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lying the revocation of General Hunter's orders. “He has declared against the Federal right of emancipation in the States," wrote the editor of the Albany “Argus."
There was no declaration in the order of his want of power under the Constitution to put an end to slavery, but, on the contrary, a clear intimation that the time might come when he would be called upon to exercise such authority. Other newspapers sustained the President.
“We are not surprised,” said the New Bedford, Mass., “ Standard," "at the action of the President. We know too well the strength of slavery. The difficulty is not so much in the President's mind as in public opinion. Abraham Lincoln had not for a moment considered whether or not his action would affect his standing with the people. He could not allow others to exercise an authority which was exclusively his own. His judgment decided that the people were not ready for emancipation." (0)
“The President has to-day a stronger hold than ever upon the confidence of the majority of the people,” said the Boston “Advertiser." (TM)
“He has shown his own good sense, his consistency, and steady adherence to the Constitution and the laws,” the words of the Philadelphia “ Ledger."
“He has given to the world evidence of that firmness and moral courage for which he is distinguished,” the declaration of the Albany Evening Journal." ()
The President sent a special message to Congress, recommending the passage of a resolution to the effect that the United States ought to co-operate with any State in securing the abolition of slavery by compensating the owners of slaves. Congress complied with the recommendation. Slavery bad been thus abolished in the District of Columbia, but the border States stood aloof from such a measure. The President made a tender and pathetic appeal to those States. He said: “The proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come as gently as the dews of heaven, not sending weakness to anything. Will you not entertain it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time as, in the providence of God, it is now your privilege to do. May the vast future not have it to lament that you neglected it.”
The army under McClellan was on its way to Fortress Monroe. In eighteen days' time 121,000 men, nearly 15,000 horses and mules, 1150 wagons, 260 cannon, and 74 ambulances were transported from Alexandria, besides provisions, camp equipage, ammunition, and a vast amount of other material,
General McClellan left Washington to join the three corps of his army-Heintzelman's, Sumner's and Keyes's--which had preceded him.
McDowell's was to follow. Startling information came to the April 1.
President from General Wadsworth, informing him that he had only 19,000 troops to garrison the forts and defend Washington! At the conference of the commanders of the four army corps, held at Fairfax Court-house (see page 307), Generals Keyes, Heintzelman, and McDowell had agreed that if the forts on the Virginia side of the Potomac should be fully garrisoned, and those on the Washington side occupied, there must still be left a covering force of 25,000. General
Sumner, commanding a corps, said that a total of 40,000 must be left. Was not General Wadsworth mistaken? Could the information be correct? The President directed Generals Hitchcock and Thomas to investigate the matter. They reported it would require 30,000 men to man all the forts, which, with 25,000 as a covering force, would make a total of 55,000 to render the capital secure. "The requirement of the President has not been fully complied with,” they said ; whereupon Mr. Lincoln issued an order that McDowell's corps should remain.
In speaking of this action of the President, McClellan says: “It frustrated all my plans for impending operations. It made brilliant operations impossible. It was a fatal error." (0)
Yorktown was held by a Confederate force of 11,000 men under General Magruder. His line extended thirteen miles along Warwick Creek. McClellan saw breastworks and fortifications with cannon. He sent this despatch to the President :
“ The approaches, except at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or, at the most, two passages, both of which are covered by strong batteries. It will be necessary to resort to the use of siege operations before we assault. ... I am impressed with the conviction that here is to be fought the great battle that is to decide the existing contest. I shall, of course, commence the assault as soon as I can get up my siege train.”
The President replied:
“ You now have over one hundred thousand troops. I think you had better break the enemy's linc from Yorktown to Warwick River at once. Your despatches 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's 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 Rappahannock and sack Washington. My explicit 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 leave 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 6th, saying you had over one 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 eight thousand then with you and en route to you. You now say you will have but eighty-five thousand wheu 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 (at Fortress Monroe), 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 that 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 Manassus repeated.
“I beg to assure you that I have never written 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 can. But you must act.”
General McClellan wrote that he wanted McDowell's full corps, but would try to get along with Franklin's division, and would be responsible for results. The President complied with the request. The division arrived, but there was nothing for it to do. The 100,000 soldiers already there were building earthworks and putting heavy guns in position. The artillery threw a few shells into the enemy's works, and McClellan sent this despatch to Secretary Stanton :
“General Smith has just haudsomely silenced the fire of the so-called one-gun battery, and forced the enemy to suspend work. Mott's battery behaved splendidly.”
Stanton telegraphed :
“Good for the first lick! Hurrah for Smith and the one-gun battery! Let us have Yorktown, with Magruder and his gang, before the first of May, and the job will be over!”
We may regard it as a bit of sarcasm on the part of the Secretary of War.
General McClellan had a large number of mortars and cannon mounted, but telegraphed for more. This the despatch from the President:
“Your call for Parrott guns from Washington alarms me, chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done ?"
“Our work going on very well. ... Our rifle-pits are rightly advancing. Indications of a brush to-night. The time for opening fire is now rapidly approaching. Enemy still in force and working hard."
Nearly one hundred heavy guns and mortars were in position, but McClellan would not allow them to open fire till all arrangements were completed. Then he would astonish the Confederates. He did not inistrust that Magruder's spies were in his camp, and knew everything that was going on— that the enemy was ready to leave at any moment. (0)
When the batteries of McClellan were prepared to begin the bombardment, not a Confederate soldier was to be seen; all had departed. Exultant the despatch sent by McClellan to Washington:
"Yorktown is in our possession. We have the ramparts, have guns, ammunition, camp equipage, etc. Hold the entire line of works. Gunboats have gone up York River. I shall push the enemy to the wall.”
The division commanded by General Hooker overtook the retreating Confederates at Williamsburg. Although confronted by a superior
force, he boldly and resolutely began an engagement. McClelMay 5.
lan was far in the rear, and did not arrive till the battle was over. Through the following night the Confederates retreated to Richmond. The Union soldiers kindled their bivouac fires and passed the night on the field.
There was commotion in the Confederate capital. “In the Presidential mansion all was consternation and dismay," the words of a Southern historian.(R) Congress adjourned hastily and many people left the city. The public documents were packed in boxes and taken away; the presses which were printing treasury notes were sent to Georgia.
It seems probable that if McClellan had pushed resolutely on he could have made his way at once into Richmond.
The Merrimac was still a menace to the great fleet of vessels in Ilampton Roads. Mr. Lincoln believed the time had come when Nor
folk could be seized and the Merrimac destroyed. He was conMay 8.
fident that with the army moving towards Richmond the Confederates would not leave many troops to hold Norfolk and the batteries