Gen. Barnes’s brigade assisted in taking up the bridges; and all were
safely withdrawn by four P.M. on Wednesday, under superintendence of
Major Spaulding of the engineer brigade.
All who participated in this retreat will remember the precarious
position of the masses of troops, huddled together at the bridge-heads
as in a cul-de-sac, during this eventful night, and the long-drawn
breath of relief as the hours after dawn passed, and no further
disposition to attack was manifested by Lee. This general was doubtless
profoundly grateful that the Army of the Potomac should retire across
the Rappahannock, and leave his troops to the hard-earned rest they
needed so much more than ourselves; but little thanks are due to Hooker,
who was, it seems, on the north side of the river during these critical
moments, that the casualties of the campaign were not doubled by a final
assault on the part of Lee, while we lay in this perilous situation,
and the unmolested retreat turned into another passage of the Beresina.
Providentially, the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia had
expended almost its last round of ammunition previous to this time.
But several hospitals of wounded, in care of a number of medical
officers and stewards, were left behind, to be removed a few days later
under a flag of truce.
The respective losses of the two armies are thus officially given:–
General Headquarters and Engineers . . . 9
First Corps . . . . . . . . 299
Second Corps . . . . . . . . 1,923
Third Corps . . . . . . . . 4,119
Fifth Corps . . . . . . . . 700
Sixth Corps . . . . . . . . 4,610
Eleventh Corps . . . . . . . . 2,412
Twelfth Corps . . . . . . . . 2,822
Pleasonton’s Brigade . . . . . . 202
Cavalry Corps under Stoneman . . . . 189
Early’s division . . . . . . . 851
A. P. Hill’s division . . . . . . 2,583
Trimble’s (Colston) division . . . . 1,868
D. H. Hill’s (Rodes) division . . . . 2,178
Anderson’s division . . . . . . 1,180
McLaws’s division . . . . . . 1,379
Artillery . . . . . . . . . 227
Cavalry . . . . . . . . . 11
Prisoners . . . . . . . . . 2,000
Both armies now returned to their ancient encampments, elation as
general on one side as disappointment was profound upon the other.
Hooker says in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the
War: “I lost under those operations” (viz., the Chancellorsville
campaign) “one piece artillery, I think five or six wagons, and one
ambulance. Of course, many of the Eleventh Corps lost their arms and
The Confederates, however, claim to have captured nineteen thousand five
hundred stand of small arms, seventeen colors, and much ammunition.
And, while acknowledging a loss of eight guns, it is asserted by them
that they captured thirteen.
The orders issued to the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern
Virginia by their respective commanders, on the return of the forces to
the shelter of their old camps, need no comment. They are characteristic
to a degree.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 6, 1863.
GENERAL ORDERS NO. 49.
The major-general commanding tenders to this army his congratulations on
the achievements of the last seven days. If it has not accomplished all
that was expected, the reasons are well known to the army. It is
sufficient to say that they were of a character not to be foreseen or
prevented by human sagacity or resources.
In withdrawing from the south bank of the Rappahannock before delivering
a general battle to our adversaries, the army has given renewed evidence
of its confidence in itself, and its fidelity to the principles it
By fighting at a disadvantage we would have been recreant to our trust,
to ourselves, to our cause, and to our country. Profoundly loyal,
and conscious of its strength, the Army of the Potomac will give or
decline battle whenever its interests or honor may command it.
By the celerity and secrecy of our movements, our advance and passage of
the river were undisputed; and, on our withdrawal, not a rebel dared to
follow us. The events of the last week may well cause the heart of
every officer and soldier of the army to swell with pride.
We have added new laurels to our former renown. We have made long
marches, crossed rivers, surprised the enemy in his intrenchments; and
whenever we have fought, we have inflicted heavier blows than those we
We have taken from the enemy five thousand prisoners, and fifteen colors,
captured seven pieces of artillery, and placed hors du combat eighteen
thousand of our foe’s chosen troops.
We have destroyed his depots filled with vast amounts of stores, damaged
his communications, captured prisoners within the fortifications of his
capital, and filled his country with fear and consternation.
We have no other regret than that caused by the loss of our brave
companions; and in this we are consoled by the conviction that they have
fallen in the holiest cause ever submitted to the arbitration of battle.
