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general said, to the bad state of the roads, which rendered it impracticable. Some five days were spent at Williamsburg, which enabled the rebels, notwithstanding the “ state of the roads,” to withdraw their whole force across the Chickahominy, and establish themselves within the fortifications in front of Richmond. On the morning of the 7th, General Franklin landed at West Point, but too late to intercept the main body of the retreating army: he was met by a strong rear-guard, with whom he had a sharp but fruitless engagement.
The York River had been selected as the base of operations, in preference to the James, because it " was in a better position to effect a junction with any troops that might move from Washington on the Fredericksburg line;"* and arrange ments were made to procure supplies for the army by that route. On the 9th, Norfolk was evacuated by the rebels, all the troops withdrawing in safety to Richmond; and the city, on the next day, was occupied by General Wool. On the 11th, the formidable steamer Merrimac, which had held our whole naval force at Fortress Monroe completely in check, was blown up by the rebels themselves, and our vessels attempted to reopen the navigation of the James River, but were repulsed by a heavy battery at Drury's bluff, eight miles below Richmond. After waiting for several days for the roads to improve, the main body of the army was put in motion on the road towards Richmond, which was about forty miles from Williamsburg; and, on the 16th, headquarters were established at White House, at the point where the Richmond railroad crosses the Pamunkey, an affluent of the York River—the main body of the army lying along the south bank of the Chickahominy, a swampy stream, behind which the rebel army had intrenched itself for the defence of Richmond.
* See General McClellan's testimony-Report of Committee on Conduct of the War, Vol. i., p. 431.
General McClellan began again to prepare for fighting the “decisive battle” which he had been predicting ever since the rebels withdrew from Manassas, but which they had so far succeeded in avoiding. A good deal of his attention, however, was devoted to making out a case of neglect against the Government. On the 10th of May, when he bad advanced but three miles beyond Williamsburg, he sent a long dispatch to the War Department, reiterating his conviction that the rebels were about to dispute his advance with their whole force, and asking for “every man” the Government could send him. If not re-enforced he said he should probably be “ obliged to fight nearly double his numbers strongly intrenched.” Ten days previously the official returns showed that he had 160,000 men under his command. On the 14th, he telegraphed the President, reiterating his fears that he was to be met by overwhelming numbers, saying that he could not bring more than 80,000 inen into the field, and again asking for “ every man” that the War Department could send him. Even if more troops should not be needed for military purposes, he thought a great display of imposing force in the capital of the rebel government would have the best moral effect. To these repeated demands the President, through the Secretary of War, on the 18th of May, made the following reply :
WASHINGTON, May 18—2 P. 1. GENERAL: Your dispatch to the President, asking re-enforcements, has been received and carefully considered.
The President is not willing to uncover the capital entirely; and it is believed that even if this were prudent, it would require more time to effect a junction between your army and that of the Rappahannock by the
way of the Potomac and York River, than by a land march. In order, therefore, to increase the strength of the attack upon Richmond at the earliest moment, General McDowell has been ordered to march upon that city by the shortest route. He is ordered, keeping himself always in position to save the capital from all possible attack, so to operate as to put his left wing in communication with your right wing, and you are in
structed to co-operate so as to establish this communication as soon as possible by extending your right wing to the north of Richmond.
It is believed that this communication can be safely established either north or south of the Pamunkey River.
In any event, you will be able to prevent the main body of the enemy's forces from leaving Richmond, and falling in overwhelming force upon General McDowell. He will move with between thirty-five and forty thousand men.
A copy of the instructions to General McDowell are with this. The specific task assigned to his command has been to provido against any danger to the capital of the nation.
At your earnost call for re-enforcements, he is sent forward to cooperate in the reduction of Richmond, but charged, in attempting this, not to uncover the city of Washington, and you will give no order, either before or after your junction, which can put him out of position to cover this city. You and he will communicate with each other by telegraph or otherwise, as frequently as may be necessary for sufficient co-operation. When General McDowell is in position on your right, his supplies must be drawn from West Point, and you will instruct your staff officers to be prepared to supply him by that route.
