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STRENGTH OF THE OPPOSING ARMIES.
Effect of political influences on him.
considerations. In the latter respect he look ed with favor on the views of the peace section of the Democratic party (p. 36), becoming eventu ally its candidate for the Presidency. In common with many other good men, he hoped that the extremities of war might be avoided by some compromise with the leaders of the South-a benevolent sentiment truly, but inappropriate in an officer. who had been appointed to wield the armed force of the nation. He was unwilling to do any thing which might jeopardize the institution of slavery.
McClellan, as we have seen, had been appointed, July, Strength of the two 1861, to the command of the Army of the Potomac. On the 1st of November he was appointed to the chief command of the armies of the United States. At the latter date the Potomac Army had an effective strength of 134,285 men, with nearly 300 guns. The Confederate force in front of him did not exceed 55,000. On the 1st of February the aggregate strength of his army had risen to 222,196; present for duty, 190,806 (p. 195).
The autumn and the winter passed by, and brought McClellan's excuses nothing but excuses for inaction. It was for not moving. too hot or too cold; there were too many leaves on the trees, or the roads too miry. In reality, however, up to Christmas, the weather had been superb; not once in twenty years had the roads been in as good a condition at that season.
Expenses were accumulating. The public was beginning to be alarmed. Newspaper correspondents and private letter-writers at Washington were spreading not only dissatisfaction, but consternation. They said
and people are dis- that the aged General Scott, stretched upon his sofa, had commanded to better purpose; that the army was as much organized in October as it
ever would be, or as it needed to be; that it was encamped in shameful inactivity; that imposing reviews were given for the gratification of women, but not a reconnoissance was made to disturb the enemy; that the general could now find nothing better to do than to send to the War Department the project of a splendid uniform for himself and staff; that he was enveloped in an ominous reserve; that cabinet ministers had waited in his antechambers; and that even the President of the United States had been detained there unnoticed.
Non-military men, not without some show of reason, criticised and censured the prevailing military ideas. A rebellion, they said, can never be put down by standing on the defensive; the Confederacy can not be overthrown by building fortifications at Washington. There were officers who were acting as though they supposed that nothing more would be requisite; some who affirmed, with General Scott, that railroads would exert but little influence, and, like that veteran-unconscious of a coming Sheridan - declared that cavalry would be of no use. There were some who expected that the war would be nothing more than an artillery duel.
During the dreary winter that followed, Washington Washington block- Was an insulted city. The Baltimore and aded and insulted. Ohio Railroad was broken on one side, the Potomac blockaded by batteries on the other; the Confederate flag was flying in actual sight of the Capitol. The heart of the nation was sinking. Every thing that the young general had asked for had not only been granted, but lavishly given-and there was nothing in return but reviews, and parades, and procrastination.
Services of the
Perhaps without duly considering the effect which might be produced in the sentiments of the French princes Emperor of the French, the proffered serv ices of the Orleans princes were accepted.
They were received into General McClellan's confidence. The Prince de Joinville, defending the general's course, has since that time imparted some interesting explanations. He says: "We have the right, we think, to say that McClellan never intend ed to advance upon Centreville. His longdetermined purpose was to make Washington safe by means of a strong garrison, and then to use the great navigable waters and immense naval resources of the North to transport the army by sea to a point near Richmond. For weeks, perhaps for months, this plan had been secretly maturing. Secrecy, as well as promptness, it will be understood, was indispensable here to success. To keep the secret it had been necessary to confine it to few persons, and hence had arisen the long ill feeling to the uncommunicative general.
The Prince de Joinville explains McClellan's course.
"Be this as it may, as the day of action drew near, those who suspected the general's project and were angry at not being informed of it, those whom his promotion had excited to envy, his political enemies (who is without them in America?)-in short, all those beneath or beside him who wished him ill, broke out into a chorus of accusations of slowness, inaction, incapacity. McClellan, with a patriotic courage which I have always admired, disdained these accusations and made no reply. He satisfied himself with pursuing his preparations in laborious silence. But the moment came in which, notwithstanding the loyal support given him by the President, that functionary could no longer resist the tempest. A council of war of all the divisional generals was held; a plan of campaign, not that of McClellan, was proposed and discussed. McClellan was then forced to explain his projects, and the next day they were known to the enemy. Informed, no doubt, by one of those female spies who keep up his communications in the domestic circles of the Fed
CHAP. LIV.] THE CONFEDERATES EVACUATE MANASSAS.
eral enemy, Johnston evacuated Manassas at once. was a skillful manoeuvre. Incapable of assuming the offensive, threatened with attack either at Centreville, where defense would be useless if successful, or at Richmond, the loss of which would be a great check, and unable to cover both positions at once, Johnston threw his whole force before the latter of the two."
The mere rumor that McClellan was about to move led to the instant evacuation of Manassas (March evacuate Manas- 9th). On the ensuing morning McClellan put the Army of the Potomac in motion, advancing toward the deserted position. His object in doing this was stated to be "to verify the evacuation, to take the chance of cutting off the enemy's rear-guard, to deceive him, if possible, as to the general's real intentions, and to gain the opportunity of cutting loose from all useless baggage, and to give the troops a few days' experience in bivouac and on the march." Not without surprise and mortification did the soldiers of that great army see the insignificant earthworks and Quaker guns-logs of wood shaped in the form of cannon-by which an enemy not much more than one fourth of their number had held them so long at bay.
There can be no doubt that by these events the Presi Corps commanders dent's confidence in McClellan had been appointed. very seriously affected. It had become obvious that the administration must be in more reliable contact with the army. The President therefore issued (March 8th) a general war-order, directing the organization of the Army of the Potomac into four corps, to be commanded by Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes respectively; a fifth corps was under the command of General Banks, formed from his own and General Shields's divisions. This establishment of" army
The Army of the Potomac verifies the evacuation.
376 THE APPOINTMENT OF CORPS COMMANDERS. [SECT. XI. corps" was very much in opposition to the wishes of McClellan; not but that he recognized the necessity of having a higher unit in an army of 200,000 men than the "division;" his objection, as stated by the Prince de Joinville, being rather against the time than the principle: it "would throw into subaltern positions some young generals of division who had his personal confidence." Doubtless it was in part to reach this very object that the change was insisted on by the government.
On the return of the army from its promenade to Manassas (March 11th), the President issued to the Potomac de- another order, relieving McClellan from the command of all the military departments except that of the Potomac. The ostensible cause of this was the consideration that the campaign on which the Potomac Army was about to enter would require all the resources and all the attention of its commander; the real cause was a decline of confidence in his ability. If, as current events were apparently showing, the army under his immediate charge was more than he could wield, it was out of the question to add to it many other armies operating at distances of many hundred miles.
A movement determined upon, the question had next arisen, In what direction should it be? So the President and long as McClellan adhered to an advance upon the enemy in such a manner as not to uncover Washington and thereby risk its capture, he was in accord with the President; but when it appeared that his plan was to attack Richmond by way either of Urbana or Fortress Monroe, there was a serious difference between them.
McClellan seems not to have appreciated distinctly the momentous consequences of the capture of
that Washington Washington by the Confederates, the expul
shall be secure.
sion of the national government, the seizure