By Henry J. Raymond
THE MILITARY ADMINISTRATION OF 1862. THE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL McCLELLAN.
THE repulse of the national forces at the battle of Bull Run in July, 1861, aroused the people of the loyal States to a sense of the magnitude of the contest which had been forced upon them. It stimulated to intoxication the pride and ambition of the rebels, and gave infinite encouragement to their efforts to raise fresh troops, and increase the military resources of their Confederation. Nor did the reverse the national cause had sustained for an instant damp the ardor or check the determination of the Government and people of the loyal States. General McDowell, the able and accomplished officer who commanded the army of the United States in that engagement, conducted the operations of the day with signal ability; and his defeat was due, as subsequent disclosures have clearly shown, far more to accidents for which others were responsible, than to any lack of skill in planning the battle, or of courage and generalship on the field. But it was the first considerable engagement of the war, and its loss was a serious and startling disappointment to the sanguine expectations of the people: it was deemed necessary, therefore, to place a new commander at the head of the army in front of Washington. General McClellan, who had been charged, at the outset of the war, with operations in the Department of the Ohio, and who had achieved marked success in clearing Western Virginia of the rebel troops, was summoned to Washington on the 22d of July, and on the 27th assumed command of the Army of the Potomac. Although then in command only of a department, General McClellan, with an ambition and a presumption natural, perhaps, to his age and the circumstances of his advancement, addressed his attention to the general conduct of the war in all sections of the country, and favored the Government and Lieutenant General Scott with several elaborate and meritorious letters of advice, as to the method most proper to be pursued for the suppression of the rebellion. He soon, however, found it necessary to attend to the preparation of the army under his command for an immediate resumption of hostilities. Fresh troops in great numbers speedily poured in from the Northern States, and were organized and disciplined for prompt and effective service. The number of troops in and about the Capital when General McClellan assumed command, was a little over fifty thousand, and the brigade organization of General McDowell formed the basis for the distribution of these new forces. By the middle of October this army had been raised to over one hundred and fifty thousand men, with an artillery force of nearly five hundred pieces all in a state of excellent discipline, under skilful officers, and animated by a zealous and impatient eagerness to renew the contest for the preservation of the Constitution and Government of the United States. The President and Secretary of War had urged the division of the army into corps d'armée, for the purpose of more effective service; but General McClellan had discouraged and thwarted their endeavors in this direction, mainly on the ground that there were not officers enough of tried ability in the army to be intrusted with such high commands as this division would create.
On the 22d of October, a portion of our forces which had been ordered to cross the Potomac above Washington, in the direction of Leesburg, were met by a heavy force of the enemy at Ball' s Bluff, repulsed with severe loss, and compelled to return. The circumstances of this disaster excited a great deal of dissatisfaction in the public mind, and this was still further aggravated by the fact that the rebels had obtained, and been allowed to hold, complete control of the Potomac below Washington, so as to establish a virtual and effective blockade of the Capital from that direction. Special efforts were repeatedly made by the President and Navy Department to clear the banks of the river of the rebel forces, known to be small in number, which held them, but it was found impossible to induce General McClellan to take any steps to aid in the accomplishment of this result. In October he had promised that on a day named, four thousand troops should be ready to proceed down the river to cooperate with the Potomac flotilla under Captain Craven; but at the time appointed the troops did not arrive, and General McClellan alleged, as a reason for having changed his mind, that his engineers had informed him that so large a body of troops could not be landed. The Secretary of the Navy replied that the landing of the troops was a matter of which that department assumed the responsibility; and it was then agreed that the troops should be sent down the next night. They were not sent, however, either then or at any other time, for which General McClellan assigned as a reason the fear that such an attempt might bring on a general engagement. Captain Craven upon this threw up his command, and the Potomac remained closed to the vessels and transports of the United States until it was opened in March of the next year by the voluntary withdrawal of the rebel forces.
On the 1st of November, General McClellan was appointed by the President to succeed General Scott in the command of all the armies of 'the Union, remaining in personal command of the Army of the Potomac. His attention was then of necessity turned to the direction of army movements, and to the conduct of political affairs, so far as they came under military control, in the more distant sections of the country. But no movement took place in the Army of the Potomac.
The season had been unusually favorable for military operations the troops were admirably organized and disciplined, and in the highest state of efficiency in numbers they were known to be far superior to those of the rebels opposed to them, who were nevertheless permitted steadily to push their approaches towards Washington, while, from the highest officer to the humblest private, our forces were all animated with an eager desire to be led against the enemies of their country. As winter approached without any indications of an intended movement of our armies, the public impatience rose to the highest point of discontent. The Administration was everywhere held responsible for these unaccountable delays, and was freely charged by its opponents with a design to protract the war for selfish political purposes of its own; and at the fall election the public dissatisfaction made itself manifest by adverse votes in every considerable State where elections were held.
Unable longer to endure this state of things, President Lincoln put an end to it on the 27th of January, 1862, by issuing the following order:
This order, which applied to all the armies of the United States, was followed four days afterwards "by the following special order directed to General McClellan:
The object of this order was to engage the rebel army in front of Washington by a flank attack, and by its defeat relieve the Capital, put Richmond at our mercy, and break the main strength of the rebellion by destroying the principal army arrayed in its support. Instead of obeying it, General McClellan remonstrated against its execution, and urged the adoption of a different plan of attack, which was to move upon Richmond by way of the Chesapeake Bay, the Rappahannock River, and a land inarch across the country from Urbana, leaving the rebel forces in position at Manassas to be held in check, if they should attempt a forward movement, only by the troops in the fortifications around Washington. As the result of several conferences with the President, he obtained permission to state in writing his objections to his plan the President meantime sending him the following letter of inquiry:
General McClellan sent to the Secretary of War, under date of February 3d, a very long letter, presenting strongly the advantage possessed by the rebels in holding a central defensive position, from which they could with a small force resist any attack on either flank, concentrating their main strength upon the other for a decisive action. The uncertainties of the weather, the necessity of having long lines of communication, and the probable indecisiveness even of a victory, if one should be gained, were urged against the President's plan. So strongly was General McClellan in favor of his own plan of operations, that he said he "should prefer the move from Fortress Monroe as a base, to an attack upon Manassas." The President was by no means convinced by General McClellan' s reasoning; but in consequence of his steady resistance and unwillingness to enter upon the execution of any other plan, he assented to a submission of the matter to a council of twelve officers held late in February, at head-quarters. The result of that council "was, a decision in favor of moving by way of the lower Chesapeake and the Rappahannock seven of the Generals present, viz., Fitz-John Porter, Franklin, W. F. Smith, McCall, Blenker, Andrew Porter, and Naglee, voting in favor of it, as did Keyes also, with the qualification that the army should not move until the rebels were driven from the Potomac, and Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Barnard, voting against it.
In this decision the President acquiesced, and on the 8th of March issued two general war orders, the first directing the Major-General commanding the Army of the Potomac to proceed forthwith, to organize that part of said army destined to enter upon active operations into four army corps, to be commanded, the first by General McDowell, the second by General Sumner, the third by General Heintzelman, and the fourth by General Keyes. General Banks was assigned to the command of a fifth corps. It also appointed General Wadsworth Military Governor at Washington, and directed the order to be " executed with such promptness and dispatch as not to delay the commencement of the operations already directed to be undertaken by the Army of the Potomac." The second of these orders was as follows:
This order was issued on the 8th of March. On the 9th, information was received by General McClellan, at Washington, that the enemy had abandoned his position in front of that city. He at once crossed the Potomac, and on the same night issued orders for an immediate advance of the whole army towards Manassas not with any intention, as he has since explained, of pursuing the rebels, and taking advantage of their retreat, but to "get rid of superfluous baggage and other impediments which accumulate so easily around an army encamped for a long time in one locality" to give the troops " some experience on the march and bivouac preparatory to the campaign," and to afford them also a "good intermediate step between the quiet and comparative comfort of the camps around Washington and the vigor of active operations."1 These objects, in General McClellan's opinion, were sufficiently accomplished by what the Prince de Joinville, of his staff, styles a "promenade" of the army to Manassas, where they learned, from personal inspection, that the rebels had actually evacuated that position; and on the 15th, orders were issued for a return of the forces to Alexandria.