By command of Major-Gen. Hooker.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
May 7, 1863.
With heartfelt gratification, the general commanding expresses to the
army his sense of the heroic conduct displayed by officers and men
during the arduous operations in which they have just been engaged.
Under trying vicissitudes of heat and storm, you attacked the enemy,
strongly intrenched in the depths of a tangled wilderness, and again on
the hills of Fredericksburg, fifteen miles distant, and, by the valor
that has triumphed on so many fields, forced him once more to seek
safety beyond the Rappahannock. While this glorious victory entitles
you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called
upon to return our grateful thanks to the only Giver of victory, for the
signal deliverance He has wrought.
It is therefore earnestly recommended that the troops unite, on Sunday
next, in ascribing to the Lord of Hosts the glory due unto His name.
Let us not forget in our rejoicing the brave soldiers who have fallen in
defence of their country; and, while we mourn their loss, let us resolve
to emulate their noble example.
The army and the country alike lament the absence for a time of one to
whose bravery, energy, and skill they are so much indebted for success.
The following letter from the President of the Confederate States is
communicated to the army as an expression of his appreciation of their
“I have received your despatch, and reverently unite with you in giving
praise to God for the success with which he has crowned our arms.
In the name of the people, I offer my cordial thanks to yourself and the
troops under your command, for this addition to the unprecedented series
of great victories which our army has achieved. The universal rejoicing
produced by this happy result will be mingled with a general regret for
the good and the brave who are numbered among the killed and the
R. E. LEE, General.
The following is equally characteristic:–
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., May 13, 1863.
To his Excellency, President of the United States.
Is it asking too much to inquire your opinion of my Order No. 49?
If so, do not answer me.
Jackson is dead, and Lee beats McClellan in his untruthful bulletins.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
OPERATIONS OF THE CAVALRY CORPS.
As was briefly related in the early part of this work, Hooker issued
orders to Gen. Stoneman, the commanding-officer of the Cavalry Corps of
the Army of the Potomac, on the 12th of April, to move the succeeding
day for the purpose of cutting the communications of the enemy. The
order read as follows:–
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, VA., April 12, 1863.
Commanding Officer, Cavalry Corps.
I am directed by the major-general commanding to inform you that you
will march at seven o’clock A.M., on the 13th inst., with all your
available force, except one brigade, for the purpose of turning the
enemy’s position on his left, and of throwing your command between him
and Richmond, isolating him from his supplies, checking his retreat,
and inflicting on him every possible injury which will tend to his
discomfiture and defeat.
To accomplish this, the general suggests that you ascend the
Rappahannock by the different routes, keeping well out of the view of
the enemy, and throwing out well to the front and flank small parties to
mask your movement, and to cut off all communication with the enemy,
by the people in their interest living on this side of the river.
To divert suspicion it may not be amiss to have word given out that you
are in pursuit of Jones’s guerillas, as they are operating extensively
in the Shenandoah Valley, in the direction of Winchester. He further
suggests that you select for your place of crossing the Rappahannock,
some point to the west of the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, which can
only be determined by the circumstances as they are found on the arrival
of your advance.
In the vicinity of Culpeper, you will be likely to run against Fitz Hugh
Lee’s brigade of cavalry, consisting of about two thousand men, which it
is expected you will be able to disperse and destroy without delay to
your advance, or detriment to any considerable number of your command.
At Gordonsville, the enemy have a small provost-guard of infantry,
which it is expected you will destroy, if it can be done without
delaying your forward movement. From there it is expected that you will
push forward to the Aquia and Richmond Railroad, somewhere in the
vicinity of Saxton’s Junction, destroying along your whole route the
railroad-bridges, trains of cars, depots of provisions, lines of
telegraphic communication, etc. The general directs that you go
prepared with all the means necessary to accomplish this work
As the line of the railroad from Aquia to Richmond presents the shortest
one for the enemy to retire on, it is most probable that he will avail
himself of it, and the usually travelled highways on each side of it,
for this purpose; in which event you will select the strongest positions,
such as the banks of streams, commanding heights, etc., in order to
check or prevent it; and, if unsuccessful, you will fall upon his flanks,
attack his artillery and trains, and harass him until he is exhausted
and out of supplies.
