Gibbon’s division, about the same time, crossed to the north bank of the river, and the pontoon bridge at Lacy’s was taken up. Warren says, “Gen. Sedgwick was attacked very heavily on Monday, fought all day, and retreated across the river that night. We lay quiet at Chancellorsville pretty nearly all day.” This Warren plainly esteems a poor sample of generalship, and he does not understand why Hooker did not order an assault. “I think it very probable we could have succeeded if it had been made.” “Gen. Hooker appeared very much exhausted,”— “‘tired’ would express it.”
Lee’s one object having been to drive Sedgwick across the river, so as to be relieved of the troublesome insecurity of his rear, he could now again turn his undivided attention to his chief enemy, who lay listlessly expectant at Chancellorsville, and apparently oblivious of his maxim enjoined upon Stoneman, “that celerity, audacity, and resolution are every thing in war.”
Early and Barksdale were left, as before, to hold the Confederate lines at and near Fredericksburg, while McLaws and Anderson were at once ordered back to the old battle-field. “They reached their destination during the afternoon (Tuesday, 5th) in the midst of a violent storm, which continued throughout the night, and most of the following day.” (Lee.)
Wilcox and Wright lay that night in bivouac on the Catherine road; Mahone, Posey, and Perry, along the plank road.
Kershaw was sent to relieve Heth at the crossing of the River and Mine roads, and the latter rejoined his division.
The night of Tuesday Lee spent in preparations to assault Hooker’s position at daylight on Wednesday. The Confederate scouts had been by no means idle; and the position occupied by Hooker, in most of its details, was familiar to the Southern commander. He was thus able to develop his plans with greater ease than a less familiarity with the terrain would have yielded. He was satisfied that one more vigorous blow would disable his antagonist for this campaign, and he was unwilling to delay in striking it.
Let us now examine into Hooker’s various criticisms upon Sedgwick’s conduct.
Hooker, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, baldly accuses Sedgwick of neglecting to keep him advised of his movements, the inference being that he was debarred thereby from intelligently using him; and states that when he sent Sedgwick the despatch to join him at Chancellorsville, “it was written under the impression that his corps was on the north side of the Rappahannock.” But could Hooker rationally assume this to be the case when he had, five hours before, ordered Sedgwick to cross and pursue a flying enemy, and well knew that he had a portion of his forces already guarding the bridge-heads on the Fredericksburg side?