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Theodore Ayrault Dodge
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 209 pages of information about The Campaign of Chancellorsville.
Many of these conditions could have been eliminated from the problem, if measures had been seasonably taken; but they now became critical elements in the decision to be made.  And Hooker, despite his well-earned reputation as a fighting man, was unable to arrive at any other than the conclusion which Falstaff so cautiously enunciated, from beneath his shield, at the battle of Shrewsbury, that “the better part of valor is discretion.”

XXXIV.

The army of the Potomac re-crosses.

Orders were accordingly issued with a view to re-crossing the river; and during the 5th, Gen. Warren and Capt.  Comstock of the engineers prepared a new and shorter line, in the rear of the one then held by the army, to secure it against any attempt by the enemy to interrupt the retreat.  Capt.  Comstock supervised the labor on the west side, and Gen. Warren on the east, of the United-States Ford road.  “A continuous cover and abattis was constructed from the Rappahannock at Scott’s Dam, around to the mouth of Hunting Run on the Rapidan.  The roads were put in good order, and a third bridge laid.  A heavy rain set in about 4.30 P.M., and lasted till late at night.  The movement to re-cross was begun by the artillery, as per order, at 7.30 and was suddenly interrupted by a rise in the river so great as to submerge the banks at the ends of the bridges on the north bank, and the velocity of the current threatened to sweep them away.”  “The upper bridge was speedily taken up, and used to piece out the ends of the other two, and the passage was again made practicable.  Considerable delays, however, resulted from this cause.”  “No troops took up position in the new line except the rearguard, composed of the Fifth Corps, under Gen. Meade, which was done about daylight on the 6th.”  “The proper dispositions were made for holding this line till all but the rearguard was past the river; and then it quietly withdrew, no enemy pursuing.” (Warren.) The last of the army re-crossed about eight A.M., May 6.

Testimony of Gen. Henry J. Hunt:—­

“A storm arose soon after.  Just before sunset, the general and his staff re-crossed the river to the north side.  I separated from him in order to see to the destruction of some works of the enemy on the south side of the river, which perfectly commanded our bridges.  Whilst I was looking after them, in the darkness, to see that they had been destroyed as directed, an engineer officer reported to me that our bridges had been carried away, or were being carried away, by the flood.  I found the chief engineer, Capt.  Comstock; and we proceeded together to examine the bridges, and we found that they were all utterly impassable.  I then proceeded to Gen. Meade’s camp, and reported the condition of affairs to him.  All communication with Gen. Hooker being cut off, Gen. Meade called the corps commanders together; and,

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