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CAMPAIGN FOR THE CAPTURE OF RICHMOND.
THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. FIRST PERIOD. THE ADVANCE.
The national government undertook a campaign for the capture of Richmond.
The movement of the army was so much procrastinated that the government was constrained to order an advance. Scarcely had the expedition departed for the Peninsula when it was found that Washington had been left unprotected. General McClellan besieged Yorktown, captured it, and slowly advanced up the Peninsula.
The battles of FAIR OAKS and SEVEN PINES.
FROM the West we have now to turn to the East-from the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic border.
If in the West there was a popular war-object universally adopted the opening of the Missis
The of the
East was the capture sippi River, in the East there was a war-ob
ject not less distinctly accepted-the capture of Richmond. "On to Richmond" became a war-cry. This was not because Richmond was a source of strength to the Confederacy; not because it offered any historical recollections; not because it was the emblem of a nationality, but because in the eyes of the loyal Americans it was a token of defiance to the republic.
We have already seen (p. 143) that the strength of the Confederacy lay not in the possession of any locality, but in its armies, and hence, in a military point of view, campaigns directed to the capture of Richmond were not based upon a cor
Incorrectness of the Richmond campaign.
rect principle. The operations now to be described, disastrous to the nation, but glorious to the Confederacy, were not decisive of the contest, nor would they have been so had their result been reversed.
Military operations having the city of Richmond for their objective once determined upon, the question arose in what manner they ought to be conducted.
The problem of the Richmond campaign.
THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN.
In solving that problem there was a special condition to be steadfastly borne in mind.
A paramount condition.
No movement was admissible which would risk the capture of Washington by
That condition accepted, it implied an adequate force covering Washington, and if to act offensively, acting on the direct line between that city and Richmond.
Military authorities declare that the fewer the lines of Effect of many lines operation the better. It is better to have two lines of operation than five; better one
The more numerous the lines of operation, the more must the force for disposal upon them be divided, and therefore the weaker it must be on each. Such lines are exterior to an enemy holding a central position, and therefore at his choice able to deliver overwhelming blows in succession against each.
Effect of mixed lines, naval and military.
Still more dangerous is this division if the lines are not purely military, but naval and military mixed. The introduction of shipping brings
an extraneous, perhaps an independent command; precision and punctuality of movement are endan gered, for even since the introduction of steam naval operations are greatly controlled by the weather. In such a mixed movement a general must necessarily feel that his army is not in hand.
CHAP. LIV.] MILITARY PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN IT.
However, at this epoch of the war, and by the advice Course determined of General McClellan, though, as we shall upon by McClellan, see, against the judgment of the President, two lines of operation were determined on for the proposed campaign. The primary line was from the seacoast to Richmond; it was the offensive. The secondary line was from Washington to Richmond; it was the defensive.
The offensive line presented the serious inconveniences that have been mentioned as appertaining to combined naval and military operations. It involved necessarily a prodigious expense. Military critics have shown that, considering the Atlantic region as being divided into two portions, an east and a west, operations conducted in the former against Richmond could not be decisive against the Confederates. In the latter they might be.
Imperfection of his offensive line.
Such considerations, arising from the general topog raphy of the country, were, however, disregarded; the result being that 100,000 men, with their material, were transported 180 miles by water at a cost of nineteen days of time and an enormous expenditure of money, to avoid one day's march by land; for they had already marched to Centreville, were thence marched back to Alexandria, and had subsequently to march the entire length of the Peninsula.
In one week the Confederates could march from the front of McClellan at Washington to confront him again in the Peninsula. President Lincoln was therefore justi fied in his remark that, by the Peninsular movement, "nothing had been gained, but much had been lost; that the difficulty had been shifted, not surmounted."
Moreover, the great Army of the Potomac was by this determination brought into a narrow peninsula, where it might be obstructed by a comparatively insignificant
ERRORS OF THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN.
force. It could hardly hope that flanking opculties of the Penin- erations would be possible; its movements must be executed by attacks in front. Especially must this be the case, as the lateral waters were sealed that on the south by the armored ship Merrimack, that on the north by the works of Yorktown. The topography of the Peninsula seemed to deny the opportunity of getting at the enemy's communications.
If, under such circumstances, success was to be obtained, it could only be by rapidity of movement and resolu tion in attack; any sluggishness, any wavering, would render the case hopeless.
In the preceding paragraphs I have reproduced prospectively the criticisms which have been made on the Peninsular campaign by military writers subsequently to its disastrous issue. The reader, in possession of these principles, has a guide in the study of the actual details, and on the many interesting questions arising can form for himself a correct opinion.
Should that opinion be adverse to General McClellan's decision of the plan of the campaign, it must
How far the
ble for the error.
ment was responsi- not be forgotten that the mistake was very largely concurred in by the government itself. For, though the President gave a most reluctant consent to the Peninsular campaign, he did not object to other movements the principle of which was equally incorrect. It has just been stated that there were two lines of operation against Richmond, meaning by that two under the more immediate contemplation of McClel lan; but, in fact, there were not fewer than five; for Banks was operating on a third in the Shenandoah Valley, Fremont on a fourth in the Alleghanies, and Burnside on a fifth at Roanoke. It was the misfortune of operations conducted in the proximity of Washington
that they were under political influences. Lincoln, in Effect of political a letter to McClellan, declares that he had been unable to resist such influences: he was alluding to his having detached Blenker's division. No more striking confirmation of this need be given than the fact that, in the very crisis of the war, General Meade was appointed to command the army marching to Gettysburg, not because he was a good soldier, but because he was a Pennsylvanian. However, he won that immor tal victory, not because he was a Pennsylvanian, but because he was a good soldier.
These influences were less felt in the campaigns conducted between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. Af fairs were intrusted to professional generals, not to political aspirants. Eventually it was found absolutely necessary to bring those professional generals into the Atlantic region, and there they made an end of the war.
INACTIVITY OF THE POTOMAC ARMY.
In the winter of 1861-2, the epoch with which this Position of the two chapter begins, the Confederate army, still inspirited by its victory of the preceding summer at Bull Run, lay round Manassas, in front of the great Army of the Potomac, which, under General McClel lan, lay at Washington.
Tired of the inactivity which McClellan displayed, the McClellan's inac- government was perpetually urging upon him the necessity of doing something with the great army that had been placed under his command.
For some time after his promotion to his high position, McClellan undoubtedly contemplated vigorous opera tions-" a crushing defeat of the rebel army at Manassas, not to be postponed beyond the 25th of November, if possible to avoid it."
By degrees it became apparent that his movements were guided not only by military, but also by political