On the 11h of March, the President issued another order, stating that " Major-General McClellan having personally taken the field at the head of the Army of the Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is relieved from the command of the other military departments, retaining command of the Department of the Potomac." Major-General Halleck was assigned to the command of the Department of the Mississippi, and the Mountain Department was created for Major-General Fremont. All the commanders of departments were also required to report directly to the Secretary of War.
On the 13th of March, a council of war was held at head-quarters, then at Fairfax Court-House, by which it was decided that, as the enemy had retreated behind the Rappahannock, operations against Richmond could best be conducted from Fortress Monroe, provided:
Upon receiving a report of this decision, the following communication was at once addressed to the commanding general:
It will readily be seen, from these successive orders, that the President, in common with the whole country, had been greatly pained by the long delay of the Army of -the. Potomac to move against the enemy while encamped at Manassas, and that this feeling was converted into chagrin and mortification when the rebels were allowed to withdraw from that position without the slightest molestation, and without their design being even suspected until it had been carried into complete and successful execution. He was impatiently anxious, therefore, that no more time should be lost in delays. In reply to the Secretary of War, General McClellan, before embarking for the Peninsula, communicated his intention of reaching, without loss of time, the field of what he believed would be a decisive battle, which he expected to fight between West Point and Richmond. On the 31st of March, the President, out of deference to the importunities of General Fremont and his friends, and from a belief that this officer could make good use of a larger force than he then had at his command in the Mountain Department, ordered General Blenker's division to leave the Army of the Potomac and join him; a decision which he announced to General McClellan in the following letter:
General Banks, who had at first been ordered by General McClellan to occupy Manassas, and thus cover Washington, was directed by him, on the 1st of April, to throw the rebel General Jackson well back from Winchester, and then move on Staunton at a time "nearly coincident with his own move on Richmond;" though General McClellan expressed the fear that General Banks "could not be ready in time' for 'that movement. The four corps of the Army of the Potomac, destined for active operations by way of the Peninsula, were ordered to embark, and forwarded as rapidly as possible to Fortress Monroe. On the 1st of April, General McClellan wrote to the Secretary of war, giving a report of the dispositions he had made for the defence of Washington; and on the 2d, General Wadsworth submitted a statement of the forces under his command, which he regarded as entirely inadequate to the service required of them. The President referred the matter to Adjutant-General Thomas and General E. A. Hitchcock, who made a report on the same day, in which they decided that the force left by General McClellan was not sufficient to make Washington "entirely secure," as the President had required in his order of March 13; nor was it as large as the council of officers held at Fairfax Court-House on the same day had adjudged to be necessary. In accordance with this decision, and for the purpose of rendering the Capital safe, the army corps of General McDowell was detached from General McClellan' s immediate command, and ordered to report to the Secretary of War.
On reaching Fortress Monroe, General McClellan found Commodore Goldsborough, who commanded on that naval station, unwilling to send any considerable portion of his force up the York River, as he was employed in watching the Merrimack, which had closed the James River against us. He therefore landed at the Fortress, and commenced his march up the Peninsula, having reached the Warwick River, in the immediate vicinity of Yorktown, which had been fortified, and was held by a rebel force of about eleven thousand men, under General Magruder a part of them, however, being across the river at Gloucester. He here halted to reconnoitre the position; and on the 6th wrote to the President that he had but eighty-five thousand men fit for duty that the whole line of the Warwick River was strongly fortified that it was pretty certain he was to "have the whole force of the enemy on his hands, probably not less than a hundred thousand men, and probably more," and that he should commence siege operations as soon as he could get up his train. He entered, accordingly, upon this work, telegraphing from time to time complaints that he was not properly supported by the Government, and asking for re-enforcements.
On the 9th of April, President Lincoln addressed him the following letter:
In this letter the President only echoed the impatience and eagerness of the whole country. The most careful inquiries which General Wool, in command at Fortress Monroe, had been able to make, satisfied him that Yorktown was not held by any considerable force; and subsequent disclosures have made it quite certain that this force was so utterly inadequate to the defence of the position, that a prompt movement upon it would have caused its immediate surrender, and enabled our army to advance at once upon Richmond. General McClellan decided, however, to approach it by a regular siege and it was not until this design had become apparent, that the rebel Government began to re-enforce Magruder.2 He continued his applications to the Government for more troops, more cannon, more transportation all which were sent forward to him as rapidly as possible, being taken mainly from McDowell's corps. On the 14th of April, General Franklin, detached from that corps, reported to General McClellan, near Yorktown, but his troops remained on board the transports. A month was spent in this way, the President urging action in the most earnest manner, and the commanding general delaying from day to day his reiterated promises to commence operations immediately. At last, on the morning of the 4th of May, it was discovered that the rebels had been busy for a day or two in evacuating Yorktown, and that the last of their columns had left that place, all their supply trains having been previously removed on the day and night preceding. General McClellan, in announcing this event to the Government, added that " no time would be lost" in the pursuit, and that he should l ' push the enemy to the wall." General Stoneman, with a column of cavalry, was at once sent forward to overtake the retreating enemy, which he succeeded in doing on the same day, and was repulsed. On the 5th, the forces ordered forward by General McClellan came up, and found a very strong rear-guard of the rebels strongly fortified, about two miles east of Williamsburg, and prepared to dispute the advance of the pursuing troops. It had been known from the beginning that a very formidable line of forts had been erected here, and it ought to have been equally well known by the commanding general that the retreating enemy would avail himself of them to delay the pursuit. General McClellan, however, had evidently anticipated no resistance. He remained at his head-quarters, two miles in the rear of Yorktown, until summoned by special messenger in the afternoon of the 5th, who announced to him that our troops had encountered the enemy strongly posted, that a bloody battle was in progress, and that his presence on the field was imperatively required. Replying to the messenger that he had supposed our troops in front "could attend to that little matter," General McClellan left his head-quarters at about half-past two, P. M., and reached the field at five. General Hooker, General Heintzelman, and General Sumner had been fighting under enormous difficulties, and with heavy losses, during all the early part of the day; and just as the commanding general arrived, General Kearney had re-enforced General Hooker, and General Hancock had executed a brilliant flank movement, which turned the fortunes of the day, and left our forces in possession of the field.
General McClellan does not seem to have understood that this affair was simply an attempt of the rebel rearguard to cover the retreat of the main force, and that when it had delayed the pursuit it had accomplished its whole purpose. He countermanded an order for the advance of two divisions, and ordered them back to Yorktown; and in a dispatch sent to the War Department the same night, he treats the battle as an engagement with the whole rebel army. "I find," he says, "General Joe Johnston in front of me in strong force, probably greater, a good deal, than my own." He again complains of the inferiority of his command, says he will do all he can "with the force at his disposal," and that he should "run the risk of at least holding them in check here (at Williamsburg) while he resumed the original plan" which was to send Franklin to West Point by water. But the direct pursuit of the retreating rebel army was abandoned owing, as the General said, to the bad state of the roads, which rendered it impracticable. Some five days were spent at Williamsburg, which enabled the rebels, notwithstanding the "state of the roads," to withdraw their whole force across the Chickahominy, and establish themselves within the fortifications in front of Richmond. On the morning of the 7th, General Franklin landed at West Point, but too late to intercept the main body of the retreating army; he was met by a strong rear-guard, with whom he had a sharp but fruitless engagement.
