Page images



“ Soldiers ! We have had our last retreat. We have seen our last defeat. You stand by me, and I will stand by you, and henceforth victory will crown our efforts." These words found a ready response from the soldiers and the people, and they were pondered with hope, and repeated with praise. In them were promises of the exercise of that promptness and energy of action, in the use of the resources of the country, that would speedily bring peace. In the hearts of the people still rang the cry of “On to Richmond !” while their lips, taught circumspection by the recent disaster at Bull's Run, were modestly silent. The soldiers, eager to wipe out the disgrace of that disaster, were ready to obey with alacrity, at any moment, an order to march on Richmond. And it was evidently the determination of the commander, all through the earlier weeks of autumn, to strike the foe at Manassas, as quickly as possible, and march triumphantly on the Confederate capital.' But the retirement of Lieutenant-General Scott from the chief command of

the National Army,as and the appointment of McClellan to fill

his place, imposed new duties and responsibilities upon the latter, and his plan of campaign against the insurgents in Virginia was changed.

The new organization of the Army of the Potomac was perfected at the middle of October, when at least seventy-five thousand well-armed and fairly disciplined troops were in a condition to be placed in column for active operations against the Confederates in front of Washington. At that time the National city was almost circumvallated by earth-works, there being no

a 3

Nov. 1.

1 This little speech was on the occasion when Governor Curtin, accompanied by the President and Secretary of War, presented a set of flags to the Pennsylvania Brigade of General McCall, on Arlington Heights.

. Mr. Swinton, in his llistory of the Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac (note on page 69), says: " Though General McClellan used to keep his own counsel, yet General McDowell tells me he was wont, in their rides over the country south of the Potomac, to point toward the flank of Manassas, and say, 'We shall strike them there.'"

3 General Scott was then in the 76th year of his age, having been born in June, 1786. He had been for some time suffering from physical ini mental infirmities, and was incapable of performing, in any degree of efficiency, the duties of his office at that important time. His voluntary retirement from active military duty was a fortunate circumstance for the country and his own reputation, and he descended into the quiet of private life after a most distinguished military career of more than fifty years' duration, followed by the benedictions of a grateful people. It was on his recommendation that General McClellan, his junior by forty years, was made the Commander-in-chief of all the armies of the Republic.-See General Orders, No. 91, dated Washington, November 1st, 1861.*

General Scott left Washington city immediately after he retired from active command, accompanied by bis staff, the Secretaries of War and the Treasury, and other distinguished officials. General McClellan bade him an affectionate furewell at the Washington railway-station, and the veteran was conveyed easily on a couch fitted up for his use. He was everywhere greeted by the people with the most earnest demonstrations of respect. In New York, a committee of the Chamber of Conimerce and the Union Defense Committee made formal calls upon him, tendering him addresses, to which he replied in the most feeling manner. He expressed confidence in the ultimate success of the National cause, and spoke in highest terms of President Lincoln, to whom he was politically opposed. “ I had no part nor lot in his election," he said. “I confess that he has agreeably disappointed

He is a man of great ability, fidelity, and patriotism."

On the 9th of Novernber, General Scott departed for Havre, in the steamship Arago, his heart cheered by intelligence, by way of Richmond, of the victory of Dupont at Port Royal, and the capture of Beaufort.


• The following letter of the President was embodied in the order:


“ Washington, Norember 1a, 1861. “On the 1st day of November, a. D. 1861, upra his own application to the President of the United States, Brevet Lieutenant-General WINFIELD SCOTT Is ordered to be placed, and hereby is placed upon the list of retired officers of the Army of the United States, without Jeduction in his current pay, subsistence, or allowance.

“The American people will bear with sadness and deep emotion that General Scott has withdrawn from the active control of the ariny, while the President and a unanimous Cabinet express their own and the nation's sympath: in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of the important public services rendered by him to his country during his long and brilliant career, among which will over be gratefully distinguished bis faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.




less than thirty-two forts completed and armed for its defense, and to these sixteen were added in the course of six weeks.' Provisions, stores, ammunition, and clothing, were on hand in the greatest abundance, and the chief commander was furnished with numerous and efficient staff officers, among whom were two French Princes of the House of Orleans, who had just arrived at the capital, with their uncle, the Prince de Joinville, son of the late Louis Philippe, King of the French. These were the Count of Paris and the Duke of Chartres, sons of the late Duke of Orleans, who wished to acquire military experience in the operations of so large a force as was there

in arms.

