By Henry J. Raymond
To General Hooker
The following letters were written by the President to General Hooker soon after the latter had succeeded General Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac. The first was written just after the battle of Chancellorsville, as follows:--
WASHINGTON, 2 P. M.--May 8, 1868.
GENERAL HOOKER:--The news is here of the capture by our forces of Grand Gulf, a large and very important thing. General Willich, an exchanged prisoner just from Richmond, has talked with me this morning. He was there when our cavalry cut the roads in that vicinity. He says there was not a sound pair of legs in Richmond, and that our men, had they known it, could have safely gone in and burnt every thing and brought Jeff. Davis, captured and paroled three or four hundred men. He says as he came to City Point there was an army three miles long-Longstreet, he thought, moving towards Richmond. Milroy has captured a dispatch of General Lee, in which he says his loss was fearful in his late battle with you. A. LINCOLN.
After the battle of Chancellorsville General Hooker withdrew his forces to the north side of the Rappahannock, and received the following from the President:--
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, May 14, 1868.
MY DEAR SIR:--When I wrote on the 7th I had an impression that possibly, by an early movement, you could got some advantage, from the supposed facts that the enemy's communications were disturbed, and that he was somewhat deranged in position. That idea has now passed away, the enemy having re-established his communications, regained his positions, and actually received re-enforcements. It does not now appear to me probable that you can gain any thing by an early renewal of the attempt to cross the Rappahannock. I therefore shall not complain if you do no more for a time than to keep the enemy at bay, and out of other mischief, by menaces and occasional cavalry raids, if practicable, and to put your own army in good condition again. Still, if, in your own clear judgment, you can renew the attack successfully, I do not mean to restrain you. Bearing upon this last point I must tell you I have some painful intimations that some of your corps and division commanders are not giving you their entire confidence. This would be ruinous if true, and you should, therefore, first of all, ascertain the real facts beyond all possibility of doubt. Yours truly,
Both armies remained inactive till the 5th of June, when General Hooker wrote to the President that appearances indicated an advance by General Lee. The President answered him as follows:--
June 5, 1863
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 advantage, 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 up on 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 to 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 defensive, 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.
By the 10th of Juan Leers forward movement was well developed. The President's views as to the proper course to be pursued by our army remained as before, and he sent the following letter expressing them:--
WASHINGTON, D. C., June 10, 1863.
MAJOR-GENERAL HOOKER:--Your long dispatch of to-day is just received. If loft to me, I would not go south of the Rappahannock upon Lee's moving north of it. If you had Richmond invested to-day you would not be able to take it in twenty days; meanwhile your communications, and with them your army, would be ruined. I think Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point. If he comes towards the Upper Potomac, follow on his flank, and on the inside tracks shortening your lines while he lengthens his. Fight him, too, when opportunity offers. If he stay where he is, fret him and fret him.
Lee's advance was to the northwest, through the Valley of the Shenandoah. His advance was heard of far down that valley while yet his rear was near Fredericksburg, and on the 14th the President wrote to General Hooker as follows:--
WASHINGTON, D. C, June 14, 1863.
MAJOR-GENERAL HOOKER: -- So for as we can make out here, the enemy have Milroy surrounded at Winchester, and Tyler at Martinsburg. If they could hold out a few days, could you help them? If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg and the tail of it on the plankroad between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere; could you not break him?