Owing to Hooker’s ill-fitting dispositions, and lack of ability to concentrate, the fight of Sunday morning was thus narrowed to a contest in which the Federals were outnumbered, with the prestige of Confederate success to offset our intrenchments.
The right and left wings proper of the Union army comprised the bulk and freshest part of the forces, having opposite to them no enemy whatever, unless a couple of cavalry regiments scouting on the Mine and River roads.
Gen. Warren, who was much in Hooker’s confidence, thus explains his understanding of the situation Saturday night: “The position of the Third Corps and our cavalry on the right flank of Jackson’s cavalry” (? corps), “cut off, it seemed, all direct communication with Gen. Lee’s right. No thought of retreating during the night was entertained on our side; and, unless the enemy did, the next day promised a decisive battle. By our leaving sufficient force in front of the right wing of the enemy to hold our breastworks, the whole of the rest of our force was to be thrown upon his left at dawn of day, with every prospect of annihilating it. To render this success more complete, Gen. Sedgwick, with the Sixth Corps, (about twenty thousand strong,) was to leave his position in front of the enemy’s lines at Fredericksburg, and fall upon Gen. Lee’s rear at daylight.”
This summarizes an excellent plan, weak only in the fact that it was impracticable to expect Sedgwick to gain Lee’s rear by daylight. The balance was well enough, and, vigorously carried out, could, even if unassisted by Sedgwick, scarcely fail of success.
To examine into its manner of execution.
The fight at Fairview.
At the earliest dawn, while Rodes was issuing rations to his men, who had been many hours without food, the indefatigable Stuart gave orders for a slight advance of his right, to reduce the angle of refusal or Archer and McGowan; for at this moment it was ascertained that Sickles was being withdrawn from Hazel Grove. By some error, Stuart’s order was interpreted as a command for the anticipated general attack, and the advancing columns soon provoked the fire of the expectant Federals.
Seeing that the men were ready for their work, rations or no rations, Stuart wisely refrained from recalling them; and Berry and Williams betimes felt the shock of the strong line of A. P. Hill, which Alexander seconded by opening with his artillery in full action. The Confederates forged ahead with the watchword, “Charge, and remember Jackson!” And this appeal was one to nerve all hearts to the desperate task before them.