Page images


Gen. McClellan, as previously stated beginning to be learned and appreci. (see p. 45), on the call of the govern.ated ment, proceeded at once to Washington, The government, as well as the perand entered upon the work of no light ple, were disposed to regard Gen. Mc. magnitude, in the existing crisis. “I Clellan, though comparatively a young found,” he says, in a letter to the secre- man (born, 1826), as worthy of almost tary of war, “no army to command; a unlimited confidence; and he was mere collection of regiments cowering on eulogized, for a time, in terms the banks of the Potomac, some perfect. which formed a painful contrast ly raw, others dispirited by the recent to subsequent exhibitions of popular defeat (at Bull Run). Nothing of any feeling. On the 20th of August, he consequence had been done to secure formally entered upon command of the the southern approaches to the capital, Army of the Potomac, which, as at that by means of defensive works; nothing time constituted, comprised the troops whatever had been undertaken to de serving in the former departments of fend the avenues to the city on the Washington and North-eastern Virnorthern side of the Potomac. The ginia, in the valley of the Shenandoah, troops were not only undisciplined, un- and in the states of Maryland and Deladrilled and dispirited; they were not ware.* even placed in military positions. The At the president's request, McClellan city was almost in a condition to have prepared a paper, which he called a been taken by a dash of a regiment of “ Memorandum," and on the 4th of

August, submitted it to Mr. Lincoln. Gen. McClellan came to his work A passage or two may be quoted as with much prestige, and great things giving the views of one who was enwere expected of him on all hands. He began by enforcing military disci- * On the 6th of September, the following order was pline in the camps at the capital, issu-issued: “The Majorgeneral commanding desires and

requests that in future there may be a more perfect re ing an order to this effect, July 30th ; spect for the Sabbath on the part of his command. osticers of all grades were required to be We are fighting in a holy cause, and should endeavor

to deserve the benign favor of the Creator. Unless in at their posts and attend to their duties; the case of an attack by the enemy, or some other exand a board was appointed for examina. treme military necessity

, it is commended to comtion of the officers of volunteer regi- manding officers, that all work shall be suspended on ments. Congress, as we bave seen, au- made on that day ; that the men shall, as far as possithorized the president to call for 500,- ble, be permitted to rest from their labors ; that they

shall attend Divine service after the customary Sunday 000 volunteers; and the loyal states morning inspection, and that officers and men shall nobly responded to the call. The les alike use their influence to insure the utmost decorum son of the defeat at Bull Run was now gards this as no idle form. One day's rest in seven is

and quiet on that day. The General commanding re

necessary to men and animals. More than this, the * “Report of Gen. George B. McClellan upon the Or- observance of the Holy Day of the God of mercy and of ganization of the Army of the Potomac, and its Cam- battles is our sacred duty.” At a later date (Nov. 27th), paigns in Virginia and Maryland, from July 26th, 1801, this order was directed to take effect in all the camps to November 7th, 1862."

of the United States Army.


Ch. VIL]




trusted with the important and respon- that a smaller force might accomplish sible position of commanding-general, the object in view, but I understand and who, at this early period of the it to be the purpose of this great nation struggle, seemed to have entertained a to re-establish the power of its governstrong conviction of the powers of re- ment, and restore peace to its citizens, sistance possessed by the rebels. in the shortest possible time.

“ The object of the present war differs Every mile we advance carries us furfrom those in which nations are enga- ther from our base of operations, and ged, mainly in this: that the purpose of renders detachments necessary to cover ordinary war is to conquer a peace, and our communications, while the enemy make a treaty on advantageous terms; will be constantly concentrating as he in this contest it has become necessary falls back. I propose, with the force to crush a population sufficiently nu- which I have requested, not only merous, intelligent, and warlike to con- drive the enemy out of Virginia and ocstitute a nation. We have not only to cupy

We have not only to cupy Richmond, but to occupy Charlesdefeat their armed and organized forces ton, Savannah, Montgomery, Pensacola, in the field, but to display such an over- Mobile, and New Orleans; in other whelming strength as will convince all words, to move into the heart of the our antagonists, especially those of the enemy's country and crush the rebellion governing aristocratic class, of the utter in its very

heart." impossibility of resistance. Our late For several months, McClellan was reverses make this course imperative. busily engaged in getting the Army of

