Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 5, 1863 (Friday): Like an ox jumped half over a fence..."

Culpeper Court House (Brady-Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON, June 5, 1863-4 p. m.
Major-General Hooker:
     Yours of to-day was received an hour ago. So much of professional military skill is requisite to answer it, that I have turned the task over to General Halleck. He promises to perform it with his utmost care. I have but one idea which I think worth suggesting to you, and that is, in case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the south of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it. it would fight in intrenchments and have you at disadvantage, and so, man for man worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other. If Lee would come to my side of the river, I would keep on the same side, and fight him or act on the defense, according as might be my estimate of his strength relatively to my own. But these are mere suggestions, which I desire to be controlled by the judgment of yourself and General Halleck.

     A. LINCOLN.

WASHINGTON, D. C., June 5, 1863-4. 40 p. m.
Major-General HOOKER,
Falmouth, Va.:
    The president has directed me to reply to your telegram to him of 10 a. m. to-day. My instructions of January 31, * which were then shown to the President, left you entirely free to act as circumstances, in your judgment, might require, with the simple injunction to keep in view the safety of Washington and Harper`s Ferry. In regard to the contingency which you suppose may arise of General Lee`s leaving part of his forces in Fredericksburg. While, with the head of his column, he moves by Gordonsville or Culpeper toward the Potomac, it seems to me that such an operation would give you great advantages upon his flank to cut him in two, and fight his divided forces. Would it not be more advantageous to fight his movable column first, instead of first attacking his intrenchments, with your own forces separated by the Rappahannock? Moreover, you are aware that the troops under General Heintzelman are much less than the number recommended by all the boards for the defenses of Washington. Neither this capital nor Harper`s Ferry could long hold out against a large force. The must depend for their security very much upon the co-operation of your army. It would, therefore, seem perilous to permit Lee`s main force to move upon the Potomac while your army is attacking an intrenched position on the other side of the Rappahannock. Of course your movements must depending a great measure upon those made by Lee. There is another contingency altogether improbable--that Lee will seek to hold you in check with his main force, while a strong force will be detached for a raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The main force of the enemy in North Carolina have probably come north, but I think all available troops in South Carolina and Georgia have been sent to re-enforce Johnston in Mississippi. Such is the information here . General Heintzelman and General Dix are instructed to telegraph directly to you all the movements which they may assertion or make . Directions have also been given to forward military information which may be received from General Schenck`s command. Any movements you may suggest of troops in these commands will be ordered, if deemed practicable. Lee will probably move light and rapidly. Your movable force should be prepared to do the same . The foregoing views are approved by the President.

     H. W. HALLECK,


Official Records, Series I. Vol. 27, Part 2, Pages 31-32.

Hooker had been answering directly to Lincoln, but here he delegates direction in a limited way to Halleck.  It no doubt galled Hooker, who was a political operator of the first order.  Halleck and Lincoln were afraid Hooker would again become bogged down attacking Lee's entrenchments behind Fredericksburg.  Halleck and Lincoln were concerned with the concentration of Stuart's cavalry around Culpeper and the possibility Lee would fix Hooker in place and leave Stuart free to make an incursion into Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

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