Four Authors of the
American Civil War:
Excerpts From Their Work
1. Bruce Catton
1. Bruce Catton: “The Darkness, and Jackson, and Fear” (The Battle of Chancellorsville)
Bruce Catton (1899-1978) became fascinated by the Civil War while growing up in Benzonia, Michigan, where he conversed with veterans of the conflict, who, said Catton, gave a resonance to his hometown, “a color and a tone, not merely to our village life, but to the concept of life with which we grew up” – i.e., a faith in bravery, patriotism, freedom, and human progress. “I think I was always subconsciously driven by an attempt to restate that faith,” Catton said.
He worked as a journalist for years in Cleveland, Boston, and Washington D.C., eventually deciding to make a career of the Civil War, inspired by, among others, the Chicago-based journalist and historian Lloyd Lewis (1891-1949). In 1951 Catton published the first of his 13 Civil War books, “Mr. Lincoln’s Army,” and in 1954 he won a Pulitzer Prize for History for “A Stillness at Appomattox.” Also in ’54 he was hired as the first editor of American Heritage magazine, the main history magazine in the U.S. for decades. His achievement in this realm was mixed. As noted by journalist Charles McGrath, American Heritage in its early years devoted entirely too much space to wispy WASPy nostalgia articles. With its elegant hard covers, the magazine became as much a status symbol for living rooms as a well-perused journal. However, it published some solid pieces about the Civil War, and it certainly ranks today as excellent in every respect.
Incidentally, one of Catton’s best books is his 1972 memoir of his early years, “Waiting For the Morning Train: An American Boyhood,” wonderfully evocative of the Upper Midwest in the early 20th century. – H.F.
The Darkness, and Jackson, and Fear
(The Battle of Chancellorsville)
By Bruce Catton
Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Vol. 3, “The Centennial History of the Civil War” (1965). The Battle of Chancellorsville was fought April 30-May 6, 1863, in Virginia. Note: Catton’s work has been republished in various forms. “The Centennial History of the Civil War” triology is distinctly different from his “Army of the Potomac” trilogy, which is best known today as “Bruce Catton’s Civil War.” See here for publishing details.
Going west from Fredericksburg in the old days a traveler would follow the Orange Turnpike, which started out through open farming country as pleasant to see in springtime as anything east of the Blue Ridge. Eight or nine miles from Fredericksburg the countryside’s mood changed, and the road went down a long slope into a gloomy second-growth forest known as the Wilderness. The Wilderness stretched west for fifteen miles or more, thinly populated, with dense timber covering irregular ravines and low hills; a year or two later a Federal soldier referred to this gloomy, shaded country, with reason, as a land of grinning ghosts. Not long after the road entered this woodland it reached an unremarkable crossroad called Chancellorsville, where a family named Chancellor had built a big house.
Chancellorsville was not important, except of course to the Chancellor family; it was just white pillars and red brickwork at an open clearing in the woods, with country roads converging in front of it. It lay four miles due south of the place where the Rapidan River flows into the Rappahannock, and from Chancellorsville a road led up to the United States Ford, a crossing-place on the Rappahannock just below the fork. Other roads went northwest from Chancellorsville, to Ely’s and Germanna Fords on the Rapidan, and the turnpike itself continued through the Wilderness, going west by south and coming out at last at Orange Courthouse. All of these roads and fords and the twilight tangle about them were obscure enough, in 1863, but if General Hooker intended to fight General Lee he would have to go through this country to get at him, and sooner or later he would have to come to Chancellorsville. To Chancellorsville he came, at last, and the word has been a scar on the national memory ever since.
Perhaps Hooker’s trouble was that he won his battle in anticipation, and won it too completely. What began as a simple attempt to maneuver Lee out of his impregnable lines back of Fredericksburg came before long to look like a strategic masterpiece that would win the war; as it took on this aspect it began to seem real before a shot had been fired, and Hooker’s contemplated triumph kept expanding until it burst. As the campaign got under way he remarked jauntily that Lee’s army now was the legitimate property of the Army of the Potomac, and on the eve of battle he formally announced to all ranks that he had maneuvered so cunningly that the enemy must either fly ingloriously or come out and submit to destruction; and after the campaign was over he confessed frankly: “What I wanted was Lee’s army; with that, Richmond would have been ours, and indeed all of Virginia.”
