The Life, Public Services and State Papers of Abraham Lincoln

By Henry J. Raymond

Letters on Sundry Occasions

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:--


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?




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