Page images

CH, XI.]



A ma

Estimating the rebel forces at 150,000, The president put various queries to and supposing them to be well discip. McClellan in regard to the comparative lined and thoroughly entrenched and values of the two plans, his and Mcsupplied with artillery (see p. 94), Mc- Clellan's ; to which the general-in-chief Clellan was unwilling to advance upon answered in a lengthy paper, February Manassas during the early part of the 3d, given in his Report, urging strongly winter, notwithstanding severe censure that the base of operations by the was cast upon him for delay and in- Lower Chesapeake “ afforded the short. explicable tardiness. The president est possible route to Richmond, and did not pretend to know inuch, if any struck directly at the heart of the thing, about military science, and the enemy's power in the east.” secretary of war, though bred to the jority of the general officers, who met law and full of zeal and spirit, was not at McClellan's headquarters, approved probally better able to judge than Mr. of his plans to move by the Chesapeake Lincoln of the reasons which weighed and Rappahannock, ascending to so strongly with the general-in-chief Urbana on the Rappahannock, and against what he considered to be pre. thence crossing to Richmond, between mature, unprepared action.

forty and fifty miles westwardly. Although the roads previously had Mr. Lincoln, at one time convinced been good, yet towards the close of by interviews with McClellan that the December, 1861, they became unfavor- plans of the latter were the best, at anable, and grew more and more so as the other quite confident that his own and season advanced. Early in February, his secretary's were preferable, hesitatMcClellan, affirming that he could ed in his action, and seemed to assent "fix no definite time for an advance," with reluctance to any of the proposideclared that “the roads have gone tions of the general-in-chief. On the from bad to worse; nothing like their 8th of March, the president issued his present condition was ever known here“ General War Order No. 2 ;" by which before; they are impassable at present.” it was directed that the Army of the About the middle of January, McClellan Potomac be organized into four army recovered from a severe illness, and corps. The first, consisting of four soon learned how anxious the govern. divisions, was assigned to Gen. Mc

ment was for an immediate Dowell; the second, consisting of three

movement. The general-in. divisions, to Gen. Sumner; the third chief wished to attack Richmond by and the fourth, consisting each of three the Lower Chesapeake; which, how. divisions, to Gens. Heintzelman and ever, Mr. Lincoln did not approve, and Keyes. Gen. Wadsworth was placed issued a special war order, January in command of the troops for the de31st, directing that a point on the rail. fence of Washington;

and a fifth army road southwest of Manassas Junction corps, consisting of two divisions, was be seized and occupied, the troops to assigned to Gen. Banks.*

On the same move on or before February 22d.


* Gen. McClellan complains, in his Report, that this

VOL. IV.-17.

day, a third war order was issued, re- Dunning, at Romney, made an attack quiring that no operations be entered on the enemy stationed at Blue's Gap, a upon without leaving Washington strong position, sixteen miles distant, entirely secure, and without clearing on the road to Winchester, and routed the navigation of the Potomac from the them completely. Lander joined Kelly enemy's batteries and other obstruc- at Cumberland, and went thence to tions. The movement upon the Chesa- Romney; but finding that Jackson had peake, as McClellan wished, was also nearly surrounded him with a large ordered to move, as early as the 18th force, he marched all night to Springof March, or earlier, it possible. field. Jackson did not follow him, but

Meanwhile, events, some of them of retired to Winchester. Subsequently, great importance, had occurred at vari- Moorfield was captured; and by a spiritous points in Virginia, since the begin. ed dash upon the rebel position at ning of the war. These may properly Bloomery Gap, Lander took the enemy here be noted, as having, to a consider- completely hy surprise, several officers able extent, modified Gen. McClellan's and men, in all seventy-five, being made plan of the campaign.

prisoners. On the 11th of February, Early in January, the rebel Gen. Lander telegraphed to McClellan that Jackson, who had been purposing for the district was cleared of the enemy. some time to move from Winchester to The war department (February 17th)

the northwest, left that place, acknowledged the activity and valuable

and advanced towards Hancock, services of Gen. Lander; but he was some forty miles distant. Arriving at compelled to resign on account of ill Bath, through a pitiless storm of snow health, and died on the 2d of March. and hail, he drove out four companies On the 24th of February, Colonel of our troops, who retreated to Han. Geary (of Banks's command,) crossed cock, across the Potomac, and made a the Potomac, and took possession of stand on receiving reinforcements there. Harper's Ferry, which, half-burned and Jackson followed and demanded the plundered by the rebels, was mostly surrender of the town; but Gen. deserted by its inbabitants. The Lander, who was in command, refused heights being secured, a strong force oc. peremptorily. Firing across the river cupied Charlestown on the 28th, on the was tried by both parties, but to little advance to Winchester. Martinsburg, purpose. Jackson moved westwardly, an important town on the Baltimore and Lander made his preparations to and Ohio Railroad, was occupied on cross into Virginia soon after. Colonel the 3d of March, and Smithfield on the

6th. The enemy, in the direction of order was issued hastily, without consultation at all with him. Ho affirms that he had always been in Winchester, were evidently falling favor of the principle of organization into army back; and it was expected that a stand yet for this. “ These views had been frequently ex- would be made at that place by Jackpressed by me to the president and members of the son. Geary, meanwhile, advanced with cabinet ; it was therefore with as much regret as sur his force and occupied Lorettsville, and prise that I learned the existence of this order.”


