Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/287

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The Battle of C liancellorsville. 281

chapparal around Chancellorsville, instead of occupying, as they might, a well defined position on the open ground in front of Banks's ford. Gradually, during the night, the several corps drifted, weary and disheartened at this unexplained check in the midst of success, into the position which they had taken up after crossing the river, without any idea of fighting there. The line was thus a hap-hazard one, on the worst conceivable ground, where cavalry was useless, artillery confined to the roads or to a few open spaces, and infantry hidden or paralyzed.

Reynolds was now ordered from the left wing to Chancellorsville. The line lay from left to right — Meade, Couch, Slocum, Sickles, Howard. Hooker determined to receive instead of delivering an attack. He knew how vastly he outnumbered Lee ; he could gauge the advantage he had gained from his initiative ; he could not be blind to the wretched terrain around Chancellorsville, and yet he sat down as if already worsted. Nothing but a sudden loss of moral force can explain such enigmatic conduct. Hooker had come to the end of his mental tether. The march had taxed his powers to their limit. He had no more stomach for the fight.

During this night, while the Army of Northern Virginia was mov- ing into position in front of its gigantic, but apparently unnerved enemy, Lee and Jackson developed a plan for an attack upon our right, which, though posted on high ground, was really in the air. Lee may have originated the plan, but it bears a distinctly Jacksonian flavor; and surely without such a lieutenant to execute it, Lee would never have dreamed of making such a risky move. The plan gave Jackson about 24,000 men with which to undertake a march around our right flank to a position where he might cut us off" from United States ford. It was ultra-hazardous, for it separated a small army in the presence of a large one. It was justifiable only on the ground that Hooker evidently meant to retain the defensive ; that the movement would be screened from his eye by the woods ; that there seemed no more available plan; that some immediate action was demanded. Had it failed it would have met the censure of every soldier. No maxim of tactics applies to it so well as the proverb, " Nothing ven- ture, nothing have."

Although Jackson's corps had been on foot and partially engaged for some thirty hours, the men set out on this new march with cheer- ful alacrity. They could always follow " Old Jack " with their eyes shut. Stuart's cavalry masked the advance. Jackson did not know that his column would have to pass some open ground in full view of