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appearance of large ability, shared equally in procuring his appointment. No one will deny Hooker's capacity in certain directions, or up to a given test. His whole career shows an exceptional power in “riding to orders.” But he sadly lacked that rare combination of qualities and reserve power necessary to lead a hundred and twentyfive thousand men against such a foe as Lee.
Nothing shows more curiously a weak spot in Hooker's character than the odd pride he took in Mr. Lincoln's somewhat equivocal letter to him at the time of his appointment, here following:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, D.C.,
Jan. 26, 1863. MAJOR-GEN. HOOKER.
General, - 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 skilful soldier, which of course I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with 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 Gen. 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 success 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 or will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit 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. Yours very truly,
Hooker was appointed Jan. 26, 1863; and Burnside, with a few earnest words, took leave of the army.
The troops received their new chief with a heartiness and confidence, which, since McClellan's re-instatement, had not been equalled. Hooker was to all the soul and embodiment of the growth and history of this weatherbeaten Army of the Potomac. And the salutary changes he at once began to make, — for Hooker never lacked the power of organization, — were accepted with alacrity; and a spirit of cheerful willingness succeeded speedily to what had been almost a defiant obedience.
The army was in a lamentably low state of efficiency. Politics mingled with camp duties; and the disaffection of officers and men, coupled with an entire lack of confidence in the ability of the Army of the Potomac to accomplish any thing, were pronounced. Desertions occurred at the rate of two hundred a day, facilitated by relatives, who sent from home civilian clothing to soldiers at the front Hooker states that he found 2,922 officers, and 81,964 enlisted men, entered as absent on the rolls of the army, a large proportion from causes unknown. Sharp and efficient measures were at once adopted, which speedily checked this alarming depletion of the ranks. Furloughs in reasonable quantity were allowed to deserving men and a limited number of officers. Work was found for the rank and file in drill and outpost duty sufficient to prevent idle habits. The commissariat was closely watched, and fresh rations more frequently issued, which much improved the health of the army. The system of picket-duty was more thoroughly developed, and so vigilantly carried out as to impress its importance upon, as well as teach its details to, the troops.
The cavalry, hitherto distributed by regiments throughout the army, was now consolidated into one corps, and from this time became a valuable element in the service, for it daily grew in efficiency. And such opportunities of doing field-work as a body were afforded it as circumstances allowed.
The grand divisions of Burnside were abolished, and the army divided into seven infantry corps.
The testimony of all general officers of the Army of the Potomac concurs in awarding the highest praise to Hooker for the manner in which he improved the condition of the troops during the three months he was in command prior to Chancellorsville. Himself says before the Committee on the Conduct of the War: “During the season of preparation the army made rapid strides in discipline, instruction and morale, and early in April was in a condition to inspire the highest expectations.” And Swinton well sums up: “Under Hooker's influence the tone of the army underwent a change which would appear astonishing had not its elastic vitality been so often proved.”
On the 30th of April the Army of the Potomac, exclusive of provost-guard, consisted of about a hundred and thirty thousand men under the colors, — “for duty equipped,” according to the morning report, — distributed among the several army corps as follows:
Wadsworth, 1st Corps, Gen. Reynolds. Robinson,
Hancock, 2d Corps, Gen. Couch
Birney, 3d Corps, Gen. Sickles
Griffin, 5th Corps, Gen. Meade
Brooks, 6th Corps, Gen. Sedgwick.
Devens, 11th Corps, Gen. Howard
Steinwehr, 12th Corps, Gen. Slocum .
13,450 Geary, Pleasonton,
Gregg, Cavalry Corps, Gen. Stoneman.
Buford, Reserve Brigade, Artillery, Gen. Hunt, about 400 guns. Artillery reserve 1,610 Total
THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA.
HILE the Army of the Potomac lay about Fal
mouth, awaiting orders to move, Lee occupied the heights south of the Rappahannock, from Banks's Ford above, to Port Royal (or Skenker's Neck) below Fredericksburg, a line some fifteen miles in length as the crow flies. The crests of the hills on which lay the Army of Northern Virginia were from three-quarters of a mile to a mile and a half back from, and substantially parallel to, the river. Rifle-pits commanded every available crossing, which, being few and difficult, were easily guarded. Continuous lines of infantry parapets, broken by battery epaulements located for sweeping the wide approaches from the river, extended the whole distance; while abattis strengthened every place which the nature of the ground allowed an attacking column to pass.
The roads by which the various detachments of the army could intercommunicate for concentration upon any given point were numerous and well kept up, and were familiar to all commanding and staff officers.
Lee's forces numbered about sixty thousand men, for duty, distributed in the following organizations. As the