Monday, June 12, 2017

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: May 8, 1863

To-day the city is in fine spirits. Hooker had merely thrown up defenses to protect his flight across the river. The following dispatch was received last night from Gen. Lee:

Chancellorville, May 7th, 1863.

To His Excellency, President Davis.

”After driving Gen. Sedgwick across the Rappahannock, on the night of the 4th inst., I returned on the 5th to Chaccellorville. The march was delayed by a storm, which continued all night and the following day. In placing the troops in position on the morning of the 6th, to attack Gen. Hooker, it was ascertained he had abandoned his fortified position. The line of skirmishers was pressed forward until they came within range of the enemy's batteries, planted north of the Rappahannock, which, from the configuration of the ground, completely commanded this side. His army, therefore, escaped with the loss of a few additional prisoners.

R. E. Lee, General.

Thus ends the career of Gen. Hooker, who, a week ago, was at the head of an army of 150,000 men, perfect in drill, discipline, and all the muniments of war. He came a confident invader against Gen. Lee at the head of 65,000 “butternuts,” as our honest poor-clad defenders were called, and we see the result! An active campaign of less than a week, and Hooker is hurled back in disgrace and irreparable disaster! Tens of thousands of his men will never live to “fight another day” —and although the survivors did “run away,” it is doubtful whether they can be put in fighting trim again for many a month.

And the raiding cavalry have not been heard from to-day. If they be not back on the north side of the Rappahannock by this time, it is probable they will reach Richmond in a few days without arms, and on foot.

Gens. Hood's and Pickett's divisions (Longstreet's corps) are now passing through the city — perhaps 15,000 of the best fighting men in the South. Oh, what wisdom and foresight were evinced by Gen. Lee, when, some ten days ago, he telegraphed the President to send him Longstreet's corps, via Gordonsville! It was referred to the Secretary of War, who consulted with Gen. Cooper —and of course it was not done. This corps was not in the battle. If it had been on the field, Hooker's destruction would have been speedy and complete; and his routed regiments would have been followed to the very gates of the Federal capital. As it was, Lee lost a day in driving Sedgwick back — and then Hooker “escaped,” as Lee expresses it.

I do not understand the Assistant Secretary of War's official correspondence. He sent in the other day a letter addressed to him two years ago to be filed — and to day an envelope addressed to him as Assistant Secretary by Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State, merely covering a letter (sealed) for R. S. Bunkee, Mobile, Alabama. Well, it is filed.

The pressure for permits to leave the Confederacy is not renewed to-day. Judge Campbell will not have so many passports to “approve,” and I trust confidence in the permanency of the Confederacy will be unshaken. How must they feel who, in anticipation of Lee's defeat, had received, in advance, a pardon from the powers at Washington!

Col. Lay was in to-day; he thinks the North will be cheered a little by their capture of Grand Gulf, in the West. But that is not Vicksburg, or Charleston, or Richmond.

We have had short allowance of food yesterday and to-day; the country people being afraid to come to market, lest their horses should be seized to go in quest of the enemy's cavalry. My family dined to-day on eight fresh herrings, which cost two dollars.

The trains from Fredericksburg brought down several hundred Federal officers; among them was a general, a large number of colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors, captains, etc. These, when exchanged, as I suppose they will be—for victory makes our government magnanimous—may, if they choose, deny the report that the raiding cavalry destroyed the railroad.

Now what will the Tribune say? It did say, a few months ago, that if the effort to crush the rebellion failed this spring, it would be useless to prolong the war — and that peace should be made on the best practicable terms. Since the beginning of the war, I doubt not 500,000 men have been precipitated upon Virginia. Where are they now? In the third year of the war, we see “the finest army the world ever saw,” overthrown by about half its numbers, and in full retreat toward its own frontier. Perhaps 100,000 invaders have found bloody graves in Virginia — and an equal number have died of their wounds, or from disease contracted in this State. The number of maimed and disabled must also be 100,000 — and yet Richmond is not taken, or likely to be. To invade and subjugate a vast territory, inhabited by millions of warlike people, the assailants must always have four times as many men as the assailed; therefore we stand on an equal footing with the United States in this war, and they may, if they be insane enough, protract it indefinitely, and in the end reap no substantial benefit. On the contrary, the fortune of war may shift the scene of devastation to their own homes. Perhaps Lee may follow up this blow until he enters Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 314-6

No comments: