“Lee’s army at Fredericksburg numbered sixty thousand, not including the artillery, cavalry, and the forces stationed up the river, occupying the posts at Culpeper and Gordonsville. I think my information on this point was reliable, as I had made use of unusual means to ascertain. The enemy left eight thousand men to occupy the lines about Fredericksburg; Jackson marched off to my right with twenty-five thousand; and Lee had the balance between me and Sedgwick.”
It will be well to remember this acknowledgment, when we come to deal with Hooker’s theories of the force in his own front on Sunday and Monday.
Jackson’s march, and Sickles’s advance.
Lee and Jackson spent Friday night under some pine-trees, on the plank road, at the point where the Confederate line crosses it. Lee saw that it was impossible for him to expect to carry the Federal lines by direct assault, and his report states that he ordered a cavalry reconnoissance towards our right flank to ascertain its position. There is, however, no mention of such a body having felt our lines on the right, in any of the Federal reports.
It is not improbable that Lee received information, crude but useful, about this portion of our army, from some women belonging to Dowdall’s Tavern. When the Eleventh Corps occupied the place on Thursday, a watch was kept upon the family living there. But in the interval between the corps breaking camp to move out to Slocum’s support on Friday morning, and its return to the old position, some of the women had disappeared. This fact was specially noted by Gen. Howard.
However the information was procured, the Federal right was doubtless ascertained to rest on high ground, where it was capable of making a stubborn resistance towards the south. But Lee well knew that its position was approached from the west by two broad roads, and reasoned justly that Hooker, in canvassing the events of Friday, would most probably look for an attack on his left or front.
Seated on a couple of cracker-boxes, the relics of an issue of Federal rations the day before, the two Confederate chieftains discussed the situation. Jackson, with characteristic restless energy, suggested a movement with his entire corps around Hooker’s right flank, to seize United-States Ford, or fall unawares upon the Army of the Potomac. This hazardous suggestion, which Lee in his report does not mention as Jackson’s, but which is universally ascribed to him by Confederate authorities, was one as much fraught with danger as it was spiced with dash, and decidedly bears the Jacksonian flavor. It gave “the great flanker” twenty-two thousand men (according to Col. A. S. Pendleton, his assistant adjutant-general, but twenty-six thousand by morning report) with which to make a march which must at best take all day, constantly exposing his own flank to the Federal assault. It separated for a still longer time the two wings of the Confederate army; leaving Lee with only Anderson’s and McLaws’s divisions,—some seventeen thousand men,—with which to resist the attack of thrice that number, which Hooker, should he divine this division of forces, could throw against him, the while he kept Jackson busy with the troops on his own right flank.