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merely used him as his mouthpiece, retaining the general direction of affairs himself.
And this furnishes no real apology. Hooker's thorough inability to grasp the situation, and handle the conditions arising from the responsibility of so large a command, dates from Thursday noon, or at latest Friday morning. And from this time his enervation was steadily on the increase. For the defeat of the Army of the Potomac in Sunday morning's conflict was already a settled fact, when Hooker failed at early dawn so to dispose his forces as to sustain Sickles and Williams if over-matched, or to broach some counter-maneuvre to draw the enemy's attention to his own safety.
It is an ungracious task to heap so much blame upon any one man. But the odium of this defeat has for years been borne by those who are guiltless of the outcome of the campaign of Chancellorsville; and the prime source of this fallacy has been Hooker's ever-ready self-exculpation by misinterpreted facts and unwarranted conclusions, while his subordinates have held their peace. And this is not alone for the purpose of vindicating the fair fame of the Army of the Potomac and its corps-commanders, but truth calls for no less. And it is desired to reiterate what has already been said, - that it is in all appreciation of Hooker's splendid qualities as a lieutenant, that his inactivity in this campaign is dwelt upon. No testimony need be given to sustain Hooker's courage: no man ever showed more. No better general ever commanded an army corps in our service: this is abundantly vouched for. But Hooker could not lead an hundred thousand men; and, unlike his predecessor, he was unable to confess it. Perhaps he did not own it to himself. Certainly his every explanation of this campaign involved the shifting of the onus of his defeat to the shoulders of his subordinates, — principally Howard and Sedgwick. And the fullest estimation of Hooker's brilliant conduct on other fields, is in no wise incompatible with the freest censure for the disasters of this unhappy week. For truth awards praise and blame with equal hand; and truth in this case does ample justice to the brave old army, ample justice to Hooker's noble aides.
The plan summarized by Warren probably reflected accurately the intentions of his chief, as conceived in his tent on Saturday night. It was self-evident that Anderson and McLaws could be readily held in check, so long as Jackson's corps was kept sundered from them. Indeed, they would have necessarily remained on the defensive so long as isolated. Instead, then, of leaving the Third Corps, and one division of the Twelfth, to confront Jackson's magnificent infantry, had Hooker withdrawn an entire additional corps, (he could have taken two,) and thrown these troops in heavy masses at dawn on Stuart, while Birney retained Hazel Grove, and employed his artillery upon the enemy's flank; even the dauntless men, whose victories had so often caused them to deem themselves nvincible, must have been crushed by the blows inflicted.
But there is nothing at all, on this day, in the remotest degree resembling tactical combination. And, long before the resistance of our brave troops had ceased, all chances of successful parrying of Lee's skilful thrusts had passed away.
Hooker's testimony is to the effect that he was merely fighting on Sunday morning to retain possession of the road by which Sedgwick was to join him, and that his retiring to the lines at Bullock's was predetermined.
The following extract from the records of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, illustrates both this statement, and Hooker's method of exculpating himself by crimination of subordinates. “Question to Gen. Hooker. Then I understand you to say, that, not hearing from Gen. Sedgwick by eleven o'clock, you withdrew your troops from the position they held at the time you ordered Gen. Sedgwick to join you.
“ Answer. — Yes, sir; not wishing to hold it longer at the disadvantage I was under. I may add here, that there is a vast difference in corps-commanders, and that it is the commander that gives tone and character to his corps. Some of our corps-commanders, and also officers of other rank, appear to be unwilling to go into a fight.”
But, apart from the innuendo, all this bears the stamp of an after-thought. If an army was ever driven from its position by fair fighting, our troops were driven from Chancellorsville. And it would seem, that, if there was any reasonable doubt on Saturday night that the Army of the Potomac could hold its own next day, it would have been wiser to have at once withdrawn to the new lines, while waiting for the arrival of Sedgwick. For here the position was almost unassailable, and the troops better massed; and, if Lee had made an unsuccessful assault, Hooker would have been in better condition to make a sortie upon the arrival of the Sixth Corps in his vicinity, than after the bloody and disheartening work at Fairview.
Still the inactivity of Hooker, when Sedgwick did eventually arrive within serviceable distance, is so entire a puzzle to the student of this campaign, that speculation upon what he did then actually assume as facts, or how he might have acted under any other given conditions, becomes almost fruitless.
SEDGWICK'S CHANGE OF ORDERS.
ET us return to the Sixth Corps of the Army of the
Potomac, where operations now demanded Lee's undivided skill. This was properly the left wing of the army, which, under Sedgwick, had made the demonstration below Fredericksburg, to enable the right wing, under Hooker, to cross the river above, and establish itself at Chancellorsville. It had consisted of three corps; but, so soon as the demonstration had effected its purpose, it will be remembered that Hooker withdrew from Sedgwick's command both the First and Third Corps, leaving him with his own, the Sixth, to guard the crossings of the river ; while Gibbon's division of the Second Corps did provost duty at the camp at Falmouth, and held itself in readiness to move in any direction at a moment's notice.
From this time on, the Sixth Corps may be more properly considered as a detached command, than as the left wing of the Army of the Potomac.
And, beyond some demonstrations in aid of Hooker's manæuvring, Sedgwick had been called on to perform no actual service up to the evening of May 2.
On May 1, a demonstration in support of Hooker's