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our army lay at Williamsburgh, on account of bad roads, which roads the rebel army found it convenient to pass with sufficient rapidity to place themselves within the outer defenses of Richmond, a distance of nearly forty miles. . They were, at least, all across the Chickahominy River.
Head-quarters reached White House on the sixteenth. Two days previously, the General had written the President that he could bring only eighty thousand men into the field, and that he wanted every man the government could send him. Mr. Stanton wrote him on the eighteenth that the President was unwilling to uncover the capital entirely, but desired that he would extend his right wing to the north of Richmond, so that McDowell could communicate with him by his left wing. “At your earnest call for reinforcements," said Mr Stanton, “he is sent forward to co-operate in the reduction of Richmond, but charged, in attempting this, not to uncover the city of Washington." General McClellan seemed to have no idea that the capital was in danger, and replied to this that he wished McDowell to join him by water. He feared that he could not join him overland in season for the coming battle, and complained that McDowell was not put more directly under his command. On the twenty-fourth of May, the President wrote, saying that McDowell and Shields would move for him on the following Monday, Shields' troops being too much worn to march earlier; and that they had so weakened their line already that Banks, in the Shenandoah valley, was in peril, and had met with a serious loss. On the same day, Mr. Lincoln was obliged, in order to save the capital, to suspend McDowell's movement toward McClellan; for the rebel General Jackson had begun a desperate push for Harper's Ferry. Against this action of the President, McClellan protested; and, on the twenty-fifth, the former wrote him a note, giving a full statement of the situation:
“Your dispatch received. General Banks was at Strasburg with about six thousand men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered at various places. On the twenty-third, a force of seven thousand to ten thousand fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Front Royal, destroying it entirely; crossed the Shenandoah, and on the twenty-fourth, yesterday, pushed on to get north of Banks on the road to Winchester General Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in which General Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total rout. Geary, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near Front Royal with ten thousand troops, following up and supporting, as I understand, the force now pursuing Banks. Also, that another force of ten thousand is near Orleans, following on in the same direction. Stripped bare, as we are here, I will do all we can to prevent them crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry or above. McDowell has about twenty thousand of his forces moving back to the vicinity of Front Royal; and Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg: both these movements intended to get in the enemy's rear.
"One more of McDowell's brigades is ordered through here to Harper's Ferry; the rest of his forces remain for the present at Fredericksburg. We are sending such regiments and dribs from here and Baltimore as we can spare to Harper's Ferry, supplying their places in some sort, calling in militia from the adjacent states. We also have eighteen cannon on the road to Harper's Ferry, of which arın there is not one at that point. This is now our situation.
"If McDowell's force was now beyond our reach, we should be entirely helpless. Apprehension of something like this, and no unwillingness to sustain you, has always been my reason for withholding McDowell's forces from you.
6* Please understand this, and do the best you can with the forces you have."
A few hours after this dispatch was sent, the President sent another, stating that the enemy was driving General Banks before him, and was threatening Leesburgh and Geary on the Manassas Gap Railroad; that the movement looked like a general and concerted one-such an one as he would not make if he were acting on the purpose of a very desperate defense of Richmond; and that, if McClellan did not at once attack that capital, he would probably have to give up the job, and come to the defense of Washington.
This dispatch moved the General. General Fitz John Porter was sent to attack a rebel force near Hanover Court
House, which he did with favorable results. General McClellan described it as a perfect rout of the enemy, at which the President wrote a dispatch, stating his gratification, but expressing his surprise that the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad was not seized again. On the twenty-sixth, Mr. Lincoln informed General McClellan that Banks was safe at Williamsport. Still the General wanted troops sent to him by water, still he wanted more troops, and still the President assured him, again and again, that he was doing and would do for him everything he could do, consistently with the safety of Washington.