A prominent member of the then reigning family in France, whose head was considered a usurper by the Orleans family, had just left this country for his own. It was the Prince Jerome Bonaparte, a cousin of the Emperor Napoleon the Third, who, with his wife, had arrived in New York in the preceding July, in his private steam yacht. He went to Washington, where he was entertained by the President, and visited the Houses of Congress and the army on Arlington Heights and vicinity. He passed through the lines and visited the Confederate forces under Beauregard, at Manassas. Returning to New York, he started on a tour to Niagara, Canada, and the Western prairies, with the princess. At the middle of September, he went from New York to Boston and Halifax in his yacht, and so homeward.

It was only a few days before Prince Jerome's departure from New York that the Prince de Joinville arrived there, with members of his family. He came to place his son, the Duke of Penthievre (then sixteen years of age), in the Naval School at Newport. He brought with him his two nephews above named, who offered their services to the Government, with the stipulation on their part that they should receive no pay. Each was commissioned a captain, and assigned to the staff of General McClellan. They remained in the service until the close of the Peninsula campaign, in July, 1862, and acquitted themselves well.

i See map and foot-note on page 24 of this volume. On the 7th of Deceniber, Chief Engineer Barnard reported that the defenses of Washington city consisted of about forty-eight works, mounting over 300 guns, somo of which were of very large size, and added, " that the actual defensive perimeter occupied is about thirty-five miles, exceeding the length of the famous, and hitherto the most extensive-fortified by extemporized field-works -lines of Torres Vedras by several miles."

Concerning the creation and use of heavy ordnance at that time, Swinton says: "The task of forming an artillery establishment was facilitated by the fact that the country possessed, in the regular service, a body of accomplished and energetic artillery oflicers. As a basis of organization, it was decided to forın field-batteries of six guns (never less than four guns, and the guns of each battery to be of uniform caliber), and these were assigned to divisions, not to brigades, in the proportion of four batteries to each division; one of which was to be a battery of regulars, and the captain of the regular battery was in each case appointed commandant of the artillery of the division. In addition, it was determined to create an artillery reserve of i hundred guns, and a siege-train of fifty pieces. This work was pushed forward with so much energy, that whereas, when General McClellan took command of the army, the entire artillery establishment consisted of nine imperfectly equipped batteries of thirty guns, before it took the field this service had reached the colossal proportions of ninety-two batteries of five hundred and twenty guns, served by twelve thousand five hundred men, and in full readiness for active field duty.”—Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, page 65.

2 The following officers composed the staff of General McClellan soon after taking the command of the Army of the Potomac: “Major 8. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General; Captain Albert V. Colburn, Assistant Adjutant-General; Colonel R. B. Marry, Inspector-General; Colonel T. M. Key, Aid-de-Camp; Captain N. B. Sweitser, 1st Cavalry, Aid-de-Camp; Captain Edward McK. Hudson, 14th Infantry, Aid-de-Camp; Captain L. A. Williams, 10th Infantry, Aid-die-Camp; Major A. J. Myer, Signal Officer; Major Stewart Van Vliet, Chief Quartermaster; Captain H. F. Clarke, Chief Commissary ; Surgeon C. S. Tripler, Medical Director; Major J. G. Barnard, Chief Engincer; Major J. N. Macomb, Chief Topographical Engineer; Captain Charles P. Kingsbury, Chief of Ordnance; Brigadier-General George Stoneman, Volunteer Service, Chief of Cavalry ; BrigadierGeneral W. F. Barry, Volunteer Service, Chief of Artillery."




McClellan had organized every necessary department thoroughly, and had endeavored to place at the head of each the best men in the service. These had been active co-workers with him, and their several departments were in the best possible condition for effective service. The main body of the

army was now judiciously posted, for offense or defense, in the a Oct. 15,

immediate vicinity of Washington City, with detachments on the 1861.

left bank of the Potomac as far up as Williamsport, above Harper's Ferry, and as far down as Liverpool Point, in Maryland, nearly opposite Acquia Creek.'

At the close of September a grand review had been held, when seventy


1 The Engineers, as we have observed, were placed in charge of Major J. G. Barnard, and the Artillery under the chief command of Major William F. Barry. The Topographical Engineers were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel John N. Macomb, and a Signal Corps, formed by Major Albert J. Myer, the inventor of a most efficient system of signalling, was placed in charge of that officer. This system was first practically tested during the organization of the Army of the Potomac, and, as we shall observe hereafter, it performed the most essential and important service on land and water, in reconnoitering ani in directing the fire of artillery, where objects, such as hills or woods on land, or bluff's or wooded points on the shores of rivers, intervened between the belligerents. The value of that service during the war cannot be estimated. A full explanation of its operations, with illustrations, may be found in another part of this work.

