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numbers still were, it is questionable that this army was a full match, on equal ground, for its more homogeneous, better disciplined, more self. assured, more determined antagonist. Gen. Hooker very properly devoted the two ensuing months to improving the discipline, perfecting the organization, and exalting the spirit of his men; with such success that he had, before their close, an army equal in numbers and efficiency to any ever seen on this continent, except that which Gen. McClellan commanded during the first three months of 1861. Its infantry was nearly, if not quite, 100,000 strong; its artillery not less than 10,000, every way well appointed; while its cavalry, numbering 13,000, needed only a fair field and a leader to prove itself the most effective body of horsemen ever brigaded on American soil. IIorses and forage having both become scarce in the South, there was not, and never had been, any cavalry force connected with any Rebel army that could stand against it. Being at length ready, Hooker dispatched” Stoneman, with most of his cavalry,” up the north side of the river, with instructions to cross, at discretion, above the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, strike Fitz Hugh Lee's cavalry brigade (computed at 2,000) near Culpepper Court House, capture Gordonsville, and then pounce on the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad near Saxton's Junction, cutting telegraphs, railroads, burning bridges, &c., thence toward Richmond, fighting at every opportunity, and harassing by every means the retreat of the Rebel army, which, it was calculated, would
now be retiring on Tichmond. The spirit of IHooker's instructions is embodied in these sentences:
“Let your watchword be fight, and let all your orders be fight, fight, fight; bearing in mind that time is as valuable to the General as the Rebel carcasses.
“It devolves upon you, General, to take the initiative in the forward movement of this grand army; and on you and your noble command must depend, in a great measure, the extent and brilliancy of our success. Bear in mind that celerity, audacity, and resolution, are every thing in war; and especially is it the case with the command you have, and the enterprise on which you are about to embark.”
These instructions seem to have been at once terse and perspicuous, plainly indicating what was expected, and why it was required; yet leaving ample discretion to him who was to give them effect. Yet it is hard to repress a suspicion that irony lurks in such language, when addressed to an officer like George D. Stoneman.
Our cavalry, carefully screening its movements from the enemy, marched two days westward, and had thrown across one division, when a rain raised the river so rapidly that this vanguard was recalled, swimming its horses; and a succession of April storms kept the streams so full and impetuous, while the roads were rendered so bad, that a fresh advance was postponed to the 27th ; Gen. Hooker giving the order for the movement of his infantry and artillery next day.
The time was well chosen. Longstreet, with three divisions, had been detached from Lee's army, and was operating against Gen. Peck below the James; and it is not probable that Lee had much, if any, over 60,000 men on the Rappahannock. True,
his position at Fredericksburg was
* April 13. * He says 13,000, in his testimony vol. II.-23
before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.