A movement was commenced on the twenty-fifth to cross the Chickahominy; and, on the thirtieth and thirty-first, a battle was fought, which resulted in such a repulse of the rebels, and such heavy losses to them as greatly to alarm Richmond, and impress upon the city the belief that an immediate and fatal pursuit would be made by the federal forces. After the engagement, General McClellan crossed the river, but found the roads so bad that artillery could not be handled, and that pursuit was impossible; although the rebels had found it convenient to get back, and expected to be pursued. The following day, General Heintzelman sent a reconnoitering party within four miles of Richmond, without finding an enemy. Informed of this, General McClellan ordered the force to fall back to its old position: and on the same day wrote to Washington that he only waited for the river to fall, to cross over the rest of his army, and make a general attack; and that the morale of his army was such that he could venture much, not fearing the odds against him.
McClellan had met great losses by battle and disease; and the government did what it could for him, by placing under his command the troops at Fortress Monroe, and by sending to him McCall's division of McDowell's corps.
On the seventh of June, the General wrote to the Secretary of War that he should be ready to move as soon as McCall should reach him, and McCall reached him on the tenth. On that day, he had caught a rumor that Beauregard had reinforced the rebels in Richmond; and then he wanted some of Halleck's army in Tennessee sent to him. The Secretary assured him that Beauregard and his army were not in Richmond, but that Halleck would be urged to comply with the request, so far as he could do so with safety. The particular friends of McClellan were busy at this time with suspicions and reports that the President and Secretary of War were trying to sacrifice him; and, to put an extinguisher on this, Mr. Stanton wrote: “Be assured, General, that there never has been a moment when my desire has been otherwise than to aid you with my whole heart, mind and strength, since the hour we first met; and, whatever others may say, for their own purposes, you have never had, and never can have, any one more truly your friend, or more anxious to support you, or more joyful than I shall be at the success which I have no doubt will soon be achieved by your arms."
With a long series of dispatches in which General McClellan quarrels with the relations which General McDowell's troops held to his command, it is not necessary to burden these pages. The President wished to hold on to McDowell's troops, and still have them assist McClellan. He had sent McCall's division by water; but these were directed to be posted so that they could unite with the corps coming by land, and to be kept under McDowell. McClellan saw in this arrangement only ambition on the part of McDowell; and, in one of his dispatches, wrote the government: “If I cannot fully control all his troops, I want none of them, but would prefer to fight the battle with what I have, and let others be responsible for the results,” which was equivalent to saying that he would rather be whipped without McDowell's troops, under the circumstances, than be victorious with them.
On the twenty-first, the General sent a dispatch to the President, saying that ten thousand men had been sent from Richmond to reinforce Jackson. Mr. Lincoln informed him of the confirmation of the news, and told him that it was as good to him as a reinforcement of an equal number.
Thus the time passed away, while his army was wasting
with disease in the Chickahominy swamps, and he, with every fresh dispatch, was just “about to move." He had lain there a month; and the rebels thought it was time for him to move in the other direction. He saw the preparations, and, anticipating a defeat, he wrote to inform the government that the rebel force before him was two hundred thousand strong, and that, in case of a disaster, the responsibility could not be thrown on his shoulders. This kind of talk troubled Mr. Lincoln. “I give you all I can," said he, “and act on the presumption that you will do the best you can with what you have; while you continue, ungenerously, I think, to assume that I could give you more if I would.” At this very moment, as it appears by McClellan's report, he had ordered supplies to a point on the James River, to which he expected to retreat. On the afternoon of the twenty-sixth, the extreme right of the army was attacked; and, from that time until the army had wheeled back to the James River, there was no rest. They fell back, fighting every day, inflicting terrible losses on the enemy, and receiving sad punishment themselves. The General's pen was busy still, as it might be, for he took no part in the engagements. If he had ten thousand fresh troops, he could take Richmond, he thought; but, as it was, he could only cover his retreat. He was not responsible for the result; he must have more troops. “If I save this army now,” said he to the Secretary of War, “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.” Was ever such petulance, such insolence, borne with such patience before? The President wrote him: “Save your army at all events.” The President would not blame him. “We protected Washington,” said he, “and the enemy concentrated on you. Had we stripped Washington, he would have been upon us before the troops sent could have got to you. Less than a week ago, you notified us that reinforcements were leaving Richmond to come in front of us. It is the nature of the case, and neither you nor the government is to blame.” General McClellan called upon the President for a reinforcement of fifty thousand