This despatch was immediately followed by another: “The major-general commanding directs you to pursue the enemy by the Bowling-Green road.”
In pursuance of these and previous orders, Sedgwick transferred the balance of the Sixth Corps to the south side of the Rappahannock, one division being already there to guard the bridge-head. Sedgwick’s orders of May 1 contemplated the removal of the pontoons before his advance on the Bowling-Green road, as he would be able to leave no sufficient force to guard them. But these orders were received so late as daylight on the 2d; and the withdrawal of the bridges could not well be accomplished in the full view of the enemy, without prematurely developing our plans.
The order to pursue by the Bowling-Green road having been again repeated, Sedgwick put his command under arms, advanced his lines, and forced the enemy—Early’s right—from that road and back into the woods. This was late in the evening of Saturday.
On the same night, after the crushing of the Eleventh Corps, we have seen how Hooker came to the conclusion that he could utilize Sedgwick in his operations at Chancellorsville. He accordingly sent him the following order, first by telegraph through Gen. Butterfield, at the same time by an aide-de-camp, and later by Gen. Warren:—
Headquartersarmy of the Potomac,
May 2, 1863, 9 P.M.
The major-general commanding directs that Gen. Sedgwick crosses the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg on the receipt of this order, and at once take up his line of march on the Chancellorsville road until you connect with us, and he will attack and destroy any force he may fall in with on the road. He will leave all his trains behind, except the pack-train of small ammunition, and march to be in our vicinity at daylight. He will probably fall upon the rear of the forces commanded by Gen. Lee, and between us we will use him up. Send word to Gen. Gibbon to take possession of Fredericksburg. Be sure not to fail. Deliver this by your swiftest messenger. Send word that it is delivered to Gen. Sedgwick.
H. Van Alen,
Brigadier-General and Aide-de-Camp.
(Copy sent Gen. Sedgwick ten P.M.)
At eleven P.M., when this order of ten o’clock was received, Sedgwick had his troops placed, and his dispositions taken, to carry out the orders to pursue, on the Bowling-Green road, an enemy indicated to him as in rapid retreat from Hooker’s front; and was actually in bivouac along that road, while a strong picket-line was still engaged skirmishing with the force in his front. By this time the vanguard of his columns had proceeded a distance variously given as from one to three miles below the bridges in this direction; probably near the Bernard House, not much beyond Deep Creek.
It is to be presumed that the aide who bore the despatch, and reached Sedgwick later than the telegram, gave some verbal explanation of this sudden change of Hooker’s purpose; but the order itself was of a nature to excite considerable surprise, if not to create a feeling of uncertainty.