Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/362

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356 Southern Historical Society Papers.

was of incalculable importance that the engagement of the latter army, under their new leader, should be sharply discriminated from all which had preceded it. In mere bravery, the past could not be exceeded. It was the wise, discerning stroke of the new regime which it was essential to infallibly impart.

Under any military conditions, one might ask, is it wholly rea- sonable to exact, as a matter of strict military right, that a general, on taking command of an army, shall at once, without more words, become a Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson at the highest pin- nacle of their earthly achievement? One might conclude, from the inclination expressed by some, to inaugurate the triumphs of Lee and Jackson at the portal of the Georgia campaign, that such inaug- uration was a matter of election and pure preference by ambitious minds; that one whose heart was in the right place might make a habit of the military marvel of the war. Alas ! the rarest and most fortunate displays of greatness, Chancellorsvilles and Centrevilles, are not creatures of suffrage; and all who go forward on such dis- astrous hypothesis, in Georgia campaigns and elsewhere, are des- tined to discover that desire, aspiration even, is not synonymous with faculty.

It was in the same month, after the terrible repulse at Spotsylva- nia Courthouse, that Grant made a flank movement to the North Anna, not unlike that of Sherman to Resaca. The object of Grant was by a detour eastward, around the point where the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad crosses the North Anna, to cut Lee's com- munications. Did Lee strike the force left behind ? No ; nor did he attempt to strike the force sent forward before reinforcements could arrive ; but, by the most expeditious interior line, he moved his own army to Hanover Junction, where Hancock met it. Here the two parts of the Army of the Potomac were not only separated, but a river so ran between them that, to get from one of Grant's wings to the other, that river would have to be crossed twice. On the other hand, Lee had concentrated his army between the Little River and the North Anna, not only in a strong position, but so situated that it could easily act in unity, and concentrate upon either of the oppos- ing wings. Some say Lee should have left a small part of his force to hold the intrenchments of his left, and attacked Hancock with the rest of his army.

Hancock's force did not exceed twenty-four thousand infantry. Leaving seven thousand to hold the west face of his intrenchments,