evening to dislodge him. I am now swinging around to my left to come up in his rear.

I learn, from prisoners taken, that Heintzelman's troops from Washington are here, and the enemy seems to have concentrated his strength for this effort. If I had with me all my command, and could keep it supplied with provisions and forage, I should feel easy, but, as far as I can judge, the advantage of numbers and position is greatly in favor of the enemy.

This letter, which is in the Official Records, precludes the idea of a letter the night of May 1st, such as Colonel Marshall says was dictated by General Lee to Mr. Davis, ‘giving him fully the situation,’ unless General Lee had forgotten what he wrote the night before.

It is evident that Dr. Dabney corrected his manuscript with General Lee's letter to Mrs. Jackson before him, for he omitted the statement that General Lee proposed to attack General Hooker's position at Chancellorsville in front, and adopted almost the exact language of General Lee in stating what it was decided to do, but he used the word ‘proposed,’ which was not General Lee's, probably through inadvertence, or on the supposition that it expressed General Lee's true meaning as well or better than ‘undertook.’

What General Lee did say was, that General Jackson ‘undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear,’ but Dr. Dabney says that General Jackson ‘proposed to throw his command entirely into Hooker's rear,’ and further controversy on the question is practically narrowed down to the meaning of the word ‘undertook,’ as used by General Lee in his letter to Mrs. Jackson.

What General Lee wrote to Mrs. Jackson should be taken in connection with his official report and his letter to Dr. Bledsoe, thus:

In the operations around Chancellorsville I overtook General Jackson, who had been placed in command of the advance as the skirmishers of the approaching armies met, advanced with the troops to the Federal line of defenses, and was on the field until their whole army recrossed the Rappahannock. There is [20] no question as to who was responsible for the operations of the Confederates, or to whom any failure would have been charged.

It was evident that a direct attack upon the enemy would be attended with great difficulty and loss, in view of the strength of his position and his superiority of numbers. It was, therefore, resolved to endeavor to turn his right flank and gain his rear, leaving a force in front to hold him in check and conceal the movement. The execution of this movement was entrusted to Lieutenant General Jackson with his three divisions. * * * .

General Jackson undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker's rear, which he accomplished with equal skill and boldness. * * *.

The movement by which the enemy's position was turned and the fortune of the day decided was conducted by the lamented Lieutenant General Jackson.

The order to attack Hooker's rear followed a report made by General Fitzhugh Lee that the Federal right on the Plank Road was, as Colonel Henderson says:

In the air: that is, it was protected by no natural obstacle, and the breast works faced south, and south only. It was evident that attack from the west or northwest was not anticipated, and Lee at once seized upon the chance of effecting a surprise.

No one has claimed for General Fitzhugh Lee the credit of having proposed the attack on Hooker's rear, although his report of the conditions which made it practicable, was obviously a suggestion of what might be done if conditions elsewhere permitted the detachment of a sufficient force for the purpose. It was for the commanding general alone to decide whether the opportunity could be availed of, what force could be detached for the purpose, to whom the command should be entrusted, with what force his lines in Hooker's front could be maintained; and how Sedgwick was to be held in check until the rear of Hooker was reached and the right wing of his army crushed. The responsibility was all Lee's, and to him, first of all, belongs the credit of what was accomplished. The credit of having well performed the parts allotted to them, was shared [21] by his subordinate commanders, but is chiefly due to Jackson, to whom the more difficult task was assigned. Whatever credit is due for suggesting what was done belongs to General Fitzhugh Lee, and Colonel Henderson truly says that to his skill and activity the victory of Chancellorsville was in great part due.

All this responsibility rested on General Lee, and more, for as Colonel Henderson says, ‘To take advantage of the opportunity, the first rule of war must be violated.’ Could either Fitzhugh Lee or Jackson relieve him of such responsibility? Emphatically, No! All that any subordinate could do was to lay before the commanding general the facts ascertained by him on his part of the field, and when the chief, with his wider knowledge of conditions, had matured his plans, undertake with confidence the part allotted to him, and execute with his utmost skill and vigor the designs of his superior.

The claim that General Jackson at the last moment hastily proposed to take his entire command and execute a hazardous movement of his own devising and practically dictated to General Lee what he was to do meanwhile, is a reflection on the soldierly qualities of General Jackson, and General Lee resented such an imputation when he said to Dr. Bledsoe:

Every movement of an army must be well considered and properly ordered, and everyone who knew General Jackson must know that he was too good a soldier to violate this fundamental military principle.

Three hours before sunset General Lee was on the Plank Road, two miles east of Chancellorsville. At four P. M., he sent a dispatch to General Stuart, of which the following copy is taken from the official records:

Plank Road, 2 miles from Chancellorsville, May 1st, 1863, 4 o'clock.
Major General Stuart, Commanding Cavalry;
The captured prisoners agree in stating that this is Meade's corps with which we are now engaged, and that Howard's corps preceded them across the Rapidan, and has taken some other [22] road. This is the only column that we can find in this direction. What has become of the other two?

