Today in History:

1077 Series I Volume XXV-I Serial 39 - Chancellorsville Part I


effect is to place upon me, by implication, an indefinite share in the responsibility for whatever there may have been of failure in the operations of the Army of the Potomac in the recent attack upon the enemy's forces. I therefore deem it my duty to make you acquainted with the history of the recent cavalry operations in which I took part, to ask your consideration of the inclosed orders, marked A, B, C, D, and E,* which controlled my conduct, and to ask that an inquiry be made as to the causes for my removal, and that I may be informed of their nature.

If the execution of my orders was faulty, it cannot be attributed to a misunderstanding of them, as the cavalry, in their recent operations, were engaged in carrying out a part of the plan originated by myself previous to the first battle of Fredericksburg, and which I once set out to execute about the beginning of the year. The major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac also did me the honor to invite my opinion upon the details of these operations before they were ordered, and I believe I thoroughly understood the project of the general commanding, so far as the cavalry was concerned.

The operations of the Second Cavalry Division, which I commanded, were briefly as follows:

On the 28th ultimo, the division was in bivouac near Warrenton, Va. Colonel B. F. Davis was ordered to join me with his brigade, and, in obedience to orders received from the major-general commanding Cavalry Corps, the division moved from that point about 10 p.m., and reached the vicinity of Rappahannock Bridge and Ford about 5 a.m., 29th, ready to cross the river. At 6.25 a.m. a copy of the instructions of Major-General Hooker to Major General Stoneman was received, dated April 12, and a copy of the modification of the same, dated April 28. They are inclosed, marked A and B.

I ordered a reconnaissance of the Rappahannock Ford at daylight. It was reported impracticable from actual trial, on account of the high water and swift current. I then reconnoitered it in person, accompanied by Colonel McIntosh and other officers. The force of the enemy and the defenses upon the other side were insignificant, but the ford was too deep for the passage of my command without imminent hazard of drowning. The swimming of 3,400 cavalry horses, loaded with men, arms, equipments, ammunition, and three days' forage and rations, across a deep, rapid stream, when there was a practicable ford 4 miles below, and in view of long and active operations which awaited them on the other side, I regarded as unnecessary and imprudent, and hazardous to their future efficiency. In that opinion I was sustained by every officer who saw the ford.

A staff officer from the major-general commanding corps at this time brought me a message to the effect that, if the ford was impracticable, I should be guided by my own judgment as to the place of crossing. I marched my command to Kelly's Ford, over which half of it was crossed, while the other half passed over the bridge. The cavalry was over before 3 p.m., but the pack-train was delayed a short time by a break in the pontoons.

My command consisted of Colonel B. F. Davis' brigade, the brigades of Colonels McIntosh and Sargent, and Tidball's battery, in all about 3,400 sabers and six guns. With it I was directed to proceed in the direction of Brandy Station, by the right-hand road from the ford, to reach there, if possible, that night, and communicate with Buford, who would take


*For the orders marked A and B, see General Stoneman's report, pp.1065, 1066. Inclosures C and D are copies of dispatches of April 30, quoted in Averell's report of May 4, p.1075. For Inclosure E, see p.1080.