When we have re- the Potomac into shape, and in renderorganized our main army here, ing it fit for active operations. The 10,000 men ought to be enough to pro- new levies were recruited and pressed tect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad forward with great rapidity; arms and and the Potomac, 5,000 will garrison equipments were manufactured and Baltimore, 3,000 Fort Monroe, and not supplied as fast as possible; and the more than 20,000 will be necessary at general voice of the people, full of pathe utmost for the defence of Washing. triotism and sanguine of success, was in ton. For the main army of operations favor of immediate advance. I urge the following composition : 250 As the army gained strength and regiments of infantry, say 225,000 men; greater adaptedness for the work before 100 field batteries, 600 guns, 15,000 it, the rebels, who seem to have been kept men ; 28 regiments of cavalry, 25,500; well supplied, by spies and traitors, 5 regiments of engineer troops, 7,500; with information in respect to matters total, 273,000. This force must be sup- in and about Washington, called in plied with the necessary engineer and their advanced pickets, and seasonably pontoon trains, and with transportation retired from their posts of observation for every thing save tents.

near the capital, and from our powerful The force I have recommended is large; force gathered there. A grand review the expense is great. It is possible of artillery and cavalry was held on the

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


8th of October ; it was an imposing be postponed beyond Nov. 25th, or a affair, and seemed to furnish evidence few weeks from the date at which he of the spirit and energy of the army, was writing. and its capability soon to march against During the summer there were vari. the enemy. There were 6,000 cavalry ous exhibitions of violent angry feeling and 112 guns, with an artillery force of at the North, in attacks upon some 1,500 men; and the president and other newspaper offices and editors who celebrities were present.

sympathized with, and tried to advo At the close of October, McClellan cate, the cause of secession and rebei submitted a “statement of the condition lion. The grand jury of the United of the army under his command, and States Circuit Court, sitting in New the measures required for the preserva York, presented several papers as “dis

tion of the government and the loyal presses,” “ encouraging the rebels,”

suppression of the rebellion." and injuring the interests of the Union. In this statement, inferring from what The government sanctioned this view had been learned through spies, prison of the subject, and held that the neces ers, etc., that the rebels had a force on sities of the case required some limit the Potomac not less than 150,000 to be placed on the present unbounded, strong, well drilled and equipped, ably licentious freedom of the press. This commanded and strongly entrenched, * same plea of necessity was put forth McClellan expressed his opinion that to justify the numerous arrests of perthe army was not powerful enough to sons of influence, who were suspected advance with any prospect of success. of disloyalty, or known to be rendering Holding, too, that the salvation of the assistance, in different ways, to the country depended on the army he was rebel machinations against the govern commanding, he was indisposed to ment; and it was ably, if not satisfac move until he had, beside 150,000 torily, argued, that these and all permen for advance, some 60,000 more sons acting in a hostile manner, opeu for garrison and guard duty, and until or secret, to the lawful authority of the he had 200 more guns at least, and land, must be arrested, and restrained everything else requisite. The actual by the supreme executive of the United force at this date (October 27th) he States.* stated, was only 76,000 fit for an ad

On the 14th of October, a circular vance, and about 200 guns. Possibly, was issued by the government, directed he thought, the army might, by special, to the governors of the northern states persistent effort, assume, this present on the seaboard and lakes; and atten seisun, offensive operations; and in his tion was asked to the improvement judgment, the advance ought not to

* Nearly 200 persons were committed to Fort * This number was greatly exaggerated, as we now Lafayette during the three months from July to October, know, since the rebel force in Virginia at this date 1861. For a discussion of the “ War Powers under the amounted to less than 70,000 men; in drill and discip- Constitution of the United States," see the volume with line the rebels were also far inferior to McClellan's this title, by William Whiting, Esq., Solicitor of the

War Depe.inent; pp. 342



Cu. VII.]



and completion of the defences of the two hundred yards in width and three loyal states at the earliest moment. miles in length, unequally dividing the The ground taken was, that though the stream between the two shores. Conrebel efforts had not succeeded abroad rad's Ferry was at the upper end of the to the extent they desired, yet they Island. The river was much swollen were very active; and it was “neces- by the autumnal rains, having risen, in sary now, as it has hitherto been, to a few days, some ten or more feet above take every precaution that is possible the fording point. to avoid the evils of foreign war, to be Gen. McCall, in accordance with insuperinduced upon those of civil com-structions, moved forward, on the 19th motion, which we are endeavoring to of October, and occupied Dranesville, cure."

