[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
previous
Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


[image ALT: link to next section]
next
Chapter
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
p545
Chapter XXXV

Lee Loses His "Right Arm"

Lee did not blanch at the news of the disaster at Fredericksburg. Nor did he hesitate. When a Mississippi soldier rode up a little later with another excited report, Lee simply said: "We will attend to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Mr. Sedgwick later."1 His position dictated his action. He could not strike Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hooker with only a part of his army. He would not retreat. Instead, he would demonstrate against Hooker's crippled host, would hold it in the Wilderness, and would detach troops immediately to join Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early and to deal with Sedgwick's column. Whom should he send? Not Anderson, for he had been fighting since dawn; not any part of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson's corps, for it had been in desperate action two days. Obviously, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLaws must go, for his front was not in danger and his troops had not been heavily engaged; yes, and, as one of McLaws's brigades had been left at Fredericksburg, he would give him, in its place, Mahone's brigade of Anderson, which, on the 2d and on the 3d, had had little to do.

This time, too, he would take no chances that orders might be delayed or misunderstood. He would deliver them in person. Riding quickly to McLaws's front, he found the General and directed him to move Kershaw's and Mahone's brigades down the plank road at once to resist the enemy's advance. As soon as they were well on their way, he ordered McLaws to follow in person with his remaining brigades, those of Wofford and Semmes.2 Early was notified that reinforcements were being sent to him and was directed to co-operate with McLaws in driving Sedgwick,3 who was believed to have with him one corps and part of another.4

The detachment of McLaws left Lee with only 36,000 to 37,000 p546 men to face Hooker.5 Two brigades were reported on the move from Richmond to support him, but as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stoneman's cavalry were known still to be raiding along the lines of communication,6 Lee determined to hold these troops, Ransom's and Pettigrew's brigades, at Hanover Junction to guard the railroads.7

Establishing temporary headquarters in a little tent by the side of the Orange plank road,8 Lee now undertook to make a demonstration that would discourage Hooker from taking the offensive on the strength of the news from Fredericksburg. Lee assumed, of course, that the knowledge of the success on that sector would lead Hooker to halt the move back to the north side of the Rappahannock, but he believed he could hold him within his lines. Summoning to his tent Brigadier General R. E. Colston, who was in temporary command of Trimble's division, he gave him instructions: "General," said he, "I wish you to advance your division to the United States Ford road. I expect you to meet with resistance before you come to the bend of the road. I do not want you to attack the enemy's positions but only to feel them. Send your engineer officer with skirmishers to the front to reconnoitre and report. Don't engage seriously, but keep the enemy in check and prevent him from advancing. Move at once."9 It was then 3 o'clock,10 and the troops under McLaws were on their way back toward Salem Church, four miles west of Fredericksburg, a good position on which to meet an attack. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Heth's and Rodes's divisions were left where they were.11

From headquarters, Lee now rode to the right of the line and instructed R. H. Anderson concerning his part in the game of keeping General Hooker amused. Anderson was told to move his division northward from the turnpike along the River road towards the Rappahannock. This was a very important precaution, because the River road led into the Old Mine or Mountain road, which ran southeast from Hooker's lines and joined the turnpike at Zoar Church. If Anderson blocked the River p548 road, he could threaten the enemy's communications and break up any movement undertaken down the Rappahannock from Hooker's line to form a junction with Sedgwick.12

By this time, in all probability, Lee had heard that Early had evacuated his positions on the ridges below Fredericksburg and had marched down the Telegraph road. He doubtless knew, also, that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wilcox, with splendid initiative, had withdrawn from Taylor's Hill to the plank road and was very stubbornly resisting the advance of Sedgwick's columns. The situation, then, as he appraised it about 4 P.M. was as shown on the preceding page.


[image ALT: zzz]
Position of the Army of Northern Virginia, and that of the Army of the Potomac, as far as known at Lee's headquarters, about 4 P.M., May 3, 1863.

It was, of course, a grave state of affairs, fraught with disaster if Lee's plans miscarried, but there is not a line in the reports to suggest that Lee viewed it otherwise than with the calmness he always displayed. The confidence neither of the commander nor of the army was shaken, when, about 5 P.M., there came the sound of a cannonade from the direction of Salem Church, followed by reports of an infantry engagement. Now, if ever, Hooker would assume the offensive; yet even on Anderson's front, where an irruption seemed most likely, the Federals did not attempt an advance. Instead, Anderson made a reconnaissance and projected an attack, though he found the day too far spent to launch it.13

For two hours and more the firing from the east continued. Taking it to mean that McLaws was attacking, Lee determined to develop whatever advantage McLaws might gain. He reasoned that as Early was on the Telegraph road, he was potentially on the flank of Sedgwick's columns on the plank road. The combined strength of Early and of McLaws should suffice to demolish Sedgwick. So, to the music of the cannonade, he wrote to Early and to McLaws outlining a plan whereby Early should come up on the enemy's left while McLaws attacked in front. "It is necessary that you beat the enemy," he wrote McLaws, "and I hope you will do it."14 Just as he had seized the initiative in dealing with Hooker by advancing toward Chancellorsville, so now Lee purposed to put Sedgwick on the defensive.

