« PreviousContinue »
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:
It will be seen from what has preceded that I lost no time that could be avoided in moving the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula to the support of the Army of Virginia; that I spared no effort to hasten the embarkation of the troops at Fort Monroe, Newport News, and Yorktown, remaining at Fort Monroe myself until the mass of the army had sailed; and that after my arrival at Alexandria, I left nothing in my power undone to forward supplies and re-enforcements to General Pope. I sent, with troops that moved, all the cavalry I could get hold of. Even my personal escort was sent out upon the line of the railway as a guard, with the provost and camp guards at head-quarters, retaining less than one hundred men, many of whom were orderlies, invalids, members of bands, &c. All the head-quarters teams that arrived were sent out with supplies and ammunition, none being retained even to move the headquarters camp. The squadron that habitually served as my personal escort was left at Falmouth with General Burnside, as he was deficient in cavalry.
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 he seems to make of yielding up his personal escort, provost and camp guards, and headquarter 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, etc., etc., 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 General 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
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 occured 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 ex
cusable, 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
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., ho was further told by Halleck that " Franklin's Corps should move out by forced marches, carrying three or four days' 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, wellknown 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 reenforce 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 con
trary to his orders, and McClellan acknowledges himself "re sponsible for both these circumstances,"
In the meantime, 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 must be no further delay in moving Franklin's Corps towards Manassas. They must go to-morrow morning ready or not ready. If we delay too long to get ready, there will be no necessity to go at all, for Pope will either be defeated or victorious without our aid. If there is a want of wagons, the men must carry provisions with them till the wagons come to their relief."
There is no possible room for misunderstanding the intention of the General-in-Chief from these orders. He wished,