The York River had been selected as the base of operations, in preference to the James, because it "was in a better position to effect a junction with any troops that might move from Washington on the Fredericksburg line;"3 and arrangements were made to procure supplies for the army by that route. On the 9th, Norfolk was evacuated by the rebels, all the troops withdrawing in safety to Richmond; and the city, on the next day, was occupied by General Wool. On the llth, the formidable steamer Merrimack, which had held our whole naval force at Fortress Monroe completely in check, was blown up by the rebels themselves, and our vessels attempted to reopen the navigation of the James River, but were repulsed by a heavy battery at Drury's Bluff, eight miles below Richmond. After waiting for several days for the roads to improve, the main body of the army was put in motion on the road towards Richmond, which was about forty miles from Williamsburg; and, on the 16th, headquarters were established at White House, at the point where the Richmond Railroad crosses the Pamunkey, an affluent of the York River the main body of the army lying along the south bank of the Chickahominy, a swampy stream, behind which the rebel army had intrenched itself for the defence of Richmond.
General McClellan began again to prepare for fighting the "decisive battle" which he had been predicting ever since the rebels withdrew from Manassas, but which they had so far succeeded in avoiding. A good deal of his attention, however, was devoted to making out a case of neglect against the Government. On the 10th of May, when he had advanced but three miles beyond Williams-, burg, he sent a long dispatch to the War Department, reiterating his conviction that the rebels were about to dispute his advance with their whole force, and asking for "every man" the Government could send him. If not re-enforced, he said he should probably be "obliged to fight nearly double his numbers strongly intrenched." Ten days previously the official returns showed that he had one hundred and sixty thousand men under his command. On the 14th, he telegraphed the President, reiterating his fears that he was to be met by overwhelming numbers, saying that he could not bring more than eighty thousand men into the field, and again asking for " every man" that the War Department could send him. Even if ore troops should not be needed for military purposes, he thought a great display of imposing force in the capital of the rebel 'government would have the best moral effect. To these repeated demands the President, through the Secretary of War, on the 18th of May, made the following reply:
In reply to this, on the 21st of May, General McClellan repeated his declarations of the overwhelming force of the rebels, and urged that General McDowell should join him by water instead of by land, going down the Rappahannock and the bay to Fortress Monroe, and then ascending the York and Pamunkey Rivers. He feared there was "little hope that he could join him overland in time for the coming battle. Delays," he says, "on my part will be dangerous: I fear sickness and demoralization. This region is unhealthy for Northern men, and unless kept moving, I fear that our soldiers may become discouraged" a fear that was partially justified by the experience of the whole month succeeding, during which he kept them idle. He complained also that McDowell was not put more completely under his command, and declared that a movement by land would uncover Washington quite as completely as one by water. He was busy at that time in bridging the Chickahominy, and gave no instructions, as required, for supplying McDowell' s forces on their arrival at West Point.
To these representations he received from the President the following reply:
General Banks, it will be remembered, had been sent by General McClellan, on the 1st of April, to guard the approaches to Washington by the valley of the Shenandoah, which were even then menaced by Jackson with a considerable rebel force. A conviction of the entire insufficiency of the forces left for the protection of the Capital had led to the retention of McDowell, from whose command, however, upon General McClellan' s urgent and impatient applications, General Franklin's division had been detached. On the 23d, as stated in the above letter from the President, there were indications of a purpose on Jackson' s part to move in force against Banks; and this purpose was so clearly developed, and his situation became so critical, that the President was compelled to re-enforce him, a movement which he announced in the following dispatch to General McClellan:
Unable, apparently, or unwilling to concede any tiling whatever to emergencies existing elsewhere, General McClellan remonstrated against the diversion of McDowell, in reply to which he received, on the 26th, the following more full explanation from the President:
Jackson continued his triumphant march through the Shenandoah Valley, and for a time it seemed as if nothing could prevent his crossing the Potomac, and making his appearance ' in rear of Washington. The President promptly announced this state of things to General McClellan in the following dispatch:
To this General McClellan replied that, independently of the President's letter, "the time was very near when he should attack Richmond." He knew nothing of Banks' s position and force, but thought Jackson' s movement was designed to prevent re-enforcements being sent to him.
On the 26th, the President announced to General McClellan the safety of Banks at Williamsport, and then turned his attention, with renewed anxiety, to the movement against Richmond, urging General McClellan, if possible, to cut the railroad between that city and the Rappahannock, over which the enemy obtained their supplies. The General, on the evening of the 26th, informed him that he was ' ' quietly closing in upon the enemy preparatory to the last struggle" that he felt forced to take. every possible precaution against disaster, and that his "arrangements for the morrow were very important, and if successful would leave him free to strike on the return of the force attacked." The movement here referred to was one against a portion of the rebel forces at Hanover Court-House, which threatened McDowell, and was in a position to re-enforce Jackson. The expedition was under command of General Fitz-John Porter, and proved a success. General McClellan on the 28th announced it to the Government as a "complete rout" of the rebels, and as entitling Porter to the highest honors. In the same dispatch he said he would do his best to cut off Jackson from returning to Richmond, but doubted if he could. The great battle was about to be fought before Richmond, and he adds: "It is the policy and the duty of the Government to send me by water all the well-drilled troops available. All unavailable troops should be collected here." Porter, he said, had cut all the railroads but the one from Richmond to Fredericksburg, which was the one concerning which the President had evinced the most anxiety. Another expedition was sent to the South Anna River and Ashland, which destroyed some bridges without opposition. This was announced to the Government by General McClellan as another ' ' complete victory ' ' achieved by the heroism of Porter accompanied by the statement that the enemy were even in greater force than he had supposed. " I will do," said the dispatch, "all that quick movements can accomplish, and you must send me all the troops you can, and leave to me full latitude as to choice of commanders." In reply, the President sent him the following:
To a dispatch reporting the destruction of the South Anna Railroad bridge, the President replied thus:
On the 30th, General McClellan telegraphed to the Secretary of War, complaining that the Government did not seem to appreciate the magnitude of Porter' s victory, and saying that his army was now well in hand, and that " another day will make the probable field of battle pass able for artillery."
On the 25th of May, General Keyes with the Fourth Corps had been ordered across the Chickahominy, and was followed by the Third, under General Heintzelman one division of the Fourth, under General Casey, being pushed forward within seven miles of Richmond, to Seven Pines, which he was ordered to hold at all hazards. On the 28th, General Keyes was ordered to advance Casey' s Division three-quarters of a mile to Fair Oaks. General Keyes obeyed the order, but made strong representations to headquarters of the extreme danger of pushing these troops so far in advance without adequate support, and requested that General Heintzelman might be brought within supporting distance, and that a stronger force might be crossed over the Chickahominy to be in readiness for the general engagement which these advances would be very likely to bring on. These requests were neglected, and General Keyes was regarded and treated as an alarmist. On the afternoon of the 30th he made a personal examination of his front, and reported that he was menaced by an overwhelming force of the enemy in front and on both flanks, and he again urged the necessity for support, to which he received a very abrupt reply that no more troops would be crossed over, and that the Third Corps would not be advanced unless he was attacked. At about noon the next day he was attacked on both flanks and in front, General Casey' s Division driven back with heavy loss, and in spite of a stubborn and gallant resistance on the part of his corps, General Keyes was compelled to fall back with severe losses, some two miles, when the enemy was checked, and night put an end to the engagement. On hearing the firing at head-quarters, some four miles distant, General McClellan ordered General Sumner to hold his command in readiness to move. General Sumner not only did so, but moved them at once to the bridge, and on receiving authority crossed over, and, by the greatest exertions over muddy roads, reached the field of battle in time to aid in checking the rebel advance for the night. Early the next morning the enemy renewed the attack with great vigor, but the arrival of General Sumner, and the advance of General Heintzelman's Corps, enabled our forces, though still greatly inferior, not only to repel the assault, but to inflict upon the enemy a signal defeat. They were driven back in the utmost confusion and with terrible losses upon Richmond, where their arrival created the utmost consternation, as it was taken for granted they would be immediately followed by our whole army.