The first news from McLaws's column indicated that the way had been prepared for the execution of this plan. Wilcox, who p549 never appeared to better advantage than on that day, had made a stand at Salem Church, on the plank road, where he had been joined by McLaws. The Federals had come forward about 5:20, after artillery preparation. They had gained an initial advantage and had broken the front of one regiment but had been savagely repulsed. A second attack had been beaten off easily. Then Wilcox and Semmes, who was on the left, had rushed forward and had driven the enemy for nearly half a mile, retiring only when approaching darkness rendered their advanced position dangerous.15

In the security this news afforded, Lee prepared to bivouac for the night. Sitting down at a little fire, he was soon joined by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart, with whom he talked of the day's developments and of the probable resumption of the battle. Major von Borcke rode up presently and had to be told of the adventure that had befallen Captain Scheibert, the Prussian observer then attached to Lee's headquarters. Scheibert had gone off during the day to seek forage for the horse he was riding and at a nearby farmhouse had suddenly found himself confronted by six Federal infantrymen. Pretending that he was followed by a body of cavalry, Scheibert had bluffed the Union soldiers into surrender and then had marched them off and had presented them in person to Lee.

The recountal of this episode was much interrupted by the arrival of dispatches, which Lee had great difficulty in reading by the dim and flickering light of the tiny fire. Von Borcke slipped away and after some time returned with a box of candles. He had noticed them near the lines during the day and very daringly had gone back and had picked them up, almost under the noses of the Federal skirmishers. Lee was grateful, but surmising that von Borcke had acquired them at no small risk to him, he gently rebuked him. "Major," he said, "I am much obliged to you; but I know where you got these candles, and you acted wrongly in exposing your life for a simple act of courtesy."16 Perhaps Lee remembered how another warrior in an ancient contest with the Philistines, had poured out water p550 that three mighty men had brought him "from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate."17

By the light of one of Von Borcke's candles, Lee read near midnight a message from McLaws, enclosing one from Early, in which that officer proposed that instead of attacking on the left of McLaws, as planned, he return to Marye's Heights, cut Sedgwick's communications with Fredericksburg and then move against the enemy in co-operation with McLaws. Lee forthwith had one of his staff officers write to McLaws approving the scheme, if practicable, but cautioning him to press the enemy and not to permit Sedgwick to concentrate on Early while that officer was between the Federal commander and the Rappahannock.18

Then, in an atmosphere of alarms and distress, with the wounded crying out from nearby copses for water,19 Lee sought a little rest. What a day it had been! A lifetime had been crowded into it — the proud news of the victory on the left, the shocking report of the wounding of Jackson, the desperate advance on Chancellorsville, the triumphant hour amid the shouting troops and the burning forest, the ominous intelligence that Jackson's arm had been amputated, the announcement of the breaking of the line at Marye's Heights, the dispatch of McLaws, the battle at Salem Church — all had been crowded into the hours that had elapsed since he had been aroused by the arrival of Captain Wilbourn in the pine thicket, where the whippoorwills had been calling.20

When Lee took up his duties on the early morning of Tuesday, May 4, one of his first thoughts was of his wounded lieutenant. Reports were that Jackson was doing well. He had rallied from the operation, had slept, and was resting comfortably in a tent. Lee felt, however, that there still was danger of a raid by the p551 enemy's cavalry from the direction of Ely's Ford, so he sent a guard to the vicinity of Jackson's temporary quarters and instructed the corps surgeon, Doctor Hunter McGuire, to remove him to a place of safety at Guiney's, as soon as this could be done without discomfort to the patient.21


[image ALT: zzz]
THE COTTAGE ON THE CHANDLER FARM, NEAR GUINEY'S STATION, VIRGINIA, WHERE "STONEWALL" JACKSON DIED
The general was sheltered in this plain structure because of the danger of infection in the main residence, where several soldiers had succumbed to erysipelas. The early photograph from which this illustration was made is in the Confederate Museum, Richmond.

