Slike strani
PDF
ePub

of his method of coming into the right relation with men. He writes:

“You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable if not an indispensable quality. I think, however, that during General Burnside's command of the army, you have taken counsel of your ambition and have thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honourable brother officer. I have heard 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 as dictators. What I now ask of you is military success and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the best of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all its commanders.

Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.'

Hooker, like Burnside, undoubtedly did the best that he could. He was a loyal patriot and had shown himself a good division commander. It is probable, however, that the limit of his ability as a general in the field was the management of an army corps; he seems to have been confused in

t

[ocr errors]

1

the attempt to direct the movements of the larger
body. At Chancellorsville, he was clearly out-
witted by his opponents, Lee and Jackson. The
men of the army of the Potomac fought steadily
as always but with the discouraging feeling that
the soldiers on the other side of the line had the
advantage of better brain power behind them.
It is humiliating to read in the life of Jackson
the reply given by him to Lee when Lee questioned
the safety of the famous march planned by
Jackson across the front of the Federal line.
Said Lee: “There are several points along the
line of your proposed march at which your column
could be taken in flank with disastrous results."
“But, General Lee," replies Jackson, “we must
surely in planning any military movements take
into account the personality of the leaders to
whom we are opposed.'

VII

THE THIRD AND CRUCIAL YEAR OF THE WAR

CHANCELLORSVILLE was fought and lost, and again, under political pressure from Richmond rather than with any hope of advantage on simple military lines, Lee leads his army to an invasion of the North. For this there were at the time several apparent advantages; the army of the Potomac had been twice beaten and, while by no means demoralised, was discouraged and no longer had faith in its commander. There was much inevitable disappointment throughout the North that, so far from making progress in the attempt to restore the authority of the government, the national troops were on the defensive but a few miles from the national capital. The Confederate correspondence from London and from Paris gave fresh hopes for the long expected intervention.

Lee's army was cleverly withdrawn from Hooker's front and was carried through western Maryland into Pennsylvania by the old line of

On

the Shenandoah Valley and across the Potomac at Falling Waters. Hooker reports to Lincoln under date of June 4th that the army or an army is still in his front on the line of the Rappahannock. Lincoln writes to Hooker under date of June 5th, “We have report that Lee's army is moving westward and that a large portion of it is already to the west of the Blue Ridge. The 'bull' [Lee's army] is across the fence and it surely ought to be possible to worry him.” June 14th, Lincoln writes again, reporting to Hooker that Lee with the body of his troops is approaching the Potomac at a point forty miles away from the line of the entrenchments on the Rappahannock. “The animal [Lee's army] is extended over a line of forty miles. It must be very slim somewhere. Can you not cut it?” The phrases are not in military form but they give evidence of sound military judgment. Hooker was unable to grasp the opportunity, and realising this himself, he asked to be relieved. The troublesome and anxious honour of the command of the army now falls upon General Meade. He takes over the responsibility at a time when Lee's army is already safely across the Potomac and advancing northward, apparently towards Philadelphia. His troops

are more or less scattered and no definite plan of campaign appears to have been formulated. The events of the next three weeks constitute possibly the best known portion of the War. Meade shows good energy in breaking up his encampment along the Rappahannock and getting his column on to the road northward. Fortunately, the army of the Potomac for once has the advantage of the interior line so that Meade is able to place his army in a position that protects at once Washington on the south-west, Baltimore on the east, and Philadelphia on the north-east. We can, however, picture to ourselves the anxiety that must have rested upon the Commander-in-chief in Washington during the weeks of the campaign and during the three days of the great battle which was fought on Northern soil and miles to the north of the Northern capital. If, on that critical third day of July, the Federal lines had been broken and the army disorganised, there was nothing that could prevent the national capital from coming into the control of Lee's army. The surrender of Washington meant the intervention of France and England, meant the failure of the attempt to preserve the nation's existence, meant that Abraham Lincoln would go down to history as the last President of the

« PrejšnjaNaprej »