General McClellan, who had remained with the main body of the army on the other side of the Chickahominy during the whole of the engagements of both days, crossed the river after the battle was over, and visited the field. ''The state of the roads," he says, "and the impossibility of manoeuvring artillery, prevented pursuit." He returned to head-quarters in the afternoon. On the next day, June 2d, General Heintzelman sent forward a strong reconnoitring party under General Hooker, which went within four miles of Richmond without finding any enemy. Upon being informed of this fact, General McClellan ordered the force to fall back to its old position, assigning the bad state of the roads as the reason for not attempting either to march upon Richmond, or even to hold the ground already gained. In a dispatch to Washington on the 2d, he states that he " only waits for the river to fall to cross with the rest of the army and make a general attack. The morale of my troops," he adds, " is now such that I can venture much. I do not fear for odds against me." It seems to have been his intention then, to concentrate his forces for an immediate advance upon the rebel capital, though in his report, written more than a year afterwards, he says the idea of uniting the two wings of the army at that time for a vigorous move upon Richmond was ' ' simply absurd, and was probably never seriously entertained by any one connected with the Army of the Potomac." 4
The Government at once took measures to strengthen the army by all the means available. An order was issued, placing at his command all the disposable forces at Fortress Monroe, and another ordering McDowell to send McCall' s division to him by water from Fredericksburg. McDowell or Fremont was expected to fight Jackson at Front Royal, after which, part of their troops would become available for the Army of the Potomac. On the 4th, General McClellan telegraphed that it was raining, that the river was still high, that he had "to be very cautious," that he expected another severe battle, and hoped, after our heavy losses, he " should no longer be regarded as an alarmist." On the 5th, the Secretary of War sent him word that troops had been embarked for him at Baltimore, to which he replied on the 7th, " I shall be in perfect readiness to move forward and take Richmond the moment McCall readies here, and the ground will admit the passage of artillery." On the 10th, General McCall's forces began to arrive at White House, and on the same day General McClellan telegraphed to the department that a rumor had reached him that the rebels had been re-enforced by Beauregard that he thought a portion of Halleck's army from Tennessee should be sent to strengthen him, but that he should " attack with what force he had, as soon as the weather and ground will permit but there will be a delay," he added, " the extent of which no one can foresee, for the season is altogether abnormal.' 1 The Secretary of War replied that Halleck would be urged to comply with his request if he could safely do so that neither Beauregard nor his army was in Richmond, that McDowell's force would join him as soon as possible, that Fremont had had an engagement, not wholly successful, with Jackson, and closing with this strong and cordial assurance of confidence and support:
On the 14th, General McClellan wrote to the War Department that the weather was favorable, and that two days more would make the ground practicable. He still urges the propriety of sending him more troops, but finds a new subject of complaint in a telegram he had received from McDowell. The latter, on the 8th, had received the following orders:
General McDowell had telegraphed McClellan as follows on the 10th of June:
And again, June 12th:
These telegrams, it will be seen, are in accordance with the orders to McDowell of the 8th, which directed that McCall's Division should continue to form part of the Army of the Rappahannock, and required that McDowell should operate in the direction of Richmond, to co-operate with McClellan in accordance with instructions heretofore given him.
These instructions are those of the 17th and 18th of May, concerning which McClellan sent to the President his long telegram of the 21st, in which he says:
To this the President answered:
In regard to this, McClellan, in his report (August 4th, 1863), says:
Yet in the simple request of McDowell, as to the posting of his Third (McCall's) Division made to carry out the plan the news of which, McClellan says, was so cheering, and inspired him with such confidence, McClellan sees nothing but personal ambition on McDowell's part, and protests against that "spirit" in the following terms:
It had been suggested, in some of the journals of the day, that General McDowell might possibly advance upon Richmond from the north, without waiting for McClellan: it is scarcely possible, however, that any suspicion of such a purpose could have had any thing to do with General McClellan' s reiterated and emphatic, desire that McDowell should join him by water, so as to be in his rear, and not by land, which would bring him on his front with his peremptory demand that all McDowell' s troops should be " completely at his disposal," with his indignant protest against McDowell's personal ambition, or with his conviction of the propriety and necessity of disavowing all personal considerations for himself. But it is certainly a little singular that a commander, intrusted with an enterprise of such transcendent importance to his army and country, who had been so urgently calling for re-enforcements as absolutely indispensable to success, should have preferred not to receive them, but to fight the battle with what he had, rather than have the co-operation of McDowell under the two conditions fixed by the President, (1) that he should not deprive him of his troops, or, (2) post them so as to prevent their being kept interposed between the enemy and Washington. Even if he could leave " others to be responsible for the results," it is not easy to see how he could reconcile the possibility of adverse results with his professedly paramount concern for the welfare of his country.
On the 20th of June, he telegraphed the President that troops to the number of probably ten thousand had left Richmond to re-enforce Jackson; that his defensive works on the Chickahominy, made necessary by his "inferiority of numbers," would be completed the next day; and that he would be glad to learn the "disposition, as to numbers and position, of the troops not under Ms command, in Virginia and elsewhere," as also to lay before his Excellency, "by letter or telegraph, his views as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country" To this he received the following reply:
The President also stated that the news of Jackson's having been re-enforced from Richmond was confirmed by General King at Fredericksburg, and added, "If this is true, it is as good as a re-enforcement to you of an equal force." In acknowledging the first dispatch, General McClellan said, he "perceived that it would be better to defer the communication he desired to make" on the condition of the country at large; he soon, indeed, had occasion to give all his attention to the army under his command.
General McClellan had been, for nearly a month, declaring his intention to advance upon Richmond immediately. At times, as has been seen from his dispatches, the movement was fixed for specific days, though in every instance something occurred, when the decisive moment arrived, to cause a further postponement. On the 18th, again announcing his intention to advance, he said that a "general engagement might take place at any hour, as an advance by us involves a battle more or less decisive." But in the same dispatch he said, "After tomorrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as Providence will permit." But in this case, as in every other, in spite of his good intentions, and the apparent permission of Providence, General McClellan made no movement in advance, but waited until he was attacked. He had placed his army astride the Chickahominy the left wing being much the strongest and most compact, the right being comparatively weak and very extended. He had expended, however, a great deal of labor in bridging the stream, so that either wing could have been thrown across with great ease and celerity. Up to the 24th of June, General McClellan believed Jackson to be in strong force at Gordonsville, where he was receiving re-enforcements from Richmond with a view to operations in that quarter. But on that day he was told by a deserter that Jackson was planning a movement to attack his right and rear on the 28th, and this information was confirmed by advices from the War Department on the 25th. On that day, being convinced that he is to be attacked, and will therefore be compelled to fight, he writes to the Department to throw upon others the responsibility of an anticipated defeat. He declares the rebel force to be some two hundred thousand, regrets his " great inferiority of numbers," but protests that he is not responsible for it, as he has repeatedly and constantly called for re-enforcements, and declares that if the result of the action is a disaster, the " responsibility cannot be thrown on his shoulders, but must rest where it belongs." He closes by announcing that a reconnoissance which he had ordered had proved successful, that he should probably be attacked the next day, and that he felt "that there was no use in again asking for re-enforcements." To this the President replied as follows:
General McClellan had foreseen the probability of being attacked, and had made arrangements for a defeat. "More than a week previous," he says in his report, "that is, on the 18th," he had prepared for a retreat to the James River, and had ordered supplies to that point. His extreme right was attacked at Mechanicsville on the afternoon of the 26th, but the enemy were repulsed. The movement, however, disclosed the purpose of the rebel army to crush his right wing and cut off his communications, if possible. Two plans were open to his adoption: he might have brought over his left wing, and so strengthened his right as to give it a victory, or he might have withdrawn his right across the Chickahominy in itself a strong defensive line and have pushed his whole force into Richmond, and upon the rear of the attacking force. Concentration seemed to be absolutely essential to success in any event. But lie did not attempt it. He left the right wing to contend next day with thirty thousand men, without support, against the main body of the rebel army, and only withdrew it across the Chickahominy after it had been beaten with terrific slaughter on the 27th, in the battle of Games' s Mill. On the evening of that day he informed his corps commanders of his purpose to fall back to the James River, and withdrew the remainder of his right wing across the Chickahominy. On the next day the whole army was put in motion on the retreat, and General McClellan found time again to reproach the Government with neglect of his army. If he had ten thousand fresh men to use at once, he said, he could take Richmond; but, as it was, all he could do would be to cover his retreat. He repeated that he " was not responsible " for the result, and that he must have instantly very large re-enforcements; and closed by saying to the Secretary of War what we do not believe any subordinate was ever before permitted to say to his superior officer without instant dismissal "If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any persons in Washington: you have done your best to sacrifice this army."
