This was the gap which enabled Jackson to push his advance to within a few hundred yards of Chancellorsville before he could be arrested. This was what made it possible for him to join his right to Lee’s left wing next day. Had Hooker but kept his troops in hand, so as to have moved up Birney sharply in support, to have thrown forward Berry and Whipple if required, the Confederate advance would, in all human probability, have been checked at Dowdall’s; Lee and Jackson would still have been separated by a distance of two miles; and of this perilous division excellent advantage could have yet been taken at daylight Sunday by the Army of the Potomac.
Hooker’s testimony includes the following attempt to disembarrass himself of the onus of the faulty position of the Eleventh Corps and its consequences: “No pickets appear to have been thrown out; and I have reason to suppose that no effort was made by the commander of the corps on the right to follow up and keep himself advised of Jackson’s movements, although made in broad daylight, and with his full knowledge. In this way the Eleventh Corps was lost to me, and more than that, because its bad conduct impaired the confidence that the corps of the army had in one another. I observed this fact during the night, from the firing on the picket-lines, as well as from the general manner of the troops, if a gun was fired by the enemy: after that, the whole line would let off their pieces. The men seemed to be nervous; and during the coming-in of the Eleventh Corps I was fearful, at one time, that the whole army would be thrown into confusion by it. Some of my staff-officers killed half a dozen of the men in trying to arrest their flight.”
It is not intended, by what has been said, to exonerate Howard at the expense of Hooker. To Howard will always be imputed, and justly, a certain part of the blame; for there were, during the afternoon, enough indications of a probable attack down the pike to make a prudent corps-commander either assume the responsibility of a change of front,—as it could advantageously be made on the Buschbeck line prolonged,—or else, at least, so strongly urge the facts on his superior that no blame could cling to his own skirts. But neither can Hooker’s larger share of blame he shifted off his own to Howard’s shoulders. While it may be said that the latter did not exhibit the activity which the questionable aspect of affairs demanded,—for he did not personally inspect his lines after the early morning hours,—it is equally true that the commander of the army utterly neglected his right wing, though he had every circumstance relating to its danger reported to him.