Lee’s army was exactly what Hooker got, but it came at him from the wrong direction when he was thinking about something else and so it was too much for him; and his real trouble was not so much his own vainglory as the fact that he was up against the wrong opponent. After all, Hooker planned very well, and although he executed poorly his advantage in numbers was large enough to rub out a good many mistakes. What he tried would have worked, against most generals. Against Lee it failed so completely that its basic excellence is too easily overlooked.
Hooker began by planning a cavalry sweep that would shear in behind the Confederate left, snip the railroads by which Lee got his supplies, and so compel him to retreat. (Once Lee was out in the open country the Army of the Potomac could doubtless attack him to advantage.) Two days after Mr. Lincoln went back to Washington, Hooker ordered his cavalry commander, Major General George Stoneman, to take his troopers across the upper Rappahannock near the line of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and start operating in the enemy’s rear, “inflicting on him every possible injury which will tend to his discomfiture and defeat.” Stoneman set out, but as he began to cross the river a violent rainstorm blew up, the river rose and the unpaved roads went out of sight in mud. Stoneman considered an offensive impossible and recalled his advance guar, and the whole movement came to nothing. Two weeks passed, and Hooker made a new plan, much more ambitious than the first. It was this plan that brought his army to Chancellorsville.
As before, the cavalry would cross the river and head for the Confederate rear, but this time its role would be comparatively minor. While the cavalry cut Lee’s supply lines, the bigger part of the infantry of the Army of the Potomac would also march upstream, cross the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and then march eastward behind Lee’s left. In effect, this flanking column would be approaching Lee’s line on Mary’s Heights from the rear, and it would be only a little smaller than Lee’s entire army.
This force was ordered to go first to Chancellorsville. When it moved from Chancellorsville – with Stoneman’s cavalry spreading panic and destruction near Richmond, making it impossible for Lee’s army to get either supplies or reinforcements – Lee would have to get out of Fredericksburg in a hurry. If he headed for Richmond, the Federal column could strike him ruinously in the flank; if he turned to fight at Chancellorsville, the rest of the Army of the Potomac, following hard from Fredericksburg, could pitch into him and he could be attacked in front and in rear simultaneously – which of course would be the end of him.
So went the plan. It was a good plan, and up to a point it worked well. The huge flanking column moved precisely as Hooker intended, and by the evening of April 30 he had four army corps at or near Chancellorsville. Shortly after nightfall he reached the place himself, radiating confidence, sure that he had the game in his hand
He was sure, that is, with part of his mind, the part that he knew about; not sure, apparently, with the part that ran down out of sight in the darkness, where fears come from. Although it was at Chancellorsville that Hooker got out that strange announcement of the impending defeat of Lee’s army, it was also at Chancellorsville that he ceased to look like a general who is about to win a great victory and began to resemble one who suspects that he will be beaten if he is not very cautious. He became cautious just a little too soon – a few miles and a few hours short of the victory he had talked about so much.
On the night April ended, Hooker had approximately 50,000 men at Chancellorsville, with 22,000 more on the way. Back at Falmouth, just above Fredericksburg, were 47,000 more, under Major General John Sedgwick, the competent commander of the VI Corps. Sedgwick and Hooker were hardly ten miles apart in a direct line, but as the roads went, roundabout on the United States Ford route, the distance was more than twice that far, and it could be dangerous to separate the two wings of an army so widely in the presence of General Lee. However, the separation would end very soon. On May 1 the force at Chancellorsville was to march eastward near the river, and after a few miles this march would uncover Banks’ Ford, a river crossing hardly four miles from Falmouth, and the separated wings would be in touch again. Meanwhile, Sedgwick had laid pontoon bridges below Fredericksburg and had crossed part of his troops, hoping to convince Lee that he was about to attack. If this worked, Lee was not likely to notice what was going on at Chancellorsville, which would be fatal; if he did notice he would of course retreat in haste, in which case Sedgwick was ideally posted to pursue him and bring him to grief.