Moments of delay will be hours and days to the army in pursuit.
If the enemy should retire by Culpeper and Gordonsville, you will
endeavor to hold your force in his front, and harass him day and night,
on the march, and in camp, unceasingly. If you cannot cut off from his
column large slices, the general desires that you will not fail to take
small ones. Let your watchword be Fight, and let all your orders be
Fight, Fight, FIGHT; bearing in mind that time is as valuable to the
general as the rebel carcasses. It is not in the power of the rebels to
oppose you with more than five thousand sabres, and those badly mounted,
and, after they leave Culpeper, without forage and rations. Keep them
from Richmond, and sooner or later they must fall into our hands.
The general desires you to understand that he considers the primary
object of your movement the cutting of the enemy’s communication with
Richmond by the Fredericksburg route, checking his retreat over those
lines; and he wishes to make every thing subservient to that object.
He desires that you will keep yourself informed of the enemy’s
whereabouts, and attack him wherever you find him.
If, in your operations, an opportunity should present itself for you to
detach a force to Charlottesville, which is almost unguarded, and
destroy depots of supplies said to be there, or along the line of the
Aquia Railroad, in the direction of Richmond, to destroy bridges, etc.,
or the crossings of the Pamunkey, in the direction of West Point,
destroying the ferries, felling trees to prevent or check the crossing,
they will all greatly contribute to our complete success.
You may rely upon the general’s being in communication with you before
your supplies are exhausted.
Let him hear from you as often as necessary and practicable.
A brigade of infantry will march to-morrow morning at eight o’clock for
Kelly’s Ford, with one battery, and a regiment to the United-States Ford
and Banks’s Ford, to threaten and hold those places.
It devolves upon you, general, to take the initiative in the forward
movement of this grand army; and on you and your noble command must
depend, in a great measure, the extent and brilliancy of our success.
Bear in mind that celerity, audacity, and resolution are every thing in
war, and especially is it the case with the command you have, and the
enterprise on which you are about to embark.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
In pursuance of which order, the corps broke camp near Belle-Plain,
and encamped on the evening of April 13, beyond Morrisville. On April
14, it moved down to the vicinity of the bridge at Rappahannock station,
which, after a slight skirmish by Gregg, was taken possession of.
Beverly Ford, some miles above, was also examined, and the north bank
occupied. Preparations for an early move on the morning of the 14th
were made. Gen. Buford, commanding the cavalry reserve, remained at
Kelly’s Ford during the 14th, in order to draw the attention of the
Confederates to that point, and indulged in a little artillery skirmish.
During the night a heavy rain set in, and before morning the river was
no longer fordable by the artillery and pack-trains.
As is well known, it takes no great rainfall to swell the Rappahannock
and Rapidan rivers, and their tributaries, to the proportion of
torrents. Nor are more than a few hours necessary to raise these rivers
and runs, and even the dry ravines, to an impassable depth. Gregg
mentions in his report that a small stream, which, on the 13th, could be
crossed at one step, had swelled to such a flood, that when, on the 15th,
a regiment was obliged to cross it, there were lost one man and two
horses by drowning.
So that, after crossing one division, Stoneman found that it would
probably be isolated on account of the impracticability of crossing the
rest of the corps, and consequently ordered its immediate return.
And this was accomplished none too soon, by swimming the horses.
On reporting all these facts to Hooker, Stoneman was ordered to go into
camp, where he remained, along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad,
until the 27th.
The following letter is of interest, in this connection, as showing how
keen Mr. Lincoln’s intuitions occasionally were.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 15, 1863.
It is now 10.15 P.M. An hour ago I received your letter of this morning,
and a few moments later your despatch of this evening. The latter gives
me considerable uneasiness. The rain and mud, of course, were to be
calculated upon. Gen. S. is not moving rapidly enough to make the
expedition come to anything. He has now been out three days, two of
which were unusually fair weather, and all three without hinderance from
the enemy, and yet he is not twenty-five miles from where he started.
To reach his point he still has sixty to go, another river (the Rapidan)
to cross; and will he be hindered by the enemy? By arithmetic, how many
days will it take him to do it? I do not know that any better can be
done, but I greatly fear it is another failure already. Write me often.
I am very anxious.