“So far as my experience extends, there are in all armies officers more valiant after the fight than while it is pending; and, when a truthful history of the Rebellion shall be written, it will be found that the Army of the Potomac is not an exception.”
Merely to characterize as ungenerous this aspersion upon the courage of such men as then served under Hooker, savors of error on the side of leniency. And, inasmuch as these words strike, as it were, the keynote of all the statements which Hooker has vouchsafed with reference to these events, they might be assumed fairly to open the door to unsparing criticism. But it is hoped that this course has been avoided; and that what censure is dealt out to Gen. Hooker in the succeeding pages will be accepted, even by his advocates, in the kindly spirit in which it is meant, and in which every soldier of the beloved old Army of the Potomac must uniformly refer to every other.
There is, moreover, no work on Chancellorsville which results from research into all records now accessible.
The work of Allan and Hotchkiss, of 1867, than which nothing can be more even-handed, or more admirable as far as it goes, adopts generally the statements made in the reports of the Confederate generals: and these are necessarily one-sided; reports of general officers concerning their own operations invariably are. Allan and Hotchkiss wrote with only the Richmond records before them, in addition to such information from the Federal standpoint as may be found in general orders, the evidence given before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, and newspaper correspondence. At that time many of the Federal reports were not to be had: such as were at the War Department were hardly accessible. Reports had been duly made by all superior officers engaged in and surviving this campaign, excepting only the general in command; but, strange to say, not only did Gen. Hooker refrain from making a report, but he retained in his personal possession many of the records of the Army of the Potomac covering the period of his command, and it is only since his death that these records have been in part recovered by the Secretary of War. Some are still missing, but they probably contain no important matter not fully given elsewhere.
Although Hooker testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War: “Without an exception I forwarded to that office”—the War Department—“all the reports and returns and information concerning the army, and furnished them promptly, and, as I think, as no other army commander has done,” his memory had at the moment played him traitor, for a considerable part of these records were not disposed of as stated. It should be remarked, however, that Hooker is not singular in this leaning towards the meum in the matter of records.
The sources relied on for the facts herein given are the reports of the officers engaged, both Federal and Confederate, added to many private notes, memoranda, and maps, made by them; the testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, which included Hooker’s examination; and the maps made by the Engineer Department of the United-States Army, and those of Capt. Hotchkiss.