Later on in the day, we have seen how Hooker’s aide, Capt. Moore, ordered this brigade of Barlow’s away from its all-important position. We have seen Hooker’s dispositions of the Third and Twelfth Corps. We have seen Hooker’s 4.10 P.M. order to Sedgwick. No room is left to doubt that Hooker’s opinion, if he had any, underwent a change after issuing these instructions, and that he gave up the idea of an attack upon the right. His dispositions certainly resulted in convincing Howard that he had done so.
But suppose Hooker still remained of the same opinion during the afternoon, was the issue of this circular in the morning enough? If he supposed it probable that the enemy would strike our right, was it not the duty of the commanding general, at least to see that the threatened flank was properly protected,—that the above order was carried out as he intended it should be? No attack sufficient to engross his attention had been made, or was particularly threatened elsewhere; and a ten-minutes’ gallop would bring him from headquarters to the questionable position. He had some excellent staff-officers— Gen. Warren among others—who could have done this duty; but there is no evidence of any one having been sent. Gen. Howard, in fact, states that no inspection by, or by the order of, Gen. Hooker was made during the day, after the one in the early morning.
It may be alleged that Hooker had desired to draw in the extended right the evening before, and had yielded only to the claim that that position could be held against any attack coming from the front. This is true. But when half his enemy’s forces, after this disposition was made, are moved to and massed on his right, and have actually placed themselves where they can take his line in reverse, is it still fair to urge this plea? Hooker claims that his “instructions were utterly and criminally disregarded.” But inasmuch as common-sense, not to quote military routine, must hold him accountable for the removal of Barlow (for how can a general shelter himself from the consequences of the acts of his subordinates, when these acts are in pursuance of orders received from his own aide-de-camp?), and himself acknowledges the disposition made of Sickles and Slocum, can the facts be fairly said to sustain the charge? There was, moreover, so much bitterness exhibited after this campaign, that, had the facts in the slenderest degree warranted such action, formal charges would assuredly have been brought against Howard and his division commanders, on the demand alike of the commander-in-chief and a disappointed public.
Position of the eleventh corps.
Gen. Howard states that he located his command, both with reference to an attack from the south, and from the west along the old turnpike and the plank road. The whole corps lies on a ridge along which runs the turnpike, and which is the watershed of the small tributaries of the Rappahannock and Mattapony Rivers. This ridge is terminated on the right by some high and easily-defended ground near Talley’s.