As an old Third-Corps man, I attended the meeting at Music Hall. The treasurer did not object to selling me a ticket to the dinner. I expected to hear some new facts about Hooker and Chancellorsville. I expected to hear some new deductions from old facts. I do not consider myself beyond making an occasional lapse even in a carefully prepared piece of work, and am always open to correction. But, to my surprise (with the exception of a conjecture that Lee’s object in his march into Pennsylvania was to wreck the anthracite-coal industry), there was not one single fact or statement laid before the meeting, or the company at dinner, which has not already been, in its minutest details, canvassed and argued at a length covering hundreds of pages in the volumes on Chancellorsville, by Hotchkiss and Allen, Swinton, Bates, the Comte de Paris, Doubleday, and myself, not to speak of numberless and valuable brochures by others. The bulk of the time devoted to talking on this occasion was used in denunciation of the wretch—in other words, myself—who alleged that Joseph Hooker was drunk at Chancellorsville, or at any other time. This denunciation began with a devout curse in the chaplain’s prayer, culminated in a set of fierce resolutions, and ended with the last after-dinner speech.
One thing particularly struck me. There was no one, of all who spoke, who began to say as many things in favor of Joseph Hooker as I for years have done; and not in fleeting words, but printed chapters. There was plenty of eulogy, in nine-tenths of which I joined with all my heart. But it was of the soldiers’-talk order,—cheering and honest and loyal, appealing to the sentiments rather than the intelligence. What I have said of Hooker has been solid praise of his soldierly worth, shown to be borne out by the facts. Barring, in all I say, the five fighting days at Chancellorsville, I have yet to find the man who has publicly, and in print, eulogized Hooker as I have done; and no one among the veterans gathered together Fast Day applauded with more sincerity than I, all the tributes to his memory. For though, as some one remarked, it is true that I “fought mit Sigel,” and decamped from Chancellorsville with the Eleventh Corps; it is also true that I passed through the fiery ordeal of the Seven Days, and fought my way across the railroad-cutting at Manassas, side by side with Joseph Hooker, under the gallant leadership of that other hero Philip Kearney. It was very evident that but few of the speakers, as well as auditors, had themselves heard or read what I actually said. The result of “coaching” for the occasion by some wire-puller was painfully apparent. Let us see what was said. I give the entire paragraph from my Lowell lecture:—
“It has been surmised that Hooker, during this campaign, was incapacitated by a habit of which, at times, he had been the victim. There is, rather, evidence that he was prostrated by too much abstemiousness, when a reasonable use of stimulants might have kept his nervous system at its normal tension. It was certainly not the use of alcohol, during this time, which lay at the root of his indecision.”