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people had most nobly and generously supported and sustained what their representatives had promised in their name. The same Congress, fresh from their constituents, had again met, and there could be no doubt that as they had before acted so would they continue to act. It needs but to refer to the history of the Congress just closed, its prompt and thorough action, clothing the executive with the fullest power, placing at his disposal all the resources of men and money which this nation possessed, to prove that your committee judged rightly that Congress needed no prompting from them to do its entire duty.
Not upon those whose duty it was to provide the means necessary to put down the rebellion, but upon those whose duty it was to rightfully apply those means, and the agents they employed for that purpose, rested the blame, if any, that the hopes of the nation have not been realized, and its expectations have been so long disappointed.
Your committee therefore concluded that they would best perform their duty by endeavoring to obtain such information in respect to the conduct of the war as would best enable them to advise what mistakes had been made in the past and the proper course to be pursued in the future ; to obtain such information as the many and laborious duties of the President and his cabinet prevented them from acquiring, and to lay it before them with such recommendations and suggestions as seemed to be most imperatively demanded; and the journal of the proceedings of your committee show that, for a long time, they were in constant communication with the President and his cabinet, and neglected no opportunity of at once laying before them the information acquired by them in the course of their investigations.
Many specific subjects of investigation presented themselves for the consideration of your committee, any one of which might well require the action of a committee for itself; and all of which, if fully investigated, would demand the attention of all the representatives in Congress. It was apparent from the first that your committee would be compelled to confine their attention to a few of the more prominent subjects of inquiry : to those the investigation of which would best enable them to comprehend the causes and necessity, if any, for the delay and inaction characterizing the operations of our armies in the field.
And while each of those subjects has received from them the attention which its importance merited, so far as they were able to give it, the attention of your committee has been turned more particularly to the history of the army of the Potomac. In the history of that army is to be found all that is necessary to enable
your committee to report upon “the conduct of the war.” Had that army fulfilled all that a generous and confiding people were justified in expecting from it, this rebellion had long since been crushed, and the blessings of peace restored to this nation. The failure of that army to fulfil those expectations has prolonged this contest to the present time, with all its expenditure of life and treasure, for it has to a great extent neutralized, if not entirely destroyed, the legitimate fruits which would otherwise have been reaped from our glorious victories in the west.
Therefore, while your committee have not failed to take the testimony of witnesses in relation to military operations in other parts of the country, and also upon various subjects to which their attention has been specially directed by Congress and the War Department since the committee was first appointed, the principal part of the testimony taken by them relates to the army of the Potomac and those subjects more immediately connected with its operations. They have taken the testimony of nearly 200 witnesses, almost entirely men in the military service of the government, including about 100 generals.
The disaster at Bull Run in July, 1861, was fully investigated by your committee, as being the first conflict of the national troops with armed treason upon the field of battle; and also because the troops there engaged formed the nucleus around which has since been collected the vast and magnificent army of the Potomac. The result of their investigation your committee submit in a separate report.
Your committee have also investigated the disaster at Ball's Bluff, that battle being the first conflict of any extent in which any of the troops of the army of the Potomac were engaged after its reorganization. A separate report of that disaster is also submitted.
Immediately upon the organization of your committee, and before proceeding to the taking of any testimony, they addressed to Geveral McClellan, who, by the retirement of General Scott, had become general-in-chief of the army,
the following communication:
“WASHINGTON, D. C., December 21, 1861. “Sir: You are aware that a joint committee has been appointed by the Senate and House of Representatives to inquire into the conduct of the war.' Our committee, at a meeting held this morning, unanimously expressed a desire, before proceeding in their official duties, to have an interview with you at our room at the Capitol, at such time as may suit your convenience, in view of your pressing engagements.
"Our place of meeting is the room of the Committee on Territories of the Senate. "I remain, very respectfully, yours,
“B. F. WADE, Chairman. “Major General Geo. B. MCCLELLAN,
"General Commanding Army United States."
While fully appreciating the dignity and power with which they were clothed by the concurrent action of both houses of Congress, they deemed it but just to award to his position the consideration of asking him to confer with them in relation to the best method of fulfilling those expectations which the people had a right to hope for from an administration upon which they had, through their representatives, conferred such plenary powers. A reference to the journal of your committee will show that ill health prevented General McClellan from immediately complying with this invitation. The necessities of the case, however, were so pressing and urgent that your committee concluded to proceed at once to the taking of testimony.
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Soon after the battle of Bull Run, in July, 1861, General McDowell was superseded, and General McClellan was called by the President to the command of the army of the Potomac. The campaign in Western Virginia, the credit of which had been generally ascribed to General McClellan; the favor with which it was understood he was regarded by General Scott, then generalin-chief of the army of the United States; even his comparative youth, holding out the promise of active and rigorous measures ; all these considerations tended to infuse hope into the public mind, and to remove the gloom and despondency which had followed the disastrous issue of the campaign just ended.