seventeen miles west of Washington, Gen. Banks, as stated on a previous in Fairfax county, Virginia. This page (see p. 56), having superseded Gen. being accomplished, Gen. McClellan Patterson, at the close of July, our sent a dispatch to Gen. Stone, informtroops evacuated Harper's Ferry, and ing him of McCall's purposed reconnaiscrossed the Potomac again. This course sances, in all directions, against the seemed needful in view of the outlying enemy, and adding: “The general deenemy in Virginia. Various skirmishes sires that you keep a good lookout took place during the summer, gener- upon Leesburg, to see if this movement ally with marked success on the part has the effect to drive them away. of our troops. On the 16th of Octo- Perhaps a slight demonstration on your ber, Col. Geary, with about 600 men, part would have the effect to move

who had been seizing upon them.” On receiving this from Gen.

some 20,000 bushels of wheat McClellan, Stone began at once a movea few miles above Harper's Ferry, was ment which resulted, next day, in the attacked by the rebels at Bolivar disaster at Ball's Bluff. He proceeded, Heights. The assault was very spirited; early in the afternoon of the 20th, with but our men, after a few hours' fighting, Gorman's brigade and some companies gained a complete victory.

of troops, to Edwards' Ferry. He or. Early in October, Gen. McClellan dered Col. Devens, of the 15th Massaordered a reconnaissance to ascertain chusetts, to ferry over his regiment to the enemy's strength on the right, in Harrison's Island, using some flat boats the neighl orhood of the Potomac. from the canal for this

At Gen. Stone, having his headquarters at the same time, he ordered to Conrad's Poolesville, was within easy striking Ferry, Col. Lee's battalion, of the 20th distance of Conrad's and Edwards' Massachusetts, and other regiments Ferries, which, some four miles from from Rhode Island and New York. one another, afforded the means of Several additional regiments, including crossing the Potomac at this part of its Col. Baker's California regiment, num. course. Intermediate between the two bering in all about 3,000 men, were left ferries was Harrison's Island, about as a reserve a few miles in the rear.



A small body of the enemy appear wood, and sent for further orders. ing in the direction of Leesburg, Gor- About seven A.M. on the 21st of October, man was ordered to deploy his forces some riflemen and cavalry appeared in their view, a feint being made of on the road to Leesburg: whereupon crossing, and shell and shot being dis- Devens, about an hour later, fell back charged from the battery into the place towards the bluff

, where he was directed of the enemy's concealment. Three by Gen. Stone to remain, with the ashoat loads, about thirty-five in each, surance of being supported. About crossed and recrossed the river in trips noon, he was attacked by musketry occupying six or seven minutes. At from the woods and fell back some dusk, Gorman's brigade and the Michi. sixty yards, to obtain a better position; gan troops returned to camp. The and again, at one o'clock, he retired still other forces at Harrison's Island and nearer the bluff, where soon after rein. Conrad's Ferry remained in position. forcements arrived Late in the afternoon, Stone sent to Colonel Baker, who had now reached McClellan a dispatch, in which, beside the Virginia shore, had been roused up what has just been related, he spoke at two o'clock, A.M., and speedily got of his means of transportation at hand. his brigade ready for a march to Con. “I have means," he said, “of crossing rad's Ferry. Here, the means of cross125 men once in 10 minutes at each ing to Harrison's Island were anything of two points. River falling slowly.” but sufficient, and the means of getting

At ten P.M. word was brought to Gen. from the island to the shore across the Stone at Edwards' Ferry, that Captain rapid, swollen current were still worse. Philbrick, of the 13th Massachusetts, A narrow and difficult ascent also led who conducted the reconnoitring party, to the bluff and the field where Col sent out about dark by Col. Devens, Devens and his men now were. Hence, had returned to Harrison's Island, hav- after a most tedious and vexatious pasing been within a mile of Leesburg, sage, it was between one and two and discovered, as he thought, a small o'clock in the afternoon, instead of six encampment of the enemy. Immedia- hours earlier, when Col. Baker reached tely, Stone issued special orders to Col. the scene of action, probably the worst Devens to cross over and surprise the position which could have been contrirebels ; Col. Lee was ordered to Har- ved for our men, and dangerous in the rison's Island with his force to cover extreme. Colonel Baker took command, Devens's return ; and Col. Baker was having, all told, 1,900 men, while the directed to take his California regiment enemy, in large numbers, were posted and be at Conrad's Ferry at sunrise. securely in the thick woods. He had These orders were duly received, and had left to his discretion by Stone, to Col. Devens with 650 men reached the reinforce or withdraw Devens's men: top of the bluff at daylight. On ad- but, as before he arrived the attack had vancing, the rebel camp was found to begun, he concluded to fight, even at have no existence; Lee halted in a so fatal a disadvantage.

« PreviousContinue »