The real trouble with Hooker’s plan was that it was brittle. It rested on the belief that Lee would react predictably to a series of challenges; if he did not, Federal strategy might need more flexibility than the plan allowed. It had been assumed, for instance, that when Stoneman and his cavalry galloped south Stuart and his cavalry would gallop after; but Stuart did nothing of the kind. The Yankee cavalry might do damage in the unprotected rear areas but Lee’s army was the only thing that mattered now, and so Stuart kept his cavalry on Lee’s flank to give the army the protection and the knowledge that might make the difference between victory and defeat. As a result he kept Lee posted about the advance and strength of Hooker’s flanking force, and kept the flankers from finding out very much about Lee; and by the night of April 30 Lee knew that Sedgwick was bluffing and that the real threat was coming out of the Wilderness at Chancellorsville.
Then he refused to behave as expected. It seemed obvious that if he went to Chancellorsville at all he would take his entire force, because he was so badly outnumbered that he could hardly do anything else, and this of course would open the road for Sedgwick and Lee would eventually be caught between the two fires. But simply because he was so terribly outnumbered, Lee was free to take preposterous chances; the odds against him were so long to begin with that it could not hurt much to lengthen them a bit, and anyway an opponent who believed that Lee would do the obvious under any circumstances was simply begging for trouble.
Stonewall Jackson wanted to smash Sedgwick before doing anything else, and although Lee was skeptical he told Jackson to study the ground carefully; if Jackson felt that it could be done Lee would order it. Jackson studied, concluded finally that Sedgwick was not smashable, and so reported, and Lee ordered the army over to Chancellorsville. But he did not take everybody. He detached 10,000 men, entrusted them to hard-fighting Major General Jubal Early, strengthened the contingent with extra artillery, saw that it was well posted on Marye’s Heights, and instructed Early to keep Sedgwick from doing any harm.
It seemed folly to leave 10,000 men to oppose 47,000. But it would also have been folly for Lee to try to march back to Richmond with Yankee cavalry blocking the road ahead, four Yankee infantry corps on the immediate flank, and Sedgwick in hot pursuit; worse folly to let the army get pressed to death between the converging halves of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville; folly in its highest form simply to do nothing, waiting at Fredericksburg for the executioner. What Lee did was risky, but it was less risky than the other options that were open…and anyway it was something General Hooker might not expect. And so on the night of April 30 and the morning of May 1 Lee and Jackson and everybody but Early’s command marched toward Chancellorsville to meet Hooker.
Hooker gave them just time enough. Unaccountably, he lost his grip on the situation, somewhere between the afternoon of April 30 and the morning of May 1; the driving energy that had been his saving grace suddenly went out of him, and the army floundered. On this campaign it was Hooker’s habit, every evening, to issue orders for the following day’s movements. Yet on the night of April 30, when he proclaimed assured victory, Hooker issued no orders at all, although the advance that must be made the next day was the key to the success of the whole campaign. This advance would be short, and if made promptly it would be practically unopposed. By going forward a few miles the army would not only uncover Banks’ Ford, which would end the isolation of Sedgwick’s force, but would also emerge from the confusing Wilderness and reach open country where the Federal advantage in manpower and artillery could be exploited to the full. But Hooker spent most of the morning waiting at Chancellorsville. Not until eleven o’clock on May 1 was his army put in motion; then, with three corps advancing on separate roads, Hooker learned that the Confederates were not quite where he thought they were. The heads of his columns suddenly ran into Confederate skirmishers and there were bursts of rifle fire from the woods and hills that fringed the little clearings.