To this dispatch the President replied as follows:
Under general orders from General McClellan, he and his staff proceeding in advance, and leaving word where the corps commanders were to make successive stands to resist pursuit, "but taking no part personally in any. one of the succeeding engagements, the army continued its march towards James River. They first resisted and repulsed the pursuing rebels on the 29th at Savage Station, in a bloody battle, fought under General Sumner, and on the 30th had another severe engagement at Glendale. On the 1st of July, our troops, strongly posted at Malvern Hill, were again attacked by the rebels, whom they repulsed and routed with terrible slaughter; and orders were at once issued for the further retreat of the army to Harrison's Landing, which General McClellan had personally examined and selected on the day before. Even before the battle of Malvern Hill, he had telegraphed to Washington for "fresh troops," saying he should fall back to the river if possible; to which dispatch he received the following reply:
On the next day, in reply to a request from General McClellan for fifty thousand more troops, the President thus addressed him:
On the next day, the 3d, General McClellan again wrote for one hundred thousand men "more rather than less," in order to enable him to " accomplish the great task of capturing Richmond, and putting an end to the rebellion;" and at the same time he sent his chief of staff, General Marcy, to Washington, in order to secure a perfect understanding of the state of the army. The General said he hoped the enemy was as completely worn out as his own army, though he apprehended a new attack, 'from which, however, he trusted the bad condition of the roads might protect him. On the 4th, he repeated his call for "heavy re-enforcements," but said he held a very strong position, from which, with the aid of the gunboats, he could only be driven by overwhelming numbers. On the same day he received the following from the President:
At this point, on the 7th of July, General McClellan sent the President a letter of advice on the general conduct of his Administration. He thought the time had come "when the Government should determine upon a civil and military policy covering the whole ground of our national trouble," and he proceeded to lay down the "basis of such a policy as ought to be adopted. The war against the rebellion, he said, "should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State in any event. Neither confiscation of property, political execution of persons, territorial organization of States, nor forcible abolition of slavery, should be contemplated for a moment." He added:
He closed this letter by saying that to carry out these views the President would require a Commander-in-Chief who possessed his confidence and could execute his orders; he did not ask that place for himself, but would serve in any position that might be assigned him. "I may be," he adds, "on the brink of eternity; and as I hope for forgiveness from my Maker, I have written this letter with sincerity towards you, and from love for my country."
The President, instead of entering upon a discussion as to the general policy of his Administration, continued to urge the General' s attention to the state of his own army; and in order to inform himself more accurately as to its actual condition and prospects, visited the camp on the 8th of July, at Harrison' s Landing. The actual strength of the army seems to have been at that time a matter of considerable difference of opinion; and in regard to it, on returning to Washington, the President thus addressed the General:
In reply to this letter, the General disclosed the fact that thirty-eight thousand two hundred and fifty men of his army were absent by authority i.e., on furloughs granted by permission of the Commanding General. The actual number of troops composing his army on the 20th of July, according to official returns, was one hundred and fifty eight thousand three hundred and fourteen, and the aggregate losses in the retreat to the James River was fifteen thousand two hundred and forty-nine.
During the President' & visit to the camp, the future movements of the army were a subject of anxious deliberation. It was understood that the rebels were gathering large forces for another advance upon Washington, which was comparatively unprotected and as General McClellan did not consider himself strong enough to take the offensive, it was felt to "be absolutely necessary to concentrate the army, either on the Peninsula or in front of Washington, for the protection of the Capital. The former course, after the experience of the past season, was felt to be exceedingly hazardous, and the corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac were decidedly in favor of the latter. General McClellan at once addressed himself to the task of defeating the project. On the 11th, he telegraphed to the President that "the army was in fine spirits, and that he hoped he would soon make him strong enough to try again." On the 12th, he said he was "more and more convinced that the army ought not to be withdrawn, but promptly re-enforced and thrown again upon Richmond." He " dreaded the effects of any retreat on the morale of his men" though his previous experience should have obviated any such apprehension in his mind. "If we have a little more than half a chance," he said, "we can take Richmond." On the 17th, he urged that General Burnside's whole command in North Carolina should be ordered to join him, to enable him to "assume the offensive as soon as possible." On the 18th, he repeated this request; and on the 28th, again urged that he should be "at once re-enforced by all available troops." On the 25th, General Halleck had visited the camp, and, after a careful inspection of the condition of the army, called an informal council of the officers, a majority of whom, upon learning the state of affairs, recommended its withdrawal from the Peninsula. On the 30th, he issued an order to General McClellan to make arrangements at once for a prompt removal of all the sick in his army, in order to enable him to move "in any direction." On the 2d of August, not having received any reply, General Halleck renewed his order to "remove them as rapidly as possible;" to which, on the 3d, General McClellan replied that it was "impossible to decide what cases to send off unless lie knew what was to be done with the army" and that if he was to "be " kept longer in ignorance of what was to be effected, he could not be expected to accomplish the object in view." In reply, General Halleck informed him that his army was to be "withdrawn from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek," but that the withdrawal should be concealed even from his own officers. General McClellan, on the 4th, wrote a long protest against this movement saying it mattered not what partial reverses might be sustained elsewhere there was the "true 'efence of Washington," and he asked that the order might be rescinded. To this letter, after again urging General McClellan on the 4th to hasten the removal of the sick, which he was ' ' expected to have done without waiting to know what were or would be the intentions of the Government respecting future movements," General Halleck on the 6th addressed him as follows:
The order for the removal of the sick was given to General McClellan on the 2d of August. On the 7th, he reported that three thousand seven hundred and forty had "been sent, and five thousand seven hundred still remained. On the 9th, General Halleck telegraphed McClellan that the enemy was massing his forces in front of General Pope and Burnside to crush them and move upon "Washington, and that re-enforcements must at once be sent to Aquia Creek; to which he replied that he would "move the whole army as soon as the sick were disposed of." On the 12th, in reply to the most pressing orders for immediate dispatch from General Halleck, who urged that Burnside had moved thirteen thousand troops in two days to Aquia Creek, General McClellan said if Washington was in danger, that army could scarcely arrive in time to save it. On the 14th, he announced that the movement had commenced; on the 17th, he said he "should not feel entirely secure until he had the whole army beyond the Chickahominy, but that he would then begin to forward troops by water as fast as transportation would permit." On the 23d, General Franklin's Corps started from Fortress Monroe; General McClellan followed the next day, and reached Aquia Creek on the 24tli, and Alexandria on the evening of the 26th of August.
On the 27th of June the President had issued an order consolidating into one army, to be called the Army of Virginia, the forces under Major-Generals Fremont, Banks, and McDowell. The command of this army was assigned to Major-General John Pope; and the army was divided into three corps, of which the first was assigned to Fremont, the second to Banks, and the third to McDowell. Upon receiving this order, Major-General Fremont applied to be relieved from the command which it assigned him, on the ground that by the appointment of General Pope to the chief command, his (Fremont's) position was " subordinate and inferior to that heretofore held by him, and to remain in the subordinate rank now assigned him would largely reduce his rank and consideration in the service." In compliance with his request, General Fremont was at once relieved.