Reconnaissance undertaken at daylight showed that Hooker had strengthened his position. On well-chosen ground, protected in part by streams, he had a heavy line, with abatis and ample batteries. Anderson was already preparing to feel out the enemy on the Confederate right,22 but Lee quickly decided that it would be a waste of life to attack with less than his entire force. To concentrate all his units, he must first dispose of Sedgwick and remove the threat against his rear. He must take no chances with this. McLaws and Early might suffice to hold Sedgwick or even to defeat him, but it was wise to adhere to the sound old fundamental of presenting a superior force at the point of attack. Hooker must be held, if possible, with the artillery and the three divisions of Jackson's corps. Anderson should go to reinforce Early and McLaws.23

Scarcely had Anderson started and Heth moved up to Anderson's line, when Lee received a dispatch from McLaws, in which that officer explained the details of Early's plan of a joint attack. McLaws expressed doubt as to his ability to co-operate adequately with the troops he had and asked for reinforcements.24 Lee replied that Anderson was marching to McLaws's support, and as the operation had now assumed magnitude, he decided to ride to the right in person to supervise it. Perhaps he was the more readily prompted to do this by his knowledge of McLaws, who as senior of the three division commanders would assume command. Lafayette McLaws was a professional soldier, careful of details and not lacking in soldierly qualities, but there was nothing daring, brilliant, or aggressive in his character. An excellent division commander when under the control of a good corps leader, he was not the type to extemporize a strategic plan in an emergency.25

p552 When Lee reached the vicinity of Salem Church he found the situation less favorable than the dispatches had indicated. McLaws had postponed all operations pending the arrival of Anderson and knew very little about the dispositions of the enemy. The head of Anderson's column was close at hand,26 but the remainder of it came up very slowly. As Lee awaited its appearance, trying to ascertain something definite about the enemy's whereabouts, his patience speedily exhausted itself. Worn by lack of sleep and exasperated by the snail-like pace of Anderson's men, he lost his temper and was in distinctly bad humor.27 When at last Anderson's three brigades were on the ground, Lee ordered them farther eastward to fill the gap between McLaws's right and Early's left; but the country was rolling, there were no decent roads in the direction of Anderson's advance, and his progress was slow. McLaws must have been bewildered, for he did nothing whatever.

At length, with Anderson on his way, Lee rode around to Early's sector. He found him on an elevated position, in rear of Lee's Hill, across Hazel Run from Alum Springs Mill.28 Early had a very good account to give of himself. Soon after sunrise he had marched up the Telegraph road and had recovered Marye's Heights and Lee's Hill. Barksdale's brigade had been sent to the stone wall below Marye's Heights, but had not occupied the town because it had discovered a strong force there, protected by rifle pits.29 As far as the enemy's position could be ascertained in the broken country, Sedgwick had a line in some old Confederate gun positions stretching parallel to the Rappahannock in rear of the heights. At right angle to the troops in this position, who were subsequently found to belong to Howe's division, the main Federal line ran slightly south of west, close to the plank road, and extended to McLaws's front. From that point it ran north toward Banks's Ford, but how strong it was in that quarter and where it extended, nobody seemed to know.

Early's plan was to advance up the high ground in rear of the heights, and to turn the Federal position on the plank road, while Anderson attacked on his left and McLaws closed in from the p554 west. It was a plan that involved no little manoeuvring over difficult terrain, but as it seemed feasible, Lee approved it and rode back toward the centre.30 The troops there were still having much trouble in getting into position. All along the front there was uncertainty both concerning the position of the enemy and concerning the best crossings over the small streams that cut the countryside into ravines. It must have been after 2 P.M. when Lee returned to Anderson's front, and even then much time was lost in reconnaissance. Lee urged speed and did his utmost to hurry up the guns, but he could not complete the dispositions promptly.31 Six o'clock came before the troops were all in position, as shown on the preceding page.32


[image ALT: zzz]

Position of the Confederate forces preparing to attack the Federals under Major General John Sedgwick,
about 6 P.M., May 4, 1863, between Salem Church and Fredericksburg.

At last the signal guns were fired, and Early and Anderson advanced. They met with a hot resistance on some parts of the line. Hoke's brigade came up on the left of Hays, and the two fired into each other. Wright's advance masked that of Posey and Perry and received in the open the concentrated fire of the Federal artillery and skirmishers.33 Kershaw and part of Wofford's brigade beat their way through thickets but did not reach the enemy. McLaws's left was scarcely engaged at all. As darkness began to fall, a heavy fog crept over the ground and slowed down the advance still more.34 Despite all these difficulties, the enemy was pushed back on the centre and on the right.

As soon as the advance had cleared the ground, Lee rode up to the Downman house, on a ridge overlooking Hazel Run. Sending for Early, he got a report concerning the advance on the right. All was well there, but if the Federals were hard pressed, the force in Fredericksburg might attempt a diversion in Sedgwick's behalf. Early, in consequence, was directed to send two brigades to strengthen Barksdale, and with the rest of his command was to draw a line perpendicular to the plank road.35 Accumulating reports from the other brigade commanders during the course of the next hour led Lee to believe that if the enemy were vigorously and immediately assailed, he would be forced across the Rappahannock that night. If he were allowed to p555 remain undisturbed where he was, he would entrench again during the night, would be ready to give battle the next day, and would hold up the return of the three divisions to Chancellorsville, where Hooker at any time might take the offensive. For this reason, Lee determined to push the advance in the darkness — the first time he had ever undertaken a night attack. Early was advised; McLaws was instructed about the movement of his brigades; Alexander and Hardaway were told to move guns within range of Banks's Ford and to shell it.36

