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when the rebels were allowed to withdraw from that position without the slightest molestation, and without their design being even suspected until it had been carried into complete and successful execution. He was impatiently anxious, therefore, that no more time should be lost in delays. In reply to the Secretary of War, General McClellan, before embarking for the Peninsula, communicated his intention of reaching, without loss of time, the field of what he believed would be a decisive battle, which he expected to fight between West Point and Richmond. On the 31st of March, the President, out of deference to the importunities of General Fremont and his friends, and from a belief that this officer could make good use of a larger force than he then had at his command in the mountain department, ordered General Blenker's division to leave the Army of the Potomac and join him, a decision which he announced to General McClellan in the following letter:
MY DEAR SIR: This morning I felt constrained to order Blenker's division to Fremont, and 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, even beyond a mere acknowledgment that the Commander-inChief may order what he pleases.
Yours, very truly, Major-General MCCLELLAN.
General Banks, who had at first been ordered by General McClellan to occupy Manassas, and thus cover Washington, was directed by him, on the 1st of April, to throw the rebel General Jackson well back from Winchester, and then move on Staunton at a time "nearly coincident with his own move on Richmond;" though General McClellan expressed the fear that General Banks "could not be ready in time" for that
movement. The four corps of the Army of the Potomac, destined for active operations by way of the Peninsula, were ordered to embark, and forwarded as rapidly as possible to Fortress Monroe. On the 1st of April, General McClellan wrote to the Secretary of War, giving a report of the dispositions he had made for the defence of Washington; and on the 2d, General Wadsworth submitted a statement of the forces under his command, which he regarded as entirely inadequate to the service required of them. The President referred the matter to Adjutant-General Thomas and General E. A. Hitchcock, who made a report on the same day, in which they decided that the force left by General McClellan was not sufficient to make Washington "entirely secure," as the President had required in his order of March 13; nor was it as large as the council of officers held at Fairfax Court-House on the same day had adjudged to be necessary. In accordance with this decision, and for the purpose of rendering the capital safe, the army corps of General McDowell was detached from General McClellan's immediate command, and ordered to report to the Secretary of War.
On reaching Fortress Monroe, General McClellan found Commodore Goldsborough, who commanded on that naval station, unwilling to send any considerable portion of his force up the York River, as he was employed in watching the Merrimac, which had closed the James River against us. He had, therefore, landed at the Fortress and commenced his march up the Peninsula, having reached the Warwick River, in the immediate vicinity of Yorktown, which had been fortified, and was held by a rebel force of about 11,000 men, under General Magruder-a part of them, however, being across the river at Gloucester. He here halted to reconnoitre the position; and on the 6th, wrote to the President that he had but 85,000 men fit for duty-that the whole line of the Warwick River was strongly fortified-that it was pretty
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. 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 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 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 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,
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 S. COOPER, A. and I. G. C. S. 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 Ship Point, I distributed my remaining forces along the Warwick line, embracing a 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 that 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