On the 27th of August, General McClellan was ordered by General Halleck to "take entire direction of the sending out of the troops from Alexandria" to re-enforce Pope, whom the enemy were pressing with a powerful army, and whose head-quarters were then at Warrenton Junction, A portion of the Army of the Potomac which arrived "before General McClellan, had at once gone forward to the aid of Pope; of those which arrived after him, or which were at Alexandria when he arrived, not one reached the field, or took any part in the battles by which the army was saved from destruction and the Capital from capture.
The extent to which General McClellan, who had the " entire direction of the sending of these re-enforcements," was responsible for this result, is a matter of so much importance, not only to himself and the Government, "but to the whole country, as to demand a somewhat detailed examination.
In his report of August 4th, 1863, after giving a portion only of the correspondence between himself and the Government on this subject, General McClellan says:
Before taking up more important matters, it may be well to remark, that as General McClellan was in the City of Alexandria, and not in any way exposed to personal danger, it is difficult to appreciate the merit lie seems to make of yielding up his personal escort, provost and camp guards, and head-quarter baggage-teams, when he had no use for them himself, and when they were needed for the purpose for which they are maintained operating against the enemy, and that too in a pressing emergency. Even as it was, he seems to have retained nearly a hundred, many of whom he says were orderlies, &c., &c., around his person.
Leaving this personal matter, we come to the important question Is it true that General McClellan left, as he avers, nothing undone in his power to forward supplies and re-enforcements to General Pope' s army? Did he, on this momentous occasion, honestly and faithfully do his whole duty in this respect, without any personal aims, or any jealousy, and with the single eye to the success of our arms, and the honor, welfare, and glory of the nation?
He had been repeatedly urged to hurry forward the troops from the Peninsula. On the 9th of August, he was informed by General Halleck that "the enemy is massing his forces in front of Generals Pope and Burnside to try and crush them, and move forward to the Potomac;" and was further told, "Considering the amount of transportation at your disposal, your delay is not satisfactory. You must move with all celerity"
Again, on the 10th, General Halleck informed him that "the enemy is crossing the Rapidan in large force. They are fighting General Pope to-day. There must be no further delay in your movements: that which has already occurred was entirely unexpected, and must be satisfactorily explained. Let not a moment's time be lost, and telegraph me daily what progress you have made in executing the order to transfer your troops." Again, on the 21st, he was told, "the forces of Burnside and Pope are hard pushed, and require aid as rapidly as you can. By all means see that the troops sent have plenty of ammunition. We have no time to supply them; moreover, they may have to fight as soon as they land."
Whether or not the delays of General McClellan were excusable, those telegrams must have shown him, if proof were necessary, the emergency in which Pope was placed, and that the concentration of the two armies was not "being effected in the time expected, and, as a consequence, that Pope was in a critical position, needing immediate help to save his army from defeat. It was under these circumstances that General McClellan left the Peninsula.
When he reached Aquia on the 24th, under most positive and pressing orders from Washington, General Pope, who had been holding the line of the Rappahannock for nearly a week against the assaults of Lee' s whole army, and keeping up communication with Fredericksburg, so as to receive the re-enforcements McClellan had been ordered to send up from the Peninsula finding these re-enforcements not coming by water to join his left as fast as Lee marched by land around his right, and that his right, though stretched to Waterloo Bridge, had been turned and his rear threatened, had been obliged to throw back his right, first to Warrenton, and then to Gainesville, and his left and centre from Rappahannock and Sulphur Springs to Warrenton Junction, Bristol, and Manassas. General McClellan knew on the 24th, when at Aquia, of the abandoning of Rappahannock Station, and of Pope's having broken his communication with Fredericksburg, and himself reported, the facts to General Halleck.
August 26th, General Halleck ordered General McClellan from Aquia to Alexandria, and told him "General Franklin's Corps," which had arrived at Alexandria, "will march as soon as it receives transportation."
General Pope had, when his line was stretched from below Rappahannock Station to beyond Warrenton, asked that Franklin's Corps might be sent out to take post on his right at Gainesville, to which there was transportation by turnpike and railroad, to guard against what afterwards happened the movement of the enemy through that place on his rear. The failure to have that corps at that place, or in the action at all, was one of the chief causes of Pope's failure. Why was this?
August 27th, as already stated, General McClellan was directed "to take entire direction of the sending out of the troops from Alexandria." On the same day he was informed of the position of Pope's head-quarters; of that of most of Pope' s forces; of where Pope wished re-enforcements sent him Gainesville; and that Fitz-John Porter, then under Pope, reported a battle imminent. At 10 A.M. on that day, he was told by Halleck, "that Franklin' s Corps should march in that direction (Manassas) as soon as possible;" and again at 12 P. M., he was further told by Halleck that " Franklin's Corps should move out by forced marches, carrying three or four days' 1 provisions, and to be supplied as far as possible by railroad"
It is well to bear in mind these explicit orders, and the circumstances under which, and the object for which they were given, for General McClellan either seems to have forgotten them, or to have utterly failed to appreciate their importance. A battle reported by his favorite general, Fitz-John Porter, as imminent, within cannon sound of where he was, the road to the battle-field, a wide, straight, Macadam turnpike, well-known to both General McClellan and General Franklin, as each had been over it more than once, the whole of the enemy and army which had been pressing Pope since the 9th, now concentrating to overwhelm him, here, one would think, was every motive for him to do, as he claims to have done, every thing in his power to send re-enforcements forward, and to send them instantly.
Why was it, then, that, at 7.15 P. M. on the 29th, more than two days after the order for it to go by forced marches to re-enforce an army engaged in battle, Franklin's Corps, was still at Anandale, about seven miles from Alexandria, and Franklin himself in Alexandria? General Halleck says it was all contrary to his orders, and McClellan acknowledges himself "responsible for both these circumstances."
In the mean time, Pope's forces fought the battles of the 27th, 28th, and 29th, and were now to fight that of the 30th without Franklin's help. Why was this? Were the orders to send Franklin out countermanded? General Halleck says they were not. As it is never just to judge a person by the light obtained after the fact, let us see, so far as the correspondence enables us, what were the different phases of the case as they presented themselves at the time.
The intimation to McClellan on the 26th, that Franklin was to go to the front, was followed by the positive orders of the 27th, given at 10 A. M. and 12 M. On that day General McClellan reports that Generals Franklin, Smith, and Slocum are all in Washington; and that he had given orders to place the corps in readiness to march to the next in rank. At the same time, he reports heavy firing at Centreville.
On the 28th, Halleck, learning that McClellan, who it seems had also gone to Washington, had not returned to Alexandria, sent orders to Franklin direct, to move with his corps that day (the 28th) towards Manassas Junction. On the 28th, at 3.30 p. M., Halleck informs McClellan that " not a moment must be lost in pushing as large a force as possible towards Manassas, so as to communicate with Pope before the enemy is re-enforced." On the same day, at 7.40 P. M., he again tells him:
There is no possible room for misunderstanding the intention of the General-in-Chief from these orders. He wished, and ordered, that communication should be at once re-established with Pope, and Pope re-enforced in time to be of service.
Why did not McClellan re-establish the communication, and re-enforce Pope in time to be of service? Why did he halt Franklin's Corps at Anandale?