Stuart, all ears, reported during the evening that he could hear the enemy moving vehicles on the Confederate left, beyond Chancellorsville, but whether this presaged a retreat or the beginning of an attempt to turn that flank, he could not say.37 If it were the start of a new offensive by Hooker, then, obviously, the need of clearing the rear was greater than ever. When he learned of these activities on the extreme left, Lee thought of Jackson as well as of the army. He felt that the removal of "Stonewall" to Guiney's was imperative. A messenger was hurried off to instruct Surgeon McGuire to that effect. Remembering, too, that he had recently forbidden surgeons to accompany wounded officers to the rear and thereby perhaps to neglect the soldiers on the field, he specifically ordered Doctor McGuire to go with Jackson. The prompt recovery of the commander of the Second Corps meant more to the army at that time than anything else.38

Through the night the artillery boomed away at the unseen target of Banks's Ford,39 but in the fog the weary infantry made no progress. At daylight, when the skirmishers advanced, the bird had flown. Sedgwick was across the river. Word came soon after from Fredericksburg that the brigade of Colonel Norman J. Hall at that point had also started back over the Rappahannock, had repulsed an attack to halt its retreat, and was regaining the north bank. Its pontoon bridge had been cut loose and was slowly drifting toward the Stafford side of the stream.40

p556 All was well on the Chancellorsville front. Stuart reported that a forced reconnaissance had shown the enemy in strength in his earthworks. As Stuart said nothing about any attempted advance on the part of Hooker, it was manifest that the Federal commander had obligingly waited for Lee to clear his rear without interfering with his plan of operations.41 Lee could accordingly prepare to march again to Chancellorsville and confront Hooker. But as Sedgwick could readily return to the right bank of the river, Lee took precautions that his final blow at Hooker should not again be halted at the very moment it was poised. Early was sent back to Fredericksburg with his own division and Barksdale's brigade. The other troops were directed to start their westward march to the Chancellorsville front.42 The units were badly scattered, however, and were showing exhaustion. It was slow work to reconcentrate them. McLaws got away in fair time with orders to relieve Heth on Anderson's line nearest the Rappahannock.43 It was 4 P.M. before the roads were clear for Anderson,44 and as he advanced, one of the worst storms of the spring broke over his tired troops.45 Night found the head of his column still one mile from Chancellorsville.46

The day did not seem to have been altogether wasted. In fact, though there was natural regret that Sedgwick had gotten off so easily, the situation had been restored. It was practically what it had been on the afternoon of May 3, except that there were now no Federals on the south side of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Lee was free to strike again, and that was what he had hoped to make possible when he had started after Sedgwick. But he had to count his hours. If he was to attack at all, it must be quickly, for Stoneman's raiding cavalry, divided now into a number of separate columns, had cut the line of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad and had been within sight of Richmond. Even telegraphic communication with the capital had been severed. Stoneman would of course retire across the Rappahannock if Hooker did, but any long delay in sending Hooker back to his starting point would prolong Stoneman's raid p557 and probably leave the army without food and without ammunition.47

The best news of the day was from Guiney's. Jackson had stood the trip to that point admirably. He was in the best of spirits, his wounds were beginning to heal, and he had eaten well. All the indications were for a speedy recovery.48 As Lee retired on the night of the 5th, under a fly-tent at Fairview,49 with every intention of delivering a general attack on the morning of Wednesday, May 6, his first prayer must have been one of gratitude to God for the improvement of him who was the spearhead of the army. When Hooker was given the coup de grâce, and Jackson was well again, that long-projected new offensive into Maryland might be started, and then. . . .

Orders were to advance the skirmishers all along the front at daybreak and to follow this with a general assault. That this would be bloody business, every one in the army recognized, but there was no hesitation and no misgiving. If the army had been able to turn the Federal right on the evening of the 2d and to break the line on the morning of the 3d, what was there to keep it from driving the enemy into the Rappahannock on the morning of the 6th?

At dawn the camps were astir, the scant rations were hastily eaten, the skirmishers were sent found, the line of battle was being formed. At headquarters, Lee wrote a dispatch to the War Department,50 reviewed the dispositions, found all in readiness, and was on the point of giving the order for the general advance when General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pender galloped up and rushed in. His skirmishers had already moved forward, he said — but Hooker was gone! The frowning lines in the woods were empty.

"Why, General Pender!" Lee exclaimed in amazement that nothing of this had been reported during the night. "That is the way you young men always do. You allow those people to get away. I tell you what to do, but you don't do it!"

