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President saw no objection to the plan, lut directing that such a force should be left at Manassas Junction as would make it entirely certain that the enemy should not repossess it, that Washington should be left secure, and that, whatever place might be chosen as the new base, the army should move at once in pursuit of the enemy, by some route.
The President was impatient for action. Not a blow had been struck. Back from the Potomac blockade, and back from Manassas, the enemy had been permitted to retire without the loss of a man or a gun.
On the thirty-first of March, Mr. Lincoln ordered Blenker's division from the army of the Potomac to join General Fremont, who had importuned him for a larger force, and who was supported in his request by exacting friends. In a note to General McClellan, he said, "I write this to assure you that I did so with great pain, understanding that you would wish it otherwise. If you could know the full pressure of the case, I am confident that you would justify it.” General Banks, who had been ordered to cover Washington by occupying Manassas, was ordered on the first of April to force General Jackson back from Winchester.
Transportation had already been provided by the War Department for moving the troops to any new base that might be determined on, and General McClellan was not obliged to wait. On the first of April, there were under his command, by the official report of the Adjutant-general, 146,255 men in the four corps, with regular infantry and cavalry and other troops to raise the number to 158,419. In all the orders given by the President concerning the movements of this army, there was one condition that he insisted upon, viz, that troops should be left sufficient to protect Washington; and by General McClellan's order only twenty thousand effective men were to be left with General Wadsworth, the military governor of the District. The force was much smaller than was necessary, according to General McClellan's previous calculations; and General Wadsworth was so much impressed with its inadequacy that he called the attention of the war department to
the subject. The letter was referred to Adjutant-general Thomas and General E. A. IIitchcock, whose decision was embodied in the words: “In view of the opinion expressed by the council of the commanders of army corps, of the force necessary for the capital, though not numerically stated, and of the force represented by General McClellan as left for that purpose, we are of opinion that the requirement of the President that this city shall be left entirely secure, not only in the opinion of the General-in-chief, but that of the commanders of all the army corps also, has not been fully complied with.” In the meantime, General McClellan had gone forward to Fortress Monroe, and all but two corps of the troops had left for the new base. When, therefore, Generals Thomas and Ilitchcock made their report, and the President saw that Washington was about to be left without sufficient defense, he directed the Secretary of War to order that one of the two corps not then embarked should remain in front of Washington, and that the other corps should go forward as speedily as possible. This was under date of April third. The first corps, under General McDowell, was designated for this protective service, numbering 38,454 men. Two new military departments were at once erected—the Department of the Rappahannock, under General McDowell, and the Department of the Shenandoah, lying between the mountain department and the Blue Ridge, under General Banks.
General McClellan pushed a portion of his troops toward Yorktown at once-toward a line of intrenchments held by the enemy, stretching across the Peninsula. On the fifth of April he wrote to the President, dating his letter“ Near Yorktown,” and stating that the enemy were in large force in his front, and that they apparently intended to make a determined resistance. At that time, the rebel force at that point, according to subsequent reports by the rebels themselves, did not exceed ten thousand men. No one doubts now that General McClellan's cautiousness betrayed his judgment, and that a strong and well-directed attack would have swept the rebels out of their works.
In this letter, he began his long-continued complaint of inadequate force. He begged the President to reconsider his order detaching the first corps from his command, as it was his opinion that he should have to fight all the available force of the rebels, not far from the place where he was writing. If he could not have the whole corps, he begged for Franklin and his division. On the sixth, Mr. Stanton replied that Sumner's troops were on the way to him, that Franklin's division was on the advance to Manassas, and that there were no means of transportation to send it forward in time for service in his operations. “All in the power of the government,” added
. the Secretary, “shall be done to sustain you, as occasion may require.”
Another day passed away; and, on the date of Mr. Stanton's dispatch, General McClellan wrote again, begging for Franklin's division, complaining that he had no sufficient transportation, and stating that the order forming new departments deprived him of the power of ordering up wagons and troops, absolutely necessary for his advance on Richmond. He requested that the material he had prepared and necessarily left behind, with wagon trains, ammunition, and Woodbury's brigade, might be subject to his order. Mr. Lincoln immediately telegraphed him that his order for forwarding what he had demanded, including Woodbury's brigade, was not, and would not be interfered with, informing him at the same time that he had then more than one hundred thousand troops with him, independent of those under General Wool's command. Nir. Lincoln closed his dispatch with the words: “I think you had better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick River at once. They will probably use time as advantageously as you can.”
Mr. Lincoln, like the whole country, was convinced that there was no such force behind those works as the fears of the General had counted there; and it is now humiliating to learn from the official report of the rebel commander Magruder, that, “with five thousand men, exclusive of the garrisons, we (they) stopped and held in check over one hundred thousand
of the enemy.” At Gloucester, Yorktown and Mulberry Island, he was obliged to put garrisons amounting to six thousand men, and he had only five thousand men left to defend a line of thirteen miles. With a hundred thousand men at his back, General McClellan went to work with shovels to begin a regular siege. On the ninth of April, Mr. Lincoln wrote him a letter which is so full of wise counsel, kind criticism, and personal good-will, that it deserves record here:
“My Dear Sir-Your dispatches, complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much.
« Blenker's division was withdrawn from you before you left here; and you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acquiesced in it-certainly not without reluctance.
“After you left, I ascertained that less than twenty thousand unorganized men, without a single field battery, were all you designed to be left for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction; and part of this even was to go to General Hooker's old position. General Banks' corps, once designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up on the line of Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again exposing the upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This presented, or would present, when McDowell and Sumner should be gone, a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappalannock and sack Washington. My implicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of all the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell.
“I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leare Banks at Manassas Junction: but, when that arrangement was broken up, and nothing was substituted for it, of course I was constrained to substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond, via Manassas Junction, to this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops? This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade.
“ There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now with you. When I telegraphed you on the sixth, saying you had over a hundred thousand with you, I had just obtained from the Secretary of War a statement taken, as he said, from your own returns, making one hundred and cight thousand then with you and en route to you. You now say you will have but eighty-five thousand when all en route to you shall have reached you. How can the discrepancy of twenty-three thousand be accounted for?
“ As to General Wool's command, I understand it is doing for you precisely what a like number of your own would have to do if that command was away.
“I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with you by this time. And, if so, I think it is the precise time for you to strike a blow. By delay, the enemy will relatively gain upon you— that is, he will gain faster by fortifications and reinforcements than you can by reinforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is indispensable to you
strike a blow. I am powerless to help this. You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted that going down the bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty; that we would find the same enemy, and the same or equal intrenchments, at either place. The country will not fail to note—is now noting—that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story of Manassas repeated.
“I beg to assure you that I have never written to you or spoken to you in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as, in my most anxious judgment, I consistently But you must act. Yours, very truly,
The President yielded to McClellan, and sent General Franklin to him, with his division; and General McClellan thanked him for his kindness and consideration, adding, “I now understand the matter which I did not before.” Certainly his misunderstanding of the matter had not been the result of any lack of effort on the part of the President to make him understand it. Through the whole month in which the great army lay before Yorktown, the President and War Department were fed with dispatches of the most encouraging character. General McClellan was leaving nothing undone to enable him to attack without delay; after receiving reinforcements, he was "confident of results;” he was soon to be “at them;" there was to be “not a moment's unnecessary delay;" he was “getting up the heavy guns, mortars and ammunition quite rapidly;" there were heavy rains, and horrid roads, but he was “making progress all the time.” IIe was making progress in the concentration of troops, certainly, for, on the thirtieth of April, he had, by Adjutant-general