He gives reasons for this in his telegram to Halleck of August 29th. " By referring to my telegrams," he says, "of 10.30 A. M., 12 M., and 1 P. M., together with your reply of 2.48 P. M., you will see why Franklin' s Corps halted at Anandale." Let us examine these telegrams in connection with the circumstances then existing. The first is as follows:
To this Halleck replies:
To this McClellan sends the second of the dispatches he refers to, as follows. There are two telegrams of the same date:
Then follows the telegram of 1 P. M.:
It certainly is not easy to discover in these dispatches any indications of a strong desire to re-enforce the Army of the Potomac, then fighting a battle in his front and within his hearing, but under another commander. They evince no special interest in the result of that battle, or the fate of that army the army for which, while under his command, he had expressed so much affection, and whose defeat he afterwards declared, when he was again at its head, would be incomparably more disastrous to the nation than the capture of Washington itself. We find in these dispatches, which he cites in his own vindication, no evidence to sustain the declaration of his report, that from the moment of his arrival at Alexandria he "left nothing in his power undone to forward supplies and re-enforcements to General Pope." On the contrary, they seem to show that he had decided to do, what in a telegram of the same date he had suggested to the President, "leave Pope to get out of his scrape," and devote himself exclusively to the safety of Washington.5 He thinks any disposition of Franklin' s and Sumner' s troops wise, except sending them forward to re-enforce Pope. He is anxious to send them to Upton's Hill, to Chain Bridge, to Tennallytown, to Arlington, and Fort Corcoran anywhere and everywhere except where they were wanted most, and where alone they could assist in getting Pope "out of his scrape," and in saving the Army of the Potomac. It was natural and proper that he should give attention to the defence of Washington, for he had, as General Helleck says, "general authority over all the troops" that were defending it. But his special duty was " sending out troops from Alexandria to re-enforce Pope." Why did he give so much attention to the former, and so little to the latter duty? Why was it that, from the time of his landing at Alexandria, not another man of his army joined Pope, or made a diversion in his favor, till after Pope had fallen back from Manassas and fought four battles without the aid he had a right to expect, and which General McClellan was repeatedly and peremptorily ordered to give? Those of McClellan' s forces which had reached Alexandria before him, or were there before his arrival, Sturgis, Kearney, Hooker, and Heintzelman, had all gone forward and joined in these battles. Why could not Franklin all of whose movements were controlled by McClellan do as much with him as his brother commanders had done without him?
The first thing that McClellan did, on reaching Alexandria, in the discharge of his duties to send forward troops, was to stop those actually going! In his dispatch of August 27th, nine o'clock P. M., he says to General Halleck "I found part of Cox's command under orders to take the cars: will halt it with Franklin until morn ing! " And Cox never went out, though anxiously expected and under orders to move. What are the reasons given by McClellan for not sending, or not permitting Franklin to go? On the 27th, at quarter past eleven p. M., immediately after the positive order was issued for Franklin to move by forced marches and carry three or four days' provisions, McClellan says:
A part of the perplexity he seems to have been in was removed that day at six o' clock p. M., when he received, as he says, a copy of a dispatch from Pope to Halleck, in which Pope says: "All forces now sent forward should be sent to my right at Gainesville."
The next day, at one o'clock P. M., he telegraphs:
Again, at forty minutes past four of the 28th, he telegraphs:
A few moments later, he says:
The small force (?) to which he refers consisted, as heretofore stated, of Sumner's Corps of fourteen thousand and Franklin's of eleven thousand, a total of twenty-five thousand not going to fight a battle by itself, but to re-enforce an army already engaged, and constituting certainly a handsome re-enforcement on any field. On the 29th, he says:
On this same day:
It may be remarked here, that Franklin had not yet gone beyond Anandale about seven miles and had, as yet, neither come upon the enemy, nor joined the army in front, nor gained any information about either. If, therefore, his movement was not to continue, it must be because it was too hazardous, or because he had no reserve ammunition or transportation.
So, it seems, it was General McClellan's judgment that Franklin could not be sent, as soon as he landed, to re-enforce Pope because, first, he had his artillery only partially mounted; second, he had no cavalry; third, he had but forty rounds of ammunition, and no transportation for more. The subsequent difficulties were, that he had no transportation for his reserve ammunition, and was too weak alone, and Sumner ought not to be sent to support him, as it would leave the Capital unprotected!
It is fortunate some of McClellan's Corps preceded him from the Peninsula, and arrived and marched before he came up. For, if not, two of the corps who joined Pope and fought under him would have been halted for the reasons that stayed Franklin. Kearney joined without artillery, and Pope ordered two batteries to be given him; Porter had but forty rounds of ammunition Heintzelman joined without cavalry.
Why, may it be asked, were "neither Sunnier' s nor Franklin' s Corps in a condition to move and fight a battle?" McClellan had been told that in embarking his troops he must see they were supplied with ammunition, "as they might have to fight as soon as they landed." The men were not fatigued by hard marches, nor exhausted with fighting and lack of food, as were their companions in front. What was there to prevent their going to re-enforce them, but the orders and pretexts for delay of General McClellan?
It will have been noticed that lack of transportation was at the bottom of the alleged difficulties. Transportation was not required for supplies, for the men were ordered to carry their food with them. Is it not strange that, in view of the emergency of the case, some extraordinary means were not resorted to, to impress horses and wagons if none existed in the hands of the Government in the cities of Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington, where there was an abundance of both? Such things have been done even in this Avar, on much less important occasions than this one.
But will not this plea seem stranger still when it is found that there was no need of pressing any private property into service that there was plenty of public transportation on hand? Let the following dispatch show:
But most strange of all is, that General McClellan knew of there "being public transportation at hand, and yet did not use it even when the fate of a campaign depended upon it, and afterwards assigned the want of it as the reason for not obeying his orders to send re-enforcements. He says, in hip dispatch of August 30, to General Pope:
The inference is irresistible that General McClellan, who had charge of every thing in and around Alexandria and Washington, thought it was better that the Army of the Potomac, under Pope, should not be re-enforced, and be defeated, than that the garrisons should be subjected to the slightest inconvenience!
The answer of General Halleck to the telegrams of General McClellan, in which the latter made so many propositions about the movements of Sumner's Corps and the disposition of Cox's force and the other troops for the defence of Washington, is as follows:
It is in this dispatch that General McClellan finds his authority to halt Franklin at Anandale. Franklin had been repeatedly ordered to join Pope, but had been delayed by McClellan, who evidently did not intend he should get beyond his control if possible.
In his telegram to Halleck of one o' clock p. M. of the 29th, he asks if he may do as seems to him best with all the troops in the vicinity of Alexandria, including Franklin Franklin being still in the vicinity of Alexandria. Halleck, in giving him authority to dispose of all troops in his vicinity evidently refers to the disposition to be made of those for the forts and defences, for he proceeds to say, I want " Franklin's Corps to go far enough to find out something about the enemy." Franklin's Corps did not go out far enough to learn, any thing about the enemy. What he learned he picked up at Anandale from citizens, and probably from Banks' s wagon-train, which passed him as it came from the front, which it seems it was able to do with safety at the time McClellan considered it too hazardous for forty thousand men to move to the front to join the army.
It is unnecessary to pursue this matter any further, and show, as might easily be done, how similar delays were procured with respect to other troops which might have been sent to re-enforce Pope. It is sufficient to say that forty thousand men, exclusive of Burnside's force, were thus as it seems to us intentionally withheld from Pope at the time he was engaged in holding the army of Lee in check.
Having thus disposed of the question of re-enforcements, it now remains to say a word about supplies, which General McClellan says he left nothing undone to forward to Pope.
When at Fort Monroe he telegraphed (August 21st, 10. 52 P. M.):
August the 30th (1.45 P. M.), General Halleck telegraphed him:
To which he replied:
General McClellan might have very easily found out those calibres. His ordnance officer knew those of the corps of his own army, and he was in telegraphic communication with the ordnance officer in Washington, where a register is kept of all the batteries in service.
What was his course with respect to supplies of forage and subsistence, of which Pope's army was in such extreme need?