Pender could say nothing. "Go after them," Lee cried, with an impatient gesture, "and damage them all you can!"51

p558 There was no damage the advancing divisions could inflict. Hooker had thrown up the sponge. Federal troops, guns, horses, and wagons were safely over the Rappahannock. The Confederates who had gone forward in the expectation of a bitter fight spent the forenoon in succoring the enemy's wounded, in exploring the lines, in commenting on the great strength of the works, in picking up booty and stragglers, and in gazing blankly into the woods that fringed the river. Lee gave them half a day for this curious recreation, then he had them recalled and formed. Leaving a few regiments to care for the wounded, to bury the dead and to collect the prizes of war, he started back to Fredericksburg with the main army.52 Over horrible roads and through a drenching rain that began before night, the troops retraced their steps to the familiar camps.53

The weary army had now to be refreshed, the gaps had to be filled, and officers had to be designated to replace those who had been killed or disabled. A. P. Hill had already been ordered back on the 6th to the temporary direction of the Second Corps, for his injuries were slight, and Stuart was again with his beloved troopers.54 To head Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.D. H. Hill's old division, Lee asked the immediate promotion of Brigadier General R. E. Rodes, whose gallant leading of that command on May 2 had been p559 especially commended by Jackson in a message to Lee.55 For the command of Trimble's division, which Brigadier General R. E. Colston had handled during Trimble's convalescence, Lee asked Major General Arnold Elzey or Major General Edward Johnson,56 if the latter were able to do field duty. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Davis sent him Johnson.57

Fortunately for the hungry men, the repair of the railroad from Richmond was completed on the 6th or 7th,58 and when congratulatory orders were issued on the 7th,59 the men had rations as well as honors to boast. They were allowed to rest till tired muscles were content. As Lee did not anticipate an early resumption of the offensive by the badly punished enemy, he directed Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet not to overtax his men by haste in rejoining.60 One great concern that Lee felt, as he examined the depleted ranks, was for the strengthening of the cavalry and for the reinforcement of the army with new units. Stoneman's raid had been a failure, but it might be repeated. "[The Federal] cavalry force," he wrote the President, "is very large and no doubt organized for the very purpose to which it has recently been applied. Every expedition will augment their boldness and increase their means of doing us harm, as they will become better acquainted with the country and more familiar with its roads. . . . You can see, then, how difficult it will be for us to keep up p560 our railroad communications and prevent the inroads of the enemy's cavalry. If I could get two good divisions of cavalry, I should feel as if we ought to resist the three of the enemy."61

As for infantry, Lee urged that troops be brought from the departments of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, where he did not believe more soldiers would be needed during the summer months than would be required to man the water batteries. This, of course, raised the question of the proper employment of their commander, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard. With no flourish of words, and writing as if he himself could be replaced after his greatest victory as readily as any subaltern, Lee proposed that Beauregard be brought to the Army of Northern Virginia and put in command of it.62

But there was a more immediate concern than for the increase of the cavalry or the reinforcement of the infantry. One of Jackson's chaplains, Reverend B. T. Lacy, came to headquarters during the morning of the 7th on his way to find Doctor S. B. Morrison, Early's chief surgeon, whom Doctor McGuire desired in consultation. Jackson was worse, Mr. Lacy said. He had done very well on the 6th except for slight nausea, but at dawn Doctor McGuire had found unmistakable symptoms of pneumonia. There was fear, for the first time, that his illness might be fatal.63 Lee would not admit the possibility of such an outcome. His own faith in God was so complete that he did not believe Heaven would deprive the South of a man whose services were essential to victory. He said to Lacy: "Give [Jackson] my affectionate regards, and tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right."64

What would become of the army if Jackson died? Where, p561 among all his lieutenants, could Lee look for another man to execute with swift certainty the flank marches he so much employed in his strategy? Longstreet was a fine fighter, once the issue was drawn, but Longstreet was slow and contentious, always arguing for his own plan, even to the last minute, whereas Jackson, after advancing his own proposals, would execute Lee's orders as readily as if they were his own.65 In the Army of Northern Virginia, he had no peer. For him to die would be in very truth for Lee to lose his "right arm."

That evening Jackson was reported better. The pneumonia did not seem to be filling the lung. But the next morning, Friday, May 8, as Lee went about the routine duties of the day,66 gloom settled again. Jackson was weaker, the pneumonia was advancing, he was in mild delirium at intervals,67 babbling orders and, with his old concern for the welfare of his men, repeatedly calling, "Tell Major Hawks to send forward provisions for the troops."68 Despite these ominous symptoms, Lee would not give him up. Jackson could not die, he kept telling himself! He was unable to go to Jackson, both because he could not trust his emotions and because there was no one in whose hands he would feel safe in leaving the army. He had even been compelled to ask the President to come to headquarters for the discussion of important military questions, inasmuch as he felt that his own presence there was essential.69 There was one thing, only one, that he could do for Jackson. That was to pray for him. On Saturday night, as the doctors shook their heads and expressed the fear that the outlook was hopeless, Lee went down spiritually to the brook Jabbok and, like Jacob, wrestled with the angel. Never in his life had he prayed with so much agony of spirit. While the army slept and Jackson in his stupor fought his battles over, Lee on his knees implored Heaven to grant to his country the mercy of the deliverance of Jackson from death.

