But the operations of Stoneman, as they had no effect whatever upon the manoeuvres of either Lee or Hooker, may be treated of separately, as a matter almost apart from the one under consideration.
And thus, in the failure of the cavalry raid, miscarried the first effort of this ill-fated campaign.
It is not often that the danger of detaching the entire cavalry force of an army, for service at a distance from its infantry corps, is illustrated in so marked a manner as it was on this occasion. Hooker left himself but a small brigade, of four regiments and a horse-battery, to do the scouting for an army of over one hundred thousand men. Had be retained a sufficient force to march with the main body, there would no doubt have been at least a brigade of it, instead of a few scouts, sent out to near Old Wilderness Tavern and along the Orange plank road to the junction of the Brock road. Jackson’s movements would then have been fully known.
The bulk of the cavalry of an army should be with the infantry corps when in the presence of the enemy. For cavalry are the antennae of an army.
The feint by the left wing.
Gen. Hooker’s plan embraced, besides a cavalry raid to sever the enemy’s communications, a demonstration in force on the left to draw the enemy’s attention, and the throwing of the main body of his forces across the river on the right.
As early as April 21, Doubleday of the First Corps had been sent down the river to Port Conway with some thirty-five hundred men, to light camp-fires, and make demonstrations with pontoons, after doing which he returned to camp. On the 23d Col. Morrow, with the Twenty-fourth Michigan, went down, and crossed the river to Port Royal in boats.
These demonstrations had been intended to co-operate with Stoneman’s raid, which at these dates should have been well on Lee’s rear, and to unsettle Lee’s firm footing preparatory to the heavy blows Hooker was preparing to deliver; but, as Stoneman was delayed, these movements failed of much of their intended effect. Nevertheless, Jackson’s corps was drawn down to the vicinity, and remained there some days.
On Monday, April 27, Hooker issues his orders to the First, Third, and Sixth Corps, to place themselves in position, ready to cross; the First at Pollock’s Mills Creek, and the Sixth at Franklin’s Crossing, by 3.30 A.M., on Wednesday; and the Third at a place enabling it to cross in support of either of the others at 4.30 A.M. The troops to remain concealed until the movement begins. Artillery to be posted by Gen. Hunt, Chief of Artillery of the army, to protect the crossing. Gen. Benham to have two bridges laid by 3.30 A.M. at each crossing. Troops, as needed, to be detailed to aid his engineer brigade.
Gen. Sedgwick to command the three corps, and make a demonstration in full force on Wednesday morning to secure the telegraph road. Should any considerable force be detached to meet the movement of the right wing, Sedgwick is to carry the works at all hazards. Should the enemy retreat towards Richmond, he is to pursue on the Bowling-Green road, fighting wherever he reaches them, while Hooker will pursue on parallel roads more to the west.