corps, but he did not think that the time had come as


CH. XI.]




was very successful in driving before tent; and so skilfully was all this

perhim a body of Mississippi troops, station formed, despite Gen. McClellan's “secret ed at the town; these presently retired service force,” to give information of to Hillsborough. Leesburg was oc- the rebel doings, that, when our army cupied on the 8th of March, the rebels reached Manassas, there was not a gun under Hill having hastily evacuated it

. left to be captured, or hardly a straggler Sixty-seven prisoners, over one hundred to be taken prisoner. On Sunday even horses, and a quantity of stores were ing, March 9th, the last of the rebel force captured.

abandoned Centreville, retreating in perJackson evacuated Winchester, March fect order, leaving the formidable line 11th; it was immediately taken posses- of fortifications on the ridge entirely sion of, the next day, by our troops, empty, save a few wooden painted logs, under Gens. Hamilton and Williams. which had been placed in the embraThe fortifications at this place, which sures. The famous stone bridge over had been supposed to be formidable, Bull Run, and another over Cob Run, were found to be hastily constructed were destroyed in the retreat. and of no importance. The brigade of Gen. McDowell, with the advance of Gen. Shields was now quartered at the army, arrived at Centreville on the Winchester, where Gen. Banks also 10th of March, and dispatched a cavalry established his headquarters.

force the same evening to Manassas, This movement, threatening as it did whence the last of the rebel troops had the left flank of the rebels, hastened departed in the morning. Nearly their retirement along the entire line everything of value had been removed, from Aquia Creek to the Shenandoah. and nothing remained but the refuse of Well advised of the progress of vast the camp, the lines of rude huts, etc. military preparations on the Potomac, It was a mortifying confession, but it and aware that one large force was be had to be made, that the rebels had got fore them; that another was fast gather the better of us, and that their retreat ing from Harper's Ferry, on their flank; on this occasion was equivalent to a and that probably speedy movement victory. It required all the public conwould be made by the Chesapeake in fidence heretofore placed upon Mctheir rear, the rebel leaders resolved to Clellan and his forthcoming victories, to decline a battle, which had been for escape the conviction that the number of months eagerly expected by the people the rebels had been greatly over-estimatof the loyal states. Retreat, at the pre-ed, and that we had given them an adsent, was their policy, and retreat they vantage, especially in the way


preaccomplished in the coolest and most paring for defence against our advance, scientific manner. The heavy artillery which was likely to protract the con

at Manassas was leisurely re- test far longer than any one as yet had

moved, the railroad leading contemplated. south answering the purpose of trans- McClellan, having entered upon the porting men and munitions to any ex- | active duties of commanding the ad.


[ocr errors]

vance movement of the army, did not At a council of the generals comexpect certainly that any change would manding army corps,

manding army corps, held at headquarbe made in his official position as gene- ters

, March 13th, it was deemed most ral-in-chief. By the war order, however, expedient, Washington

expedient, Washington being properly which was issued on the 11th of March, secured against attack, and Manassas it was ordered: “ Major-General Mc being occupied in force, to proceed to Clellan, having personally taken the the advance upon Richmond by way field at the head of the Army of the of Fortress Monroe. The president and Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is war department approved this plan of relieved from the command of the other operations, and urged immediate, ener. military departments, he retaining com- getic action. mand of the Department of the Poto- Before proceeding further, however, mac.” By the same order, Gen. Halleck with the narrative of military operawas placed in command of the Depart. tions in Virginia, we must call the ment of the Mississippi, and Gen. Fre-reader's attention to the celebrated enmont in command of the Mountain De counter between the Merrimac and the partment, i. e., the region west of the De Monitor, not only because of its general partment of the Potomac. Each of effect upon the progress of the great these commanders was ordered to re- contest, but also because of its marked port directly and frequently to the importance in the history of naval war secretary of war.*

fare in modern times. Certainly, nothAlthough not a little mortified at the ing which has ever occurred in connec course which had been pursued towards tion with ships of war, and with athim, McClellan, three days afterwards, tempts to render them invulnerable, is issued a spirited address to the soldiers of more remarkable and more significant the Army of the Potomac, in which hede in its results than this memorable enclared, that, though he had held them counter. back, it was to discipline them and fit It will be remembered, that when them to “give the death-blow to the the rebels seized upon the navy yard

‘ rebellion.” He also assured them, that at Norfolk (see p. 24), the U.S. steamer he was ready to share all dangers and Merrimac was one of the vessels which trials with them, and that he held it an was scuttled and abandoned by Capt. honor to belong to the Army of the Macaulay. Subsequently, she was raisPotomac.

ed and placed in the dry dock, and * McClellan in his Report, states that the first know- special care was bestowed upon fitting ledge he had of this order was through the newspapers. her out in such wise as to be invincible He addressed a note to the president, cheerfully acceding to the disposition thus made of his services, and to all attack, and consequently able to declaring that no consideration of self would in any act as a universal destroyer. Her hull manner interfere with the discharge of his public was cut down, and a bomb-proof cover

+ The rebel batteries on the Potomac at Cockpit ing of wrought iron put over her main Point and other stations were abandoned soon after the deck. Her bow and stern were sharpretreat from Manassas, and the river was once more free ened and clad in steel, with a projecting from annoying and vexatious obstructions.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »