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Gen. Hooker's Retreat.

[From the New York Tribune, May 8]

Gen. Hooker's recrossing the Rappahannock during Tuesday night has given the loyal millions a very disagreeable shock. His advance across the deep and rapid river had been so admirably planned, and effected with so little loss on his part, that the country confidently looked to see it crowned by a decisive victory. And especially since it is known that Gen. Stoneman's Cavalry raid upon the enemy's lines of communication had been at least partially successful — that the Railroads from Fredericksburg to Richmond and Gordonsville respectively had been so dismantled as to render them impassable for trains of supplies, and but partially servicable for the transportation of men, it will seem that he ought at least to have been able to hold the ground he so easily gained until abundant reinforcements could reach him from Washington, Baltimore, and the vicinity of Hampton Roads. But he decided on placing his army again in safety on this side of the Rappahannock, and effected it with little loss — The presumption of a battle on Tuesday, which was countenanced by a brief dispatch in cypher which reached us just in season for our last, was not well founded. There was a little skirmish on Tuesday and the following night, but nothing that could be magnified into a battle. Our correspondent, who left Gen. Hooker's army on Wednesday morning and reached our city yesterday morning, indulged in some criticisms on the decision and order to retreat which we do not indorse, but which we did not see fit to suppress nor even modify. A General who understands his business is not to be made nor unmade by the criticisms of a non military spectator of his doings; and, on the other hand, the reports of eye-witness must lose all their peculiar value if they are to be clipped and doctored to suit some other person's notions of what they should have been. As with regard to another correspondent's letters from the Peninsula during the progress of McClellan's "change of base," we print exactly as we receive, knowing that those who make an ungenerous use of this course by parading the hasty criticisms of our correspondents as the opinions of The Tribune would find some other mode of exhibiting their knavery if we deprived them of this one. The letters of our correspondents sometimes embody their own opinions on what passes under their observation, but ours are expressed in our own department of these columns, not in theirs.

Gen. Hooker was doubtless keenly disappointed and greatly disconcerted by the panic flight of the 11th Corps on Saturday, by which his combinations were defeated and victory snatched away when it seemed already within his grasp. It would seem that he did not afterward trust his men so thoroughly nor risk daring movements so freely as he had previously done, and as was indispensable to decided success. If he made any grave mistake — and we lack the requisite knowledge, even if we had the strategic ability to determine that he did or did not — we should say that it was his inaction on Monday. On that day the rebels, finding that Sedgwick was close in their rear, having successfully stormed the hights overlooking Fredericksburg, appear to have turned upon him with the bulk of their force,overwhelming him with superior numbers after a gallant resistence, and driving him across the Rappahannock at Bank's Ford. Of course, Hooker must have heard the roar of the cannon and known that this fight was going on with the odds fearfully against Sedgwick, and it would seem that he should have thrown himself in full force on some portion of the Rebel lines confronting him, as Sedgwick had pressed upon their rear the day before. But we do not offer this as a criticism, but as a mere non-military speculation. There may have been excellent reasons not yet known to us for his acting precisely as he did.

The Rebels seem to have acted with signal energy and skill from the moment that they found Hooker in force on their right flank. — Never troubling themselves about communications or lines of retreat, they massed their forces — rolled them up into a hard ball, as it were — and threw it with deadly vim upon whatever portion of Hooker's largely extended lines they from time to time found weakest. They, of course, exposed masses of infantry to be plowed through and through by murderous volleys of shell and grape; but they knew the price of success, and were ready to pay it. Their losses in killed and wounded probably exceed our own, and in prisoners are scarcely, if at all, inferior. Yet they will claim, and justly, a great triumph, in that they have checked and turned back the advance of the Army of the Potomac.

As to the effect of this repulse on the progress and issues of the war, it is too early to speculate. All our knowledge of what is yet future is summed up in the axiom that GOD REIGNS, and that all injustice and oppression are surely to be vanquished and overthrown. If the loyal Millions deserve to triumph this year, they will; if not, we must wait till they have been purified by suffering:

"For Freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeath'd from bleeding sire to son,
Though[unknown] oft, is ever won."