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hannock-which date will be seen to be two weeks later than the date fixed for the advance of all the armies by the President.
On the eighth of March, the President ordered General McClellan to organize that part of his army which he proposed to engage in active operations, into four Army Corps, to be commanded respectively by General McDowell, General Sumner, General Heintzelman and General Keyes; and directed the order to be executed with such dispatch as not to delay operations already determined on-alluding to the movement by the Chesapeake and Rappahannock. On the same day, he issued another order: that no change of base should take place without leaving in and about Washington such an army as should make the city secure; that no more than two army corps should move before the Potomac should be cleared of rebel batteries; and that the movement should begin as early as the eighteenth of March.
On the next day, as has already been stated, the enemy retired unsuspected and undisturbed from his defenses; and then General McClellan moved forward, not to pursue, according to his own authority, but to give his troops some exercise, and a taste of the march and bivouac, before more active operations. On the fifteenth, the army moved back to Alexandria.
On the eleventh of March, General McClellan was relieved from the command of other military departments, because he had personally taken the field. Major-General, Halleck received the command of the department of the Mississippi, and General Fremont that of the mountain department. On the thirteenth, a council of war decided that, as the enemy had retreated behind the Rappahannock, the new base of operations should be Fortress Monroe, on certain conditions which touched the neutralization of the power of the Merrimac, (an iron plated rebel vessel which had already destroyed the frigates Cumberland and Congress, and been beaten back by the Monitor,) means of transportation, and naval auxiliaries sufficient to silence the batteries on York River. On the same day, Mr. Stanton wrote to General McClellan, stating that the
President saw no objection to the plan, Lut directing that such a force should be left at Manassas Junction as would make it entirely certain that the enemy should not repossess it, that Washington should be left secure, and that, whatever place might be chosen as the new base, the army should move at once in pursuit of the enemy, by some route.
The President was impatient for action. Not a blow had been struck. Back from the Potomac blockade, and back from Manassas, the enemy had been permitted to retire without the loss of a man or a gun.
On the thirty-first of March, Mr. Lincoln ordered Blenker's division from the army of the Potomac to join General Fremont, who had importuned him for a larger force, and who was supported in his request by exacting friends. In a note to General McClellan, he said,-"I write this to assure you that I did so with great pain, understanding that you would wish it otherwise. If you could know the full pressure of the case, I am confident that you would justify it." General Banks, who had been ordered to cover Washington by occupying Manassas, was ordered on the first of April to force General Jackson back from Winchester.
Transportation had already been provided by the War Department for moving the troops to any new base that might be determined on, and General McClellan was not obliged to wait. On the first of April, there were under his command, by the official report of the Adjutant-general, 146,255 men in the four corps, with regular infantry and cavalry and other troops to raise the number to 158,419. In all the orders given by the President concerning the movements of this army, there was one condition that he insisted upon, viz, that troops should be left sufficient to protect Washington; and by General McClellan's order only twenty thousand effective men were to be left with General Wadsworth, the military governor of the District. The force was much smaller than was necessary, according to General McClellan's previous calculations; and General Wadsworth was so much impressed with its inadequacy that he called the attention of the war department to
the subject. The letter was referred to Adjutant-general Thomas and General E. A. Hitchcock, whose decision was embodied in the words: "In view of the opinion expressed by the council of the commanders of army corps, of the force necessary for the capital, though not numerically stated, and of the force represented by General McClellan as left for that purpose, we are of opinion that the requirement of the President that this city shall be left entirely secure, not only in the opinion of the General-in-chief, but that of the commanders of all the army corps also, has not been fully complied with." In the meantime, General McClellan had gone forward to Fortress Monroe, and all but two corps of the troops had left for the new base. When, therefore, Generals Thomas and Hitchcock made their report, and the President saw that Washington was about to be left without sufficient defense, he directed the Secretary of War to order that one of the two corps not then embarked should remain in front of Washington, and that the other corps should go forward as speedily as possible. This was under date of April third. The first corps, under General McDowell, was designated for this protective service, numbering 38,454 men. Two new military departments were at once erected-the Department of the Rappahannock, under General McDowell, and the Department of the Shenandoah, lying between the mountain department and the Blue Ridge, under General Banks.
General McClellan pushed a portion of his troops toward Yorktown at once-toward à line of intrenchments held by the enemy, stretching across the Peninsula. On the fifth of April he wrote to the President, dating his letter "Near Yorktown," and stating that the enemy were in large force in his front, and that they apparently intended to make a determined resistance. At that time, the rebel force at that point, according to subsequent reports by the rebels themselves, did not exceed ten thousand men. No one doubts now that General McClellan's cautiousness betrayed his judgment, and that a strong and well-directed attack would have swept the rebels out of their works.
In this letter, he began his long-continued complaint of inadequate force. He begged the President to reconsider his order detaching the first corps from his command, as it was his opinion that he should have to fight all the available force of the rebels, not far from the place where he was writing. If he could not have the whole corps, he begged for Franklin and his division. On the sixth, Mr. Stanton replied that Sumner's troops were on the way to him, that Franklin's division was on the advance to Manassas, and that there were no means of transportation to send it forward in time for service in his operations. "All in the power of the government," added the Secretary, "shall be done to sustain you, as occasion may require."
Another day passed away; and, on the date of Mr. Stanton's dispatch, General McClellan wrote again, begging for Franklin's division, complaining that he had no sufficient transportation, and stating that the order forming new departments deprived him of the power of ordering up wagons and troops, absolutely necessary for his advance on Richmond. He requested that the material he had prepared and necessarily left behind, with wagon trains, ammunition, and Woodbury's brigade, might be subject to his order. Mr. Lincoln immediately telegraphed him that his order for forwarding what he had demanded, including Woodbury's brigade, was not, and would not be interfered with, informing him at the same time that he had then more than one hundred thousand troops with him, independent of those under General Wool's command. Mr. Lincoln closed his dispatch with the words: "I think you had better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick River at once. They will probably use time as advantageously as you can."
Mr. Lincoln, like the whole country, was convinced that there was no such force behind those works as the fears of the General had counted there; and it is now humiliating to learn from the official report of the rebel commander Magruder, that, "with five thousand men, exclusive of the garrisons, we (they) stopped and held in check over one hundred thousand
of the enemy." At Gloucester, Yorktown and Mulberry Island, he was obliged to put garrisons amounting to six thousand men, and he had only five thousand men left to defend a line of thirteen miles. With a hundred thousand men at his back, General McClellan went to work with shovels to begin a regular siege. On the ninth of April, Mr. Lincoln wrote him a letter which is so full of wise counsel, kind criticism, and personal good-will, that it deserves record here:
"My Dear Sir-Your dispatches, complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much. "Blenker's division was withdrawn from you before you left here; and you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acquiesced in it-certainly not without reluctance.
"After you left, I ascertained that less than twenty thousand unorganized men, without a single field battery, were all you designed to be left for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction; and part of this even was to go to General Hooker's old position. General Banks' corps, once designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up on the line of Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again exposing the upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This presented, or would present, when McDowell and Sumner should be gone, a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappahannock and sack Washington. My implicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of all the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell.
"I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave Banks at Manassas Junction: but, when that arrangement was broken up, and nothing was substituted for it, of course I was constrained to substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond, via Manassas Junction, to this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops? This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade.
"There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now with you. When I telegraphed you on the sixth, saying you had over a hundred thousand with you, I had just obtained from the Secretary of War a statement taken, as he said, from your own returns, making one hundred and eight thousand then with you and en route to you. now say you will have but eighty-five thousand when all en route to you shall have reached you. How can the discrepancy of twenty-three thousand be accounted for?