Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23, 1863: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate War Clerk John B. Jones reflected on the prisoners and supplies captured during the Battle of Chancellorsville. His final totals of casualties aren't accurate: he inflated the Union casualties while understating the Confederate losses.

May 23d.—The reports from Mississippi have not been confirmed by official dispatches, and it is understood that the President remarked yesterday, at dinner, that he was satisfied with the[Pg 330] condition of affairs in that State. If this be so, Vicksburg must not only be still in our possession, but likely to be held by us at the end of this campaign. The President, I know, feels a peculiar interest in that State, and I learn by a letter from Tennessee, that on the 9th inst. troops left McMinnville for the rescue of Vicksburg—a Texas brigade.

Cavalry continue to pass through this city from the south, while infantry are passing to the south. These movements will puzzle the spies, who are daily, and without difficulty, obtaining passports to leave the Confederate States.

We have Northern papers to-day, containing Gen. Hooker’s grandiloquent address to his army, a few days after his flight. I preserve it here for the inspection of the future generation, and to deter other generals from the bad policy of publishing false statements.
“[Copy.]

“Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
“May 6th, 1863.

“General Orders No 49.

“The Major-General commanding tenders to this army his congratulations on its achievements of the last seven days. If it has not accomplished all that was expected, the reasons are well known to the army. It is sufficient to say they were of a character not to be foreseen or prevented by human sagacity or resources. In withdrawing from the south bank of the Rappahannock, before delivering a general battle to our adversaries, the army has given renewed evidence of its confidence in itself, and its fidelity to the principles it represents.

“In fighting at a disadvantage we would have been recreant to our trust, to ourselves, our cause, and our country. Profoundly loyal and conscious of its strength, the Army of the Potomac will give or decline battle whenever its interest or honor may demand. It will also be the guardian of its own history and its own honor. By our celerity and secrecy of movement our advance and passage of the rivers were undisputed, and on our withdrawal not a rebel returned to follow. The events of the last week may swell with pride the hearts of every officer and soldier of this army. We have added new laurels to its former renown. We have made long marches, crossed rivers, surprised the enemy in his intrenchments,[Pg 331] and whenever we have fought we have inflicted heavier blows than we have received.

“We have taken from the enemy five thousand prisoners and fifteen colors, captured and brought off seven pieces of artillery, and placed hors du combat eighteen thousand of his chosen troops. We have destroyed his depots filled with vast amounts of stores, damaged his communications, captured prisoners within the fortifications of his capital, and filled his country with fear and consternation. We have no other regret than that caused by the death of our brave companions; and in this we are consoled by the conviction that they have fallen in the holiest cause ever submitted to the arbitrament of battle.

“By command of
“(Signed) Major-General Hooker.
“S. Williams, A.A.G.”
To-day we have another official report from the Chief of Ordnance of the fruits of our victory, as far as they have been gathered, though the whole field has not been carefully gleaned, which I append as a commentary on the statements of Hooker.

Five twelve-pounder Napoleons; 7 three-inch rifled guns; 1 Parrott gun, ten-pounder; 9 caissons; 4 rear parts of caissons; 3 battery wagons; 2 forges; 1500 rounds artillery ammunition; large lot of artillery harness; large lot of wheels, axles, ammunition chests, etc.; 16,500 muskets and rifles; 4000 cap pouches; 11,500 haversacks, and 300,000 rounds infantry ammunition. The report says thousand of our soldiers helped themselves on the field to better arms, etc., which cannot be computed.

Now for the prisoners. To-day the last lot taken by Hooker arrived by flag of truce boat, making in all just 2700. We have already sent off 7000 prisoners taken from him, and 1000 are yet to go. Our killed, wounded, and missing amount to but little over 8000. Hooker’s killed and wounded are admitted by the Northern papers to be 20,000, and some say his entire loss was fully 40,000. So much for his march over the Rappahannock and his flight back again. If he is not satisfied, Lee will try him again.

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