Meade appears to be falling back.

I am very respectfully, yours, etc.,

R. E. Lee, General.

It must have been soon after sending this that he received General Jackson's message saying the enemy had made a stand-at Chancellorsville, and moved forward on the Plank Road to the meeting with General Jackson, which, for reasons already stated, could not have occurred later than 6:30 or 7:00 P. M., after which time they were in close proximity until the next morning; yet we are told by Hotchkiss that no plan of attack was decided on, and no orders for the movement of troops were given until several hours after daylight Saturday morning.

Hotchkiss makes it appear that owing to imperfections in the maps prepared by the Confederate engineers before the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Jackson did not know how to reach Hooker's rear until the morning of May 2nd, when he (Hotchkiss) obtained information of a hitherto unknown road, which met all the requirements of a detour around Hooker's right, and laid it down on the map for General Jackson's information and guidance. Jackson's chief engineer, Captain Boswell, was still alive on the morning of May 2nd, and it was to him that General Jackson would naturally look for such information, and not to Hotchkiss, who was one of Captain Boswell's subordinates. Furthermore, from the account given by Dr. Dabney, it appears that it was from the Rev. B. T. Lacy that General Jackson sought information Saturday morning, of some shorter route than that by the Furnace and Brock roads, which had been indicated by General Lee the night before.

In order to show what information Generals Lee and Jackson had before them, and what was proposed when they were in conference Friday night, I submit herewith an enlarged copy of part of Campbell's map of Spotsylvania county, upon which I have noted the Federal position as it was at that time, the Confederate lines in front of Chancellorsville, the movement of Jackson's Corps, and its position for attack at 6 P. M., on Saturday, May [23] 2nd. A close examination of this map shows that even the byroad suggested by Dr. Lacy as a cut-off was already laid down on Campbell's map, as well as the roads which were followed by the Second corps on May 2nd, 1903, and there is no material difference in the roads around Chancellorsville, as laid down by Campbell before the battle, and as shown by Hotchkiss on his map, which was made after the battle.

With Campbell's map before them on the night of May 1st. and the position of General Hooker ascertained, as I have shown it thereon, there is no reason why General Lee should not have been able to indicate to General Jackson the route to Hooker's rear by the Furnace and Brock roads, as stated by Colonel Marshall, and the fact that General Jackson did follow the route indicated by General Lee is fully established not only by Hotchkiss' map, published in 1867, but by official maps, and by General Lee's official report.

I have, I think, shown that the evidence is all against Hotchkiss' account of how the movement of Jackson around Hooker originated, and that Dr. Dabney's claim that General Jackson ‘proposed,’ the movement rests on the meaning of the word ‘undertook,’ as used by General Lee in his letter to Mrs. Jackson, while General Lee has himself stated in no uncertain language:

First. That he and he alone was responsible for the operations of the Confederates.

Second. That when he overtook General Jackson on the evening of May 1st, he decided against an attack in front, and stated to him that ‘we must attack on our left as soon as possible.’

Third. That it was resolved that night to turn Hooker's right flank and gain his rear.

Fourth. That the execution of this plan was entrusted to General Jackson, who undertook to throw his command in Hooker's rear.

Fifth. That early on the morning of May 2nd, General Jackson marched by the Furnace and Brock roads. [24]

Sixth. That the movement by which the enemy's position was turned and the fortunes of the day decided, was conducted by General Jackson.

The strategy at Chancellorsville was General Lee's, and nowhere does he even intimate that General Jackson was entitled to the credit of originating it; but he was most careful and particular in according to General Jackson credit for the tactical skill displayed by him in the execution of the plan of attack.

General Lee never shirked responsibility, even when his orders were not properly carried out, and always accorded to his subordinates full measure of recognition for what they contributed to his success. Where criticism was due, it can be discovered in his reports, if at all, only by his failure to commend; but he could not by silence assume to himself credit that properly belonged to another.

General Lee says in his letter to Dr. Bledsoe, that the movement of Jackson's Corps (as a part of the Army of Northern Virginia), or his command (when detached), could not have been independent of the general plan of operations, for every movement of an army must be well considered and properly ordered, and Jackson was too good a soldier to violate this fundamental military principle.

