Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 1863: Fighting Joe Hooker loses his nerve



The following exchange of messages between Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville and his Chief of Staff Dan Butterfield mark the moment when Hooker suspended his attack on Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker ordered his army to concentrate at Chancellorsville and wait for Lee to attack, thus surrendering key terrain and the initiative to Lee.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 1, 1863-2 o'clock.

[General BUTTERFIELD:]

From character of information have suspended attack. The enemy may attack me-I will try it. Tell Sedgwick to keep a sharp lookout, and attack if can succeed.

JOSEPH HOOKER,

Major-General.


HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 1, 1863-4 p. m.

Major-General HOOKER:

Your dispatch received. Copy announcing suspension of your attack sent Sedgwick. He and Reynolds remain quiet. They consider that to attack before you have accomplished some success, in view of the strong position and numbers in their front, might fail to dislodge the enemy and render them unserviceable at the proper time. They are anxious to hear from you. Six guns Horse Artillery sent to Banks' Ford this a. m., as directed. The balance of Graham's just ordered there. The enemy are sending nothing from here now to their left. I allow nothing to go to Washington and say nothing myself. Is O. K.

DANL. BUTTERFIELD.
As the fighting died down on May 1, 1863, Robert E. Lee summoned Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson to Lee's headquarters in the field--a clearing in the forest with a pair of cracker boxes for chairs in front of a camp fire.

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