Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hooker's Memoirs

Extracted from Battles and Leaders of The Civil War Volume III, page 215

In October, 1876, I accompanied General Hooker to the battle-field of Chancellorsville. It was the only occasion on which he visited the coveted ground since the day of battle. He had previously placed in my hands his official papers and memoranda for the preparation of a history of the Battle of Chancellorsville.
   Soon after leaving the open ground opposite Banks’s Ford we entered the dense forest, or “Wilderness”, which covers the entire Chancellorsville battle-ground. Every important position was observed and commented upon by the man who on those fierce battle-days had wielded, on this very ground, an army of one hundred thousand men.
   On approaching a pine-tree under which Generals Lee and Jackson had planned the mode of attack, General Hooker observed “It was under that tree that the mischief was devised which came near to ruining my army. My position at Chancellorsville was a good one and I felt confident when I reached it that I had eighty chances in a hundred to win. Early on 1st May I rode along the whole line, and personally examined every part, suggesting some changes and counselling extreme vigilance. Upon my return to head-quarters I was informed that a continuous column of enemy had been marching past my front since early in the morning. This filled me with apprehension for the safety of my right wing.”
   As we moved along the orange plank road to Dowdall’s Tavern we were greeted by the innkeeper who invited us inside and we feasted sumptuously there. After our meal the General’s mood turned sombre “I warned General Howard to take all the precautions necessary to resist attack from the west but he was negligent in his duty. I even bade him to move back towards our main position but instead he chose to stay and fight with Jackson unsupported. I am still blamed for this but in truth it was no fault of mine it was Howard and Sickles who lost us this fight!”
   Seeing that the General was becoming somewhat distressed I thought it prudent that we continue our journey to Hazel grove and thence along furnace road to the Maury House. As our carriage passed along the road the General pointed to a low hill to our right “There is where Hunt placed our grand battery and Slocum’s brave boys routed Colston’s division and, there in those woods, Couch held back an enemy force of nearly twice his numbers. If only all my commanders had behaved as well as Slocum and Couch how differently things may have been!”
   Finally we approached the Chancellorsville house and the General took me to the very place from whence he had directed the battle “I was standing on this step of the portico, when a solid shot struck the pillar near me splitting it in two and throwing me to the ground. It was due to my concussion that some delay occurred in the issuing of orders to General Sickles to support Howard. Of course, if that general had shown any sense at all he would have moved to the sound of guns of his own accord!”
   I ventured to ask the General why he did not attack Lee when he found the enemy had split his forces on the morning of 2nd May. “That,” he said “would seem to have been the reasonable thing to do. But we were in this impenetrable thicket.” At this, the General’s voice faltered and, turning towards the west, with his back towards me, I heard him mutter to himself slowly, “I guess I just lost faith in Joe Hooker.”

Army of the Potomac - 129 SP's (49%)
II Corps - 33 SP's (61%)
III Corps - 10 SP's (12%)
XI Corps - 43 SP's (79%)
XII Corps - 34 SP's (62%)
Cavalry - 9 SP's (50%)
Army of Northern Virginia - 118 SP's (56%)
Lee (McLaws & Anderson) - 38 SP's (59%)
Jackson (A P Hill & Rodes) - 45 SP's (70%)
Early (Early & Colston) - 27 SP's (42%)
Cavalry - 8 SP's (50%)


  1. Thank you for a great battle report. The newspapers and memoir were a great touch. One of the best reports I've read and I'm already looking forward to the next one.
    Cheers Neil.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! We're taking a bit of a break at the moment but will be back with another game soon...