When the troops began to gather for worship during the forenoon of the next day — a beautiful Sabbath that the commanding p562 general had recommended as a day of thanksgiving for the victory70 — Lee was still unconvinced that Jackson would be taken. Eagerly he met the chaplain who came from Guiney's at Jackson's request to preach at headquarters. The face of the clergyman told his story: The doctors ahead given Jackson up and did not believe he could survive, except by a miracle. He was in virtual coma, breathing very badly, and muttering still of his warring. "A. P. Hill," he was saying, "prepare for action." And again: "I must find out whether there is high ground between Chancellorsville and the river . . . push up the columns, hasten the columns. . . ."71

Even in the face of this, Lee refused to believe it could happen. "Surely, General Jackson must recover," he said, in a shaken voice. "God will not take him from us, now that we need him so much. Surely he will be spared to us, in answer to the many prayers which are offered for him!"

The minister preached to a large company of officers and to a multitude of men who had escaped the fangs of death in the Wilderness, but it is doubtful if Lee heard much that the earnest and eloquent Mr. Lacy had to say. His mind was at Guiney's, with Jackson, and so were his prayers. When the service was over, Lee spoke again to the chaplain: "When you return, I trust you will find him better. When a suitable occasion offers, give him my love, and tell him that I wrestled in prayer for him last night, as I never prayed, I believe, for myself." And he had to turn abruptly away to conceal his emotion.72

Going to his headquarters tent, Lee found that his staff officers had just completed decoding an important dispatch from the War Department, which had been garbled in transmission. It was an argument for sending Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pickett's division to Vicksburg as a reinforcement to General Pemberton. In Lee's eyes the proposal represented a choice between holding Virginia and holding the line of the Mississippi, and he so advised Seddon by telegraph. Then he wrote a fuller answer, to be transmitted by mail.73 In this letter he mentioned the possibility that if the Army of Northern Virginia were weakened he might be compelled to p563 withdraw into the defenses around Richmond. Perhaps that familiar phrase, the "Richmond defenses," set up a chain of memories in his mind — Jackson gaunt and exhausted in the swamps around Richmond, bewildered and taciturn; then the fiery zeal with which a transformed Jackson had urged an immediate advance on Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope after Lee had joined him at Gordonsville from Richmond; the start of the "foot-cavalry" that August afternoon on the dusty road from Jeffersonton to Thoroughfare Gap; the light that shone in Jackson's eyes when he came over to welcome the following army that Homeric day at Groveton; the heart-stirring sight of his hurrying bayonets over the ridge at Sharpsburg when the army would have been lost without him; the confidence with which he had met Longstreet's awkward jests while the fog was disappearing from the plains of the Rappahannock in December; that last glimpse of him as he sat in silhouette against the background of his marching men on that narrow road in the Wilderness. How gloriously "Stonewall" had redeemed the Seven Days and how much remained for him to do! If Jackson's dauntless will triumphed over the doctors' dark predictions as it had over the might of the enemy, then the army might take up anew the offensive that had been abandoned at South Mountain. Jackson would not be delayed the next time at Harpers Ferry. The fear of his name would cause the enemy to evacuate it; then he, the fast-moving, the sure-visioned, would reach Harrisburg and destroy the railroad bridge that linked East and West; the march might next be made to Philadelphia and . . .

There was a stir outside the tent, a moment of hesitation, and then some one brought in a bit of folded paper. It contained the brief and dreadful news. In the little cottage at Guiney's, Jackson had roused from his restless sleep and had struggled to speak. His mind had been wandering far — who knows how far? — but with an effort, in his even, low voice, he had said: "Let us pass over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." And then, as so often on marches into the unknown, he had led the way.

As noted in Freeman's caption below, the photograph is copyright 1934 by a third party, so that while the copyright on Freeman's biography has lapsed, I have been unable to ascertain whether this photo remains under copyright by being renewed in 1961 or 1962, or might have lapsed into the public domain thru failure to renew. Individual private distribution is not publication, however: those interested should e‑mail me for a copy.

DEATH MASK OF "STONEWALL" JACKSON, MADE IN RICHMOND, MAY, 1863, BY FRED VOLCK; AFTER THE ORIGINAL IN THE VALENTINE MUSEUM

Copyright, 1934, by the Valentine Museum and published by permission.


The Author's Notes:

1 Statement of R. W. Royall, an eye-witness, Jan. 17, 1923.

[decorative delimiter]

2 O. R., 25, part 1, pp801, 826, 830, 851.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Early, 220.

[decorative delimiter]

4 O. R., 25, part 1, p801.

[decorative delimiter]

5 McLaws carried with him some 7000 men. The original strength of that part of the Army of Northern Virginia on the Chancellorsville front, 51,000 had been reduced by casualties of between 7000 and 8000.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Cf. O. R., 51, part 2, p700.