He directed Franklin to say to Pope he would send him out supplies if he, Pope, would send cavalry to escort them out! "Such a request" (says Pope, in his dispatch of 5 A. M., August 30), "when Alexandria is full of troops, and I fighting the enemy, needs no comment."
The Army of the Potomac, under General Pope, was defeated and driven back upon Washington. But it had contested every inch of the ground, and had fought every battle with a gallantry and tenacious courage that would have insured a decisive victory if it had been properly and promptly supported. It was not broken, either in spirit or in organization; and it fell baclj: upon the Capital prepared to renew the struggle for its salvation.
By this time, however, General McClellan had become the recognized head of a political party in the country, and a military clique in the army; and it suited the purposes of both to represent the defeat of the Army of the Potomac as due to the fact that General McClellan was no longer at its head. The progress of the rebel army, moreover, up the Potomac, with the evident intention of moving upon Baltimore or into Pennsylvania, had created a state of feeling throughout the country and in Washington eminently favorable to the designs of General McClellan's partisans; and upon the urgent but unjust representation of some of his officers that the army would not serve under any other commander, General Pope was relieved, and General McClellan again placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac, and on the 4th of September he commenced the movement into Maryland to repel the invading rebel forces.
On the 11th, he made urgent application for re-enforcements, asking that Colonel Miles. be withdrawn from Harper' s Ferry, and that one or two of the three army corps on the Potomac, opposite Washington, be at once sent to join him. "Even if Washington should be taken," he said, ' ' while these armies are confronting each other, this would not in my judgment bear comparison with the ruin and disaster that would follow a single defeat of this army," although, as will be remembered, when that army was under Pope, and engaged in a battle which might destroy it, he had said (Aug. 27), "I think we should first provide for the defence of the Capital." General Hal leek replied that "the capture of Washington would throw them back six months, if not destroy them," and that Miles could not join him until communications were opened. On the 14th, the battle of South Mountain took place, the rebels falling back to the Potomac; and on the 17th the battle of Antietam was fought, resulting in the defeat of the rebel forces, although no pursuit was made, and they were allowed, during the night and the whole of the next day, quietly to withdraw their shattered forces to the other side of the Potomac. The losses he had sustained and the disorganization of some of his commands were assigned by General McClellan as his reason for not renew ing the attack, although the corps of General Fitz-John Porter had not been brought into action at all. Orders were issued, however, for a renewal of the battle on the 19th, but it was then suddenly discovered that the enemy was on the other side of the Potomac. General McClellan did not feel authorized on account of the condition of his army to cross in pursuit, and on the 23d wrote to Washington, asking for re-enforcements, renewing the application on the 27th, and stating his purpose to be to hold the army where it was, and to attack the enemy should he attempt to recross into Maryland. He thought that only the troops necessary to garrison Washington should be retained there, and that every thing else available should be sent to him. If re-enforced and allowed to take his own course, he said, he would be responsible for the safety of the Capital.
On the 1st of October, President Lincoln visited the army and made careful inquiry into its strength and condition. On the 6th, he issued the following order for an immediate advance:
On receiving this order, General McClellan inquired as to the character of troops that would be sent him, and as to the number of tents at command of the army. He also called for very large quantities of shoes, clothing, and supplies, and. said that without these the army could not move. On the 11th, the rebel General Stuart, with a force of about twenty five hundred men, made a raid into Pennsylvania, going completely 'round our army, and thwarting all the arrangements by which General McClellan had reported that his capture was certain. On the 13th, in consequence of his protracted delays, the President addressed to General McClellan the following letter:
For over a fortnight longer General McClellan delayed any attempt to move his army in obedience to the President' s order. He spent this interval in complaints of inadequate supplies, and in incessant demands for re-enforcements; and on the 21st inquired whether it was still the President' s wish that he should march upon the enemy at once, or await the arrival of fresh horses. He was told in reply that the order of the 6th was unchanged, and that while the President, did not expect impossibilities, he was " very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity." General McClellan states in his' report that he inferred, from the tenor of this dispatch, that it was left to his own judgment whether it would be safe for the army to advance or not; and he accordingly fixed upon the first of November as the earliest date at which the forward movement could be commenced. On the 25th he complained to the Department of the condition of his cavalry, saying that the horses were fatigued and greatly troubled with sore tongue; whereupon the President addressed him the following inquiry:
The General replied that they had been engaged in making reconnoissances, scouting, and picketing; to which the President thus rejoined:
The General replied in a long dispatch, rehearsing in detail the labors performed by his cavalry, to which he thought the President had done injustice. This note elicited the following reply:
The General next started, as a new topic of discussion, the extent to which the line of the Potomac should be guarded after he left it, so as to cover Maryland and Pennsylvania from further invasions. He thought strong garrisons should be left at certain points, complained that his forces were inadequate, and made some suggestion concerning the position of the rebel army under Bragg, which led General Halleck in reply to remind him that Bragg was four hundred miles away, while Lee was but twenty. On the 27th the General telegraphed to the President that it was necessary to "fill up the old regiments of his command before taking them again into action," to which the President thus replied:
The General, in reply, explained that the language of the dispatch, which was prepared by one of his aids, had incorrectly expressed his meaning, and that he should not postpone the advance until the regiments were filled by drafted men. The army was gradually crossed over, and on the 5th of November the General announced to the President that it was all on the Virginia side. This was just a month after the order to cross had been given the enemy meantime having taken possession of all the strong points, and falling "back, at his leisure, towards his base of operations. These unaccountable delays in the movement of the army created the most intense dissatisfaction in the public mind, and completely exhausted the patience of the Government. Accordingly, on the 5th of November, an order was issued relieving General McClellan from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and directing General Burnside to take his place.
Thus closed a most remarkable chapter in the history of the war. For over fifteen months General McClellan had commanded the Army of the Potomac, the largest and most powerful army ever marshalled till then upon this continent consisting of one hundred and sixty thousand men, and furnished, in lavish profusion, with every thing requisite for effective service. Throughout the whole of this long period that army had been restrained by its commander from attacking the enemy. Except in the single instance of Antietam, where, moreover, there was no possibility of avoiding an engagement, every battle which it fought was on the defensive. According to the sworn testimony of his own commanders, General McClellan might have overwhelmed the rebel forces arrayed against him at Manassas, at Yorktown, after Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, and Antietam; but on every one of these occasions he carefully forbore to avail himself of the superiority of his position, and gave the enemy ample time to prepare for more complete and effective resistance. Tt is no part of our present purpose to inquire into the causes of this most extraordinary conduct on the part of a commander to whom, more 'completely than to any other, were intrusted the destinies of the Nation during one of the most critical periods. Whether he acted from an innate disability, or upon a political theory whether he intentionally avoided a decisive engagement in order to accomplish certain political results which he and his secret advisers deemed desirable, or whether he was, by the native constitution of his mind, unable to meet the gigantic responsibilities of his position when the critical moment of trial arrived, are points which the public and posterity will decide from an unbiased study of the evidence which his acts and his words afford. As the record we have given shows, President Lincoln lost no opportunity of urging upon him more prompt and decisive action, while in no instance did he withhold from him any aid which it was in the power of the Government to give. Nothing can show more clearly the disposition of the President to sustain him to the utmost, and to protect him from the rapidly rising tide of public censure and discontent with his ruinous and inexplicable delays, than the following remarks made by him at a war meeting held at Washington on the 6th of August, after the retreat to the James River, and just before the withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula:
1 See General McClellan's Report, dated
August 4, 1863.
2 The following extract from the official report of Major-General Magruder, dated May 3d, 1862, and published by order of the Confederate Congress, is conclusive as to the real strength of the force which General McClellan had in front of him at Yorktown:
3 See General McClellan's testimony Report of Committee on Conduct of the War, vol 1., p. 431.
4 See General McClellan's Report, August 4, 1863.
5 On the 29th he had telegraphed to the President as follows:
To this the President had thus replied:,