The President desires that General McDowell retain the command of the department of tho Rappahannock, and of the forces with which ho moves forward. By order of the President.
EDWIN M. STANTON.
In reply to this, on the 21st of May, General McClellan repeated his declarations of the overwhelming force of the rebels, and urged that General McDowell should join him by water instead of by land, going down the Rappahannock and the Bay to Fortress Monroe, and then ascending the York and Pamunkey Rivers. He feared there was "little hope that he could join him overland in time for the coming battle. Delays," he says, on my part will be dangerous : I fear sickness and demoralization. This region is unhealthy for Northern men,
and unless kept moving, I'fear that our soldiers may become discouraged”—a fear that was partially justified by the experience of the whole month succeeding, during which he kept them idle. He complained also that McDowell was not put more completely under his command, and declared that a movement by land would uncover Washington quite as completely as one by water. He was busy at that time in bridging the Chickahominy, and gave no instructions, as required, for supplying McDowell's forces on their arrival at West Point.
To these representations, he received from the President the following reply:
WASHINGTON, May 24, 1862. I left General McDowell's camp at dark last evening. Shields's command is there, but it is so worn that he cannot move before Monday morning, the 26th. We have so thinned our line to get troops for other places that it was broken yesterday at Front Royal, with a probable loss to us of one regiment infantry, two companios cavalry, putting General Banks in some peril.
The enemy's forces, under General Anderson, now opposing General McDowell's advance, have, as their line of supply and rotreat, the road to Richmond.
If, in conjunction with McDowell's movement against Anderson, you could send a force from your right to cut off the enemy's supplies from Richmond, preserve the railroad bridge across the two forks of the Pamun. key, and intercept the enemy's retreat, you will prevent tho army now opposed to you from receiving an accession of numbers of nearly 15,000 men; and if you succeed in saving the bridges, you will secure a line of railroad for supplies in addition to the one you now have. Can you not do this almost as well as not, while you are building the Chickahominy bridges? McDowell and Shields both say they can, and positively will move Monday morning. I wish you to move cautiously and safely.
You will have command of McDowell, after he joins you, precisely as you indicated in your long dispatch to us of the 21st.
A. LINCOLN, President. Major-General G. B. MCCLELLAN.
General Banks, it will be remembered, had been sent by General McClellan on the 1st of April, to guard the approaches to Washington by the valley of the Shenandoah, which were even then menaced by Jackson with a considerable rebel force. A conviction of the entire insufficiency of the forces left for the protection of the capital, had led to the retention of McDowell, from whose command, however, upon General McClellan's urgent and impatient applications, General Franklin's division had been detached. On the 23d, as stated in the above letter from the President, there were indications of a purpose on Jackson's part to move in force against Banks; and this purpose was so clearly developed, and his situation became so critical, that the President was compelled to re-enforce him, a movement which he announced in the following dispatch to General McClellan :
May 24, 1862.—(From Washington, 4 P. M.) In consequence of General Banks's critical position, I have been compelled to suspend General McDowell's movements to join you. The enemy are making a desperate push upon Harper's Ferry, and we are trying to throw General Fremont's force, and part of General McDowell's, in their rear.
A. LINCOLN, President. Major-General G. B. MOCLELLAN.
Unable apparently, or unwilling to concede any thing whatever to emergencies existing elsewhere, General McClellan remonstrated against the diversion of McDowell, in reply to which he received, on the 26th, the following more full explanation from the President:
WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862. Your dispatch received. General Banks was at Strasburg with about 6,000 men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered at various places. On the 23d, a rebel force, of 7,000 to 10,000, fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Port Royal, destroying it entirely; crossed the Shenandoah, and on the 24th, yesterday, pushed on to get north of Banks on the road to Winchester. General Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in which General Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total rout. Geary, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near