The opposition did not seem to be especially heavy, and the Federal commanders prepared to form lines of battle and clear the way, but Hooker’s plan abruptly fell completely apart. Up from Chancellorsville came unexpected orders from headquarters: cancel the advance, break off the firing, and bring everybody back to a defensive position around the Chancellorsville crossroad.
The corps commanders were dumfounded and indignant, and Darius Couch of II Corps, their senior, hurried to headquarters to protest. Hooker tried to sooth him, saying: “I have got Lee just where I want him; he must fight me on my own ground.” Couch went away, convinced (as he wrote later) that “my commanding general was a whipped man,” and Couch was about right. From the day of his appointment up until this moment, Hooker had been all that a general ought to be; now, in the shadows of the Wilderness, he was alone with his responsibility and it was too much for him. He had planned to destroy Lee’s army: now he was hoping that Lee’s army would be obliging enough to destroy itself. All that happened to Hooker at Chancellorsville – to him, and to the unlucky private soldiers who lived and died by his orders – was foreshadowed in his strange withdrawal on the afternoon of May 1.
Hooker drew his lines at Chancellorsville – long lines, and strong, with a bulging crescent on a low plateau east and south of the Chancellorsville house, one wing on the left stretching all the way up to the Rappahannock, the other drawn up along the turnpike, facing south. Here Hooker waited, his men using axes and spades to strengthen their field works, and the afternoon ended and night came. It was an uneasy night, with a big moon putting a streaky light on the landscape, Confederate patrols prowling about in front to see how things were, Stuart’s squadrons sweeping all the roads and keeping the Federals from seeing anything except what the moonlight would show, a man from a rifle pit in the thickets. To Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, his chief of staff, who had stayed at Falmouth, Hooker sent a message: all of Stuart’s cavalry was in his front, which meant that Stoneman ought to “do a land-office business” far to the south; Sedgwick was to watch the Confederates closely and keep them from doing whatever they tried to do; and at Chancellorsville “I think the enemy in his desperation will be compelled to attack me on my own ground.”
This meant that it was Lee’s turn now; Hooker had given up the initiative and Lee had grasped it. That night, around a campfire in the woods just out of gunshot from Hooker’s lines, Lee and Stonewall Jackson met to consider the best way to strike their foes.
They were not nearly strong enough to make a frontal assault, and the Federal left could not be turned, but Stuart’s cavalry had learned that Hooker’s right was “in the air”; the line went west from Chancellorsville for two or three miles and then simply ended, strong enough to beat off any assault that came from the south but wholly unprepared for an attack from the west. If the Confederates could mass troops four or five miles west of Chancellorsville, these troops could march straight into Hooker’s rear and the Federal position would collapse. Hooker had placed the bigger part of his army in position to do this to Lee but he had failed to go on and do it; as a result he had given Lee the chance to do exactly the same thing to him, and of all the soldiers in North America Lee and Jackson were the ones most likely to see and to accept this opportunity. They lost little time coming to a decision, and shortly after the sun came up on May 2 Stonewall Jackson put his army corps on the road and set off to crumple the Federal flank.
Jackson was the man who would strike the blow, and much would depend on his skill and daring; but the real responsibility was Lee’s, and the risk he was taking now made all his earlier risks seem mild. He had already divided his army, leaving 10,000 men to hold four times their number at Fredericksburg, and he had with him at Chancellorsville no more than 42,000 infantry. Now he was dividing this inadequate force, sending 28,000 off with Jackson on a twelve-mile flanking march that would unquestionably take most of the day. For about ten hours Lee would have just 14,000 men to oppose most of Hooker’s army, 70,000 men. Ten hours could bring him to ruin if Hooker once saw what was happening
Hooker actually did see a little of it, but he misinterpreted what he saw and in the end was worse off than if he had seen nothing at all. After Jackson moved, Lee kept his 14,000 busy, shifting men about, opening sudden bursts of artillery and infantry fire, giving indications that he was about to assault the Federal left. Hoping that such at attack would be made, Hooker accepted these indications at face value. But Jackson’s march was discovered. Making his long detour to the west, Jackson at one place had to turn sharply to his left to get past a patch of open country some three miles from Hooker’s right-center, and the Federal outposts saw a long column of Rebel infantry accompanied by artillery and wagons – the wagons, of course, being nothing more than Jackson’s ambulances and ammunition train. For a moment Hooker was on the verge of full awareness, and he ordered Major General Oliver Otis Howard, who held the extreme right, to prepare for a flank attack. Then he had a second thought, which led him to disaster.
