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d'Urbino, who, “naturally slow and indecisive,” was also restrained by partisan enmity from doing anything that might "aggrandize or add reputation” to his civil superior, so that he “overlooked opportunities of attacking the enemy or refused to improve them.” Willing to believe McClellan not only a capable organizer, but a commander competent to strike effective blows with the large army he had in camp all the past autumn and winter, they became assured that he had fallen under the control of a political cabal, which aimed to make him a Presidential candidate, and which stimulated him to undertake a mastery over national affairs, civil as well as military - to become an arbiter or mediator between North and South. In all the ups and downs of his war experience, it was noted that the Democratic Opposition ever favored him, kept in relation with him, and charged his failures, if they admitted any, to the lack of support from the Administration. He knew what it cost the treasury to maintain such an army; that every day's delay on his part added millions to a burden that might in no long time become unendurable; and hence was thought by many to be quite reconcilable to a state of things which, without much serious fighting, would incline both sides to make peace on terms that would secure to the South all they cared for, short of recognized separation. Such were believed to be the views of those in the army as well as out of it with whom he was personally most intimate.
That his mind actually settled on a scheme like this and undertook its execution can hardly be presumed of a man of such qualities as McClellan's, yet he appears all the while to have had at least a drifting tendency in
that direction. He was not making war his sole busi
“Whoso hath good stomach for fight findeth all times seasonable." When McClellan fought, it was rarely through his own initiative. He was acting on the defensive-offensive even at Antietam. His tactics after that engagement were of much the same order as before he was withdrawn from Harrison's Landing.
The President wanted a good, honest effort made to capture or destroy Lee's army. He did not wish the enemy to retire from his invasion of Maryland without at least an exemplary chastisement. He was much dissatisfied that (as he once said to the writer) “McClellan drove Lee to the river, and then just shoo-ed him across. Without earnestly attempting anything more, McClellan established his headquarters near Sharpsburg, on the Maryland side, remaining long quiescent, despite all suggestions from his superiors. Ten days after the battle he reported (September 27th): “ This army is not now in condition to undertake another campaign, nor to bring on another battle, unless great advantages aie offered by some mistake of the enemy, or pressing military exigencies render it necessary.”
Disturbed and anxious, the President again visited the General in camp, going to Sharpsburg on the ist of October, and remaining for some days. Lincoln and the General together went over the battle-grounds of South Mountain and Antietam. The entire occasion was one of kindly intercourse, in the freedom of which there was presumably an earnest effort on the part of the President to persuade, without directly ordering, the General to enter at once on such active measures as would justify his continuance in a command from which
so large a share of the supporters of the Administration insisted that he ought to be removed.
After Lincoln's return to Washington this dispatch was sent to McClellan by Halleck (October 6th):
I am instructed to telegraph you as follows: The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. Your army must move now, while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be reinforced with thirty thousand men. If you move up the valley of the Shenandoah, not more than twelve or fifteen thousand can be sent you. The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt, and when you intend to cross the river ; also to what point the reinforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on, before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads. I am directed to add that the Secretary of War and the General-in-chief fully concur with the President in these instructions.
Four days after, Stuart, with two thousand cavalry and a battery of artillery, crossed the Potomac, and made another raid quite around McClellan's army, committing depredations and destroying property in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and returning into Virginia without serious loss. On the 13th, a week after the order transmitted by the General-in-chief as above, the President made an urgent personal appeal to McClellan, in the following letter:
My Dear Sir:—You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not overcautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?
As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you can not subsist your army at Winchester, unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation, as you would have to do without the railroad last named. He now wagons from Culpeper Courthouse, which is just about twice as far as you will have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester ; but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you, and, in fact, ignores the question of time, which can not and must not be ignored.
Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is to operate upon the enemy's communications as much as possible without exposing your own." You seem to act as if this applies against you, but can not apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania. But if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely, and you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him; if he does so with less than full force, fall upon and beat what is behind, all the easier.
Exclusive of the water line, you are now nearer Richmond than the enemy is, by the route that you can and he must take. Why can you not reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march? His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord. The roads are as good on yours as on his.
You know I desired, but did not order, you to cross the Potomac below instead of above the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. My idea was, that this would at once menace the enemy's communications, which I would seize if he would permit. If he should move northward, I would follow him closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing his communications, and move toward Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should permit, and at least try to beat him to Rich
mond on the inside track. I say "try;" if we never try, we shall never succeed. If he make a stand at Winchester, moving neither north nor south, I would fight him there, on the idea that if we can not beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In coming to us, he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere, or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us than far away. If we can not beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the intrenchments of Richmond.
Recurring to the idea of going to Richmond on the inside track, the facility of supplying from the side away from the enemy is remarkable, as it were, by the different spokes of a wheel, extending from the hub towards the rim, and this whether you move directly by the chord, or on the inside arc, hugging the Blue Ridge more closely. The chord-line, as you see, carries you by Aldie, Haymarket and Fredericksburg, and you see how turnpikes, railroads, and finally the Potomac by Acquia Creek, meet you at all points from Washington. The same, only the lines lengthened a little, if you press closer to the Blue Ridge part of the way. The gaps through the Blue Ridge I understand to be about the following distances from Harper's Ferry, to-wit: Vestal's, five miles; Gregory's, thirteen; Snicker's eighteen; Ashby's, twenty-eight; Manassas, thirty-eight; Chester, forty-five, and Thornton's, fifty-three. I should think it preferable to take the route nearest the enemy, disabling him to make an important move without your knowledge, and compelling him to keep his forces together for dread of you. The gaps would enable you to attack if you should wish. For a great part of the way you would be practically between the enemy and both Washington and Richmond, enabling us to spare you the greatest number of troops from here. When, at length, running to Richmond ahead of him enables him to move this way, if he does so, turn and attack him in the rear. But I think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all easy if our troops march as well