Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
better men in the group of major-generals.  Reynolds, Meade, or Hancock would doubtless have made more effective use of the power of the army of the Potomac, but in January, 1863, the relative characters and abilities of these generals were not so easily to be determined.  Lincoln’s letter to Hooker was noteworthy, not only in the indication that it gives of Hooker’s character but as an example of the President’s width of view and 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 the attempt to direct the movements of the larger body.  At Chancellorsville, he was clearly outwitted 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.”



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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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