The Confederate column, after all, was moving south, and wagon trains were with it: Did not this mean that Lee was at last making the retreat which any sensible man in his position ought to make? This seemed all the more likely because the activity on the Federal left was not actually bringing on a real fight, and Hooker accepted the welcome notion: Lee was fleeing, and it was necessary to molest him. Shortly after noon Hooker ordered Major General Daniel E. Sickles, a political general of most moderate military capacity, to take his III Corps forward and attack that moving column, and he jubilantly told General Couch: “Lee is in full retreat toward Gordonsville, and I have sent out Sickles to capture his artillery.” Couch remembered afterward that it did seem odd that this momentous retreat was to be struck with only one army corps.
When Sickles advanced most of Jackson’s column had passed; Jackson detailed less than one brigade to hold Sickles off and kept everybody else moving, swinging north through the concealing Wilderness to go up beyond the Federal right. Sickles got into a noisy, inconclusive fight; his own inexperience and the dense second-growth timber kept him from seeing that he was fighting no more than a detachment, and after a time he called for reinforcements. Hooker had Howard send him a brigade, and got off a message to Falmouth: Sedgwick was to seize Fredericksburg and everybody in it because Lee was in retreat and Sickles was attacking him.
This was all very well; but when Hooker sent Sickles forward he created a big gap in his line and left Howard’s XI Corps completely isolated, and when he reinforced Sickles he made Howard’s corps still weaker. Sending away one brigade, Howard now had fewer than 10,000 men, most of them posted so that they could not possibly meet a flank attack, and the rest of the Federal army was two miles away. By three in the afternoon Jackson began to reach the position he wanted. Two hours later he had formed a battle line two miles wide and in some places three divisions deep, lined up astride of the turnpike, ready to come in from west and northwest on a Federal line that was resolutely facing to the south.
Howard’s XI Corps was a hard-luck organization all the way. It included many German regiments, referred to loftily by the rest of the army as Dutchmen of unproved fighting quality, and it had previously been commanded by Franz Sigel, under whom it had won no distinction whatever. Sigel had recently resigned after a quarrel over rank, and although he was quite incompetent he was the idol of the Germans. They never warmed up to Howard, a strait-laced man famous for his unbounded piety, not at all the sort to appeal to this assemblage of ill-disciplined free-thinkers. (Abner Doubleday, who disliked Howard deeply, considered him much too other-worldly, and scoffed: “At West Point he talked nothing but religion. If a young lady was introduced to him he would ask her if she had reflected on the goodness of God during the past night.”) Howard was a good soldier, but he shared Hooker’s idea that the Rebels this afternoon were in flight. Some of his junior officers sensed that Jackson was about to descend on them, but they could not get anyone in authority to listen to them and at five o’clock the troops were at ease, many with their arms stacked preparing supper. Over the treetops came remote echoes from Sickles’ fight, but along this front all was quiet. Sunset was less than two hours away, and as far as the XI Corps was concerned an uneventful day was about to come to a close.
Then Stonewall Jackson’s bugles sounded beyond the western forest, and his powerful battle line came crashing forward through the thickets, the peace and quiet of the evening ended in an uproar of Rebel yells and heavy musketry, General Hooker’s delusion ended along with it, and Howard’s corps was routed. Jackson’s men stormed eastward through the timber, where the undergrowth was so thick some men found their uniforms ripped off entirely, and a couple of miles farther on the Chancellorsville clearing came alive with bursting shell and running men and panicky teamsters flogging frightened horses. (One trouble was that Howard’s wagons and his herds of beef cattle had been parked just behind his lines: when the Rebels came all of these went east in a prodigious hurry, slicing across the immediate rear of all the rest of the army.) Night came on, and the full moon shone down through dust and smoke and bursts of flame, and the ring wing of the Federal army had gone to pieces.