Every energy of the government and all the resources of a generous and patriotic people were freely and lavishly placed at the disposal of General McClellan to enable him to gather together another army and put it in the most complete state of efficiency, so that offensive operations might be resumed at the earliest practicable moment. The army of the Potomac became the object of special care to every department of the government, and all other military movements and organizations were made subordinate to the one great purpose of collecting at Washington, and organizing there, an army which should overpower the forces of the enemy, and forever crush out any hope of success which the rebels might cherish. Even when the army of the Potomac had attained dimensions never before contemplated in the course of military operations apon this continent, and seldom, if ever, equalled in modern times, no portion of its rapidly increasing numbers was permitted to be diverted, even for a brief period, to the accomplishment of other enterprises. The generals in charge of the various expeditions from time to time inaugurated, and from which so much benefit was anticipated—General Butler, General Sherman, General Burnside, and others--were compelled to look elsewhere for the troops to compose their commands, to rely upon the continued patriotism of the people, and the zeal of the executives of the various States for the raising of those regiments which would enable them to depart for the fields of duty assigned to them. No consideration was for a moment allowed to diminish or impair the efficiency of the army of the Potomac, and the unexampled spectacle was presented to other nations, who were intently watching the course of events in this country, of the largest army of the present century being raised entirely by voluntary enlistments in the brief period of a few months.
When Congress assembled in this city, in the beginning of December, 1861, so successful had been the exertions of the authorities, and so zealously had the people responded to their country's call, that the consolidated morning reports, furnished your committee by the adjutant general of the army, showed that, exclusive of the command of General Dix, at Baltimore, the army of the Potomac consisted of about 185,000 men.
During the time this large army had been collecting and organizing, nothing of importance had transpired in connexion with it, except the closing of the navigation of the Potomac by the rebels, which your committee treat of more at length in another part of this report, and the melancholy disaster of Ball's Bluff, which is made the subject of a separate report.
The weather during the fall season, and for some weeks after the convening of Congress, continued unusually favorable for active military operations. As month after month passed without anything being done by the army of the Potomac, the people became more and more anxious for the announcement that the work of preparation had been completed and active operations would soon be commenced.
From the testimony before your committee it appeared that the army of the Potomac was well armed and equipped, and had reached a high state of discipline by the last of September or the first of October. The men were ready and eager to commence active operations. The generals in command of the various divisions were opposed to going into winter quarters, and the most of them declared they had no expectation of doing so.
In reference to the proper organization of so large an army as that about Washington, in order that it might be the better able to act most effectively in the field, the testimony of the witnesses examined upon that point is remarkably unanimous. The generals most familiar with the subject seemed to regard of the utmost importance the division of the army into corps d'armée, and that, too, in time for the instruction of the troops in the movements necessary to render such an organization the most effective. Your committee deemed it so vitally necessary that they repeatedly brought the subject to the attention of the authorities, and urged its immediate adoption with all the arguments in their power. The President and the Secretary of War concurred with them in the necessity of such a measure; but it did not seem to be regarded with much favor by General McClellan. Indeed, General McClellan stated to your committee, at the time of their conference with him, that, although it might at some time be expedient to divide the army into army corps, the subject was one of great difficulty. He said it was a delicate matter to appoint major generals before they had been tried by actual service, and had shown their fitness to be selected to command 30,000 or 40,000 men. A major general could not be stowed away in a pigeon-hole, if he should prove incompetent, so easily as a brigadier general. He proposed, therefore, to himself manage this entire army in some battle or campaign, and then select from the brigadier generals in it such as should prove themselves competent for higher commands. Consequently, the division of the army into army corps was not even begun until after the movement of the army in March had commenced, and then only in pursuance of the direct and repeated orders of the President.
General McClellan, however, continued to oppose the organization of the army into army corps, as will be seen from the following despatch to him from the Secretary of War, dated May 9, 1862:
“The President is unwilling to have the army corps organization broken up, but also unwilling that the commanding general shall be trammelled and embarrassed in actual skirmishing, collision with the enemy, and on the eve of an expected great battle. You, therefore, may temporarily suspend that organization in the army under your immediate comma
mand, and adopt any you see fit, until further orders. He also writes you privately."
The provisional corps of General Fitz-John Porter and General Franklin were thereupon formed by reducing the other corps from three to two divisions.
