The American Iliad: The Epic Story of the Civil War as Narrated by Eyewitnesses and Contemporaries

By Otto Eisenschiml; Ralph Newman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Still Darker Days for the North

THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE

After Burnside's disastrous repulse at Fredericksburg in December 1862 the morale of the Army of the Potomac sank to the lowest point it reached during the war.

The Union boy Jesse B. Young thus described the mood of the men.

The army, driven back from the hills of Fredericksburg, settled down into camp life with a sad and heavy heart. The boys all knew that a blunder had been committed; that the attack against the frightful heights ought never to have been made; and although General Burnside gallantly took all the responsibility on himself yet there sprang up a brooding spirit of discontent, which soon spread throughout the entire army from the privates in the rear rank to the generals in command of corps and grand divisions. Soon after the battle an address from President Lincoln was read to the soldiers which began like this:

TO THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC:

Although you were not successful the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident.

When this was read to our regiment, there was an undercurrent of comment which would have given the President some light on the situation, if he had overheard it.

Hoping to retrieve his fortune, Burnside decided on a new line of attack. His efforts resulted in the tragicomedy known as the "Mud March."

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