In order to do justice to all sources of information, and show how unreliable our knowledge often was, it may be well to quote from Gen. Butterfield’s testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. “From the best information I had at the time the order came, there was not over a brigade of the enemy in the vicinity of Fredericksburg. This information was confirmed afterwards by prisoners taken on Sunday by Gen. Sedgwick. They told me they were left there with orders, that, if they did not receive re-enforcements by a certain time, to withdraw; that they did withdraw about eleven o’clock on Saturday night, but met re-enforcements coming up, and turned back and re-occupied the works. The statement may have been false, or may have been true.” It was clearly Early’s march under his mistaken instructions, which the prisoners referred to. “If true, it would show that a bold movement of Gen. Sedgwick’s command on Saturday night, would have taken Marye’s heights, and put him well on the road towards Gen. Hooker before daylight.” To the question whether the order could have been actually carried out: “There was a force of the enemy there, but in my judgment not sufficient to have prevented the movement, if made with a determined attack. Night attacks are dangerous, and should be made only with very disciplined troops. But it seemed to me at the time that the order could have been executed.”
Gibbon, on the contrary, is of opinion that the strict execution of the order was impracticable, but that probably an assault could have been made at daylight instead of at eleven A.M. He recollects being very impatient that morning about the delay,—not, however, being more specific in his testimony.
Sedgwick marches towards Hooker.
So soon as Sedgwick had reduced the only formidable works in his front, he made dispositions to push out on the plank road. Gibbon was left in Fredericksburg to prevent the enemy from crossing to the north side of the river, and to shield the bridges.
“Gen. Brooks’s division was now given the advance, and he was farthest in the rear, not having got moved from the crossing-place.” Brooks had so extensive a force in his front, that he was constrained to withdraw with extreme caution. “This necessarily consumed a considerable time, and before it was completed the sound of the cannonading at Chancellorsville had ceased.” (Warren.)
This postponement of an immediate advance might well, under the stringency of the orders, have been avoided, by pushing on with the then leading division. Not that it would have been of any ultimate assistance to Hooker at Chancellorsville. At the time the storming columns assaulted Marye’s heights, Hooker had already been driven into his lines at White House. And though none of his strictures upon Sedgwick’s tardiness, as affecting his own situation,