[decorative delimiter]

7 O. R., 25, part 2, p768.

[decorative delimiter]

8B. and L., 233.

[decorative delimiter]

9B. and L., 233.

[decorative delimiter]

10 O. R., 25, part 1, p1006.

[decorative delimiter]

11 O. R., 25, part 1, pp892, 945. Harry Heth was commanding A. P. Hill's division and R. E. Rodes had D. H. Hill's.

[decorative delimiter]

12 O. R., 25, part 1, p851.

[decorative delimiter]

13 O. R., 25, part 1, pp851‑52.

[decorative delimiter]

14 O. R., 25, part 1, p771.

[decorative delimiter]

15 O. R., 25, part 1, pp801, 858‑59. General Lee stated in his report that Wilcox and Semmes advanced "nearly a mile," but this was from their positions and not from the point where the enemy's advance had been halted. The old toll-gate, where Wilcox halted, was about three-eighths of a mile from Salem Church.

[decorative delimiter]

16 2 von Borcke, 244‑45.

[decorative delimiter]

17 II Samuel xxiii, 15‑17.

[decorative delimiter]

18 O. R., 25, part 1, p770.

[decorative delimiter]

19 2 von Borcke, 243.

[decorative delimiter]

20 It is interesting to note that the lectionary of the Protestant Episcopal Church prescribes for May 3, the date when Lee heard of the wounding of Jackson, the lament of David for an earlier Jonathan. It reads:

"O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.

"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me! Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

"How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished."

The lectionary of Lee's prayer-book contained a different passage.

Thayer's Note: "Stonewall" Jackson's full proper name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson.
[decorative delimiter]

21 Mrs. Jackson, 438, quoting Doctor McGuire.

[decorative delimiter]

22 O. R., 25, part 1, p852.

[decorative delimiter]

23 O. R., 25, part 1, p802.

[decorative delimiter]

24 O. R., 25, part 1, p827.

[decorative delimiter]

25 For McLaws's career, see 6 C. M. H., 431 ff. A very just appraisal is given in Sorrel, 133.

[decorative delimiter]

26 O. R., 25, part 1, p827.

[decorative delimiter]

27 Alexander, 356.

[decorative delimiter]

28 Early, 227, 230.

[decorative delimiter]

29 Early, 224‑25.

[decorative delimiter]

30 Early, 227‑28.

[decorative delimiter]

31 Alexander, 357.

[decorative delimiter]

32 This map was redrawn from No. 37 in Major John Bigelow's Chancellorsville.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Bigelow, 414; O. R., 25, part 1, pp802, 852, 869.

[decorative delimiter]

34 O. R., 25, part 1, p802.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Early, 232.

[decorative delimiter]

36 O. R., 25, part 1, pp802, 817, 821, 828, 880, 882, 1002; ibid., part 2, pp860‑61. In The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 15, 1930, the statement was made that Lee gave his sash to Color-bearer E. S. Trainum for gallant conduct in this action.

[decorative delimiter]

37 O. R., 51, part 2, p702.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Mrs. Jackson, 438.

[decorative delimiter]

39 O. R., 25, part 1, pp821, 880‑81.

[decorative delimiter]

40 O. R., 25, part 1, pp359, 802, 841; Bigelow, 422.

[decorative delimiter]

41 O. R., 51, part 2, p702.

[decorative delimiter]

42 O. R., 25, part 1, p802.

[decorative delimiter]

43 O. R., 25, part 1, p829.

[decorative delimiter]

44 O. R., 25, part 1, p852.

[decorative delimiter]

45 O. R., 25, part 1, p869.

[decorative delimiter]

46 O. R., 25, part 1, p852.

[decorative delimiter]

47 O. R., 25, part 2, p775.

[decorative delimiter]

48 Mrs. Jackson, pp439‑40.

[decorative delimiter]

49 Hotchkiss, in 3 C. M. H., 392.

[decorative delimiter]

50 O. R., 25, part 2, p779.

[decorative delimiter]

51 3 C. M. H., 392.