The Telegraphic operations of the army were intrusted to Major Thomas J. Eckert. In this connection, T. S. C. Lowe, a distinguished aeronaut, was employed, and for some time balloons were used with grrat efficiency in reconnoitering, but later in the progress of the war they fell into disuse. Mr. Lowe made experiments with his balloon in connection with the telezraph so early ns June, 1861, and by perfect success demonstrated the feasibility of the joint use of the balloon and telegraph in reconnoitering. At the height of full five hundrell feet above Arlington Heights, Mr. Lowe telegraphed to the President, at Washington, as follows:

* Smr:- From this point of observation we command an extent of country nearly fifty miles in diameter. I have pleasure in sending you this first telegram ever dispatched from an aerial station, and acknowledging indebtedness to your encouravement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the service of the country. “ I am your Excellency's humble servant,

"T. S. C. Lowe." War-balloons were first regularly used by Lonis Napoleon in the Italian War, in 1859. Their success there commended their introduction into the National army, and the attention of the military authorities was early called to the subject. On receiving the abovo dispatch, Mr. Lincoln invited Mr. Lowe to the Executive mansion. He introduced him to General Scott, and he was Boon afterward employed as an aeronaut in the military service. When in use, the balloon is kept under control by strong cords in the hands of men on the ground, who, when the reconnoissance is ended, draw it down to the place of departure.

The Medical Department of the army was placed in charge of Surgeons Charles S. Tripler and Jonathan Letterman, who in turn performed the duties of Medical Director. The Qurrtermaster's Department was intrusted to Major S. Van Vliet. The Subsistence Department was placed in charge of Captain H. F. Clarke; and to the control of the Ordnance Department was assigned Captain C. P. Kingsbury. Colonel Andrew Porter was made Provost- Marshal General of the Army of the Potomac; and Colonel Thomas G. Garrett, of the General's staff, was made Judge Advocate.See General McClellan's Report on the Organization of the Army of the Potomac, and its Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland.

a The different divisions were posted as follows: "Hooker at Budd's Ferry, Lower Potomac; Heintzelman at Fort Lyon and vicinity; Franklin near the Theological Seminary; Blenker near Hunter's Chapel; McDowell at Upton's Hill and Arlington; F. J. Porter at Hall's and Miner's Hills; Smith at Mackall's Hill; McCall at Langley; Buell at Tenallytown, Meridian Hill, Emory's Chapel, &c., on the left bank of the river; ('asey at Washington ; Stoneman's cavalry at Washington; Hunt's artillery Washington; Banks at Darnestown, with detachments at Point of Rocks, Sandy Hook, Williamsport, &c.; Stone at Poolesville; and Dix at Baltimore, with detachments on the Eastern shore."




a Oct.


thousand men of all arms were assembled and maneuvered. It was the largest military force ever gathered on the American Continent, and gave the loyal people assurance of the safety of the Republic. And to these troops, regiment after regiment, at the rate of two thousand men each day, and battery after battery, was continually added from the teeming popula

tion and immense resources of the Free-labor States. A little i later, there was another imposing review. It was of artillery

and cavalry alone; when six thousand horsemen, and one hundred and twelve heavy guns, appeared before President Lincoln, the Secretary of State, Prince de Joinville, and other distinguished men. Their evolutions were conducted over an area of about two hundred acres : the cavalry under the direction of General Palmer, and the artillery under the command of General Barry. The whole review was conducted by General Stoneman.

But drills, parades, and reviews were not the only exhibitions of war near the Potomac during these earlier days of autumn. There was some real though not heavy fighting between the opposing forces there. The audacity of the Confederates was amazing. Soon after the Battle of Bull's Run, General Johnston had advanced his outposts from Centreville and Fairfax Court House to Munson's Hill, only six miles in an air-line from Washington City, where the Confederate flag was flaunted for weeks, in full view of the National Capitol. At other points above the city, his scouts pressed up almost to the Potomac, and he was at the same time taking measures for erecting batteries at points below the Occoquan Creek, for the purpose of obstructing the passage of supplies up that river, for the National army around Washington. The probability of such a movement had been perceived at an early day by vigilant and expert men.

So early as June, the Navy Department had called the attention of the Secretary of War (Mr. Cameron) to the importance, in view of the possible danger, of seizing and holding Matthias Point, in order to secure the navigation of the river. At different times afterward, the attention of the President, General Scott, and General McClellan was called to the matter by the same Department, but nothing was done until toward the close of September, when Confederate batteries were actually planted there." Then it was proposed to send a land force down the Maryland side of the river, and crossing in boats, covered by the Potomac flotilla, take possession of the shore just above Matthias Point. The Secretary of the Navy, having




1 This is a view of one of the most freqnently mentioned buildings in the records of the Civil War. It is from a sketch made by the author in 1866. It gives the name to the village aronnd it, which is the shiretown of the county. The village was much injured during the war.