Even when General Jackson was operating in the Valley of Virginia, in 1862, the movements of his command were a part of the general plan of operations, under the direction and control of General Lee as commanding general, as may be easily seen from the official correspondence between Lee and Jackson at that time. Colonel Taylor calls attention to this correspondence, and gives one of General Lee's letters in April, 1862, of which he retained the original draft; but it was not until Colonel Henderson published his book in 1897, that the inspiration of Jackson's Valley campaign was made clear as a part of Lee's general plan of operations in the State of Virginia, based not only upon conditions as they existed in the Valley of Virginia, but on the general situation and movements of the enemy against Richmond via the Peninsula and Fredericksburg. [25]

Very soon after General Lee assuned the duties of Commander-in-Chief, in April, 1862, he wrote to General Jackson:

I have no doubt that an attempt will be made to occupy Fredericksburg, and use it as a base of operations against Richmond. Our present force there, is very weak, and cannot be reinforced, except by weakening other corps. If you can use General Ewell's division in an attack on Banks, it will prove a great relief to the pressure on Fredericksburg.

A few days later, when the enemy was collecting a strong force at Fredericksburg, General Lee so informed General Jackson, and further said:

For this purpose they must weaken other points, and now is the time to concentrate on any point that may be exposed within our reach. * * * .

The blow, whenever struck, must, to be successful, be sudden and heavy. The troops must be efficient and light. I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations depending on circumstances unknown to me, and requiring the exercise of discretion and judgment as to time and execution, but submit these ideas for your consideration.

In commenting on the defects in the Federal strategy of exterior lines, in the spring of 1862, Colonel Henderson says:

On April 29th, Johnston proposed to Mr. Davis that his army should be withdrawn from the Peninsula, and that the North should be invaded by way of the Valley. Lee, in the name of the President, replied that some such scheme had been for some time under consideration; and the burden of his letters, as we have seen, both to Ewell and Jackson, was that a sudden and heavy blow should be struck at some exposed portion of the invading armies. * * *.

It was indeed unfortunate for the North that at this juncture the military affairs of the Confederacy should have been placed in the hands of the clearest-sighted soldier in America. It was an unequal match, Lincoln and Stanton against Lee; and the stroke that was to prove the weakness of the Federal strategy was soon to fall.


General Jackson well understood and fully appreciated what he was expected to do if an opportunity offered, but also that he must refrain from doing anything that might interfere with the general plan of operations. A conspicuous instance of this is related by Colonel Henderson, who says, with reference to Jackson's plans for attacking the Federals under Banks':

But, although authorized to draw Ewell to himself and carry out the project on which his heart was set, he still kept in view the general situation. After he had dispatched the above letter (to General Lee with reference to an attack on Banks), a report came in which led him to believe that Ewell was more needed on the Rappahannock than in the Valley. Lee had already informed him that McDowell's advanced guard had occupied Falmouth, on the north bank of the river, opposite Fredericksburg, on April 19th, and that General Field had fallen back.

Jackson, in consequence, permitted Ewell to remain near Gordonsville, close to the railway; assuring Lee that “he would make arrangements so as not to be disappointed should Ewell be.”

“The various authors of the life of Jackson,” to whom General Lee refers, did not have Colonel Henderson's trained military perceptions to enable them to appreciate the relative positions of Lee and Jackson, and how impossible it was for the latter to take the initiative and act independently of the commanding general, but it was surely great lack of discernment when Dr. Dabney said, in his account of the conference before Chancellorsville that General Lee had already commanded his troops to commence a movement towards his left; meaning the divisions of Anderson and McLaws; as if Lee and Jackson had separate commands insead of Jackson's Corps being a part of the army commanded by General Lee.

The reasons why the claim that General Jackson originated the movement of his Corps around Hooker cannot be admitted, may be stated as follows:

First. The probabilities are all against Jackson's having proposed a movement, the success of which would greatly enhance his reputation for vigor, determination and tactical skill, while in case of failure all the responsibility for the disaster would fall upon General Lee. [27]

Second. The witnesses for and against the claim that Jackson originated the movement around Hooker are in direct conflict, and the testimony of the witnesses who claim the credit for General Jackson, is at variance with facts officially recorded at the time.

Third. What General Lee has said precludes the possibility of Jackson's having proposed the movement; for when in 1866 and again in 1867 the opportunity was afforded him to confirm the claim made by Dr. Dabney that General Jackson ‘proposed’ the movement around Hooker at Chancellorsville, while he stated all that Jackson had done, he made no admission that the proposition to do what was undertaken and accomplished was originated by anyone but himself.

This large map, which I have used to show the position of the contending forces and the route of the 2nd Corps, is a copy of one published by Dr. Dabney in 1866, with his account of the Battle of Chancellorsville, and is additional evidence that Jackson's line of march was by the well known Furnace and Brock Roads, as indicated by General Lee, and not by a newly discovered road, as claimed by Hotchkiss.

Giving full consideration to the above evidence. I can see no reason to doubt that my above quoted personal recollections of the interview between Lee and Jackson on the night of May 1st, 1863, in the presence of Captain Boswell and myself, as given in writing to General A. L. Long, is a correct statement of what occurred.

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