Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

.

Fremont on the 8th of June, and the next day with a brigade of Shields (of McDowell's corps) at Port Republic, Jackson freed himself from his opponents and retired from the valley without serious loss. The President was disappointed and chagrined. On the 9th he ordered Fremont to halt at Harrisonburg, pursuing Jackson no further, and to await orders, soon to be sent.

The General and some of his subordinate officers, of whom several, as well as a good proportion of the rank and file, were of German extraction, thought the President should send reinforcements and allow pursuit of Jackson — speaking their mind with some freedom in several communications. Lincoln replied to Fremont, June 13th: “We can not afford to keep your force and Banks's and McDowell's engaged in keeping Jackson south of Strasburg and Front Royal.

He can have no substantial reinforcement so long as a battle is pending at Richmond. Surely you and Banks in supporting distance are capable of keeping him from returning to Winchester.”

Later (June 15th) he said, in reply to a letter of Fremont: “I think Jackson's game — his assigned worknow is to magnify the accounts of his numbers and reports of his movements, and thus, by constant alarms, to keep three or four times as many of our troops away from Richmond as his own force amounts to. Thus he helps his friends at Richmond three or four times as much as if he were there. Our game is not to allow this.' To renewed importunities, the President replied in a plain-speaking letter (June 16th):

Early in March last, when I assigned you to the command of the Mountain Department, I did tell you I would give you all the force I could, and that I hoped to make it reach 35,000. You at the same time told me that within a reasonable time you would seize the railroad at or east of Knoxville, Tenn., if you could. There was then in the department a force supposed to be 25,000, the exact number as well known to you as to me. After looking about two or three days you called, and distinctly told me that if I would add the Blenker division to the force already in your department you would undertake the job. The Blenker division contained 10,000, and, at the expense of great dissatisfaction of General McClellan, I took it from his army and gave it to you. My promise was literally fulfilled. I have given you all I could, and have given you very nearly, if not quite, 35,000.

On the 23d of May, more than two months afterward, you were at Franklin, Va., not within 300 miles of Knoxville, nor within eighty miles of any part of the railroad east of it, and not moving forward, but telegraphing here that you could not move for lack of everything. Now, do not misunderstand me. I do not say you have not done all you could. I presume you met unexpected difficulties; and I beg you to believe that, as surely as you have done your best, so have I. I have not the power now to fill up your corps to 35,000. I am not demanding of you to do the work of 35,000. I am only asking of you to stand cautiously on the defensive, get your force in order, and give such protection as you can to the Valley of the Shenandoah and to Western Virginia.

Lincoln had certainly not overrated the importance of making the national capital secure, nor had he erred in his judgment of the inadequacy of McClellan's intended provision for its defense. The event proved that the retention of a large part of McDowell's corps in position to aid Banks in case of necessity was a wise precaution. But there were serious embarrassments in making an effective disposal of that force in its double relation, and the difficulty was not relieved by creating an independent department for McDowell, intermediate between Banks and McClellan — the three Generals having no responsible chief but the President himself. Seeing little hope of Fremont's accomplishing anything in his “Mountain Department,” Lincoln had tried to make him useful as a support to Banks in the valley, and thus at length had in hand three small armies, whose operations he did not so well succeed in directing as to encourage further trial. He determined, therefore, to unite the three smaller armies under one commander, and to appoint a General-in-chief over all. In carrying out this purpose he called two Generals from the West.

General Pope in his New Madrid campaign had gained distinction, and proved himself fitted for a high command. He enjoyed the favor of his immediate superior, Halleck; and the President was all the more pleased to give him a well-earned promotion from long acquaintance with his distinguished father, Judge Nathaniel Pope, at Springfield. Unexpectedly summoned to Washington, General Pope learned there on the 24th of June that he had been selected to command the three consolidated armies. It was well known at the time to friends of the General with whom he conversed at all freely that, far from being elated with the offer of such advancement, he greatly desired to be excused from its acceptance. The President, however, insisted, and on the 26th an order was issued constituting the “Army of Virginia," under command of Major-General John Pope, the forces of Fremont, McDowell, and Banks remaining under each respectively as corps commander. At once Fremont asked

[ocr errors]

to be relieved, which was granted, and Major-General Franz Sigel was appointed in his stead.

General Halleck was later assigned to the position of General-in-chief at Washington. While he remained at Corinth — a key position at the crossing of railway lines with termini at Memphis, Mobile, and Charleston (via Chattanooga) — Forts Pillow and Randolph, on the Mississippi, were taken (on the 4th of June), and Flag-officer Davis (successor to Foote, disabled by wounds received at Fort Donelson) beat the enemy's gunboats in a lively contest (on the 6th) before the bluffs of Memphis. That city was immediately surrendered, and soon became the headquarters of General W. T. Sherman, as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Farragut had ineffectually bombarded Vicksburg early in May, and after cruising a while down the river, he returned with Porter and his mortars, renewing the attack late in June. The mortars proved to be powerless against the batteries on the high bluffs, but after silencing the water batteries, Farragut passed Vicksburg and communicated with Flag-officer Davis above. There remained to the Confederates only that part of the Mississippi River between Vicksburg and Port Hudson (above Baton Rouge) when Halleck transferred his Western command to Grant.

The President had as yet but imperfect information touching the operations around Richmond when he telegraphed McClellan, July 2d: “Your dispatch of yesterday induces me to hope that your army is having some rest. In this hope, allow me to reason with you for a moment. When you ask for fifty thousand men to be promptly sent you, you surely labor under some gross mistake of fact. Recently you sent papers showing your disposal of forces made last spring for the defense of Washington, and advising a return to that plan. I find it included in and about Washington seventy-five thousand men. Now, please be assured that I have not men enough to fill that very plan by fifteen thousand. ... Save the army, material and personal, and I will strengthen it for the offensive again as fast as I can. The Governors of eighteen States offer me a new levy of three hundred thousand, which I accept."

On the 4th he said in a letter to the General: “To reinforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that arrived and now arriving from the Potomac, (about ten thousand men, I suppose,) and about ten thousand I hope you will have from Burnside very soon, and about five thousand from Hunter a little later, I do not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circumstances, the defensive, for the present, must be your only care. Save the army, first, where you are, if you can; and, secondly, by removal, if you must. time you feel able to take the offensive, you are not restrained from doing so.”

McClellan replied, three days later: “Enemy have not attacked. My position is very strong, and daily becoming more so. If not attacked to-day, I shall laugh at them. My men are in splendid spirits

If at any

.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »