« PreviousContinue »
middle of February, and had been vigorously pushed. The troops to be taken to the Peninsula, as intended by the General, were: McDowell's corps, 38,454; Sumner's, 31,037; Heintzelman's, 38,854; Keyes's, 37,910; regular infantry, 4,765; regular cavalry, 3,141; artillery reserve, 3,116; provost guards, U. S. engineer forces and headquarters cavalry escort, 1,114; total, 158,419. The force to be left to cover Washington numbered 22,410 (less than 20,000 “present for duty”), and of this number it was proposed that 4,000 be sent to Manassas Junction. This was decidedly less than his corps commanders had lately estimated to be necessary, as reported by himself. Wadsworth having called Secretary Stanton's attention to this matter, it was referred to Adjutant-General Thomas and Major-General E. A. Hitchcock (then on duty at Washington as military adviser) for investigation and report. Their conclusion was that the proposed force to cover the capital was “entirely inadequate.” The President thereupon (April 3d) directed that either McDowell's or Sumner's corps should be retained until otherwise ordered. The result was that McDowell was sent to Fredericksburg. Blenker's division of Germans was transferred from McClellan's army to Fremont's (on the last day of March), in compliance with urgent appeals which it was deemed unwise to disregard.
During the three weeks following the 17th of March, when the movement of transports began, as reported by Assistant Secretary Tucker, of the War Department, who had charge of this service, there were landed at Fortress Monroe, of McClellan's army, 121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries, 74 ambulances, besides pontoon bridges, telegraph materials, and the enormous quantity of equipage, etc., required for an army of such magnitude. Sumner's corps was included in this aggregate. McDowell, at Fredericksburg, was in position to join the main army or to aid in protecting Washington, should that be required.
McClellan arrived at Old Point Comfort on the 2d of April, and the President, knowing that the General already had with him a sufficient force to capture or disperse the small Confederate detachment under Magruder at and near Yorktown, in fact, only about eleven thousand men in all to hold a line of fourteen miles from the York to the James,) directed him to begin his forward movement from the new base at once. The General issued marching orders for the 4th, and on the evening of that day his advance was within five miles of Yorktown. Magruder had orders from Richmond to fall back immediately, but thinking to gain a few days' time by a deceptive show of strength, he obtained permission to make the trial. There was great apprehen
. sion at Richmond at this moment, if not a reasonable expectation that a prompt movement would give the Army of the Potomac possession of the city within ten days. But McClellan cautiously sat down before Yorktown and began a regular siege, giving the enemy full time to concentrate all his available forces, and to strengthen his defensive works. When finally an assault on Magruder's intrenchments was ready to be made, they were found to have been evacuated — just in time to secure a safe retreat.
Meantime the new Department of the Shenandoah was created (April 4th), to be commanded by General Banks; and at the same date the Department of the Rappahannock, including all of Virginia between the Blue Ridge and the Fredericksburg and Richmond railway, under McDowell. McClellan at once urged a reconsideration of the order detaching McDowell's corps, begging that Franklin's division at least might be sent him. To his “urgent request ” for Franklin the President responded, rather pointedly: “You now have over one hundred thousand troops with you, independent of General Wool's command. I think you had better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick River at once. They will probably use time as advantageously as you can.”
Continued importunities and murmurings of the General drew from the President this amiable but earnest expostulation (April 9th):
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, as I thought, acquiesced in — 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 defense of Washington and Manassas Junction.... My explicit 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. . . 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. ...
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
I precise time for you to strike a blow. By delay, the enemy
will relatively gain upon you—that is, he will gain faster by fortifications and re-enforcements than you can by reenforcements 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.
At what seemed the earliest day practicable, Secretary Stanton telegraphed to the General, granting his request for Franklin's division. He was also given permission to draw at will upon General Wool, commanding at Fortress Monroe. To later inquiries about McDowell, whose best division had been withdrawn from him, only to linger on shipboard at the mouth of the York, the President answered on the 21st: “Fredericksburg is evacuated and the bridge destroyed by the enemy, and a small part of McDowell's command occupies this side of the Rappahannock opposite the town. He purposes moving his whole force to that point." On the last day of April the General reported his army as numbering over one hundred and thirty thousand men, of whom more than one hundred and twelve thousand were effective. The President was surprised to receive from him at the same time a request for more siege guns, and with sadly wearied patience replied (May ist): “Your call for Parrott guns from Washington alarms me chiefly because it augurs indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?”
But two days after, on the night of May 3d, Magruderhimself relieved the trying tension by silently and safely decamping. On the morning of the 4th McClellan announced a “brilliant success,” and promised to “ push the enemy to the wall.” His dispatches of the next day were less jubilant. It was “raining hard," the “roads infamous," "horrible." At 10 o'clock that night he reported from his “ Bivouac in front of Williamsburg” that he had been “urgently sent for," and on his arrival had found Johnston in his front with a strong force, "probably greater a good deal” than his own.
Hancock had taken two redoubts, repulsing Early's brigade“ by a real charge with the bayonet.” The conduct of Hancock“ was brilliant in the extreme."
In fact, a serious battle had been fought that day, to the main features of which he made no allusion. Stoneman, with a force of cavalry and artillery, had been sent in pursuit of the enemy on the morning of the 4th, and coming under fire as he neared Williamsburg, a dozen miles from Yorktown, he retired out of range to await the arrival of Hooker's division (Heintzelman's corps), which was following in support.
Smith's division (Keyes's corps), marching by another road, reached Stoneman's position in the afternoon, in advance of Hooker, who, being thus obstructed, did not arrive until early the next morning, coming in front of Fort Magruder. This, the principal of the enemy's works extending quite across the Peninsula, here but narrow, was at the junction of the road from Hampton with that