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certain he was to “ have the whole force of the enemy on his hands, probably not less than 100,000 men, and probably more," and that he should commence siege operations as soon as he could get up his train. He entered, accordingly, upon this work, telegraphing from time to time complaints that he was not properly supported by the Government, and asking for re-enforcements.
On the 9th of April, President LINCOLN addressed him the following letter:
WASHINGTON, April 9, 1862. 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Blenker's division was withdrawn from you before you left here, and you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acquiesced in it-certainly not without reluctance.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'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 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 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 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 eight 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-threo 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 youthat is, he will gain faster by fortifications and re-enforcements than you can by re-enforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is in. dispensable 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 Manassas 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.
Yours, very truly,
A. LINCOLN. Major-General MCCLELLAN.
In this letter the President only echoed the impatience and eagerness of the whole country. The most careful inquiries which General Wool, in command at Fortress Monroe, had been able to make, satisfied him that Yorktown was not held by any considerable force; and subsequent disclosures have made it quite certain that this force was so utterly inadequate to the defence of the position that a prompt movement upon it would have caused its immediate surrender, and enabled our army to advance at once upon Richmond. General McClellan decided, however, to approach it by a regular siege; and it was
not until this design had become apparent, that the rebel Government began to re-enforce Magruder.* He continued his
* The following extract from the official report of Major-General Magruder, dated May 3d, 1862, and published by order of the Confederate Congress, is conclusive as to the real strength of the force which General McClellan had in front of him at Yorktown :
HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE PENINSULA, }
LEE'S FARM, May 3, 1862. General 8. COOPER, A. and I. G. C. 8. A. :
GENERAL: Deeming it of vital importance to hold Yorktown on York River, and Mulberry Island on James River, and to keep the enemy in check by an intervening line until the authorities might take such steps as should be deemed necessary to meet a serious advance of the enemy in the Peninsula, I felt compelled to dispose my forces in such a manner as to accomplish these objects with the least risk possible under the circumstances of great hazard which surrounded the little army I commanded.
I had prepared as my real line of defence, positions in advance at Harwood's and Young's Mills. Both flanks of this line were defended by boggy and difficult streams and swamps. * In my opinion this advanced line, with its flank defences, might have been held by 20,000 troops. * Finding my forces too weak to attempt the defence of this line, I was compelled to prepare to receive the enemy on a second line on Warwick River. This line was incomplete in its preparations. Keeping then only small bodies of troops at Harwood's and Young's Mills, and on Shir Point, I distributed my remaining forces along the Warwick line, embracing á front from Yorktown to Minor's farm of twelve miles, and from the latter place to Mulberry Island Point one and a half miles. I was compelled to place in Gloucester Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island, fixed garrisons amounting to 6,000 men, my whole force being 11,000, so i at it will be seen that the balance of the line, embracing a length of thirteen miles, was defended by about 5,000 men.
After the reconnoissances in great force from Fortress Monroe and Newport News, the enemy, on the 3d of April, advanced and took possession of Harwood's Mill. He advanced in two heavy columns, one along the old York road, and the other along the Warwick road, and on the 5th of April appeared simultaneously along the whole part of our line from Minor's farm to Yorktown. I have no accurate data upon which to base an exact statement of his force; but from various sources of information I was satisfied that I had before me the enemy's Army of the Potomac, under the command of General McClellan, with the exception of the two corps d'armee of Banks and McDowell respectively-forming an aggregate number certainly of not less than 100,000, since ascertained to have been 120,000 men.
On every portion of my lines he attacked us with a furious cannonading and musketry, which was responded to with effect by our batteries and troops of the line. His skirmishers also were well thrown forward on this and the succeeding day, and energetically felt our whole line, but were everywhere repulsed by the steadiness of our troops. Thus with 5,000 men, exclusive of the garrisons, we stopped and held in check over one hundred thousand of the enemy. Every preparation was made in anticipation of another attack by the enemy. The men slept in the trenches and
applications to the Government for more troops, more cannon, more transportation—all which were sent forward to him as rapidly as possible, being taken mainly from McDowell's corps. On the 14th of April, General Franklin, detached from that corps, reported to General McClellan, near Yorktown, but his troops remained on board the transports. A month was spent in this way, the President urging action in the most earnest manner, and the commanding general delaying from day to day his reiterated promises to commence operations immediately. At last, on the morning of the 4th of May, it was discovered that the rebels had been busy for a day or two in evacuating Yorktown, and that the last of their columns had left that place, all their supply-trains having been previously removed on the day and night preceding. General McClellan, in announcing this event to the Government, added that “no time would be lost” in the pursuit, and that he should "push the enemy to the wall.” General Stoneman, with a column of cavalry, was at once sent forward to overtake the retreating enemy, which he succeeded in doing on the same day, and was repulsed. On the 5th, the forces ordered forward by General McClellan came up, and found a very strong rear-guard of the rebels strongly fortified, about two miles east of Williamsburg, and prepared to dispute the advance of the pursuing troops. It had been known from the beginning that a very formidable line of forts had been erected here, and it ought to have been equally well known by the commanding general that the retreating enemy would avail
under arms, but, to my utter surprise, he permitted day after day to elapse without an assault.
In a few days the object of his delay was apparent. In every direction in front of our lines, thronigh the intervening woods and along the open fields, earthworks began to appear. Through the energetic action of the government re-enforcements began to pour in, and each hour the army of the Peninsula grew stronger and stronger, until anxiety passed from my mind as to the result of an attack upon us.
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER, Major-General.
himself of them to delay the pursuit. General McClellan, however, had evidently anticipated no resistance. He remained at his head-quarters, two miles in the rear of Yorktown, until summoned by special messenger in the afternoon of the 5th, who announced to him that our troops had encountered the enemy strongly posted, that a bloody battle was in progress, and that his presence on the field was imperatively required. Replying to the messenger that be had supposed our troops in front "could attend to that little matter," General McClellan left his head-quarters at about half-past two, P. m., and reached the field at five. General Hooker, General Heintzelman, and General Sumner, had been fighting under enormous difficulties, and with heavy losses, during all the early part of the day; and just as the commanding general arrived, General Kearney had re-enforced General Hooker, and General Hancock had executed brilliant flank movement, which turned the fortunes of the day, and left our forces in possession of the field.
General McClellan does not seem to have understood that this affair was simply an attempt of the rebel rear-guard to cover the retreat of the main force, and that when it had delayed the pursuit it had accomplished its whole purpose. He countermanded an order for the advance of two divisions, and ordered them back to Yorktown; and in a dispatch sent to the War Department the same night, he treats the battle as an engagement with the whole rebel army. “I find,” he says,
“ General Joe Johnson in front of me in strong force, probably greater, a good deal, than my own.” complains of the inferiority of his command, says he will do all
with the force at his disposal,” and that he should “run the risk of at least holding them in check here (at Williamsburg) while he resumed the original plan"-which was to send Franklin to West Point by water. But the direct pursuit of the retreating rebel army was abandoned—owing, as the