Swagger (April 26, 1863)

As Meade points out in his letter from April 26, Joe Hooker did indeed feel confident on the eve of the Chancellorsville campaign. “I have the finest army the sun ever shone on,” he boasted. “I can march this army to New Orleans. My plans are perfect, and when I start to carry them out, may God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none.”

Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams, a division commander in the XII Corps, was not pleased by Hooker’s statement. “It was known that Hooker had boastingly declared the night before that ‘God Almighty could not prevent his destroying the Rebel army,’” said Williams. “The blasphemy did not please the most irreligious as appropriate to any, and least of all to an, occasion so momentous, but allowance was made for excitement. Still, there was an uneasiness in the best military minds. There was too much boasting and too little planning; swagger without preparation.”

Hooker seems very confident of success, but lets no one into his secrets. I heard him say that not a human being knew his plans either in the army or at Washington. For my part I am willing to be in ignorance, for it prevents all criticism and faultfinding in advance. All I ask and pray for is to be told explicitly and clearly what I am expected to do, and then I shall try, to the best of my ability, to accomplish the task set before me. This afternoon, while at headquarters, I saw the arrival of Mr. Seward with several ladies, and three or four of the foreign Ministers, from Washington. I was not introduced to them, as I was on business and in a hurry to get home.

I have been riding all day and am a little fatigued.

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 369-70. Available via Google Books.

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