[decorative delimiter]

52 O. R., 25, part 1, pp802, 852, 945.

[decorative delimiter]

53 O. R., 25, part 1, p974. Hooker, first and last, had more than 80,000 men on the Chancellorsville front, but he used them very unwisely. Many of his best units were not put into action. After gaining a great advantage in crossing the rivers unopposed, he suddenly abandoned all idea of an offensive and, on the afternoon of May 1, yielded the initiative to Lee and recalled from good positions east of Chancellorsville the troops that had been marching directly on Lee's flank. The Confederate advance that seemed suspiciously easy to Jackson was, in reality, pursuit of a line that was deliberately retiring. On the 2d, Jackson's movement to the right flank of the Army of the Potomac was observed but was assumed to be a retreat. The attack on Jackson's wagon-train was intended as the first move in following this supposed retreat, but it was not pushed. Hazel Grove was abandoned on the 3d as the result of a tactical blunder. The defeat of the Federals on the 3d was facilitated by the exhaustion of the artillery ammunition and by an injury to General Hooker. He was standing by a pillar on the porch of the Chancellor house when it was struck by a round shot and the pillar was overturned, hurling him heavily to the floor. For several hours thereafter he was partially stunned and incapable of directing operations intelligently, but except for a brief time he did not formally turn over the army to his senior corps commander, Major General D. N. Couch. He seemed to lose all his fighting-qualities once he confronted Lee. Throughout the campaign he was greatly handicapped by his mistake in ordering away all the cavalry except one brigade. His decision to recross the river on the night of May 5 was made in the face of the opposition of some of his corps commanders. Communication between Hooker at Chancellorsville and Sedgwick at Fredericksburg was slow, and misunderstandings were numerous.

[decorative delimiter]

54 O. R., 25, part 2, p782.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Lee's Dispatches, 87; O. R., 25, part 2, p774; Mrs. Jackson, 439. General Rodes had cherished small hope of being given command of the division and, with characteristic generosity, had urged General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell to seek assignment to it. "The whole Division I doubt not," he wrote Ewell, "would be delighted to have you as their Commander — Do not hesitate to avail yourself of every means of procuring this result — and be assured that I will be personally gratified to be under your command again" (R. E. Rodes to R. S. Ewell, MS., March 22, 1863, for a copy of which interesting document the writer is indebted to Doctor P. G. Hamlin of Philadelphia, the biographer of General Ewell).

[decorative delimiter]

56 O. R., 25, part 2, p774.

[decorative delimiter]

57 O. R., 51, part 2, p703.

[decorative delimiter]

58 O. R., 25, part 2, p781; Mrs. Jackson, 449.

[decorative delimiter]

59 O. R., 25, part 1, p805. The publication of these orders in the Northern press was made the occasion of a new personal attack on Lee. The Boston Transcript said that Lee's reference to a "signal deliverance" would have come more properly from the lips of his slaves than from his own. It printed a lengthy communication from a Northern soldier who had visited Arlington and, as he stated, had received from an old slave a blood-curdling report of Lee's cruelty. This story, evidently a variant of one that circulated before the war, was that Lee had ordered some Negroes punished for fishing in a brook when they had nothing to eat. The overseer having refused to whip a woman among the offenders, Lee was alleged to have lashed her with the utmost ferocity. "After Lee had lacerated the girl's body," the correspondent concluded, "he bathed the yet bleeding wounds in brine." The paper accepted all this as fact (Boston Transcript, May 14, 1863, editorial, p2, and article, p4, col. 2).

Thayer's Note: Neither this third-hand account nor the original charges, both third-hand and anonymous, are very credible, to be sure. Somewhat more worthy of credence is a statement by Wesley Norris which appeared in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on April 14, 1866, since it purports to be first-hand, Mr. Norris having been one of Lee's slaves so treated. On the one hand, the story has never been corroborated; on the other, it has never been denied by Lee, who chose to ignore all these stories (see Vol. 4, p257).
[decorative delimiter]

60 O. R., 18, 1049.

[decorative delimiter]

61 O. R., 25, part 2, p782.

[decorative delimiter]

62 O. R., 25, part 2, pp782‑83. It is possible to construe this passage as simply meaning that Beauregard be given command in Virginia of the troops he brought from the South. Lee's words were: "But it will be better to order General Beauregard in with all the forces which can be spared, and to put him in command there, than to keep them there inactive and this army inefficient from paucity of numbers." Had Lee meant that Beauregard should have charge of only part of the army, it seems most likely that he would have said "put him in command of them here."

[decorative delimiter]

63 The fullest report of the condition of Jackson, day by day, is Hunter McGuire: "Account of the Wounding and Death of Stonewall Jackson," Richmond Medical Journal, May, 1866.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Dabney, 716.

[decorative delimiter]

65 Marshall, 170.

[decorative delimiter]

66 O. R., 25, part 2, pp786‑87.

[decorative delimiter]

67 Mrs. Jackson, 441.

[decorative delimiter]

68 Dabney, 719.

[decorative delimiter]

69 O. R., 25, part 2, p783. Longstreet was due to reach headquarters on the 9th (O. R., 51, part 2, p705), but was entirely unfamiliar with the state of the army or the disposition of the troops.

[decorative delimiter]

70 26 S. H. S. P., 8.

[decorative delimiter]

71 Dabney, 719; Pendleton, 271.

[decorative delimiter]

72 Dabney, 725.

[decorative delimiter]

73 O. R., 25, part 2, p790.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 5 Oct 13