Say this much for Howard’s Dutchmen: they fought, even if they never got credit for it, and although they were beaten they gave ground stubbornly. For proof there is their casualty list – the butcher’s bill, as tough generals used to say. In about two hours of fighting, between late afternoon and night, they lost more than 2400 men killed, wounded and missing, which means that some of them fought desperately. They could not stay very long, because there were too many Confederates; any unit that made a stand was attacked in front and on both flanks; but the thing was not the helpless runaway that is usually described. Jackson crumpled the Union right but he met some stiff opposition.
Darkness brought universal confusion. Bursts of fire kept breaking out in unexpected places, drifting smoke stained the moonlight, no one knew where anyone else was, and one Federal said it all when he wrote: “Darkness was upon us, and Jackson was on us, and fear was on us.” Jackson’s triumphant corps was half-disorganized itself, brigades and divisions having become all intermingled in the formless fighting. Far out in front, Sickles’ men began to understand that something had gone very wrong far in the rear, and they made a shaky, uncoordinated retreat, fighting blindly with other Federal units when they collided in the darkness. Over at Fredericksburg, Sedgwick got a preemptory order from headquarters: he was to occupy Fredericksburg and march at once along the road to Chancellorsville, being sure to “attack and destroy” any Confederate force he met. Around the Chancellorsville clearing, powerful Federal artillery opened a blind fire whenever the gunners saw anything moving in the woodland in front. For the time being the Confederate attack had come to a standstill.
Then Jackson paid the penalty for being the kind of man he was. He was strange, impassioned, made of fire crossed with a belief in pre-destination, and this evening he could think of nothing except that his enemies were in trouble, so he tried with furious single-mindedness to keep the battle moving. His corps desperately needed realignment, not to mention rest, and a cautious general would have called a halt in order to get people sorted out. But Jackson knew that if he could put armed Confederates on the bank of the Rappahannock before the night ended Hooker might lose his entire army, and he had not the faintest notion of stopping. He rode on ahead of his troops, looking for the roads that might lead to his goal, and in the darkness and general mix-up he got in front of a North Carolina regiment that had been bracing itself for an expected attack by Yankee cavalry. The regiment saw Jackson and his mounted aides, moving horsemen coming out of the deep shadows, it opened fire – and Jackson was shot off his horse, bullets in him, a death wound on him. They got him back to the rear at last, and at last the night became quiet.
Most of the battle remained to be fought, and Joe Hooker could have won it, except that by now he himself had been beaten beyond recall. His troops were ready: only a few of them had fought at all, and he still had more than 70,000 men between the two halves of Lee’s army. As caustic General Couch said, all he needed to do was “take a reasonable common-sense view of the state of things” in order to retrieve everything he had lost. This was beyond him. When daylight of May 3 came the Confederates resumed the attack – with Jackson gone, and A.P. Hill, his ranking division commander, wounded, his corps was temporarily led by Cavalryman Jeb Stuart, who bore in mind Lee’s warning that it was vital to get the two wings of the Confederate army into contact again. Stuart attacked on one side and the other wing of Lee’s army attacked on the other, there was bitter fighting in the woods west of Chancellorsville, and by noon the Federals had given up more ground, Lee had his army united once more, and Hooker’s men had been reduced to fortifying a rambling salient covering the approaches to United States Ford. Hooker had been stunned when a cannon ball struck a pillar of the Chancellorsville house against which he was leaning, but this made no difference because he was numb already. This was Lee’s battle, all the way.
