Monday, April 29, 2013

April 30, 1863 (Thursday): "..When You Strike Let It Be Done to Destroy"

Modern Zoan Church (Where Anderson's troops formed a line) NPS.Gov

April 30, 1863.
Major-General SEDGWICK,
Commanding Left Wing, Army of the Potomac:
    GENERAL: I am directed by the major-general commanding to inform you that his headquarters will be at Chancellorsville to-night. It is proposed that the army now at that point will assume the initiative to-morrow morning, and will advance along the line of the Plank road, uncovering what is called Banks' Ford, where bridges will be at once thrown across the river, which route will then become the shortest line of communication between the two wings of the army. Major-General Butterfield will remain at the present headquarters, and will at once transmit to the major-general commanding any communications you may desire to send him. It is not known, of course, what effect the advance will have upon the enemy, and the general commanding directs that you observe his movements with the utmost vigilance, and, should he expose a weak point, attack him in full force and destroy him. If he should show any symptoms of falling back, the general directs that you throw your whole force on the Bowling Green road, and pursue him with the utmost vigor, tuning his fortified positions by the numerous by-roads which you can make use of for that purpose. If any portion of his organized forces should pass off to the east of the railroad, you will, by detachments, pursue until you destroy or capture him.
    Simultaneous with the advance of your column on the Bowling Green road, if at all, a column will also advance on the Telegraph road, and between you will sweep the country between the two highways and the railroad. You will be within easy communication, and both columns will spring to one another's assistance in case of encountering any considerable resistance, which can best be judged of by the magnitude of the fire. Keep your provisions and ammunition and forage replenished, leaving as much of your train to be brought afterward as practicable. Trains will only embarrass and check your forward movement, and must not accompany you, unless it be the pack train.
     It may be expedient for you to join the right wing on the south bank of river, and under cover of it to Fredericksburg. Be observant of your opportunities, and when you strike let it be done to destroy. When you move forward, if you want all your artillery, the batteries of the reserve here can be called for. The enemy have at Hamilton's a pontoon train. The general expects that you will not permit them to cross the river. You will find an able commander in Major-General Reynolds.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Major-General, Chief of Staff.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 306-307.

Hooker's plan was to fix Lee in place behind Fredericksburg by attacking with Sedgwick while Hooker moved to the east from Chancellorsville.  It was not a bad plan in concept, but Lee spoiled it in execution by dividing his force and coming out to meet Hooker's advance while leaving Early and 10,000 men to confront Sedgwick.  The game was afoot.


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