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and anxious to try it again. Alarm yourself as little as possible about me, and don't lose confidence in this army.”
If not "alarmed,” the President continued to be anxious — so much so that he visited the army in person, arriving at the General's headquarters on the 7th. This happened to be the date of McClellan's wellknown political letter, (“Camp near Harrison's Landing, Va., July 7, 1862,") which, notwithstanding previous assurances, began with these words:
Mr. President: You have been fully informed that the rebel army is in front, with the purpose of overwhelming us by attacking our position or reducing us by blocking our river communications. I can not but regard our condition as critical, and I earnestly desire, in view of possible contingencies, to lay before your Excellency, for your private consideration, my general views concerning the existing state of the rebellion, although they do not strictly relate to the situation of this army, or strictly come within the scope of my official duties.
McClellan had asked and received permission to write such a communication while in front of Richmond, just at the time he reported Franklin as about ready to open fire on the city. It has been plausibly conjectured that this letter, modified only to accord with his military change of base, had then been already prepared, with the aid of advisers skilled in statecraft. Some of its principal passages are all that need now be recalled:
Our cause must never be abandoned; it is the cause of free institutions and self-government. The Constitution of the Union must be preserved, whatever may be the cost in time, treasure and blood. If secession is successful, other
dissolutions are clearly to be seen in the future. Let neither military disaster, political faction, nor foreign war shake your settled purpose to enforce the equal operation of the laws of the United States upon the people of every State.
The time has come when the Government must determine upon a civil and military policy, covering the whole ground of our national trouble. ... The Constitution gives you power, even for the present terrible exigency. This rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it should be regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State in any event. Neither confiscation of property, political execution of persons, territorial organization of States, nor forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment.
Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active hostilities exist, and oaths not required by enactments, constitutionally made, should be neither demanded nor received.
Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations of servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the master, except for repressing disorder, as in other cases. Slaves, contraband under the act of Congress, seeking military protection, should receive it. The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labor, should be asserted, and the right of the owner to compensation therefor should be recognized
Unless the principles governing the future conduct of our struggle shall be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces will be almost hopeless. A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies. .
In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a Commander-in-chief of the Army, one who possesses your confidence, understands your views, and who is competent to execute your orders, by directing the military forces of the nation to the accomplishment of the objects by you proposed. I do not ask that place for myself. I am willing to serve you in such position as you
may assign me, and I will do so as faithfully as ever subordinate served superior.
There were in this letter reminders of another high official which must have impressed Lincoln's mind, independently of the views presented. Like the Secretary of State more than a year before, the General informed his superior that he needed a policy; outlined one for him; and offered to carry it out if intrusted with that responsibility. McClellan's letter, delivered in person, was read by the President while at Harrison's Landing, but unlike that of Mr. Seward (of April ist, 1861,) it did not receive any formal response.
The troops were reviewed by Lincoln on the 8th, and before leaving for Washington, on the 9th, written questions were submitted to the General and to each of his corps commanders, and their answers noted, as thus summarized from the original autograph memorandum put in the present writer's hands in 1864:
What amount of force have you now?
General McClellan: About 80,000 — can't vary much - certainly 75,000.
The corps commanders, as to the respective corps of each:
Sumner, about 15,000; Heintzelman, 15,000 for duty; Keyes, about 12,500; Porter, about 23,000 - fully 20,000 fit for duty; Franklin, about 15,000. Total, 81,500.
Questioned as to the aggregate of their " killed, wounded, and missing from the attack on the 26th until now," they severally answered:
Sumner, 1,175; Heintzelman, not large — 745; Keyes, less than 500; Porter, over 5,000; Franklin, not over 3,000.
What is likely to be your condition as to health in this сотр?
General McClellan: Better than in any encampment since landing at Fortress Monroe.
The corps commanders were asked as to "the present and prospective condition as to health” in their "present encampment,” and replied:
Sumner: As good as any part of Eastern Virginia.
Heintzelman: Excellent for health, and present health improving.
Keyes: A little improved, but think camp is getting worse.
Porter: Very good.
To the inquiry, “Where is the enemy now?” McClellan replied: "From four to five miles from us, on all the roads — I think nearly the whole army — both Hills, Longstreet, Jackson, Magruder, Huger.” The other Generals, asked “where and in what condition they believed the enemy to be?” said:
Sumner: I think they have retired from our front; were very much damaged, especially in their best troops, in the late actions, from superiority of our arms.
Heintzelman: Don't think they are in force in our vicinity.
Keyes: Think he has withdrawn, and think preparing to go to Washington.
Porter: Believe he is mainly near Richmond. He feels he dare not attack us here.
Franklin: I learn he has withdrawn from our front, and think that is probable.
The corps commanders were examined on two other points, as follows:
If it were desired to get the army away, could it be safely effected?
Sumner: I think we could, but I think we give up the cause if we do it.
Heintzelman: Perhaps we could, but I think it would be ruinous to the country.
Keyes: I think it could if done quickly.
Porter: Impossible — move the army and ruin the country.
Franklin: I think we could, and that we better — think Rappahannock the true line.
(McClellan had expressed the opinion that “it would be a delicate and very difficult matter.")
Is the army secure in its present position?
Keyes: With help of General B. (Burnside) can hold position.
Porter: Perfectly so. Not only, but we are ready to begin moving forward. Franklin: Unless river can be closed, it is.*
If civilians embarrassed him with crude and conflicting views on army affairs, the President, after comparing these opinions, could hardly hope to find any sure refuge in the judgment of the military man. Congress was still in session, and his stay could not be prolonged. He had satisfied himself as to some essential facts, and had found the situation not so bad as he feared. He evidently did not give very earnest attention to McClellan's letter of advice while there; † yet there were two points in it that were already engaging his attention
* The answers of Keyes and Franklin to the last question are given differently in “ Complete Works,” N. & H., II. 202.
t In “ McClellan's Own Story” (p. 487), it is stated that Lincoln read the letter in the General's presence, but made no comment upon it.