Your committee endeavored to obtain as accurate information as possible in relation to the strength and position of the enemy in front of Washington. The testimony of the officers in our army here upon that point, however, was far from satisfactory. Early in December an order had been issued from headquarters prohibiting the commanders in the front from examining any persons who sbould come into our lines from the direction of the enemy; but all such persons were to be sent, without examination, to the headquarters of the army. Restrictions were also placed upon the movements of scouts. The result was, that the generals examined appeared to be almost entirely ignorant of the force of the enemy opposed to them, having only such information as they were allowed to obtain at headquarters. The strength of the enemy was variously estimated at from 70,000 to 210,000 men. Those who formed the highest estimate based their opinion upon information received at headquarters. As to the strength of the enemy's position, the general impression seemed to be, founded upon information obtained from the same source, that it was exceedingly formidable. Subsequent events have proved that the force of the enemy was below even the lowest of these estimates, and the strength of their fortifications very greatly overestimated.
Your committee also sought to ascertain what number of men could be spared from this army for offensive operations elsewhere, assuming that the works of the enemy in front were of such a character that it would not be advisable to move directly upon them. The estimate of the force necessary to be left in and around Washington to act entirely on the defensive, to render the capital secure against any attack of the enemy, as stated by the witnesses examined upon that point, was from 50,000 to 80,000 men, leaving 100,000 or upwards that could be used for expeditions at other points.
In connexion with the same subject, your committee inquired in reference to what had been done to render the fortifications here, which had been constructed at such expense and with so great labor, most effective for the defence of Washington. Your committee are constrained to say that adequate provision never was made to properly man those fortifications and exercise men in the management of the guns. Several of the witnesses testified that they had repeatedly called the attention of the authorities to the matter, but without success. And when the movement of the army commenced in March, the few regiments that had been placed in the forts and partially instructed in the use of the guns, were almost entirely withdrawn, leaving the fortifications to be manned by raw and inexperienced troops.
The subject of the obstruction of the navigation of the Potomac naturally demanded the consideration of your committee. Upon that point your committee would call the attention of Congress to the testimony of Captain G. V. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Upon reference to his testimony it will appear that in June, 1861, the Navy Department proposed to the War Department that measures be adopted to take possession of Matthias Point, in order to secure the navigation of the Potomac from any danger of being interrupted. From some cause no steps were then taken for that purpose. The subject was again brought to the attention of the War Department by the Navy Department in the month of August, shortly after the battle of Bull Run. Nothing, however, was done at that time in regard to it.
In October, 1861, the Navy Department again urged the matter upon the consideration of the War Department. The Port Royal expedition was then in preparation and would soon be ready to start. The Navy Department represented that it would be absolutely necessary to send with that expedition, in order to insure its success, the greater portion of the Potomac flotilla, because, being very powerful vessels, of light draught, with their machinery protected, they were better fitted for that service than any oth vessels in the possession of the Navy Department. And if anything was to be done by them to secure the uninterrupted navigation of the Potomac, it must be done before they left. It was proposed to the President and the War Department that the gunboats should take and destroy the rebel batteries which had then begun to make their appearance upon the river, and which even then endangered the safety of vessels passing up
and down the Potomac. When that had been done, it was proposed that a sufficient number of troops should be landed at Matthias Point, &c., to intrench themselves, under the protection of the gunboats, until they should be able, with the assistance of the smaller boats of the Potomac flotilla, to hold their position against any force the enemy would be likely to bring against them. It was represented that unless some such steps were taken the departure of those vessels upon the Port Royal expedition would be the signal for the closing of the navigation of the Potomac, which representation the result proved to be correct. As was well urged by the Navy Department, the whole question amounted simply to this: Would the army co-operate with the navy in securing the unobstructed navigation of the Potomac, or, by withholding that co-operation at that time, permit so important a channel of communication to be closed.
After repeated efforts, General McClellan promised that 4,000 men should be ready at a time named to proceed down the river. The Navy Department provided the necessary transports for the troops, and Captain Craven, commanding the Potomac flotilla, upon being notified to that effect, collected at Matthias Point all the boats of his flotilla at the time named. The troops did not arrive, and the Navy Department was informed of the fact by Captain Craven. Assistant Secretary Fox, upon inquiring of General McClellan why the troops had not been sent according to agreement, was informed by him that his engineers were of the opinion that so large a body of troops could not be landed, and therefore he had concluded not to send them. Captain Fox replied that the landing of the troops was a matter of which the Navy Department had charge; that they had provided the necessary means to accomplish the landing successfully; that no inquiry had been made of them in regard to that matter, and no notification that the troops were not to be sent.
It was then agreed that the troops should be sent the next night. Captain Craven was again notified, and again had his flotilla in readiness for the arrival of the troops. But no troops were sent down at that time, nor were any ever sent down for that purpose.
Captain Fox, in answer to the inquiry of the committee as to what reason was assigned for not sending the troops according to the second agreement, replied that the only reason, so far as he could ascertain, was, that General McOlellan feared it might bring on a general engagement.