2 July 1st, August 20th, August 31st.

3 It appears by an autograph letter before me, written by Colonel Wade Hampton, at Freestone Point, between Occoquan and Dumfries, and dated September 24th, 1861, that a battery was completed at that place, and



use for the Potomac flotilla elsewhere, was anxious that the movement should take place at once. Preparations were accordingly made to send four thousand of Hooker's division for the purpose. The Navy Department furnished transportation, and Captain Craven, the commander of the flotilla, gathered his vessels in the vicinity of Matthias Point, to co-operate in an attack on the batteries there. In the mean time the chief engineer (Major Barnard) reported adversely, and the project was abandoned.

On the assurance of sufficient aid from the Navy Department, it was agreed that a land force should march down the right bank of the Potomac, capture all batteries found there, and take permanent possession of that region. This project was also abandoned, because McClellan believed that the movement might bring on a general engagement, for which he did not feel prepared. No attempt was afterward made to interfere with the Confederates in their mischievous work, and early in October Captain Craven officially announced that the navigation of the Potomac was closed, and the National capital blockaded in that important direction. Craven was so mortified because of the anticipated reproach of the public for the supposed inefficiency of his command, that he made a request to be assigned to duty elsewhere. The President, who had warmly seconded the Navy Department in urging McClellan to take measures for keeping the navigation of the river open, was exceedingly annoyed; whilst the nation at large, unable to understand the cause of this new disaster, and feeling deeply mortified and humiliated, severely censured the Government. That blockade, so disgraceful to the Government, was continued until the Confederates voluntarily evacuated their position in front of Washington, in March following.

was ready for action at that date. His letter was addressed to Colonel Thomas Jordan, Beauregard's Assistant Adjutant-General. He says the works were constructed under Captain Lee, whose battery and a long 82-pounder rifled gun were there. The latter had been sent there by General Trimble, a Maryland traitor, then in the Confederate army.

He reported that he had every thing in readiness to open fire the previous evening. A fringe of trees had been left standing on tho point, to conceal the trovps whilo erecting the works. These were cut down on the night of the 23d.

1 At that tiine (late in September) there were in the Potomac the Pawnee, Pocahontas, and Seminole, three heavily armed vessels, and the R. B. Forbes, with two very formidable guns on board. These vessels had been detailed to go with Dupont's expedition to Port Royal, and it was urged by the Navy Department that they should first be employed in destroying the Confederate batteries on the river, and assisting the Army of the Potomac in tıking possession of their positions.

" He referred to the fact that High Point, Freestone Point, and Cock-pit Point, and thence down to Chapawausic Creek, opposite Hooker's quarters at Budd's Ferry, were eligible places for batteries, and considered it unwise to attempt the capture of any already completed, unless a canipaign was about to be opened in that direction. He concluded that the best way to prevent the crection of batteries, and to keep open navigation, was to have a sufficient naval force patrolling the Potomac. See McClellan's Report, page 50. In a review of the Peninsula Campaign, Major (then General) Barnarı, alluding to this project, says (page 16), if it had been attempted “a Ball's Bluff affuir, ten times intensified, would have been the certain result."

3 General McClellan, in his report to the Secretary of War of the operations of the Army of the Potomno while under his command, made in August, 1563 (nearly two years after the events here recorded), attributed the failure to keep the navigation of the Potomac open, at this time, to the remissness of the Navy Department in not furnishing a sufficient number of armed vessels for the purpose. G. V. Fox, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, in his testimony before the committee on the Conduct of the Wir (i. page 239), attributes that failure partly to the remissness of the War Department, under the management of Cameron, but chiefly to the failure of General McClellan to furnish a force from his iminense army in time to have taken and held possession of the Virginia shore of the river. The Committee on the Conduct of the War, in their summary of the testimony of both Mr. Fox and General McClellan, says: “After repeated efforts, General McClellan promised that 4,000 men should be ready, at a time named, to proceed down the river. The Navy Departinent provided the necessary transports for the troops, and Captain Craven, commanding the Potomac fotilla, 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

eneral McClellan why the troops had not been sent, according to hent, 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 concludert not to send them. Captain Fox replied that the landing of the troops was a matter of which the Navy D«part.

« PreviousContinue »