When Joseph Hooker was named commander of the Army of the Potomac in January, 1863, the officer corps was skeptical. Hooker was known to be self-promoter who had been intriguing for the top spot. But he surprised his subordinates by improving supply and restoring morale.
Hooker surprised his subordinates again, and perhaps Robert E. Lee as well, by executing one of the most brillant movements of the war. By the end of the day on April 30, Hooker had the bulk of his army concentrated around Chancellorsville. "This is splendid Slocum," 5th Corps commander George Meade exclaimed. "Hurrah for Old Joe! We are on Lee's flank and he does not know it."
The next morning (May 1) the army advanced east toward Fredericksburg. The columns got a late start that morning, but by noon were in position to seize the important high ground near Salem Church. Sykes regular division was already engaged. Sykes was seeking reinforcements when orders were received to fall back to Chancellorsville.
Washington Roebling of Hooker's staff left this account of what happened next:
"Shortly after noon Gen. Hooker sent for me, saying, "I have determined to receive the enemy on my bayonets here at Chancellorsville. I want you to ride ahead to Gen. Slocum and tell him to stop the advance and return here with his command."
Roebling rode toward the front. "When I reached Slocum the steeple of Salem Church was already in view. When I gave my orders from Hooker, Slocum turned on me with fury, saying, 'Roebling, you are a ****ed liar, nobody but a crazy man would give such an order, when we have victory in sight. I shall go to Hooker myself, and if I find that you have spoken falsely, you shall be shot on my return.' Off he went, the advance was stopped.... General Slocum returned, having labored in vain with Hooker to make him rescind his change of plan. Casting a scowl at me, he turned the head of his column."
Source of Quote:Washington Roebling's Civil War