Lee went on to prove it. Sedgwick got his corps together and stormed Early’s line back of Fredericksburg, and just as Lee’s soldiers won the Chancellorsville clearing Lee learned that the Federal VI Corps was coming up on his rear. As coolly as if he had unlimited resources, Lee divided his army once more, keeping a fraction to bemuse Hooker while the rest went back to deal with Sedgwick. That unhappy general, whose original function had been to exploit any opening Hooker’s men made and who now found himself obliged to fight his way to Hooker’s rescue, was penned up next day in an uneven rectangle near Salem Church, six miles east of Chancellorsville, attacked from three sides while Hooker’s 70,000 prepared to defend the Rappahannock escape route. Sedgwick had to retreat, getting his troops safely across Banks’ Ford – the crossing which Hooker’s maneuverings had been supposed to open in the first place – and once this had happened, Lee brought everybody back to Chancellorsville to attack Hooker’s bridgehead. By any sober estimate, Lee would have ruined his army if he had tried it, attacking superior numbers in a strong, well-entrenched position…but he had the battle in his pocket by this time, and if he had struck Hooker once more Hooker would almost certainly have collapsed. Hooker did not wait for him. He took his army back to the north side of the Rappahannock on May 6, moved over the Falmouth, and began to argue that his woes came mostly because of the shameful flight of the XI Corps. The campaign and battle of Chancellorsville were over.
On May 10 Stonewall Jackson died of his wounds in a little cottage at Guiney Station. To the very end he was trying to move on. Just before he died he said that he wanted to cross the river – the river – and rest under the shade of the trees. At last he had found the road to it.
On May 12, in Richmond, all of the church bells were tolling, the flags were at half-mast, minute guns were fired, and government offices and places of business were closed. Thousands of people stood bareheaded in the streets to see Stonewall Jackson’s coffin go past.
The coffin was covered with a Confederate flag topped by evergreen sprays and wreaths of flowers, and in the lid there was a glass plate so that when the coffin lay in state at the capitol everybody could look at the pinched waxen face, and in the tense silence there was awareness that this death meant more than the loss of a great warrior. As the devout very well knew, death was swallowed up in victory, but this all-consuming victory was personal to General Jackson; what the Confederate cause had won might not be enduring, might even mean much less than it had at first seemed to mean. When this man was cut down people were compelled to examine the hopes that had rested upon him.
The pallbearers following the hearse were all general officers. President Davis rode behind them in an open carriage, looking drawn and haggard, members of the cabinet walked after him two by two, and there was a long procession of state and city officials, government clerks, ordinary citizens, and such military detachments as were available. Men who watched remembered black plumes everywhere, the general’s riderless horse led by a servant, “a common sorrow too deep for words,” and the measured thud-thud of the minute guns; and up by the Rappahannock, on the edge of a forest reeking with unburied bodies and powdered with gray ashes from burned underbrush, General Lee sent word that unless his army could be strongly reinforced he might eventually have to retreat to the defenses of Richmond.
This was disturbing, because General Lee had won the most brilliant victory of his career and a brilliant victory does not usually lead to a forced withdrawal by the victor. Yet upon examination the Chancellorsville victory looked hollow. It had been dazzling, a set piece for the instruction of students of the military arm, but it had been inconclusive, winning glory and little more. It was disappointing for a reason even graver than the loss of General Jackson; it left government and army facing precisely the problems they had faced before the campaign began. Joe Hooker’s puter-pigeon strutting and circling had come to a full stop, of course, and there would be a breathing spell before the Federals moved on Richmond again, but nothing had been settled. There was not even time to take proper pride in the victory itself.
Stonewall Jackson was buried at Lexington, Virginia, and the Richmond Dispatch declared solemnly: “His fame will be grand and enduring as the eternal mountains at whose feet he was cradled; whose long shadows, like those of some majestic cathedral, will consecrate his grave.”
(Soon, Lee began planning a foray into Pennsylvania; initially, it had limited objectives.) Yet as the campaign came nearer the objectives inevitably expanded. There was, to begin with, the state of mind of the troops. Lee had given his own army the habit of victory and he had given the opposing army the habit of defeat; if he now moved to Pennsylvania both armies must believe that the great, final showdown was at hand….On June 3 Lee began to move. ●